“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
There are many to whom the name Mohammed Marwa remain meaningless. He was the infamous religious scholar, known as Maitatsine, whose narrow interpretation of Islam and inciting teaches led to the religious riots in Kano and other parts of the country in the 80’s. By the time this movement was quelled, almost 10,000 people had died, with many more rendered homeless. As with its more sophisticated variant, Boko Haram, the violence was the result of narrow interests unleashing violence via religious disguises.
As I started this article, there were reports of another attack on innocent people at the old campus of the Bayero State University, Kano (BUK). This time gunmen opened fire on innocent worshippers. This came a few months after almost 200 people, including Eneche Akogwu, a reporter in the line of duty, were killed during a wave of bombings and shootings in the same town.
The official response of the government has been predictable. The attacks are condemned, and a promise is made to ensure the safety of lives and property. It feels like the image-makers of the government already have a template that needs minor alterations—a change of date here, an amendment to the number of victims there. A war against terror is won in the media, nowadays. This is obvious, but the signal from this government is one that seems unsure of the magnitude of the problem before it.
Before General Owoeye Azazi made his “controversial” comments last week, it was obvious this wave of violence was a political problem. There was nothing earth shattering about saying: “The issue of violence did not increase in Nigeria until there was a declaration by the current President that he was going to contest. PDP got it wrong from the beginning.” Yes, there are those who suggest the NSA should be seen and not heard, but surely, we should not discard the baby with the bath water. The comments are in line with what many people already believe a Southern President in 2011 was not acceptable to certain parts of the country.
I found comments made by General Azazi’s boss, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan mildly interesting. He said, “I don’t believe undemocratic practices in the PDP gave rise to Boko Haram or any other group.” He also suggested that the interviewer contacts the NSA to clarify his comments. As The Vanguard editorial on the April 30 said, everybody except the President understood the NSA. It is instructive that the president refuses to acknowledge, at least publicly, that narrow forces within his political party are in a struggle with his government for the control of the country.
The strategy from the government seems to be one based on the principle of dialogue; an expectation that they can negotiate with those who use religion as a fabric to unleash politically motivated violence. It is line with previous comments made by Dr. Jonathan, where he suggested he could find elements of this insurgency within the government, yet there is no attempt to take such elements on. This is the only blame I believe the President should be assigned.
There are those who see some perverse joy in this bloodshed; the ones whose crimes have been temporarily forgotten as a climate of fear and grief pervades the land. There are others who eternally criticize what is clearly a struggling administration. For those sets of people, the words of John Donne should ring loudly. He said, “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” (Meditation 17, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions.)
This quote reminds us of our mortality, for that passage begins, “No man is an island, entire of itself.” For when a funeral bell is heard, it is a reminder that we are nearer death each day. It is also saying we are all one and that when one dies, we all die a little.
Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.