Can any federation, like Nigeria, excuse insensitivity to the feelings of others and not pay dearly for it? Can men and women of influence speak, as if they don’t care about the feelings of others, and there won’t be consequences? Should we not interrogate the beginning of this phenomenon and identify when the earliest seeds were sown if we have any chance to see how their fruits mutated over the years?
Speaking on the first anniversary of his election as president of Ibo State Union in 1949, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe noted that ‘… the God of Africa has specially created the Ibo nation to lead the children of Africa from the bondages of the ages…’
In 1955, when Sir Ahmadu Bello was questioned as to why he wanted to recruit officers from Sudan when there were qualified Nigerians from the south for the positions, he remarked, ‘What is the south? We face the East…’
In has been many, many years since these statements were made in 1949 or 1955, yet the atmosphere today is saturated with modern versions of the same divisive and insensitive comments and actions. Fans, followers and admirers of leaders who make these kinds of comments often morph their fascination into dangerous tendencies. And worse versions than the earlier statements. With the attendant consequence of suffocating tension in the polity, and arrested development as we can all attest to in Nigeria.
Thankfully, from the mouth of a Nigerian Babe (out of the mouth of babes…) came a strong echo from the distant past. When award winning singer, Asa, among other lines, sang that ‘…he is without sin, be the first to cast the stone…’ she simply borrowed a line from the Lord Jesus Christ. Some people had brought a woman caught in adultery to him, for judgment. In that moment there was a clash of worldviews. Should the guilty be given jungle justice as prescribed by the law or should forgiveness take the high ground? When every member of the angry mob of executioners considered the charge, they knew what they needed to do. Everyone dropped the deadly missile they once wielded and walked away having faced the moment of truth. The contentious matter was thus resolved. Just like that, no stone thrown, no daggers drawn and no bullets fired. Do we need another moment of truth, like this? Would the same formula apply to all the contentious matters in Nigeria today, whether offline or particularly in social media?