BUILDING BRIDGES OF PEACE IN THE FACE OF RISING HATE SPEECH

BY EMEKA EZEKWESIRI CHIGOZIE


The events of the past week has jolted Nigerians in their generality, and has once again brought to the fore the fragile nature of Nigeria’s corporate existence. It has come as a reminder that the Nigerian state is still grappling with chronic diseases threatening her corporate survival. However, much more than that, the events of the past one week has also brought to the fore the fact that the ethnic chauvinists responsible for the hate speeches, are ignorant of the crisis and unfathomable disaster that the tirade of sullen words would bring.

However, in the heat of this imbroglio, there is no doubt that well meaning Nigerians have risen to the occasion to condemn what was in fact degenerating to a tribal watershed. It is indeed in times like this, that bearers of peace are needed more than at any other time. The corporate existence of Nigeria, though by no means non-negotiable, at least in the view of the present writer, it is nevertheless instructive that what becomes of that corporate existence should be decided by Nigerians; and not dismembered in the theatre of war.

It is this state of affairs that makes it necessary to restate that all Nigerians must learn to be tolerant of each other, and accept that our differences will always be a recipe for grievances. It is how these grievances are expressed and received that makes all the difference. When the grievance is expressed in the form of clamour for secession, militancy, terrorism, or propagation of hate speeches, then it becomes a recipe for disaster and disaffection. Similarly, when it is received with so much anger, disgust and solemn but untrue denials, where it has been expressed through means employing of no violence, threatened or actual, then it transmogrifies again to an ugly situation.

People tend to forget that before IPOB, there was and still is MASSOB; before Nnamdi Kanu, there was Chief Raph Uwazurike. While Ralph pursued his objectives, with less aggression, hate and national vilification, he was given scarce attention and met with disgust. Nnamdi Kanu came with a different message and approach, and suddenly the nation has taken him seriously. It is equally true that before militancy, there was Ken Saro Wiwa, and many other non-violent actors.

A popular adage says that fools do at the end what wise men do at the beginning. We must, as a nation, learn to manage reasonable grievances the right way, and build bridges of peace when the day is nigh. We must not forget that bridges are not built during war, they are rather blown off.