Tuesday Column By VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO
firstname.lastname@example.org | 08033077519
Without exception, we all wished one another a happy new year ‘Wishing you 12 months 52 weeks 365 days of success and joy’ reverberated throughout the Land in exultation and expectation that this 2021 will be better than last year, filled with happy memories at least. But alas even before the ink with which we wrote those cheerful words had dried off we began to be bombarded with unpleasant news, all borne of hatred and mistrust emanating largely from misinformation brewed mostly by idle prattlers that are misusing the gift of being able to speak to cause confusion, pull down and destroy; rather than use it to build up, spread peace and blessings through noble words. Misinformation/disinformation, mistrust/distrust, hatred appear to be the common feature of this our world now, growing by the day. The end product is disharmony manifesting in a thousand fold varieties in families, communities, zones, nation(s), continent(s) and this our earth in general. Thus we have in-fighting of all kinds — family fights, verbal fights, digital(online) fights, communal fights, banditry fights, terrorism fights, etc. In brief ‘wars’ of all kinds, big and small, at all levels. The common denominator of them all is maimings and killings, the planting of sorrows and tears all over. Given the rate at which aforementioned pestilence of misinformation, distrust and hatred is spreading it may consume us all sooner or later unless men and women of goodwill, peacemakers confront the challenge by rising to douse the raging fire.
This very first month of the year is already replete with examples which makes one shudder at what 2021 will bring in its full bloom. Early in January there was some altercations between members of the two notable religions with one party accusing a cleric of the other faith of having said something unfavourable about the other religion. It soon became a shouting match between them both and degenerated still to issuing of ominous threats by both sides. One party called for the arrest, prosecution(and possibly jailing?) of the cleric while the other warned that “nothing should happen” to him (which means that heaven will fall if anything untoward befalls him?). It raged on and threatened to cause a religious war of sort. Yet this was a problem that can be simply settled by representatives of both parties including the accused and the accuser sitting down together opening up to each other with a clean heart. ‘This is the portion of your speech we take offense to because this is how we see it, this is how we interpret it, this is how the ordinary man of our faith interprets it ….”. And the other person explaining, ‘ This what I meant there’, courageously accepting any mistake on his part, apologizing sincerely; both parties drawing up a template on how both sides should frame their sermons in future such that it would not be blindly misinterpreted by the other side or incite them to unnecessary fury. Then it ends with a friendly handshakes, genuine love for one another and a pledge to better serve humanity (which they apparently profess) by promoting harmony amongst all persons.
Recently the governor of ondo state gave an ultimatum for herdsmen to quit its forest reserves because of alleged security infractions by them. The presidency countermanded the governor’s directive and what appeared like muscle flexing ensued. Before long the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association and the Miyetti Allah Kautol Hore threw their hat into the fray so to speak, hot verbal exchanges ensued. Soon communities in the south west region began to relay their own tales of robberies, kidnappings and murders in the hands of alleged herdsmen on whom is tagged a particular tribe. Before we knew it one S.I. tagged as a “Yoruba activist” reportedly issued his own quit notice to “Fulani herdsmen” in a community of Oyo state. The governor, Seyi Makinde, called for his arrest, ditto the Inspector General of Police reportedly. Tension was rising, both sides were massing supporters behind them, readying for an apparent ‘bloody’ clash. House of the Fulani leader in that community was reportedly razed. Mischief makers/agents provocateurs waded in to inflame passions by breeding misinformation/ disinformation, stoking the social media with hate speeches cum conspiracy theories. The impression was created that Yorubas and Fulani’s are fighting, that the fight was about to escalate into war. Indeed it all started with amplifying of half- truths in form of mongering that Ondo state had asked all Fulani herdsmen, all Hausas, all northerners to leave the state; that other south west States were about to follow suit. Nothing could be further from the truth
The blame lies partly with the way newspaper headlines are cast to draw attention. However, the greater blame goes to those that draw conclusions from and take actions based on headlines only rather than reading through the whole text with their thinking caps on, paying attention, looking out especially for quoted speech to get a correct, rounded picture of whatever is said or reported. That was the case with the first example I cited and the presidency’s first reaction to the Ondo governor’s purported eviction order to herdsmen whereby speeches were taken out of context and misinterpreted. And they became ammunition for agents of darkness masquerading in human flesh.
For the presidency, relying on newspaper reports to counter Ondo government’s directive to the herdsmen is unpardonable. All the president needed to do was personally call up Governor Rotimi Akeredolu-Ale to ask him the true situation, both suggesting, agreeing on how to resolve the matter going forward. Now as an after thought when tensions were almost boiling over, President Mohammadu Buhari is asking those concerned to dialogue with south west governors to find an amicable/agreeable solution to this lingering matter which is threatening the foundation of the country’s unity. Nonetheless, those herdsmen like other members of the society found to have perpetrated alleged crimes of robbery, kidnapping, murder should be brought to account after having their day in court. Justice should not only be served but should be seen to have been done.