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Ife killings: When we all were silent!

We are living in an unusual period. This is a period when the media enjoys and promotes conflicts. This is the period where shedding of…

We are living in an unusual period. This is a period when the media enjoys and promotes conflicts. This is the period where shedding of blood is good news. We are in an age where people make fun of other people’s loses and count them as our gains. We mock those who lost their blood, their properties and their lives over things they know nothing about. We are in an age where it is fun to play politics with people’s lives (or their deaths) pretending we love them. We are in an age, when people will be killed for no good reasons yet we will all move on like nothing has happened because those who lost their precious lives are- in our myopic views- cows, goats and sheep. This happens to be the sad story of the recent killing innocent people in the ancient city of Ile-Ife.

Since the crisis started on Monday 6th of March, 2017 I have gotten mixed reports on the remote and immediate causes of the killings. It was not clear to me who drew the first blood. I had to put several calls through to some of my old classmates at Ife University who are either presently furthering their studies or working there to ascertain the true state of things, again, I got mixed reactions. Understandably, these reactions are based on people’s political persuasions or ethnic inclinations. These are in themselves not bad, but at least, all of us should be unanimous in condemning the avoidable carnage. But I was soon to get a shocker!

In a desperate attempt to know the true nature of things, I thought about traveling down to Ife from Lagos. Travelling down to Ife takes time (about 4 hours by road) which I do not immediately have because of my other commitments. With this understanding, I contacted an old “trusted comrade”, who is now fully into party politics. He told me in a rather sadistic tone: “There were no killings in Ile-Ife. There were no massacres. It will be good if you keep your mouth shut on the matter because it doesn’t concern you.” While still in a state of disbelief or astonishment (I don’t know which precisely now) I asked him where the lifeless bodies whose pictures I saw on the internet came from. He gave me a familiar answer: “Internet report is too exaggerated.” This sounded more to me like the voice of a Hutu military general in the movie on Rwandan genocide, Sometimes in April. The general, in his reply to a female US official putting pressure on him to put an end to the genocide said: “You can see [the ongoing killings in Rwanda] from Washington? …UN reports are too exaggerated.” Never did I know some people can debase to this level of inhumanity simply because of politics. As I ruminated over this seeming disappointment (of my comrade) the answers soon came!

This is not the first time my erstwhile comrade is disappointing me with his political views. Someone sent me a video on Saturday night. I watched lifeless bodies soaked in blood in from of a mosque in Sabo area (I know the area very well) with the some Hausa community leaders trying to probably evacuate for burial. As far as my eyes could see, I could count at least 15 human bodies lying there. Yet, someone told me there were no massacres in Ife? If this is not sadism, I don’t know what to call it!   

It appears to me, waiting for over 72 hours into the crisis, that this is not the kind of “killings” that the highly divisive, tribalistic and partisan media will benefit from. The lousy political and hatred-filled religious bigots have nothing to tell their dollar-spinning principals and donors since it is “our people” that are now killing “them”.

I have often maintained that for every conflict, be it religious, communal or political, there are often some pirates benefitting from it. These conflict entrepreneurs have nothing to gain materially from the Ife killings simply because it will fault their previous stands that the “they” that are killing “us” are now the ones been killed. This will not roll in the dollars.

A step backwards to December when there were series of communal clashes between two communities in Kaduna provides the key.  These conflict entrepreneurs and their bloodthirsty media made the best out of it. Some of them reported there were“5000 deaths” as a result of the “gruesome attack on Christian Southern Kaduna.” In parenthesis, in South Sudan this year, such number has not died in combat. They wanted to tell their sponsors that Kaduna was at war. They need humanitarian aids in millions of dollars over “worsening humanitarian conditions.” The whole of social media was nearly set ablaze with “they are killing us” tweets and posts. They did this not because of their respect for the dead, not because some of them have physically been to Southern Kaduna or out of their love for the Kataf tribes but because they have some limited economic and political gains!  

In my six (or seven?) years at Ile-Ife, both as an admission seeker and a student in OAU, at no time has the Hausa community had issues with the Yoruba community let alone leading to bloodletting. I know a good number of Hausas who dated or married Yoruba girls and women (and the other way round) and socialize together without problems before these strange killings started. Even in the heat of the better-forgotten Ife-Modakeke inter-communal crisis, the Hausa community felt safe (at least those that were around) and never abandoned the city like many others did!

My point has always been that the fact that some criminals among some tribes does not make it a criminal race. A few bad people only give their tribe a bad name. The fact that those who perpetrated the Ife killings were largely Motor Park touts, street miscreants, and societal outlaws do not mean Yoruba people are Xenophobic. That some lazy elements among blacks in South Africa violently attack hustling foreigners does not mean all Zulus are like that. One there is one bad apple; we remove the bad one and keep the rest. This is how civilized people think and not the other way round. There are bad elements among all tribes, races and ethnic groups!   

Some of us are still baffled at the criminal silence of a large section of the media on the Ife killings. We are equally worried that conflict entrepreneurs, who made loud noise on traditional and social media during the Kaduna killings, should help condemn the recent carnage in Ife. The loud silence on the killings in the media is too discomforting. Where then is our humanity?

Waheed Adigun wrote this piece from Lagos