Cheta Nwanze: Is Nigeria on the verge of another 1966 crash?

by Cheta Nwanze

Let’s talk very briefly about the boiling frog. The boiling frog is an illustration of death by a thousand cuts. Basically, the anecdote says that if you take a frog and put it in boiling water, the animal will jump out immediately. However, if you take the same frog and put in cold water, the frog will settle in the water. From then, you can slowly boil the water. The frog, being comfortable in the water, will not see the danger, and will, gradually, cook to death.

This is Nigeria for you. Nigeria is on a knife edge and has been for a while. We have not come to a sudden crash, as we did in 1966 when young hotheads brought everything to a head. The memory of those days have ensured that those hotheads, having grown older, and in some cases wiser, kept a lid on things. The problem is this — 1966 was half a century ago. Many of those hotheads are gone. Those that are still kicking around, won’t be with us much longer.

Sadly these hotheads did us a major disservice in not telling us the truth of what they went through. Because of this, we will, in our own time, have our own crash. The problem is, given that we have had fifty years of a lid being kept over the water boiling, we have slowly cooked.

The signs are there.

Let’s take this Fulani herdsmen thing as an example. It is one of the things that my employer keeps a track of, and almost a year ago, we had a report on this. Between 1997 and 2011, a period of 14 years, there were 18 incidents. Just over one per year.

In the four years between 2011 and 2015, the number of incidents jumped to 371, the vast majority of them, 330, relatively “small” skirmishes with less than 20 bodies left behind. It is important to note that in the four year period, we had just three incidents in which just about 100 people died. In the previous 14 years, we had just one of such.

In 2016 alone, there were 59 of such incidents, at least six of these incidents had fatality counts of more than 100 people!

Can you see how the frog is slowly boiling away?

Again, one dead body, without perpetrators caught, is one dead body too many. It increases the resolve of people to fight back.

A little story: in October last year, I was in a place called Katugal, doing what I tend to do and speaking with people. One of the people I spoke with told me that in his village, they’d gotten some arms to defend themselves. Then soldiers came into the village, went house to house, and disarmed them. A few days after I left, the man’s village was attacked.

Given that, is there any way such a person will trust any statement coming from the authorities?

That is what we are facing. A breakdown of trust, which will lead people to come to their own conclusions. There are no prizes for guessing what those conclusions will be. Such conclusions lead to incidents like Ipiga, in Benue state. There was an attack there, a few days ago. More of the natives died, but this time there was a difference. There was a fightback, and some of the attackers were killed. The people of that village, and others around it, are going to be more woke. It is going to get harder to have these “free” attacks, but asides from the “peace” of the villages, there will be an unintended consequence. The proliferation of arms will lead to more people turning such arms on each other.

It’s a closed loop. But we are, in many cases for reasons of asinine politics, refusing to look at it.
God help us and our children.

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

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