The right hearts for our history
At no point in time, for no reason or excuse of greed or oversight must the survival and wellness of a people and their unborn be traded for temporal mirth. The rafters are burning and there are rats under the bed. The ‘father’ of the family does not only chase after the rats but also wants the silent third woman of the three caskets to follow in the paths of the rats. I cannot disagree that such a father of us too unique and unmatched in the world. What heart shall apply a touchstone of history to our situation?
Whatever conflict is ending, ongoing or loading we cannot pretend that all is well and set to follow a path of a RUGAIC changeling of national integration when our intricate relationship is full of suspicion, bitterness or hostilities. We are involved. And our nation will be sophistic brotherhood intercourse except we begin to drop the swords of history and take the balm of humanity.
However, that sword dropping is not absolutely, we may need to follow the vestigial watchfulness and readiness of Nehemaic ambidextrous builders. Joseph C. Ebegbulem, in his “Ethnic Politics and Conflicts in Nigeria: Theoretical Perspective” put our experience in a sentence “Nigeria has witnessed a lot of ethnic disputes and conflicts over allocation and sharing of resources, power and position.” And Benjamin Chuka Osisioma in his article, “Conflict Management and Peace Building in Nigeria: Finding the Common Ground” gave a periodization of the conflict by saying that “Historically, Nigeria is fraught with conflicts, some of them life-threatening, others minor and pedestrian.”
Our history, afore the 15th century through the 20th century holds accounts of pre-colonial cultures, slave-shipping, religious invasion, colonial experiences, amalgamation, and then independence in 1960. Our history desires peace.
After 1960 we have experienced coup de tat, quasi-genocidal war, territorial wars, religious wars, terrorism and other aggravated tensions fostered by aggrieved sections that lost true Nigerian nationalist vision for whatever ethnic or political reasons. Tensions have not ceased. Conflicts, death-dealing, riotous and suspicious are being advanced by unpacified comrades of historical acts of cruelty and discrimination –being socio-political or economical –and being a continued tradition of dangerous ethnoreligious consciousness of primacy and antipathy. It is not a matter of who started it or why it was started. We are all enmeshed in this serrated nationhood, Nigeria. And our nationhood will remain illusory except we begin to drop the bullets of vengeance and take the honey of nature for our collective healing. We must be wary of the siren of ethnic prejudice.
The Federal Government has declared on June 18, as reported by the Guardian, that History should be taught in all secondary schools. That, to me, is commendable. The past is not dead; the past is only archived. And when the past is not archived, the present is malnourished and afloat. History is the lodestar of every generation. So, any system of education that removes or distorts history is a system of degeneration. We must know our bold adventures that were successful and learn from them. We must see our navigations that led into capsize or to the coast. Then we can decide well for the progress of humanity, what is to be avoided, what is to be restored and what is to be advanced. In the words of Maya Angeolu, “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” That, in Thomas Jefferson’s words, is because “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” Nothing should be relived as much as there is the imagination for what is better. History should not repeat itself if it is not pleasant. Sadly, it always does, with colorful cloaks. History should guide us into eschewal of itself. But when the history of dastardly deeds fuels us into a resuscitation of it we have failed in our use of memory. We, for the good of mankind, should use history; history should not use us.
When I look at a deer or an antelope and beautiful rabbit being torn by flesh-eaters I feel there is victimisation of innocent or harmless creatures. But these harmless prey are actually nocent in a panoramic reference to nature –they are herbivores. That is the case in the world of humans. No people are too good without a history of atrocity.
From the Egyptian and the Persian to the Roman, the Guptas, the Qin, the German, the Mongol and to the British, Brutality had been a game of revolution –the victimised are victimisers –from empires to empires –the fall of one, the rise of another –none too humane that is not heinous. No religion, no God’s people or peace people without a past history, or perhaps, a working history of acts of terror. Olaudah Equaino in his interesting narrative awakened our sensibilities towards sympathy not only for Gustavus Vassa, the African but also for Africa. But in the tradition of Eboe, in the land of his natives and neighbouring settlements, wars and domination are not unknown. Africans kidnap Africans and sell to non-African slave traders. There were slaves of war. There were cases of adultery and capital punishment. There was a system of justice, of doing different things. Every victim is an object of delight to the victimiser and of sympathy to distant eyes. But victims are victimisers.
Aeschylus in Agamemnon showed what will be true of King Lear, “One disgrace exchange yet for another … The man who sins is sinned against, the killer pays the price.” Possibly, vengeance may lead to victory but except there’s absolute annihilation or incapacitation that victory has just birthed a baby destined to heroic mission in the way of the chain of retribution.
Aeschylus also posited that “Old violent aggression loves to generate new troubles among evil men—soon or late, when it’s fated to be born, new violence springs forth, a spirit no one can resist or conquer, unholy recklessness, dark ruin on the home, like the destructiveness from which it sprang.” That is the truth Martin Luther King Junior told us when he said “Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.” And he instructed us, “The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.” John Campbell asserted in “Conflict in Nigeria Is More Complicated Than ‘Christians vs. Muslims” that the insurgents in Nigeria “had killed many Christians as well as Muslims”. I think the conflict in Nigeria is a tangle of unyielding factors budding from a history of differences and hostilities.
To be continued tomorrow
Kuye wrote from Lagos