Blessed Are The Peacemakers???


Prof. Wole Soyinka

Prof. Wole Soyinka

Defeated by the excessively short notice, I could not turn up at the Memorial Service held at the UN headquarters in Abuja for those who fell in the service of mankind, victims of the contagion of random human sacrifice that has become glorified in the cause of gods of whose existence or commands most victims are never even aware. My presence – like others – would have amounted to little more than a symbolic act of solidarity, but it was one that I felt I owed, not only as one who carries the passport of a nation whose soil had been so violently desecrated, but who has been involved on various levels with the most recent victim of the cult of arbitrary violence as an end in itself – the United Nations. Above all however, I felt a need to stand with grieving Nigerians and other bereaved of no matter what nation, linked in the bond of a common humanity. I overwhelmingly felt the need to let them know that their grief is the grief of a larger family, their loss our loss, their outrage the laceration of the minds of millions whom they had never encountered. At this moment however, I find myself relieved that I could not be part of that gathering. Now why the contradiction?

My chagrin cannot be measured when I discovered on arrival that at the very moment – or thereabouts – when this nation bowed her head in sorrow and contrition before the whole world, in an attempt to come to terms with her own causative deficiencies in whatever area – and I do not imply simply Security – a former Head of State of this very nation appropriated that moment of a collective empathy with victims to pay a visit to the home of one who, albeit dead, was the acknowledged head of the murder organization, Boko Haram, an organization that blithely accepted, as usual, responsibility for this unconscionable act, one among equally heinous and yet ongoing atrocities.

Let me interject here, just for the record, a reminder that, like several other principled citizens, I publicly condemned the obvious, deliberate extra-judicial killing that had taken the life of Yusuf Mohammed, the late leader of Boko Haram. I still do. It was a cold-blooded, calculated misdeed, one that did no credit to the nation. It does not however sanctify the self articulated goals and methods of that murdered individual, nor preclude the necessity for a collective stance against the tyranny of terror.

General Olusegun Obasanjo is a former president twice over, a multi-starred general, a quite recent emissary of the United Nations to war-torn zones on this continent. He supposedly understands the difference between peace making, peace keeping, peace enforcement, negotiations, appeasement, capitulation and their multiple nuances. He remains a member of the National Council of States, an organ made up of supposedly tested and wise individuals in the political arena. One – admittedly dubious – qualification for the National Council is that one has occupied a position that required the management of the complexities of disparate interests, tendencies and affiliations and learnt how to create an equitable platform for dialogue. Our peacenik here is also Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the current Ruling People’s Democratic Party – the PDP.

Since, according to reports, he also included in his visit an agenda of seeking avenues of peace between the nation and a splinter group that is committed to its own vision of nationhood, has sworn openly to actualize that vision by the most violent means at its disposal, we must assume that Obasanjo took all these factors into consideration before assuming the role of Peace Maker. No one will deny him, or indeed anyone, the right to assume the onerous task of mediation. Blessed are the peacemakers – goes the precept, from my recollection of Obasanjo’s own scriptural affiliation.

Timing, however, is a crucial part of leadership intelligence and sensibility. It is in fact a bedrock formation of military training. Was it an accident of timing, or was it deliberate, that this ex-militrician president undertook his visit at the very time when certainly the major part of the nation – either physically or in spirit, mostly the latter – attempted to come together in communion with the souls of the departed, and in sympathy with the trauma of the survivors? Let us not mince words here – this must be one of the crassest, most insensitive, self ingratiating acts ever recorded in the history of any nation in recent memory. It is known as an ego trip. You do not play ‘statesman’ over the mangled bodies of victims, least of all where their violators insist on the righteousness of their very conduct. Nowhere has there been an expression of remorse, or concession of error, from the violators, nothing but gleeful accents of triumphalism. That a former head of state should pay a visit to the symbol – dead or alive – of the massacre of innocents anywhere and under any condition, at the very moment of memorializing the victims, is a despicable, opportunistic and revolting act that desecrates the memories of the victims. If Yusuf Mohammed had a tomb, could it be that Obasanjo would also have included a pilgrimage, hat in hand and shoes on his head, to meditate at the tomb of the ‘martyr’?

One has learnt to mistrust the Nigerian press, and most especially when attributions are made in inverted commas, whose use is supposed to place a stamp of verification on the very words used by a speaker. As a regular victim of this illiterate usage, I hesitate to give full credit to the plea of – “forgive and forget” -attributed to the august Visitor in his exchange with the family of Yusuf Mohammed. This plea, destined for the operatives of Boko Haram – if indeed true – during the commemorative service for its victims, is difficult to swallow, but is indicative of the tendency – indeed openly expressed – of certain sectors of society. It is too gross to contemplate, and we shall assume that they were not Obasanjo’s words. Nevertheless, the summation of this ‘peace’ initiative, within the overall context, and the timing, signified no less. Taken in context with the revelation that captured operatives of similar outrages in the past had been released to “appease” elements within Nigerian polity, only to be caught as perpetrators of this latest outrage, a policy admitted by the Security services, the nation is now exposed to the contempt of the whole world, poised on the dangerous edge of expediency at the expense of the dignity and survival of its own citizens.

It goes beyond politics and involves sheer decency, sensitivity and the capacity for just compassion. It is gross, indecent, worse than pornographic, an obsequious consecration of violence, a groveling, simpering inauguration of a culture of submissiveness in the face of aggravation – all masquerading as statesman conscience and pietistic justifications such as – Blessed are the Peacemakers. Peacemaking? Very well. But do you select a day on which the survivors gather to reconcile with their losses and gather strength for the future? I challenge all the Scriptures of the world to cite one verse where it says that victims must be spiritually and psychologically eviscerated in favour of the cannibalistic urge of their violators in order to arrive at the Nirvana of Peace.

What has happened here is a pitiable spectacle that covers a nation in shame – and let there be no mistake, it is anything but passive. It is an act of aggression, a slap in the face of the bereaved and wounded, including the permanently disfigured. It desecrates the memory of the fallen and casts doubts on any claim to humanism and capacity for compassion of the Nigerian people. It has turned the commemoration event a charade, a ceremonial gathering, an empty husk without the germ of authentic fellow feeling. Let others count their gains and losses, and rationalize this travesty as they will. For me, as a Nigerian, I feel diminished by this descent into exhibitionist emptiness, where a former Head of State condoles with violators even a serving president presides over a gathering of victims. I am glad I did not make the flight.

Is it conceivable however, that ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo could have gone on such a loaded mission – a politically loaded mission with endless international ramifications – without the knowledge and/or blessing, even of the tacit kind, of a serving Head of State? This nation deserves direct answers, without evasion. Was it the lone ranger mission of a desperate loser at all levels of ongoing political stakes? If not, who initiated the move, and who authorized it? President Goodluck Jonathan, this nation and – make no mistake about it – the international community – demand to know!

—Wole Soyinka

Load more