I went to bed on Thursday night scared that another civil war may break out in Nigeria. The questionable way in which the Commander-in-Chief handled the activities of a secession seeking group had led to a spur of violent attacks, shared on social media. There was no social media in Nigeria in 1966, but still violence in the form of reprisal ethnic attacks still left a lot of people dead. News travels faster in this time. Pictures and accounts of violence by social media users magnified fears of a military operation turning into violent ethnic clashes among civilians. And because it is social media, it was impossible to be sure if any of these accounts or pictures were true, but they nonetheless, contribute to inciting hate.
Watching a video in which it seemed like Igbo youths were scanning commercial vehicles for Hausas reminded me of scenes from the movie adaptation of Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, where unarmed Igbos were targeted and killed, even in an airport in Lagos.
Many feared what the response of the ‘Awusas’ will be. The north has been at the receiving end of many negative stereotypes, violence being one of them. It was a delight to find out that the expectation of violence from the north, a part of the country that many seem to think has no chill when it comes to violent attacks, was not met.
Pictures of citizens in the north wearing Igbo attires in a bid to encourage tolerance and non-violence were shared on social media. Several tweets from a twitter handle said to be that of the Governor of Gombe state indicated that authorities in the north were committed to ensuring the safety of people in the north regardless of religion and tribe, and are making efforts to prevent a repeat of a bitter history.
In saner climes, non-violence would be the norm, but with the history of Nigeria, and the fragility of peace and pseudo-tolerance among different ethnic groups, this seems like a silver lining.
The legality and morality of the federal government and the military’s actions are still being debated, while the president still hasn’t directly spoken about recent happenings (he’s not much of a talker, is he?), the efforts of campaigners for peace are certainly commendable.
This does not mean the many challenges we face on the path to tolerance and unity has disappeared, many people still echo the “if these northerners start” narrative, and see no silver here.
Maybe I am overly optimistic, I’m a hopeless romantic after all, but we certainly can do with a non-violent approach to our problems and Nigerians bashing negative stereotypes. I’ll take this as a silver lining. I hope there will be more to come.