North’s six-day food war and other sad tales

Nigeria is currently in a raging war. It is a ‘war of attrition’. We are in a type of war the Yoruba would refer to as “ija ilara”, loosely taken to mean ‘a fight based on envy’. A fight or quarrel that has ilara at its foundation hardly ends, they say. Ilara is resentment. It is spite; ilara is petty ill-will. It is envy. That is the war we have been pushed into by the various shenanigans repeatedly slapping the cringing faces of ordinary Nigerians. We were dragged into this current war by a dumb government. Yes, it has long been smouldering. But a deaf government which serenades in the mire created by the tenacious folly of its blind followership, stoked it. The manipulation of the country by the political leadership is fuelling it, while the abysmally low standards of those with the reins of power have been fanning its destructive embers.

Last week, news broke that some people in the northern parts of the country had unilaterally declared a trade embargo on the country’s southern parts. It was reported that some youths acting on the instructions of some of their leaders blocked the roads plied by trucks that are bringing commodities, especially food, to the south. They said they would no longer send their commodities to the ungrateful consumers in the south. The commanders of the war gleefully but tactlessly announced that their products would now be sent through the numerous porous and manned borders in the north to neighbouring countries. They stopped tomatoes, onions, pepper, and other such products found in abundance in the north from coming to the south. That’s like saying prevent the southerners from cooking their usual favourite tomato stew with, especially beef – prevent them from getting food to eat.

The only immediate response to the irresponsible declaration came from the aghast leaders of the south, especially the south-west. The south-east leaders have more than enough on their plates already. While they cried “war” they also noted that the roads were blocked outside Ilorin, thereby carving Kwara State out of the north. This is another major sign that Lai Mohammed and other such ‘northern’ elements are needed only when they need people to make up the numbers. By late afternoon, the Nigerian Army announced that it had cleared the blockade and that soldiers had restored normal flow of traffic. A statement quoted Brigadier-General Onyema Nwachukwu, Director of Defence Information as saying, “the Defence Headquarters wishes to clarify that following the tension generated by the incident, joint troops comprising the military and other security agencies were deployed to clear the Jebba – Kaduna road and have since restored normalcy in the area. There is currently free flow of traffic along the axis.”

If nothing, the statement by Brig-Gen Nwachukwu confirmed that indeed, some people blocked the road, and practically begun a sabotage of the Nigerian economy and that of the individual traders on both sides of the divide. There was no word from the government. We had only a “stern warning to any unscrupulous group or persons who are aiming at disrupting legitimate economic and commercial activities…” by the Defence Headquarters. The traders have the right to sell or not to sell, and the right to determine who to sell to. That is a given. But those who chose to sell in the south, but were prevented from continuing their legitimate movement would lose their goods just as they and their freight would become the casualties of the war. Would such traders be considered as beneficiaries of the N4.7 billion demanded by some traders as compensation for Shasha and EndSARS? Is the Northern Consensus Movement of Awwal Abdullahi Aliu and the other groups not aware that losses were incurred on every side? Well, they are opening up channels for a demand for compensation and it›s the right of everyone to also seek justice, using their terms as a guide and template.

Six days after, the man who called for war has also called for truce. The summary of it all is that the man who unilaterally said he will not sell to the South has also unilaterally said he is lifting the trade ban. A man collected an item from a child and raises his hand to prevent the child from reaching the item, when his hand gets tired, he would bring it down. That, to me, is the point where we are now at this stage of the wars bedevilling our country. It›s looking like that eye-opener needed by the south to cultivate more. It is also a pointer to the fact that the South has been foolish all along in not making demands for compensation for all the life and property lost to the many unprovoked, unreasonable riots in the North, including the Danish cartoon and beauty pageant riots.

It is a bloodless war, like the surgeon-poet who also stands tall as “the Father of Gambian Literature”, Lenrie Peters, described it. In his “We have come home”, Peters wrote about survival, about weathering the storm in a strange contraption and about the troubles all around us. He studied medicine in England, making it through glaring inequalities and spite, and unfamiliar food – he came home from a bloodless war. In Nigeria, our wars have been both bloody and bloodless. “We have come home from the bloodless wars, with sunken hearts, our booths full of pride from the true massacre of the soul.”

Peters asked, “What does it cost to be loved and left alone? and wondered if it›s not about time for some heads up thinking. “But is not the time to lay wreaths for yesterday’s crimes.”

Food and cattle dealers have taken their case to President Muhammadu Buhari and have listed their demands. Has that brought our own Six-Day war to an end? Should we place garlands on the necks of Governor Yahaya Bello and Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode and roll out the drums?

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