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Over the decades, the Nigerian authorities have shown themselves to be unwilling to protect the lives and property of the people. The current crisis of the Islamist group Boko Haram fits in this pattern. No words should be spared to question the government and to demand action

I used to think that some top persons in society do not suffer from two things that seem to easily afflict the materially poor: anger and misunderstanding. Such well-placed persons, I thought, especially those in the business of leading others to God, have mastered the art of living a life without anger and that they know a lot more than others. You may be tempted to support these propositions of mine when you look at the faces of prominent men of God in Nigeria: they always appear calm and undisturbed, indicating to me supposedly that all is always well with them.

But thanks to Okey Ndibe, his article, “Something really, really dangerous” published in Dailysun of July 8, 2014, succeeded to provoke Bishop Matthew Kukah’s fury. On this issue I have read Ndibe’s original article, Kukah’s attack via a paper he delivered at the Wole Soyinka at 80 ceremony in Lagos, Ndibe’s response to Kukah, Jideofor Adibe’s intervention as well as Peter Adeyem’s professional defense of his fellow Catholic cleric.

What was the bone of contention between Ndibe and Kukah? In his original article, Ndibe had said: “Israeli authorities spared no resource to find three abducted school children. When their remains were discovered, apparent victims of murder, the Israeli government stepped up reprisals against their suspected killers. Israel reminds us of how a nation-state behaves when any of its citizens is killed or even put in harm’s way”.

Comparing this with what is happening to his own people in Nigeria, Ndibe said: “Nigerians had been reduced to the level of animals, their death at the hands of vile, callous terrorists, eliciting little outrage and no reaction…that the killing of a Nigerian hardly carries more weight than the killing of a chicken… the Nigerian has been so dehumanized, so terribly debased, s/he invites comparison to an ant…the death of an ant is often invisible because ants are …too small to be noticed.” He went further to say that “The sense of dying unremarked… has become the lot of the Nigerian slaughtered in massive numbers, every single day, so that the victim’s lives no longer count…”

Ndibe concluded that “A nation must have citizens to make sense at all. Nigeria has humans scaled down to ants…” and to correct this dangerous situation, “The first most urgent order of business in Nigeria is to recreate its people into dignified humans.”

But Bishop Matthew H. Kukah strongly disagreed, not with the content but with the approach. Kukah said: “ Nigerians love to criticize their country…I am even more amused by the criticisms of some of our brethren in the Diaspora…” For example, he said, “…Okey Ndibe literally overreaches himself and engages in … verbal overkill in his Naija pessimism. He says he regrets writing and calling Nigerians chickens. Now he realizes that chickens are better off than Nigerians. Rather, he says Nigeria has become the federal republic of ants… This is most pathetic, despicable and grotesque to say the least. Can anyone in all honesty call a nation of 170 million people… a nation of ants? Indeed…there is hardly any other African that can write this rubbish about their own country…” He went further to ask: “Do ants win Nobel Prizes?” Kukah concluded by saying that his dilemma was “how to recreate our new narrative.”

In summary, while Ndibe cried against the neglect visited on Nigerians via free killings by insurgents and the obvious lack of concern for the killings comparable to the death of ants, Kukah was angry that Ndibe reduced Nigerians to the level of ants.

Even though Ndibe had replied to Kukah in the Dailysun of July 22, I have a right as a Nigerian to express my view on these issues.

Did Ndibe say that Nigerians are ants? My simple answer is no. He only likened the way Nigerians are being freely killed and forgotten to the way ants die and no one remembers or talks about their deaths. Ants were metaphorically used here to drive the strong message that treating Nigerians this way was totally unacceptable. It’s like someone saying: Hassan Kukah is like Zamani Lekwot. This surely does not mean that Kukah is Lekwot. Never! So it was very wrong for Bishop M. H. Kukah to say that Ndibe said Nigerians are ants.

Are Nigerians actually dying and forgotten like ants? Yes. Truth is that Nigerians are so freely violently killed and nothing happens about their death. That is why the Nigerian police would kill Nigerians and nothing happens about the dead and to the killer. Such free, unaccounted for and forgotten killings have been the case in Nigeria. Going down the memory lane we remember “operation wetie” of 1965 when over 1000 Nigerians were killed; several Kano riots that consumed 942 lives; Isaac Adaka Boro uprising in February 1966 when over 100 were killed; Tiv riots of 1960 and 1964 that killed over 2020 Nigerians (see Ethnic Violence in Nigeria by Okwudiba Nnoli 2003); Maitatsine riots of 1980 that consumed over 5000 lives( see; Jos killings since 1999 claimed over 500 lives; Ogoni Liberation struggle in 1990-1995 consumed over 2000 Nigerians(see Amnesty International report in; police versus OPC in Lagos in 2003 claimed over 75 lives; Niger Delta militants killings claimed over 2000 lives; police shot and killed over 50 Nigerian youths in 2009 suspected to be Boko Haram members and now Boko Haram has been killing an average of (10) Nigerians daily from February 2014 to August claiming 2120 lives( my estimate based on newspaper reports). This gives a total of about 15,807 Nigerians killed without trace and they are gone, just like that. This is a proof enough that Nigerians are daily killed without due concern; unlike Israel where only three children died and Israel is bombarding Gaza.

In Northeastern Nigeria today and for the past six months, Nigerians are arrested in good numbers, packed into some awaiting vehicles and taken to deadly camps in the forest. In twos or threes, they are taken out daily for rape or slaughter. Those so killed, do we know them? How many exactly are they? Do we burry them as humans? Is anybody crying because they were so slaughtered? Can anybody remember them? Where are their parents, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, children, relatives, etc? A refugee-turned–taxi-driver in Abuja told me that his village is no more and that over 80 percent of the youths have been conscripted into insurgency and terrorism from over 100 village-communities. Where are these youths now? Who knows and who cares to know? What exactly is happening to them? Are they all alive? If they are dead, how do we know? Obviously all these deaths are gone and forgotten like ants.

Was Ndibe wrong to present the free and guaranteed killing of Nigerians in a condescending manner? Ndibe is a writer like Wole Soyinka who does his trade based on what he sees and reads and therefore puts the issues the way they are. Most times because of writers’ love for society, they paint a grim picture to attract more and urgent leadership interest and attention to resolving matters. This certainly does not mean they hate the people or their leadership. No! Again it has been proven many times that Third World leadership listens more to harsh words than subtle messages. Harsh words are used in demonstrations, riots and violence against leadership; while subtle words are used during dialogue and by pro-leadership writers. Substantially, are the killings in Nigeria horrible and ignored? Does the death of Nigerians caused by these blood thirsty terrorists mean anything to anybody? Who really cares? All the big generals with overflowing ranks and fat salaries and jeep cars living in well furnished government houses are simply sleeping on the job. That was why Niger Delta militants defeated them in the creeks and now again terrorists are defeating them in the desert. The Nigerian police are even happy to kill Nigerians under very flimsy excuses and dump their bodies in undiscoverable graves. The situation is indeed far more condescending than Ndibe wrote. The generals in the military and the police attach no meaning to the death of Nigerians and that is why none of them is bothered the way Nigerians are killed and ignored daily. Do the generals and police want the president to carry guns himself? The truth is that the Nigerian military and the police are certainly not doing their job. For example, Cameroon bombarded Boko Haram’s tents near the border, but since this group had been killing Nigerians, not even a single bomb had been dropped in their camp, at least to scare them away. Nothing! That is why we watch the condescending situation worsen daily. What is condescending is the horrible Nigerian situation, not the Diaspora pessimism.

Was Kukah right to single out Ndibe as a scapegoat for a sin committed by the Diaspora? Again Kukah should not have done this. Reasonableness and maturity demand that mentioning of names was not necessary and indeed it distracts from the credit Kukah would have earned in his argument. That would surely be embarrassing to Okey Ndibe.

Why was Kukah not able to understand the metaphorical use of the word “ants” for the ignored dead Nigerians? Because he was bitter and angry with Ndibe; in bitterness and anger, reasonableness flies out of the mind and mistakes take over. But given the person of Kukah, he should have been able to tame and conquer anger. This is probably proof that no man is above been angry or better still, making mistakes. Who do we look up to when ordinary people like us get angry? God!

What does Kukah want to achieve by saying that the Diaspora write the way they do about Nigeria because they live abroad? Was Kukah jealous? This dichotomy was not necessary because they write expressing disappointment with what is happening at home compared with what happens where they reside. Talking down is normal because what they are talking about is down already; not up. Call black, black. Yes they may be too pessimistic, but that is the spirit that ignites change: the spirit of dissatisfaction. Was Kukah jealous? Maybe not, after all he can easily afford to live there! But saying that they write the way they do because they live there does not jell; it ordinarily makes one feel Kukah was jealous.

Is Kukah saying that Nigerian writers who live in Nigeria do not write like those in the Dispora? I do not think this is true because you can find all shades if writers from those residing in the country.

What has been Kukah’s solution-template to the issues of terrorism and militancy in Nigeria, other than seeing them as merely challenges and difficulties facing the Nigerian project? Going through Kukah’s paper at the Wole Soyinka’s ceremony, I was disappointed the he was silent on Nigeria’s most critical challenge as at today. Peter Adeyemi’s rationalization of this(see Dailysun, page 63 of 29th July 2014) was so lame that it actually does not befit Kukah. As a cleric, leadership would surely appreciate good suggestions from Kukah at that forum, just like Wole Soyinka use to do. A good Christian leader should not keep quiet watching his society being destroyed by terror. Desmond Tutu did not keep quiet, hence ANC is not pleased with him (according to Kukah); that is what we expect to happen when a well meaning Christian leader talks truth to leadership. How many Nigerian Christian leaders suffer what Tutu is suffering in South Africa? Nigeria needs bold and truthful men of God who shall be ready to die for the good of Nigeria; and not those who want to survive by speaking in tongues and not saying truth to leadership. The death of a Nigerian should jolt Kukah and make him feel really concerned.

Kukah’s silence on Boko Haram is not acceptable to Nigerians as a leading man of God in the North. That Sokoto is peaceful does not mean that it was because Kukah’s prayers are working wonders in Sokoto. Whatever happens to any church in northeastern Nigeria should be Kuka’s concern. Indeed it is high time Kukah organized Christiandom in Nigeria to intervene in the killings in the north by Boko Haram. As a prominent religious leader in Nigeria, Kukah should find a way to recreate the military and police to do their work. The pessimistic writing by the Diaspora is not the problem with Nigeria’s security; it is Boko Haram and non-performing military and police. Why has the death of over 2000 Nigerians by Boko Haram not rattled or jolted the military, police and religious leaders into actions to stop the slaughtering of Nigerians?

How many times have the military and police told obvious lies about what they are doing with Boko Haram? To the extent that wives of military officers were not happy, traditional charm doctors and village hunters were up in arms to fight Boko Haram, foreign military were to assist Nigeria and now Cameroon is fighting Boko Haram on our behalf. Haba! Where are the Nigerian military and police to whom our president had made available all they needed to fight Boko Haram? Subtle economical use of words does not describe the horror taking place in Northeastern Nigeria and the right words and pictures must be spoken and painted to call it what it is: horror. Okey Ndibe has just scratched the issue. I n fact Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, as a proof of his being a true man of God, should publicly apologize to Okey Ndibe for the public embarrassment of mentioning Okey’s name in a so-called crime committed by the Diaspora.

Thereafter, both Okey and Matthew would have been recreated to think alike and fight the common enemy with their trade so that this horrible free slaughter of Nigerians daily is put to an end. This fight should use any means available, provided we succeed; it is not about using status-quo complaint words to describe horror, it is about matching horror with horrible words and actions.



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