There is an increasing number of Nigerians who believe there will never be peace; as far as the nation remains as presently constituted. Those Nigerians are being vindicated by trends and events that continue to unfold in this wretched land. At the same time, there is an­other group of Nigerians—the status quo leadership elites from sections of the coun­try who continue to thrive in the pretence that all is well. Even when the reverse is self evident, the myth of harmo­ny and progress is propagat­ed in the midst of blood, toil and tears occasioned by the nation’s ethno-religious con­tradictions. When groups like IPOB/MASSOB, Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) and other legitimate self determi­nation groups burst into the scene; having been birthed by decades of injustice, inequal­ity, marginalisation, internal colonialism, ethno-religious violence and general misrule with the banner of justice, equality and self determina­tion, the chief pretenders of Nigeria castigate and shout them down.

When those who mean well advocate a Sovereign Nation­al Conference (SNC) or Con­ference of Ethnic Nationalities (CEN) to afford us the oppor­tunity to dialogue and create a nation in our own image; properly structured to               ac­commodate ethno-religious inclinations with enough au­tonomy (federalism) to pro­pel regional development and prosperity within the over­all confines of Nigeria — the chief pretenders of Nigeria label them enemies of the re­public who want to tear down the nation. Yet curiously in striking down every progres­sive idea to build a cohesive, just and properly structured nation, they never offer any alternative to the existential crisis that is ever growing be­fore their eyes. Preferring in­stead to like an Ostrich bury their heads in the sand and pretend that all is well. So the problem remains and the na­tion continues to burn with a steep price in human lives.

The worst lie is the one a people continually feed themselves thereby shackling themselves to the eternal va­garies of slavery from which they cannot exit until as was biblically proclaimed in John 8: 32; they allow “the truth set them free.” Nigeria has an ex­istential problem; pretending about it or denying it will not solve the problem, but rather it will fester and grow worse until it consumes all of us in ways never imagined. On the 2nd of June, the hard truth of Nigeria’s existential problems confronted us again with the brutal murder of Mrs Bridg­et Agbahime, a 74 year old woman from Imo state who was killed by a mob in Kano for alleged blasphemy. We later learnt that her only sin was stopping some people from doing pre-prayer wash in front of her stall in the market. These people now mobilised the usual mob of blood thirsty barbarians that murdered her.

As has been reported, this woman has not visited her home state in the last 30 years. For all intents and purposes, she is more a citizen of Kano than anywhere else. Yet she was hacked to death just be­cause of her religion and pos­sibly her ethnicity and yet we still pretend Nigeria is one. What kind of a people will be so blinded by religious and ethnic hate that they would so unconscionably kill a 74 year old woman? As difficult as this question is to answer, it has been the predicament in Nigeria since 1945—some 7 decades ago when the first ethnic riots happened in Jos, followed in succession by the 1953 anti-independence ri­ots in Kano by which time an incipient culture of vio­lence had been created. In 1966, the existing culture of violence made it easy to acti­vate pogroms in the North at a scale unprecedented in the continent, leading to the civil war. Maitsatsine riots broke the brief lull that occurred after the war. But since then it has been one riot after an­other in a ritual of ethno re­ligious violence that not only became routine but eventual­ly evolved into terrorism.

Most Nigerians, not in the least my own generation, have lived through endless epi­sodes of ethno-religious riots and killings like that of Mad­am Bridget Agbahime that al­ways goes unpunished. This circle of violence has been fed and sustained by local support within the religious and political spheres of lead­ership that then unleashes them whenever it suits their exigencies, political calcu­lations or usual appetites to vent their hate on other eth­no-religious groups. In order to satisfy this desire, any pre­text is enough. Thus for a car­toon published in Denmark by a Danish cartoonist, hun­dreds of Nigerians are mur­dered in riots. Ironically, this has created an awkward situ­ation where a Nigerian is saf­er living in Ghana, Senegal or Cameroun where no one would kill him just because of his religion or ethnicity than in the North where there is the ever present risk of being murdered on account of your religion or ethnicity.

And yet again we claim to have a country and strangely continue to pretend that all is well. After decades of religious violence, it is no surprise that Boko haram emerged. Arising from the same religious and ethnic intolerance that fed preceding riots, little wonder it went on to become the most murderous terrorist group in the world as declared by the United Nations and Global Terrorism Index (GTI), hav­ing benefitted from decades of ample training and experi­ence in religious violence far ahead of Al Qaeda and ISIS. Therefore when the present administration declares Boko haram technically defeated, it should be taken with a pinch of salt. Realistically, a region that has been so nurtured in ethno-religious violence for decades cannot overnight be weaned of such a cancer, more so when no lessons have been learnt from past incidents or when it has never been ac­cepted that such violence was wrong in the first place.

It stands to reason that in such an environment, even if for any reason Boko haram fades away, another group is sure to take its place in no time. Indeed that seems to be happening already with herdsmen that are on the rampage across the middle belt and south killing people at will. The GTI has already classified Fulani herdsmen the 4th most deadly terror­ist group in the world. Nige­ria now infamously harbours both the first and the fourth most murderous terrorist groups in the world and in­terestingly both derived from the same region and culture that willy-nilly allowed a cul­ture of ethnic and religious in­tolerance to take root. There are already suggestions that other more deadly terror­ist groups will soon emerge to join the existing or ebbing ones. All these predicate that peace will remain elusive both in the short and long term.

Ultimately, these endless circles of violence, hate and prejudice driven by ethno-religious contradictions un­wittingly feed into and le­gitimize the narratives of IPOB/MASSOB and NDA who seek self determination on the premise that Nige­ria is unworkable. The slay­ing of Madam Bridget Agba­hime coming on the heels of the decades long ethno-reli­gious violence and recent ter­rorism has only served to vin­dicate the logic, that there are no prospects for peace in the Nigerian contraption. Let the truth set us free!
*Nwobu can be reached through Email: lawrencen­