LITERATURE In The Throes Of National Security | Independent Newspapers Limited
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LITERATURE In The Throes Of National Security

Rev. Fr. Matthew Kukah
Posted: Sep 24, 2016 at 5:30 am   /   by   /   comments (1)

By DCP Emmanuel CS Ojukwu.

“To treat a snake bite
Cut the wound
Suck out the venom;
To treat a snake’s venom
Apply the venom.”

Introducing his latest book, There Was A Country, which captured some of the contradictions of Nigeria’s internecine 3-year war, Professor Chinua Achebe wrote in the Guardian of London (Tuesday October 2, 2012) that “As a writer, I believe that it is fundamentally important, indeed essential to our humanity, to ask hard questions, in order to better understand ourselves and our neighbours…In the case of the Nigeria-Biafra war, there is precious little relevant literature that helps answer these questions…”

He then posed a number of questions on genocide, fairness in war, misinformation and disinformation, information void, and wondered further;

“Why has the war not been discussed, or taught to the young, more than 40 years after its end? Are we perpetually doomed to repeat the errors of the past because we are too stubborn to learn from them?”

Whose job is it to X-ray the past and convey its lessons to the present and future generations? Whose duty is it to expose malfeasance, indiscipline, and corruption to the world?

With whom does it lay, the duty of exposing the vice of violence as it is gradually eroding our national psyche? And whose efforts are expected in the direction of advertising good deeds, morals and models? Literature is it to dramatise all.

Literature is said to be a power to be possessed, not a body of objects to be studied. Writers need to be engrossed and concerned with issues of humanity, issues of development, what makes our world thick and move round; literature is concerned about our joys and sadness, our ups and downs, our tears and fears. It lies within the purview of literature: the intricacies and conflicts arising from our religious beliefs and culture vis-à-vis the demands of modernisation and urbanisation; the complexities and contradictions between globalisation and unification, as they contend with the demands for national identity, sovereignty and independence.

Literature should be concerned with issues that lead to insecurity, how the factors are managed when they arise and how to cushion the effects and prevent a recurrence. Writers ought to do a regular post-mortem of developments in our polity, economy and society, so that we can learn and profit from them.

It lies with writers to address how to improve our environment, for out of it proceed issues that enhance or disturb life. Authors, as critical thinkers, are endowed to show-case the beauty of our world and its systems, its values, virtues, strong points, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

In his remarks at the recently-concluded rally tagged 100Thousand Poets and Musicians for Change, held in Abuja, our own poet and dramatist, Denja Abdullahi, had this to say concerning the veritable use of poetry and music:

The State Of Security

Among human needs, security is seen as fundamental. It is basic, primary and elementarily substantial. The nature of man is that man is aggressive, greedy and territorial. Man can, and does cause insecurity to fellow man. It therefore requires the instruments of law and law enforcement to save man from man. Security is seen in the areas of personal security, social security, environmental security, and national security.

Security, literally speaking, connotes the absence of or freedom from danger. It implies protection from harm, loss, depreciation or unease. Thus a feeling of security is a feeling of being safe.

As it stands, whatever makes a citizen feel unsafe in his physical, mental, social, political, environmental, and economic well-being connotes insecurity. In this genre of insecurity stand the malaises of hunger, homelessness, poverty, illiteracy, disease, dirt, noise, denial of human rights, pollution, erosion, flooding etc. A hungry person is as insecure as one that is politically disenfranchised or marginalised; a citizen from Auchi whose right to fairness and equity are denied is as unsafe as one from Bauchi whose environment is ravaged by desertification or sister elements of degradation. Both are suffering. A nation is under siege where fear of crime prevails.

Many members of our human society are feeling unsafe on a daily basis and in varying degrees; and for a variety of reasons too. Some express their feelings, advertising them in sloganeering, protests, demonstrations, riots, revolts, and even wars. The end result is loss of lives and property, accompanied by associated vices of rape, unwanted pregnancies, spread of diseases, abandonment, and other factors that further depreciate the value of life.

As Sheikh Ahmed Lemu’s report on the post-election violence in Nigeria in 2011 would show, public frustration, disappointments and pent-up emotions due to environmental decay, and infrastructural maladies and hard life were predisposing factors to the violence. The report warned that these could escalate to social revolution if preventive measures were not taken on time. It also frowned at the non-implementation of the recommendations of previous probe results, which gave the impression of a culture of impunity over misconduct.

Since Lord Lugard’s amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914, many incidents of aggression that touched on our collective security have been witnessed.

They include, but in no specific order: The Aba Women riots of 1929; The Coal Miners Strike; The Western Nigeria Crises of 1962; The Ife-Modakeke crises (1981, 1992, 1995, 2002); The Jos crises(2004, 2008, 2010 till date); The Umuleri-Aguleri crises (1996, 1998); The Nigeria-Biafra civil war(1966-1970); The Maitatsine religious disturbances (1980); The Boko Haram crisis (2010-date) and The Ezza-Ezillo crises. Others are The Zango-Kataf/Hausa/Fulani crisis (1992); The Sayawa/Hausa-Fulani crisis in Bauchi; The MOSOP/MEND agitations; The Zaki Biam and Odi show down; The Tiv/Jukum riots (2001-2002); The Ijaw/Ilaje/Itsekiri clashes (1999); The Jukum/Kuteb disputes; Niger Delta militancy; The Egbesu/OPC/Bakassi/MASSOB confusion; The June 12 and SAP riots; Fuel subsidy/prize protests and The 2011 post-election riots.

The rationale and motives behind these incidents, the conduct of the crises and the dramatis personae, as well as the results and effects on the people and the entire nation are issues that should excite the creative instincts of contemporary authors.

In the prologue to his captivating book, Witness to Justice, (2011), which documented some of the observations of the Oputa Panel, Rev. Father Matthew Kukah, had this to say concerning the apathy of writers:

“…I found the lack of enthusiasm among our academia rather frustrating. Even without the formal release of the Report, a sense of academic curiosity should have compelled the social science faculties to rummage through the Report as a means of guiding their students. …works of this nature should be able to excite and incite the imagination of those in the ivory tower.”

I am inclined to think that operators in contemporary Nigerian literary scene should be concerned about security and the lack of it. It should be in the front burner and elevated to a higher conversation. The clarion call becomes even more obvious when considered in the light of subsequent presentations. Of a truth, without security, nothing else can prosper.

Without security, what confronts us is a failed state, an aberration that does no one any good.

The constitution enjoins the citizens to assist law enforcement agencies in their onerous assignment. Now do caricature and ridicule help? I am afraid not. But will satire help. Yes, perhaps.

Comments (1)

  • Adeogun Kayode Sep 24, 2016 at 9:38 am Adeogun Kayode

    Please, I have prepared an article on World Teachers’ Day coming up on October 5th. Where can I send it to for kind consideration for publication?

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