Wednesday, March 9, 2011

At the beginning of every year, I take the time to reflect on the year before and consider who or what could be considered the Nigerian curiosity of that time period. The title can be given to anything or anyone that had a tremendous impact on the majority of Nigerians.

2010 was a momentous year in many ways. Amid much confusion, President Yar'adua died leaving his vice president, Goodluck Jonathan to be sworn in as president on the day of his funeral. And in earnest, the campaigning for the 2011 elections began with politicians juggling for influence and more power.

2010 was also the yer when the nation's constitution was considered for the first time since it became law in 1999. Similarly, the nation's Electoral Act also came under review after years of simply collecting dust under late president Yar'Adua.

While these and many other things were an important part of what made 2010 a distinct political year, neither of these incidents are to be the Nigerian Curiosity of 2010. Instead a more sinister reality will be recognized for it's influence on citizens. 
Rooted out: A building allegedly used by the sect burns in the city of Maiduguri (AFP )
 Source: ABC News (Australia)

The year began with violence and ended with it. In December 2009, Nigerians were stunned to learn about the attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up a plane bound for the United States. That incident sparked a series of events not just for Nigerians but citizens around the world with the tightening of security at American and other airports. Nigeria managed to turn things around going from being on a list with 'pariah' nations like Yemen and North Korea to being recognized by American authorities as having exemplary airport security due to the installation of full-body scanners at the nation's international airports.

Unfortunately, the focus on Nigeria quickly returned to violence when sparks of fighting erupted repeatedly in the Jos region. Characterized mainly as fighting between Christians and Muslims, efforts to diminish that impression were abandoned when images of Christian women and children burned to death were released on the Internet. Similarly, the violent antics of Boko Haram, a Muslim extremist group in northern Nigeria made it impossible for Nigerian violence to not grab the headlines. Book Haram assassinated a moderate cleric that spoke up against the group and continues to selectively attack and kill officials and community leaders in Bauchi state. As is that case in the Jos region, it appears that the police and armed forces are either unable to stop the killings or are unwilling to do so.

Nigerian women grieve in Dogo Nahwa, Nigeria, on Monday, March 8, 2010, after more than 200 people, most of them Christians, were slaughtered on Sunday, according to residents, aid groups and journalists. The local government gave a figure more than twice that amount but offered no casualty list or other information to substantiate it. (AP Photos/Jon Gambrell)
Source: AP Photos/John Gambrell/Washington Times

But the violence reached a tipping point when on October 1st, cars exploded in the nation's capital, Abuja. During the celebration of the country's 50th independence anniversary, MEND set off bombs which killed many people, though accurate estimates of the dead remain unavailable. The chaos was incredible and sparked accusations and allegations between the alleged mastermind, south African-based Henry Okah, who faces charges in a south African court, and many of Nigeria's political big wigs including former military dictator Babangida and current President Jonathan.

And the violence only continued with MEND attacking oil pipelines and installations. The year limped to an end with further bombings on Christmas day. These were accompanied by more fighting in Jos and killings in the Bauchi area.

Apart from bombings there were numerous kidnappings, such as the kidnapping of a school bus filled with 15 little children in Aba. There was also the gruesome murder of bus passengers by still-uncaptured robbers on the Lagos-Benin road in the first quarter of 2010. Plus, the numerous reports, documented and otherwise, of murder by Nigerian armed forces of defenseless citizens in the Niger Delta region. The list of woes is never ending and in many cases, under reported by traditional media. And in another sad twist, those incidents that are reported are so numerous that many have developed a level of numbness to them.

As such, 2010 was a year of extreme violence and it touched the consciousness of all. Sadly from start to stop, violence became far too often a recurring national nightmare. As elections approach in April 2011, there is the possibility for even more fighting, especially as election periods typically encourage politicians and others to collect weapons. However, election-related violence has been minimal though fighting broke out in Nasarawa State shortly after President Jonathan visited in February. Sadly, given the nation's track record, many expect more violence. But, many groups and individuals are discouraging violence and encouraging the participation of all citizens in ensuring a safe polling period. To that end, the voter registration exercise, for all it's hiccups, were generally violence free and that does give room for hope.

Yet, the cycle of violence Nigeria is currently enduring is one that didn't appear suddenly. It has been simmering for many years and could erupt even further to only make things worse. It must be addressed not just by the government but also by citizens that are unwilling to tolerate it anymore. Only when that attitude persists - a zero tolerance towards violence - will the country be able to take the first step towards reducing the atrocities that have spurred insecurity across the country. And maybe then, Nigerians will be able to look at violence, the unfortunate Nigerian Curiosity of 2010, as a thing of the distant past.

From The Archives:
- The Nigerian Curiosity of 2007 (Michael Aondoakaa)
- The Nigerian Curiosity of 2008 (Babatunde Fashola)
- The Nigerian Curiosity of 2009 (Yar'Adua's Absence/Sickness)

0 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

Post a Comment

Get curious...share your thoughts, long and short. But, do remain civil.