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Dialogue, the answer

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Former President Olusegun Obasanjo (middle); his personal friend, Johnson Oyewole Fasawe (left) and others arriving for the National Elders Council meeting on security in Abuja…yesterday.  PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA

For some time there has hardly been a day without one depressing report or the other assailing Nigerians. Thank goodness, there came some breath of fresh air the other day when a collection of leading figures from across the land gathered to deliberate on the state of the nation.

The gathering, comprising former Head of State, Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar, frontline traditional rulers and former senior public functionaries, was led by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. In attendance were former Chief Justices; high ranking traditional rulers such as the Ooni of Ife, Oba Ogunwusi; the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar; former Chiefs of Defence Staff; former National Security Advisers; people from the academia; representatives of women; Labour leaders; and Nigerians who had served in international organisations. Professor Wole Soyinka was unavoidably absent. He sent apologies. So did former President Goodluck Jonathan who was on an international assignment to Mali; former Commonwealth General-Secretary, Emeka Anyaoku and the Obi of Onitsha. It was truly a gathering of high-heeled personalities and prime movers.

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The objective of the meeting was to deliberate on the problems bedeviling the country. It was also for confidence building. In the words of Obasanjo, “It was to build trust, confidence and relationship.” The meeting also discussed the devolution of power in the governance of the country. Obasanjo described the meeting as a success. Papers were presented and discussions were frank, he said. Details of what the meeting agreed upon were not to be made public yet until the President had been advised of them. President Muhammadu Buhari was notified of the meeting in writing and it was pleasing to him, presumably, because it was seen as helping to tackle the myriad of seemingly intractable problems in the country. Issues of insecurity and the economy were exhaustively discussed, too. Other subjects deliberated upon were welfare and wellbeing as well as unity and progress of Nigeria.

The meeting was overdue and it is elating it came nevertheless. It was followed very closely by another gathering of largely a different set of Nigerian leaders with clout—the meeting in which the Sultan, who is President of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Dr. Supo Ayokunle featured prominently.

It is such interventions that calm nerves and raise hope. Doesn’t the Scripture say to us: “Blessed are the peacemakers…”? The interventions bring the much-needed succor. All kinds of belligerent pronouncements had been spewed into our faces in the last few months bothering on drums of war.

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The President was no less disappointingly hawkish. In one of the interviews over which a great many of our compatriots were excited that he agreed at all to feature in the conversations and they were glued to their television, he had said in an answer to how the problem in the South-East would be resolved, he said he would speak to them in the language they understand. “I was encouraged by what I heard, nobody told me,” he had said. The understanding of a great many of our compatriots is that he would clamp down on the zone, reminiscent of the civil war of the 60s.

“The two statements from the South-South. One by elderly people. They said, this time around, there will be no access to the sea. I am sure you will understand what they mean. Again the youths made the same statement. That encourages me. So, that IPOB, it is just like a dot in a circle. If they want to exit, there would be no access to anywhere and the way they are spread all over the country, having businesses, having property.” That pronouncement coming from the father of the nation, including wayward children scattered all over the land, was unpresidential. He ought not to be seen openly taking a position in an ethnic brickbat between IPOB and Coalition of Northern Youth Groups that has expressed not too dissimilar sentiments and is no less as bellicose as IPOB in their utterances. Buhari went on to say: “I think IPOB doesn’t know what they are talking about. In any case, we said we will talk to them in the language they will understand. We will organise the police and the military to pursue them. That is what we can do and we will do it.”

Of course, no reasonable person would accept the killings and destruction of all and every face and symbol of authority that has occurred in the South-East blamed on unknown gunmen. There is a shortage of police personnel everywhere already; the police stations destroyed and vehicles burnt will have to be rebuilt and vehicles replaced with taxpayers’ money. The people of the South East are taxpayers. Strictly speaking, therefore, the properties belong to the people. We need the police and we need police stations. We need the prisons. One Administration goes, another replaces it. The police stations, being people’s properties, remain.

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The President has recalled his experiences of horrors of war twice now. It is these experiences that ought to moderate his attitude and guide him to elect a conciliatory approach rather than choose force to speak to the IPOB guys “in the language they will understand.” As President, Buhari should not be tired of dialogue, education and more dialogue. Wrinkling one’s face and shrugging of shoulders is not a sign of weakness no matter the issue and temptation. It is emblematic of love and strength to show restraint and exhibit grace. The entire Creation issued out of Love and it is its foundation. Even when North Korea strongman, the accustomed bellicose Kim Jong Un said menacingly that he was prepared to take on the United States, Mr. Biden was calm. Kim Jong had ordered his government to prepare for both dialogue and confrontation with the United States under President Joe Biden for the sake of the country’s security and guarantee a “peaceful environment”, Mr. Biden stretched a hand of friendship to him. The United States National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, merely said U.S. would wait for direct communication from North Korea. Biden, according to Reuters, had communicated his desire for principled negotiations with North Korea on the challenge of that country’s nuclear programme which ought to be seen as a negation of Trump’s position not to give President Kim Jong Un any international recognition. Ours is an internal crisis. There should be no war.

I recall writing on the horrors of war 30 years ago on this page during the war allied forces war led by the United States George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair against Iraq which triggered the hostilities by invading Kuwait. I said as follows: “War brings the combatant and the spectator’s face-to-face with horror, engendered by brutality, destruction, fright, psychic injuries and violent and abrupt deaths. This encounter with horrors of war hits one profoundly, regardless of distance from the theatre of a shooting war.

“War, being an enthronement of violent disruption to order—social, economic, and political, cannot but send cold shudders down our spine. Machiavelli’s notion of war aggravates matters. It is that ‘‘absolute war is the ultimate intensification of destructiveness and the abasement of mercy.’’ For 42 days, the world was subjected to the horrors of war in varying degrees.

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“Two articles have caught my attention in the last fortnight. One was published in the Times of London and was titled “The last rule of war,’’ and the other in her sister newspaper, London Sunday Times. Both articles have redramatised the woes of hostilities and are instructive for those who yearn for peace and perhaps for warmongers as well and those who are excited by the roar of war.

“The author of the piece captioned “The last rule of war,’’ Daniel Johnson, draws from what he calls Clausewitz’s treatise ON WAR, and quotes him as saying:

“Kind-hearted people might think there was some ingenious way to disarm or defeat the enemy without too much bloodshed. Pleasant as it sounds, this is a fallacy that must be exposed: ‘War is such a dangerous business that the mistakes which come from kindness are the very word.”’

Many feel uneasy about the direction of events in our land today. The foreboding is a product of the inner voice that flows from the spirit. The spirit is our true self. Everyone, therefore, carries the gift of prescience. The Yoruba would say ‘Ara nba mi s’oro’ translated roughly to mean ‘‘I feel somehow, my body is talking to me.’’ A great many who failed to heed the admonition or guidance of the inner voice would say in regretful tone: “Had I known. Something told me not to go that way!” The inner voice is, however, often covered with dross arising from wrong doings. In somewhere it may not have been covered by any filth that presses it down and cuts it off from the vibration out of the stream of life, it is often ignored. Gradually, after a while, the voice becomes faint…or silent altogether. Where it is not covered, it is heard loud and clear. It never errs because the spirit itself is the animating core in each man, is as pure as its homogeneous home with which it is linked. This is the Spiritual Realm but more generally known as Paradise.

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As I have made the point a few times, the spirit is the real man in each of us. As I was saying last week, it journeyed out unconscious expelled as it were, in search of consciousness which brings in its trail maturity, recognition of the Will of the Creator, the Most High and the unfolding of undreamt-of abilities. Everything else, as I have also explained many times before, is covering of the spirit, its vessel that serves as its anchorage on earth so that man can manifest visibly on earth. As we strive towards what is high and noble, the spirit becomes strengthened, its perception sharper, its voice clearer and loud. It reaches out beyond the threshold of matter, beyond space and time, the confines of the intellect, gaining connection through intuitive perception. Being precipitation of Truth, the spirit maintains a connection with the Ray of Truth, which is why everyone can feel what is true and right to his fingertips. From time to time, however, the intellect, given its nature, tries to dim the truth and suffocate the spirit which is its master and that is the intellect, its tool. We see in such a person his sense of justice is gone. He becomes carefree and insensitive.

From the height of the earth and for a very handful, the entire Creation and happenings therein can be surveyed, the spirit draws its guidance. It may also be spoken to by its guide or helper in the Beyond whom some mistake for a High Being, or even the Holy Spirit Himself the approach of Whom no human being can bear. He will lose instant consciousness or is burnt. It is sometimes the eye of our spirit that sees, or the ethereal ear that hears. At this juncture, from what we learn from the higher knowledge spreading on earth today, we may need to realise that our world is governed by what is eternal to it. And in its automatic working, it returns to man or his community, what they have put into it—good or bad. The present crisis in this country calls for utmost maturity. No quarter should be permitted violence for violence is a stamp of immaturity.

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This can be witnessed in the development of a child. As it grows up, it is aggressive, fighting with its playmates. It slaps them, any of them strong and bold slaps him back. They practise the art of wrestling. It is the period they give their parents anxious moments. Later they move into the age of dreams, into what may be regarded as melancholic age when they dream dreams and see the world around them as upside down. When they reach the age of maturity, the choleric age which is the age of action and achievement, their objective is progress and development. It is the aged man likes to settle down. He builds himself a house; he thinks of setting up his own venture. In their further maturity, they reach the age of reflection when they go over their lives, call up their experiences and have themselves guided by these. This is a replication of the generic man.

There is the age of savagery, then the age of reason and at the height of maturity, savagery and intellectual reasoning are silenced. Man receives from the fountain of Wisdom. He draws from the Throne of Grace where the faculty of reasoning cannot reach. He cannot draw violence from there because it is non-existent there. Such a man is connected with the earthly and the vibrations of the earth which he sees as the peak as he is lifted by these, acquiring fame and public acknowledgement which lead to nowhere but to emptiness. It is the man of peace that can be regarded as living. The other categories can know no peace, joy nor happiness. To fill the void in his life, he drives him hard to seek further public notice and acknowledgement and seeks restlessly to acquire honours and more honours.

Violence and war lead to nowhere, no matter the provocation. All political leaders should, therefore, prevail on their followers to eschew violence while they may pursue the redress of their grievances. He who harms his fellow-men either as the principal or as minion bears ultimate personal responsibility in the eyes of the living, self-enforcing Divine Laws, sooner or later, here or hereafter.

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