Re-Jos as a metaphor
And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous; those who spend in the cause of the Almighty during ease and hardship and those who restrain their anger; those who pardon others – surely He loves the doers of good (Quran 3: 133-134)
Brethren, the sermon of last Friday was written partly for this purpose- to attempt to see the future despite the tears in my eyes.
While writing that essay, I was completely conscious of the fact that in the contemporary period, the line separating the academy from the asylum and the difference between sense and nonsense has grown very thin indeed.
I was equally conscious of the fact that it is very hard for the bereaved to see the sunrise in the morning; that you do not have to lose a son or a daughter before you begin to empathize with those whose locus of happiness have been violently desecrated.
But that essay had become urgent and important; the landscape was at the risk of being taken away completely by the violent passion of ethnicity and ‘religious’ sophistry. It was in dire need of the third perspective.
Thus I wrote out of my heart. I deployed grains of knowledge sourced from the last testament, the Quran, into my intervention.
I emphasized the necessity for forgiveness based on justice and compassion on all sides to the macabre dance that has held our nation in the jugular in recent times.
I argued, and still do, that vengeance does not pay in the long run; I doubt if it ever does.
I appealed to the victim of hate not to repay hate with hate since he is a Christian; I remonstrated with the other victim not to recompense evil with evil if indeed he is a Muslim.
But life is a risk. To write is to risk being written off; to author is to open oneself to the authority and the authoritarian.
Not long after the essay was printed, I was inundated with responses, not reactions, from the readers of The Guardian.
The responses were as diverse and eclectic as the perspectives already taken by critics, commentators and analysts of the events in Plateau during the past week.
Divide the responses into two, if you may- the extremely acerbic, flaky and excoriating; the beautifully encouraging, polite and highly civil.
The first thought my intervention was jejune and completely inappropriate; the second appreciated the objectivity and the solemnity in the message of that Sermon last week.
To cite an example, my compatriot, with phone no 0814816020(…) who was apparently disturbed, sad and burdened by the enormity of the tragedy that played out in Jos last week, disagreed with my posture and candour.
He therefore did not wager in clothing me with the unprintable the moment he read last Friday’s sermon.
He was simply mad at me. He started his ‘love’ message to me with this rhetorical question’ “Are you dull?” I knew the question ‘are you dull’ was nothing but a prologue, a teaser for the flaks s/he was going to send my way.
He quickly followed that up with more questions which were meant to rub the message in – that I was actually a dullard.
He asked: “How many Fulani’s have been killed by those claiming (to be) indigenes of Nigeria?”
Then the discourse shifted from the impersonal to the personal, from a witness to that of the perpetrator or a victim or both.
He said: “We are not terrorists and if you could remember, we would not (touch) anybody (if they do not) touch us.
But since we do not have a God-father in government, (and in form of) traditional emirates and (even in the media) …so even if we are killed, nobody will know since we are dumb… Can you remember the videos Sanusi Lamido Sanusi presented on Taraba”?
When the above message came my way, my immediate reaction was not that of anger but empathy.
I perfectly understood the issues that nest behind my compatriot’s riposte. I understood his or her feeling of deprivation.
It was instructive for me to know that all sides to the conflict have issues with the Nigerian media.
It was highly discomforting for me to sense my compatriot’s feeling of disappointment in our government- the feeling of a citizen who feels he has been forsaken.
Again, I knew that his frustration is not in any way peculiar or restricted to him.
I knew if the Other were to have the opportunity of ventilating his opinions too, he would equally have much to say.
He would pooh-pooh a system that appears to be unconcerned about his welfare, his security and his future.
Thus, my argument finds relevance once again- the poor in the church is as poor the poor in the mosque.
In other words, there appears to be only one space where equality which is the hallmark of democratic practice finds practical manifestation- in the underground, among the poor, the down-trodden, the ordinary masses. But that for me is not the real tragedy.
The real tragedy occurs with the emergence of the oppressor from the underground.
In other words, whenever the poor begins to oppress the poor, whenever the deprived descend on one another instead of banding together in order to rescue themselves from the yoke of deprivation, then there can be no end to the season of anomie and deprivation.
I thank you all, including Awo Whiskey from Makurdi for your words of appreciation.
I agree with you my compatriot (0802333497..)-that all tribal and religious identities in this nation must work together to build a new nation.
Nigeria must rise from the ashes of these tragedies. We must forge ahead; together.
(08122465111 for text messages only)