(By Iheanyi Ezinwo) – On Monday, 9 October, 2017, 15 persons were reportedly killed at an early morning attack by unidentified gunmen at Mbuosimini – Rumueme community at the outskirts of Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital.
While some residents of the community which is hosting the Nigeria Agip Oil Company trace the crisis to a lingering land dispute in the area, another school of thought claims the killings might not be unconnected with the dispute over who should be collecting operational permits from commercial tri-cycle operators in the area.
To many, the Monday incident was probably a reprisal attack. The trend speaks for itself: the Secretary of Rumueme Council of Chiefs, Chief Minikwu Chukwu, who was on his way to a community meeting was killed with one other person in May this year. Reports have it that over a year earlier, someone had been shot dead in the area.
The Tide, in its report also recounted how Baridule Cletus Dunle was shot dead in July 30, 2017, while Godspower Aligbo and Dickson Gogo-Jaja were killed on October 4, this year, just five days before the Monday massacre.
While the arrest of masterminds of the alleged cult related killings is being awaited, it is important citizens understand that while impunity may be attractive, its harvest comes with grave consequences.
There is no doubt that, following due process might require some patience but jumping the gun and resorting to self help leaves all parties losers at the end. For instance, the disputed land at Ngbuosimini was on Tuesday taken over by the Rivers State Government – for the building of a school and a health centre.
Several lives have been lost while many others sustained varying degrees of injuries. Some lost their properties. This is what happens when dialogue fails or is neglected. However, in spite of its disadvantages, dialogue still remains the only civilised way, and the best option in the settlement of disputes. The reason is simple: at the end of the day, both winners and losers, including the society will benefit from the outcome.
Well, there is the tendency for some people who are residing outside Rivers State to stigmatise the state as insecure but it is not so. The reported isolated cases of violence in Rivers State, as in other societies are mainly occasioned by neglect or failure of efforts by disputing parties to settle peacefully. But ironically, after every violence, most times, warring factions return to the negotiating table. It is only after the damage has been done that some people realise that violence is unlawful, and not sustainable.
What happened at Mgbuosimini on Monday is a kind of suicide for mankind, and that can only happen where parties have lost faith in the non violent approach to conflict resolution. Unfortunately, killings hardly bring the assailants closer to the goal that they seek.
While we agree with Desmond Tutu that all violence is evil, it will also be appropriate to add that no one person has a monopoly of violence, and so it is better not to start it.
As Nigerians earnestly hope to see light at the end of the channel of recession, governments at all levels need to assist young people to come out of organisations involved in violence in order not to raise a generation that will destroy the work of justice.
We must however commend the Rivers State Governor, Ezenwo Nyesom Wike for his timely intervention, and his strong liaison with the State Police Command under CP Zaki Ahmed. Although the alleged irregular activities of some members of the Special Anti – Robbery Squad tended to be a major distraction in the policing of the state, CP Ahmed appears to have remained focused, apolitical and delivering commendable results. Besides, rampant cases of kidnapping have long ceased after the alarm raised by the Rivers State Governor that some security operatives were involved in the crime.
It will be appropriate to state that Rivers State has always been a peaceful state, and that character has not changed. Cases of violence are isolated and exaggerated by some persons who hope to get some economic and political gains out of it. The citizens are going about their businesses without fear or favour.
It is only expected that in a typical cosmopolitan city, that poorly managed conflicts could boil over into violent confrontations, but the laws and security agencies are there to take care of such deviations in the society.
In the last two years, the pressures of unemployment and poverty are becoming very hard on Nigerians. The result is that, many of the youths who are yet to come up with a socially acceptable response to the change, become vulnerable to wild ideas. It is therefore important that, right from the Federal Government, up to the citizens at the local communities, we learn to shun the culture of impunity, as it naturally leads to violence and tragedies of monumental proportions.
Respect for the rights of others, and for the law remains the key to peaceful coexistence. Those who neglect to deal fairly with others are often the instigators of violent conflict, and the violence that are being reported all over the world only point to one fact: That impunity begets impunity, and violence begets violence. Let us reverse the trend by sowing seeds of peace, so that we can have peace in return.
+Iheanyi Ezinwo, publisher of Notable Outcome, is a researcher in conflict management.