Hafiz Yunus Omotayo, Missionary and Chairman of Muslim Writers Guild of Nigeria
As humanity continues to be aghast and as the media buzzes with news of the pervasive, wanton killings that are currently bedeviling Nigeria, it is the aim of this article to assess the ominous development and make a case for why a stop must be put to the gory trends in the country, if truly the citizens genuinely desire to existentially break the jinx of their collective utopia for sustainable peace, security and development.
“Did our history begin with the curse of Cain? It is a gory tale of murder, assassination and torture in any event. So much blood has been spilled throughout history that the whole world could be painted red with it – with plenty to spare. When will man stop killing his fellow men? When will his thirst for blood ever be quenched?”
The above thought-provoking questions were raised by Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmadrh – who later became the head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community (1982-2003) – in the opening paragraph of his master-piece, titled, Murder in the Name of Allah, written on the heels of the 1953 public disturbances in Pakistan which shut down the five-year old independent country amidst carnage and curse.
More particularly, in his historical novel, titled, A Carnage Before Dawn, published online by Okada Books, the author, Ayomide Akinbode, takes us on a gory tale of Nigeria’s first coup d’état, which took place in the night of 14-15 January 1966.
Today, over 50 years aft er the bloody event, it is still the same bloody story of killings, as Nigeria has not known peace and security of lives and properties. Would it be inconsequential to remark, for instance, that the gory tale of bloodbath in Nigeria’s first coup d’état signalled an ominous repetition of the history of Cain’s carnage and curse, which re-occurred to change the national fate of the nascent independent state of Nigeria, barely three years aft er her first republic in 1963?
The atrocious event saw the shedding of blood of Nigeria’s first prime minister, the premiers of the Northern and Western Regions, the federal minister of finance and most of the senior army officers.
Of course, cases of bloodshed had earlier occurred across the three regions of the country – particularly on the heels of the crises that greeted 1964’s National Census and the Western Region’s election in 1965.
However, considering the ominous effect the 15 January bloodshed bore on the national destiny of the country, one may conclude that it marked a turning point from humanely giving life to violently causing death in the history of Nigeria.
Since then, the number of cases of assassinations, extra-judicial homicides and wanton killings caused by the various recurring political power struggles, electoral crises, ethno-religious conflicts, inter-communal and intra-communal conflicts, vigilante killings, civil war, insurgency, militancy, suicide terrorism, banditry, abduction-for-death killings, armed robberies and alleged killings for ritual purposes are as uncountable and unimaginable as they are dastardly and disturbing.
Let us investigate some notable data. During the two and half years of the 1967-1970 Nigerian Civil War, there were about 100,000 overall military casualties, while between 500,000 and two million Biafran civilians died of starvation. In the same vein, the 1980s were bedeviled by the Maitatsine riots which were a series of violent uprisings instigated by Islamist Muhammad Marwa on 18 December 1980 in Kano and resulted in 4,000 deaths.
In recent times, the last two decades have arguably been the bloodiest and most disturbing periods in Nigeria because of the increased spate of mass killings in the country. The events of Abuja in 2000 and Jos in 2001 were effectively riots between Christians and Muslims that took hundreds of lives.
Another such riot killed over 100 people in October 2001 in Kano State. In 2002, the Nigerian journalist Isioma Daniel wrote her sarcastic article, which led to demonstrations and violence that caused the deaths of over 200 in Kaduna.
Similarly, the reaction to the cartoons of Prophet Muhammadsa brought about a series of violent protests in Nigeria. Clashes between rioters and police claimed several lives, with estimates ranging from 16 to more than a hundred. This led to reprisal attacks in the south of the country, particularly in Onitsha, where more than a hundred lost their lives.
On 28 June 2018, Tribune published the checklist of killings in Nigeria from 1999 to 2015 released by Femi Adeshina, Senior Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media. The list shows 2,500 recorded deaths during the 20 November 1999 Odi killing.
Similarly, between February and May 2000, about 5,000 people were killed during riots over Shariah law in different parts of the North. In 2001, hundreds of people, including old, women and children were killed in Zaki Biam. Between 7 and 15 September 2001, Jos, Plateau State erupted in internecine killings. Between 500 and 1,000 people were killed.
In 2010, 992 people were again killed in Jos. Just a year after, on 16 May 2011, Reuters reported Human Right Watch’s record in which more than 800 people were killed and 65,000 displaced in three days of violence following a presidential election in April won by President Good-luck Jonathan.
In fact, according to a report titled Ethnic and Religious Crisis in Nigeria, published by ACCORD on 29 August 2016, between 1999 and 2013, more than 11,000 deaths have occurred in Nigeria. This statistic is, however, an extremely modest one when compared against the report published on 12 December 2011, by International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law on Nigerians who died outside the law since 1999.
According to it, there are over 54, 000 unlawful deaths in Nigeria since 1999. More worrisome is the finding that between 1 June 2006 and 31 May 2014, the number of violent deaths recorded by the Nigeria Watch database was 61,241.
We must not quickly forget that in 2014 alone, according to the Global Terrorism Index, at least 1,229 people were killed in the Middle Belt. The Premium Times of 13 February 2017 reported a shocking revelation attributed to the Borno Governor that the Boko Haram insurgency had killed 100,000 and displaced two million Nigerians.
Sun News Online, on 29 June 2018, reported that while Amnesty International said it had independently verified that since January 2018, no fewer than 1,813 people were murdered in 17 states; the UN revealed that at least 881 children were either killed or maimed by the Boko Haram terror group and the Nigerian security forces in 2017.
In the 2019 Global Terrorism Index published by the Institute of Economics and Peace, Nigeria was ranked third with 8.597 scores, coming just behind Iraq (9.241) and Afghanistan (9.603) respectively.
At this juncture, one is compelled to again revert to Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad’srh panoramic view of the pathology of man’s disease of bloodshed as impressively espoused in his book referred to earlier. He writes:
“Abel was the first man to be killed, by his brother, for no reason. The story of that murder has been preserved by the Quran and the Bible as a lesson to us all – it will remain as an example till the end of time.
“Study history, and one thing becomes clear: that man is an aggressive creature. His aggressiveness has been untamed by the growth of civilisation. Man is as cruel today as he was thousands of years ago. The story of his ruthlessness, his tyranny and his aggression is long and painful. The fire of human aggression has not been quenched even aft er thousands of years of savagery.
“Assassination of individuals and the annihilation of whole groups of peoples are a repetitive theme of history. States have attacked states; countries have fought against their neighbours and against nations far from their borders. Hordes of people living in the steppes and deserts conquered nations with ancient civilisations; blood was shed by Caesar and by Alexander; Baghdad was destroyed by Hulagu and Gengiz; the soil of Kurukshetra ran red with the blood of Kauravas and Pandavas.
“Sometimes blood was spilled in the name of honour, sometimes in the name of revenge for supposed wrongs. Sometimes angry hordes overran peaceful lands in search of food, sometimes in search of world domination. But more oft en the blood of man – created in God’s image – was shed in the name of his Creator. Religion was used as an excuse for mass murder. Seeing this aspect of human nature makes one wonder if mankind is not the basest and most ruthless species on earth.” (Murder in the Name of Allah, p. 1)
Localising the above analysis in the context of the Nigerian situation, one quickly comes to realise not only the factors behind the carnage in Nigeria, but also the enormity of the concomitant curses they have brought, and still bring, upon the soil of the country. For, any genuine study of the history of Nigeria would reveal that the more Nigerians had spilled the blood of their fellow countrymen, the more the country had become accursed.
It is helpful to note that according to statista.com, in 2020, Nigeria’s population was estimated to amount to 206 million individuals. Notably, an 18 December 2012 report on religion and public life by the Pew Research Center stated that in 2010, 48.3 percent of Nigeria’s population was Christian, 48.9 percent was Muslim and 2.8 percent were followers of indigenous and other religions or unaffiliated.
This statistic clearly shows that 97.2 Nigerians claimed to profess faith in the two main religions that strongly prohibit bloodshed. The legal dictum, “Thou shalt not kill”, is an imperative enshrined in the Biblical book of Exodus that is very commonly heard from the lips of many Nigerian Christians.
Similarly, the Quranic junctions, “And kill not yourselves,” and “Whosoever killed a person – extra-judicially – it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and whoso gave life to one, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind”, encapsulated in the fourth and fifth Quranic chapters respectively, are beautiful Quranic injunctions, very oft en recited daily by Muslim worshippers.
Yet, the spate of wanton killings continues to increase astronomically! This indeed is the most disheartening phenomenon! When will Nigerians stop shedding the blood of their fellow Nigerians? When will they let Nigeria be cleansed of the curse of blood?
Now, it is high time Nigerians all realised why this gory tale of carnage and curse must stop. To this end, it is expedient that all Nigerians walk the talk: Stop the killing; Stop the curse!