By Rudolph Okonkwo
There are certain things that Americans react to by simply saying: don’t even go there! Or the other alternative: no, you did not go there!
“There” is exactly where Gov. Murtala Nyako of Adamawa state went to in his memo to his fellow northern governors, alleging federal government genocide in the North.
The proper title of the memo should have been, “The Heart of Genocide”. The memo betrays the quality of the leadership that got Nigeria where it is today.
According to UNICEF, every 10 minutes, one woman dies on account of pregnancy or childbirth in Nigeria. In a year, a total of 53,000 women die. It translates to about 800 deaths in every 100,000 live births.
Nigeria’s newborn death rate is 528 per day. More than a quarter of the one million children who die under the age of 5 years annually in Nigeria die during the first 28 days of life (neonatal period).
According to the World Health Organization, nine out of ten newborn deaths are preventable.
In the category of the Under 5 Mortality per 1,000, Gov. Nyako’s North West zone records 269 children, North East zone 260 children, South West zone 176 children and South East zone 103 children.
Under Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) per 100,000, Nyako’s North records East 1549 women, North West 1026 women, South East 286 women and South West 165 women.
Nyako’s North East Zone has the highest maternal mortality rate of 1,549/100,000 live births, compared to 165/100,000 live births in the South West Zone —an almost 10-fold difference.
Now, that’s genocide!
According to Nigeria’s Demographic and Health Survey of 2008, 600,000 Nigerians born this year will never make it into a classroom. 20 million students are in primary school each year and after six years only 5 million will get into secondary schools. Essentially, 75% of those who entered primary school drop out before secondary school.
In primary school the attendance rate for Nyako’s North East is 37 for female and 50 for male. For the South South it is 81 for female and 80 for male. In secondary school, the Nyako’s North East attendance is 21 for female and 28 for male. For the South South it is 66 for female and 67 for male.
The 15 million children who drop out after primary school are mainly in the North East and North West. They are children whose human rights are being abused. They are most likely going to be victims of the new genocide Nyako is talking about.
Let me acknowledge that the performance of the Nigerian military in the fight against Boko Haram has left a lot to be desired. The reported and unreported extrajudicial killings going on in the name of fighting terror must be condemned by all well-meaning people.
Even the above statements sound self-deceptive.
When in the history of the Nigerian military have they performed above board? When have they followed anything that resembled a standard of engagement? Was it in Odi? Was it in Zaki-Biam? Was it in Asaba during the Biafran-Nigerian civil war? Was it in their choice of targets for their bombs dropped during the war? Where? When?
In the whole history of civilian administration in Nigeria, when has the military in its dealing with civilians shown any respect for the rule of law? In their day to day encounter, where has the military acted like a force in the service of the people? When have they not acted as an occupation force lording it over Nigeria? Was it when a civilian looked at them with a “bad” eye? Or was it when the police treat a soldier in mufti the same way they treat other civilians?
The military that Governor Nyako saw in action in his Adamawa state is not President Goodluck Jonathan’s military. Jonathan may be their commander-in-chief but they can be more appropriately referred to as Admiral Nyako’s military.
In fact, with Sambo Dasuki as the National Security Adviser and Aliyu Gusau as the Minister of Defense, both products of Nyako’s Nigerian military, Nyako has no reason to be suspicious of the operational directive of these two professional colleagues of his. If the military were acting in any unusual ways in their operations, Dasuki and Gusau won’t sit there and watch. Or will they?
Nyako has the right to be troubled by what he sees when he looks at the Nigerian military of today. It is simply an extension of the Nigerian military of Nyako’s days.
The idea of a man like Nyako throwing around words like ‘genocide’ is almost an insult to the word.
In 100 years of Nigerian history, if anyone has cared to count, Nigerians have risen up to kill their fellow Nigerians in the hundreds of thousands. Even before Nyako’s professional brothers in the military rose up to kill political leaders in 1966, the killings in Jos in 1945 and in Kano in 1952 indicated that Nigerians have no problem rising up to kill their fellow citizens under any guise. There was Kano in 1980, Maiduguri in 1982, Jimeta in 1984, Gombe in 1985, Kaduna & Kafanchan in 1991, Bauchi, Kastina, & Kano in 1991, Zango-Kataf in 1992, Funtua in 1993, Kano in 1994 etc. Most of these killings over the years were carried out in northern Nigeria. The sands of northern Nigeria are moistened with the blood of compatriots killed in dozens and dozens of crises over the years. Some of the crises that led to these killings are man-made crises; some are caused by activities of people and countries that are thousands of miles away; and others are caused by phenomenon as bizarre as an eclipse of the moon. Nyako has been in a position to bear witness to these killings.
But like everything Nigeria, when the corpse belongs to the ‘other,’ it seems as if the hearse is carrying just a banana stem.
The tragedy of Nigeria is not that it is an unjust society. Nigeria’s tragedy is that we are all accomplice to its injustice until we ultimately become the victim. The law of nature guarantees that as long as we allow injustice to fester, it will eventually reach us. Feeding the ‘other’ to the crocodile can only postpone the time when it will eat us – when there are no ‘others’ left for the crocodile to eat.
The heart of genocide is not only in the perpetrators of injustice. It is blossoming in all those who are indifferent to injustice. Boko Haram insurgency will end one day. But will the heart of genocide ever vanish in the face of Nigeria?