…Decries lack of closure of civil war and charges the media to help save the country
Nigeria is bedeviled by one of the most intense security challenges of her existence with virtually every region of the country grappling with one issue of insecurity or the other and have coined different names and titles to describe the assumed culprits of the different incidents of crime going on around the country.
The Governor of Abia State, Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu stated this on Monday June 7 at Port Harcourt the Rivers State capital while delivering his key note address at the third Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) National Media Conference with the theme The Media, Insecurity and National Unity.
He said unfortunately ‘’the Media have played an active role in their propagation and proliferation by promoting their different names and titles and serving as a vehicle for their messages. Today, we have bandits, insurgents, terrorists, secessionists, pirates, kidnappers, criminal herdsmen and the most amorphous of all, unknown gunmen’’
The Governor further said ‘’In every region of the country, different categories of criminal elements are unleashing terror on the people and our newspaper headlines and other media outlets are daily filled with gory details of their activities’’
The Abia Governor said ‘’despite the gravity of the challenges outlined above, our situation is further compounded, in my opinion, by a lack of accurate diagnosis of the security situation in Nigeria. The current era of criminality can be defined as the dark era of Nigerian National evolution’’
Furthermore Dr Ikpeazu stated that ‘’we have expended so much resources and words addressing the manifestations of the problem without first going to the root cause of the problems. What are the factors that led to these manifestations and escalation of criminal activities in Nigeria? What role has state and non-state actors played in the festering of the problem? What is the way out? These are some of the questions I will attempt to answer in this intervention’’
According to him, the current ‘’inability to respect Federal character, views and feelings of those we call minority groups or those we think do not have voices that are loud enough. So injustice and ethnicity, clannishness, lack of respect for one another, etc took centre-stage and this culture of impunity defined our nationhood overtime. Why you may want to ask: because our leaning towards the cliff of consumption without commensurate production has created huge problems for us. This is perhaps why the exclusive list is problematic and why we have come to see over-centralisation of political control with the Federal Government. Consequently, we have centralized police/security control in order to sustain the grip of the Federal Government on power’’
He identified the remote causes of Nigeria conflicts as Lack of inclusion, disenchantment, poor social mobilisation/dislocation from Government business and programmes, real and perceived injustice, poor adherence to federal character and Lack of Social Justice.
‘’Another concomitant factor we cannot shy away from is that Nigeria is a country that fought a very bitter civil war. I am persuaded to believe that those who were active players in this war, from children that were born after the war to those who experienced the war, have not gotten a closure.
People from Eastern Nigeria are yet to get a closure vis a vis accurate accounts of what caused the war and the role of all parties during the war.
In other countries that have risen from the ashes of a civil war, the media played a critical role in documenting accurate accounts and narrative of everything concerning the war. As the years go by, many of the active participants and important figures of the war are passing away and we have just a few of them left. If we allow all the major players to pass away without them telling us what happened, we would have lost a huge opportunity to achieve post-war closure.
What then shall we tell our children was the cause of the war? We have now left a huge space in the history of this country to conjecture. Different people wake up and spew different narratives about the war. Before our very eyes, revisionism and obfuscation is going on and different people are holding unto different narratives that exonerate or at best, justify their roles while painting the other party as provocateur and villain. We need this closure in order for us to learn the lessons, draw our Red Lines, define the new Nigeria and forge a path towards meaningful progress’’ He said.
Continuing, he said ‘’having laid the plank, it is therefore my charge to the Nigerian Union of Journalists that we should challenge the remaining living major actors of the Nigerian Civil War to tell us the truth about what transpired during that period. It is my belief that there is need for certain people to say to the other – we are sorry about what happened and we commit to ensuring that it does not happen again. Then the other party can also say we are also sorry for this or that aspect of our actions and together, we will find closure.
If we remain in denial about the events that led to the civil war and actions of parties during the civil war, what we are simply saying is that it could happen again because you know that a people who do not learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat it again’’
The governor further stated that ‘’as a leader, it is not everything I can obviously say publicly but we are all seeing the signs that some of the current security agitations are effects of unresolved issues from our past history and a lack of a proper resolution and closure. Once again, I put this assignment squarely at the feet of the media. You have what it takes to precipitate these chain of events. You can elicit exclusive interviews where major actors can reveal things that they have never revealed before. It is how it is done in other climes. The media are major actors in national development and Nigeria cannot be an exception.
Members of the Nigerian Union of Journalists can investigate all the conflicting claims about the war and present us with a factual narrative. I understand that it is a touchy subject but the media is supposed to be the conscience of the nation so this is a challenge I verily believe that you are able to take up’’