The year 2020 has been rated as the worse in the history of the world. In Nigeria, it simply exposed the weaknesses of communities and governments to survive without external help.
The year began with huge uncertainties on the safety of two Plateau aid workers kidnapped along with three others by Boko Haram in Borno – Jennifer Ukambong Samuel and George Danbaba Michael.
The hostages spent three weeks in the terrorists’ camp before their release. But shortly after that, two Plateau students – Lilian Gyang and Ropvil Daciya Dalep were again kidnapped. Daciya was executed in a public video wherein the terrorists vowed to hunt down all Christians beginning from Plateau. To date, Lilian has yet to be released.
Less than a month earlier, the terrorists kidnapped and executed two other Plateau aid workers – Godfrey Ali Shikagham and Laurence Duna Dacighir, with the same claim of hunting for Plateau Christians.
The two incidences nearly tore the State apart, as it struggled to overcome its old legacies of religious conflicts. Of particular influence was the killing of over 30 locals in Mangu and Bokkos Local Government Areas of the State by herdsmen around the same period. But just after the execution of Laurence and Godfrey, a Muslim medical personnel from Plateau, Bashir Abdulhamid was abducted by the same Boko Haram terrorists and has remained in captivity to date.
While the State was still struggling to fix the damages caused by the January and February attacks in Mangu and Bokkos, the novel coronavirus disease brokeout in Nigeria, threatening socioeconomic and political life. For about three months, the entire country was on lockdown, with no internal or external travels. This invariably grounded importation, production and supply, inducing unprecedented scarcity and inflation.
It is believed that more people died from hunger and depression than the coronavirus, though no statistics exist to prove it.
Nigeria came out of lockdown with lower infections and deaths from covid-19 than anticipated, but the effect of the lockdown soon sparked nationwide vandalization and looting of public and private properties for relief supplies. These followed nationwide protests against the Police Anti-Robbery Squad tagged #EndSARS.
The country had yet to recover from these when bandits carried out mass attacks and abductions in the Northwest region, sparking widespread condemnations.
These condemnations came from across political, religious and cultural outlines, suggesting a gradual shift from a previously polarized Nigeria. This scenario nearly played out during the abductions and executions of Plateau Christians by terrorists in Northeast. Hon. Yusuf Gagdi, the House of Representatives member representing Pankshin Kanke Kanam Federal Constituency, though a Muslim, not only identified with his colleagues, Hon. Solomon Bulus Maren, Musa Bagos and Simon Mwadkon, but organized press conferences and related events to register his anger and call for a stop to the “evil”.
The Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, also a Muslim, kept in touch with a local Journalist (Masara Kim) while Ukambong and her colleagues were in captivity.
During the attacks of January and February 2020 in Mangu and Bokkos, an aged Fulani Muslim also shielded a Pastor in his house, repeating an earlier rescue of over 200 Christians by an Imam during armed attacks in Barkin Ladi.
This scenario repeated months later during the violence that followed the EndSARS protests, where a Christian community leader shielded 13 Muslims youths from being killed in his Community.
The EndSARS protests themselves were a joint effort of Nigerians from all religions, a prove, “Nigerians have had enough. They are coming together to take back their country and build a better future. The fact is poverty has no ethnic group and suffering does not have ‘a state of origin.’
“There’s nothing that brings people together like a common hatred for something. Together Nigerians have come to the realization that fragmentation cannot build peace but unity will and can,” says a renowned peace expert, Austin Onuoha.
The action of these new agents of peace, Director General, Plateau Peace Building Agency, Joseph Lengmang believes is transforming peace and security landscape, building confidence and trust between “erstwhile enemies; breaking down walls of prejudice and stereotype.”
This gives hope, and also shows how much Nigerians have evolved as a people who have learnt lessons from tragedies of the past and are determined to forgive the past in order to reconcile the future, Lengmang says.
Perhaps, the lessons from all the chronicled events begins with an appreciation of the multidimensional and multifaceted nature of the problems – their causes, triggers and drivers, the PPBA pointsman adds.
Addressing these wide range of issues will certainly require a holistic and integrated approach, Lengmang said.
“I do not think there is a quick fix especially when consodera the magnitude of the crisis. Indeed it would be foolhardy to assume that the problem of insecurity in Nigeria is merely a result of the inability of security agencies to deliver on the promise of Peace and security,” Lengmang said.
Interrogating the failure of security agencies to end insurgency, kidnapping and violent attacks in Nigeria, Lengmang said “will only reveal the level of rot that is so pervasive in our system, thus an indictment on our governance framework.”
By and large, from structural changes to direct interventions that focuses on local or community peace initiatives, the question, according to Mr. Lengmang is “whether we want to be systematic and sincere about the process as much as we seek to transform the very conditions that engender conflict and insecurity in our country today”.
Nigeria has suffered deprivations and oppressions from the struggle for independence to the separatist movements that kept the country in war for years, to the military dictatorships and later democratic summersaults that befell it.
Yet, like President Muhammadu Buhari said in his new year speech, the country is still standing tall, to weather all stormy waters and emerge stronger and better where others have fallen and disintegrated. It is hoped that it will continue, to survive and thrive like the President said.