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Tomiwa Ilori: The Owerri bomb scare and echoes of civil war


Tomiwa Ilori: The Owerri bomb scare and echoes of civil war

By Tomiwa Ilori

Man has continued relentlessly to look for a system of order in which he can conveniently establish his survival. This kind of effort is a lifelong effort, it continues so far man exists. Systems of government are founded to guarantee man’s survival.

Taking a panoramic view into the history of the establishment of the Nigerian entity, one of the most disastrous failings of her leadership was the introduction of the wrong system of government: the unitary system of government. The then military leadership fused arms of government on an erroneous import of functional importance of a feature that is exclusive of a nation. Nigeria had since then approached the challenges of diversification with more caution.

One of the most potent means for ensuring a Nigeria, was to establish a vibrant and working federal system of government. Federal, as it importantly bears on protection of all diverse interests. It is stale fact that except for formal needs, the ability of each Nigerian to identify with his or her country is often preceded by ethnic or tribal allegiance. The mistrust between the ethnic groups in Nigeria is loud enough to drown whatever the noise patriotism might seek to make. It is absolutely not out of place to owe respect and attachment to one’s root, but in the case of Nigeria, everyone is first a Yoruba or Hausa or Ibo man before he is Nigerian.

The preservation of a one Nigeria has been constantly marred by this lone challenge. Our founding fathers have surreptitiously planted a seed of discord that has grown too big into a tree of misgivings that cannot be pruned let alone cut down. The sensitivity of continuing as a country is daily heightened simply by fanning the embers of ethnic allegiance. This social consciousness has developed, unchecked against the growth of mutual trust among Nigerians.

On Sunday, 15th of June 2014, there was an attempt by the Boko Haram sect to blow up a branch of the Living Faith Church in Owerri, Imo State. The significance of this is the first incursion of the terrorist sect in the southern parts of Nigeria. Before now, the sect had only ravaged the north eastern part of the country and the federal capital territory. This is a new development with varying dimensions.

Even though the wounds of the Nigerian civil war is healed, the scars have refused to be forgotten. This finds coloration in the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) which as an organization that splintered out of the frames of the civil war continues to hold firm their belief on the right of secession. What this will drag along will no longer be a religious war, but a re-emergence of chants of the civil war. What is of interest is that its headquarters (MASSOB) is in Okwe, Imo State.

What this might possibly result to is a face-off between groups with egos that have been kept pulsating through age-long differences. There are good chances of a revival of blood harvest if caution is not sought. What this holds is a sledge hammer, ready to fracture whatever structure of unity Nigeria has managed to build.

A careful look by any student of history of Nigeria will suggest a reminiscence of tribal wars which is always occasioned by perceived hostility of a host community towards the ‘settlers’ from other tribes. This can be seen as the Hausa community in Imo state has been gripped with fears of attack from their host community which has led to mass movement of them out of the state. These hostilities are not always forgiven. The settlers too in a reprisal attack also seek to exterminate the members of the hostile community from their own settlements also. This gradually facilitates a volatile polity which culminates into security challenges and break down of order.

The bomb scare in Imo state is a huge source of concern for every Nigerian as the silent drum of discord is now beating so hard and fast and might undoubtedly lead into anarchy. The southerners have stood on their toes by giving several warning to the terrorist sect not to come down south and this warning cannot be regarded as mere threats now that such incursion has been made.

In order to nip what might actually grow into a possible war in the bud, every Nigerian must be enjoined to take it upon themselves as a duty to know who their neighbors are instead of rallying for uprooting settlers’ communities. This will generally facilitate a movement from the people the government will not be able to ignore. This will mean the people taking up the responsibility of the government but which is needed to salvage a gradually decaying situation of the security state in the country and averting what might lead to a civil war.

Now that the cancer of terrorism is seeking to arrest another part of the Nigerian polity, the need is growing for more awareness as to avoiding a stump we once tripped over, to fall us again. The bomb scare in Imo must be taken seriously as it can only afford for two things: the start of a turning point in the anti-terrorist campaign in Nigeria or the beginning of an end that may erase our existence as a nation in history.

The writer tweets @tomiwa_ilori

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