The Nigerian Future: Conflict
A Country On Fire
Since the beginning of Nigeria’s Fourth Republic in 1999, Nigeria has never known a day of peace. For the past 17 years, the Nigerian state has been embroiled in conflicts which so far have shaken and degraded, but not destroyed, the country. How long can that condition last? If Nigeria’s security and political establishment continue their current trajectory, this circumstance will create dire consequences for Nigeria’s people and the whole of Africa.
Today, there are several major security crises plaguing Nigeria.
Reminiscent of the conquests of the Sokoto Caliphate, Fulani herdsmen have raided towns and farmlands killing thousands of people across the country. The massacre of hundreds of villagers in Agatu in Benue State and Nimbo in Enugu State have sparked fear and outrage in the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria. Even lending to support to demagogues like Governor Fayose of Ekiti State who is purportedly ready to declare war on the Fulani (though likely not including their kinsmen, Pres. Buhari).
President Muhammadu Buhari reignited the conflict in the Delta when he threatened to terminate ex-militant’s lucrative (and corrupt) contracts with the Nigerian government and when he cut the amnesty program’s budget, including a planned maritime university for the Delta region. In a country as sectional as Nigeria, the actions of a Northerner have made old fighters re-enter the creeks with the intention to destroy oil infrastructure. As Nigeria’s economic heart is blown up, soldiers sack towns in futile attempts to stop Nigeria’s economic bloodletting by spilling Nigerian blood unto the polluted soil of the Niger Delta.
Prominent member of a town or village could be publicly flogged to instill terror in a community. Also, The 1909 Collecte to the militant sect have some soldiers questioning the capacity of the Nigerian government to end the conflict. Although Buhari said the war would be over by Christmas, such proclamations ring hollow for citizens such as the family members of Mohammed Abu-Ali. A well-liked army officer who was recently killed in a firefight against Boko Haram terrorists. Despite numerous attempts by the Nigerian Army to claim that Boko Harm has been defeated or even “technically defeated”, the fight rages on in the North-East of Nigeria. As I type this article, one officers and 45 Nigerian soldiers are missing in action after an engagement with Boko Haram.
On top of these substantial conflicts, the Nigerian Army finds itself engaged in active operations in most of Nigeria’s 36 states. From shooting Biafran separatists in Anambra to chasing cattle-rustlers in Zamfara.
A History of State Violence
Aggravating Nigeria’s internal security is indeed the conduct of the Nigerian Army, whose behaviour hasn’t really changed since the era of British rule. Violence was a political strategy of colonial consolidation. Colonial forces beat, maimed and killed people; destroying their possessions and degrading traditional leaders to ‘teach’ their subject peoples a brutal lesson on what occurs when you rebel against the British Empire.
Public torture and collective punishment were routinely used by colonial forces in Nigeria. A
A ive Punishment Ordinance authorized colonial officers to punish an entire town or village for the actions of a single individual.
However, punitive expeditions were the worst form of collective punishment utilized by the British Empire against recalcitrant subjects in Nigeria. These ‘small wars’, involved raiding towns and razing them to the ground; beating and killing combatants and civilians alike or kidnapping community members to obtain obedience. A well-documented punitive expedition in Igboland in 1905 displays the tactics the British used to consolidate their Empire. When the Ahiara, an Igbo sub-group, killed a colonial official, the colonial army launched a surprise attack on the Ahiara which destroyed their houses and farms. When the Ahiara found refuge in neighbouring villages, their hosts were also mercilessly pursued by the colonial military forces. After the Ahiara had surrendered, they were forced to open up their roads for passage and to accept the leadership of appointed headmen who were paid to support British colonial government.
‘Zombie’ State Consolidation
You don’t need to harken back to atrocities committed during the Nigerian Civil War, such as the Asaba Massacre, to obtain contemporary examples of the Nigerian Army’s brutality. Since the beginning of Nigeria’s Fourth Republic, Odi, Zaki Biam, Gbaramatu, Jos, Gboko, Baga, Badagry, Onipanu are all places where the Nigerian Army massacred dozens if not hundreds of its fellow citizens.
Already, the Buhari Presidency has already seen Zaria, Aba and Onitsha added to that list. Is this really surprising though given how Nigerian soldiers are made to train? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySR_kenZknk) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWdVV0k5uQc)
In addition, the tactics that the Nigerian Army is using today aren’t too different from how their predecessor operated in the late 19th and 20th centuries. A recent raid on the Niger Delta communities of Gbaramatu in Bayelsa State exemplify the army’s behaviour, once again:
http://guardian.ng/news/troops-invade-gbaramatu-ransack-four-communities/) – recent raid in Niger Delta community