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The Road From Only To However By Pius Adesanmi

March 13, 2016

In December 2015, a gay man was lynched in Ondo by folks who claimed that his homosexuality was such a serious cultural contravention that only jungle justice and murder would assuage their sense of cultural injury. 

Unhappy that they were not part of the original mob that murdered the gay man, many Nigerians have been making a pilgrimage to the dead man's Facebook wall to curse him and justify and rationalize his murder - when they are not gleefully sharing photos of his bloodied head and prefacing the shares with superiorist moralizing. 

The slightly saner among Nigerian humanity are condemning this murder but only after introducing caveats, qualifications, and 'conditionalities' in order to establish a cultural soft landing for their condemnation: "so sad that the guy was killed. I condemn the murder. However, he was gay..."

The coarsening of Nigeria's attitude towards the sanctity of human life is part of the decay of our core that I decried in "B'Aja Ba n Gbo" but it did not start with the "howevers" with which we now qualify the orgies of murder and massacres that have blighted the Nigerian present, placing another question mark on our membership of 21st-century civilization. Before there was however in our culture of qualified reaction to the taking of human life, there was "only" - we started the journey with "only".

Come with me to 1986. The tyrant, General Ibrahim Babangida, was at the beginning of his declaration of war on the Nigerian education system - a war that has been sustained ever since by the Nigerian elite. Babangida faced serious resistance from Nigerian students. During one such student uprising on the campus of Ahmadu Bello University, Babangida sent tanks to the campus. The soldiers were ruthless. Yes, there was ABU Zaria before there was Tiananmen Square in China.

Nigerian newspapers started to headline the numbers of ABU students mowed down in cold blood by Ibrahim Babangida's soldiers. As in all things Nigerian, each newspaper had a different figure. The divergence in figures notwithstanding, it was incontrovertible that students had been killed on Ibrahim Babangida's watch. 

The fact of murder was not as important to ABU Vice Chancellor, Professor Ango Abdullahi, as the politics of murder. The man went on national air to complain about the exaggerated figures of murdered students being bandied about in the media. "Only four died!", he screamed and scolded Nigeria. He didn't remember to mourn "only four" of his students that died. Today, Ango Abdullahi and Ibrahim Babangida are "elder statesmen" in Nigeria.

Ango Abdullahi's "only", his privileging of politics over the fact that even one of his students had been killed by Ibrahim Babangida's soldiers, is a significant moment in our long journey to collective inhumanity and decay. That journey would take several turns and bifurcations, leading us to a moral and ethical impasse which makes the definition of a thief totally impossible in Nigeria. In our national morality, one man's thief is another man's Chief. 

We moved from the "only" of Ango Abdullahi to the "however" of ethnicity and religion in our national instinct to theft and corruption.

This explains why I, Pius Adesanmi, could go to Nigeria today and rob a bank in broad daylight, certain that there will be no consensus over my action. He is a Christian? No wonder all these Muslims are accusing him of theft! Nonsense! Do Christians steal as much as Muslims? See their Dasuki! Pius Adesanmi carry go jare! Wait a minute, he is not only a Christian, he is also Adebola Adesanmi o. No wonder it is only Igbos and Hausa-Fulani folks that are screaming and calling him a thief! Nonsense! We wii not take eet! Pius Adesanmi ride on!

In essence, once you determine that the thief is from your ethnic or religious neck of the woods, you introduce a "however" somewhere to absolve him and muddy the waters in terms of clear-cut definitions of theft and corruption.

That 'however' is what we have now transplanted from the province of corruption to the province of human life. I have watched in despair over the last couple of weeks as the processing of gory massacres in our national life is subjected to a brutal politics which makes murder uncondemnable without hedging and qualification for so many of our folks. I have watched in consternation as Nigerian dead bodies - murdered by fellow Nigerians - are declared unmournable on the altar of identity and politics.

It is unacceptable that we have reached a low in national life which subjects murder to ethnic, religious, and other identity scrutiny before deciding which human life is mournable and which is unmournable.

The Agatu were murdered. Hundreds of Agatu murdered on their own soil. And you hear fellow citizens introducing however to qualify anything they have to say. 

"It is sad that they were murdered o"

- However, why are Fulani herdsmen mentioned in connection with the massacres?

- However, it appears the numbers have been exaggerated.

- However, I feel that my ethnicity and religion are being scapegoated in the attribution of responsibility for the Agatu massacres.

Notice that in all these 'howevers', our friend is yet to mourn any Agatu dead. He is yet to say that the murder of just one Nigerian is unacceptable and should be condemned on the fundamental basis of humanity instead of subjecting it to stupid ethnic and religious forensic analysis.

Pro-Biafra protesters are being shot at and murdered by soldiers of the Nigerian state. You hear the same rhetoric. 

"It is sad that they were murdered o"

- However, they were pro-Biafra protesters.

- However, it appears the numbers have been exaggerated.

- However, bla bla bla

From "only" to "however"! My fear is that "however" will not be the end of our journey to inhumanity. Unless we do a serious national soul-searching - we have a National Orientation Agency that is moribund - we shall arrive at a situation of such debasement of our humanity that we shall react to murder with worrever!

Hundreds of Nigerians were massacred yesterday?