SIR: When the presidency announced the retirement of the former service chiefs and the appointment of new ones, there trailed a sense of renewed hope by Nigerians in the capacity of our armed forces to end the decade-long menace of insurgency, banditry, and pockets of violent clashes bedevilling the country, most especially the Northeast and Northwest regions. We must however, tread with caution in the level of hope we have now because this appointment seems like application of bandage on bullet wounds: well intentioned and perhaps fanciful, but ineffective in the long run.
This is by no means an ill-thought condescension on the new chiefs and or the armed forces in general; their resolve in fighting against an enemy hell-bent on causing sporadic destruction and leaving head-spinning death tolls in their wake, as well as the rising number of security agents paying the ultimate price, speaks volumes of what our armed forces go through. It is a call on the government, and even the citizenry, to do more than just putting old wines in new bottles.
The first and perhaps most important step to take is complete rejuvenation of our educational system to provide proper education to young Nigerians who otherwise are prone to being easily radicalised. As someone who has had a short stint as a teacher in a government owned secondary school, the kind of education being provided to young Nigerians from low-income families is at best, average, and sometimes, borderline nonsensical.
We also have to make concerted efforts at ensuring that our religious scholars understand the gravity of using lines from religious scriptures to make inflammatory statements in their sermons. The disregard that our religious scholars have for other faiths is a major issue that must be looked into, and necessary actions taken to put a stop to it, or at the very least, reduce it to hush-hush instead of brazen public statements. As a Muslim, it would be ignoble to not acknowledge that some aspects of Islamic ideology are being followed by extremists, who consider themselves as the true harbingers of millenarianism, to unleash wanton terror on innocent civilians. History texts have shown us that the things we consider to be barbaric today were normal practices in the legal environment of 7th century Arabia and in medieval Europe. Hence, transferring exactly the same laws applied to the societies of those periods to our current clime is practically impossible. Our reality is almost in stark contrast to that of those times.
Like it or not, the fact is that Nigeria is a multi-faith state and one must accept that reality as long as it does not constitute an impediment to ones freedom to practice one’s religion.
Another step to take in tackling insecurity, especially as related to conflict, is to ensure that our media fully abide by the ethics of peace journalism that requires them to be key contributors to societal development and peaceful coexistence. They must begin to adhere to the tenets of peace journalism that leads audiences to have an increased understanding of conflicts, be less likely to have a polarised view of conflicts in which they believe that the side they align with is always right, have a higher level of optimism and compassion, and a decreased level of fear and anger. Lastly, but of course not least, is to ensure that there is proper execution of the laws that stipulate the punishments for murders, kidnappings, and any other acts that put the lives of innocent persons at risk. The current method of giving feather smacks to the face of the perpetrators of extreme violence is surely proving to be abortive. While I am an advocate of rehabilitation and second chances, some persons are simply inexorable in their ways and it is high time we came to terms with that.