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ETHICS OF VIOLENCE IN NIGERIA
This study is intended to examine the high scale and increasing frequency of violence witnessed in Nigeria today. As a study in ethics, it is mainly concerned with examining how peoples of Nigeria evaluate the rightness and wrongness of violence. It will further determine if there are socio-cultural, political, ethnic, psychological or religious reasons, the different groups of people in Nigeria use in justifying or rejecting violence. The study employed the use of quantitative and qualitative methods. Specifically the questionnaire and oral sources formed the main primary source for collecting data, while many secondary sources were also used. The research findings reveal that there are some traditional cultural, ethnic, political, psychological and religious roots of violence in Nigeria. Although religion has been blamed to be the major source of violence in Nigeria, some of the problems associated with the phenomenon are not totally religious. If anything, people use religion for their selfish interests. Thus, the manipulators of religion should be checked. Findings have also revealed that violent oriented films influence the attitudes of children towards violence in Nigeria. Some modest recommendations have also been made on how to check the frequency of violence and its consequences in Nigeria.
CHAPTER ONEGENERAL INTRODUCTION’
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDYViolence is a common feature of social life in all types of societies. The scale, trend and patterns of violence vary across societies and periods (Alemika 72). The prevalence of violence both locally and internationally has manifested a lot of devastation in human civilisation. The acts of violence have in no small measure debilitated advancement in developing countries. Even in the most advanced countries, the phenomenon of violence has continued to be a reoccurring saga and thus poses a need for collaborative efforts in combating its dangers.Violence has consequently affected the behavioural patterns of various social groups and religious adherents. The consequences of violence therefore have continually drawn the attention of various governments, voluntary agencies, religious organizations and the academia towards controlling the spectre of its persistence.The Nigerian situation presents a good case for examining the intricate patterns of persistent violent actions. Moreover, there is a complete admixture of the effects of the triad religious faiths, African Traditional Religion, Islam and Christianity. Notably, Islam and Christianity are pitched to be the major rallying forces in escalating the scale of violent actions in Nigeria.
It has therefore become necessary to give religion a premium as the basis for all objective analysis because religion transcends all barriers invented or imposed on human social existence. There are various religious faiths with different doctrines and traditions in Nigeria. These variations have also affected the attitudes of various religious adherents and have invariably widened their ethical dimensions towards violent actions.The primordial tendencies of various ethnic groups towards violence have also inevitably aggravated the scale and propensity of violent actions in different forms. The perennial eruption of various ethnic militia in Nigeria and the preponderant religious fundamentalism have in no small measure triggered and widened the scope of violence in various ramifications (Egwu I). It has therefore become necessary to find out the sources and various ethical beliefs towards violent actions in which Nigeria is seen as a major purveyor of these actions.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The phenomenon of violence is not a new one. Every society whether in the primitive or modern times has demonstrated some elements of violent activities at a particular stage of its development or civilisation. The historic account in the Holy Bible has vividly portrayed how Cain brutally killed his brother Abel, (Revised Standard Bible. Gen. 4.8). There were also wars, which led to the conquest of Canaan (Jericho and Ai). Heroes such as Samson among the Judges, Saul and David among the kings are few examples of warlords that depicted the prevalence of violence from the early societies (Revised Standard Bible. Jos. 6 – 8, cf Judg. 14-16, 1 Sam. 11, 1 Sam. 17). History has also clearly shown that from the early Stone Age to the modern times, wars and violence have been the major characteristics of life at this time. Empires attacked and conquered each other right from the early Greek city states up to the modern times (Wesley et al 41).
What is “new” is the scale and widespread nature of violence in the world today. The preponderance of violence globally in forms of war, torture, assassinations, protests, riots, revolutions, ethno-religious conflicts, genocide, nuclear threats, biological warfare and other forms of violence cannot be quantified. A few examples will suffice to suggest the enormity and the wide spread scale of violence in the world today.There was violence perpetrated in the Kashmir region. Gunmen and women were seen killing and bombing buses, cars and buildings with the claim of responsibility. This situation has helped in filling the terror camps in Afghanistan posing one of the most dare threats to stability in the region (Newsweek Oct. 2000:22). In Northern Ireland, Catholic and Protestant clashes are the most recurrent violent clashes. An explosion of violence in Ulster reveals that Northern Ireland was locked in its prison of bitter sectarian hostility (Time Magazine – July 1996:16).
On a more serious note is the “America’s Black September,” of recent global threat of terrorism waged upon the United States of America (U.S.A.), where the World Trade Centre (W.T.C.) in New York and the Pentagon in Washington were attacked destroying thousands of human beings and inestimable property (Tell Magazine – Sept. 2001:44). Consequent to this was the eruption of anthrax posing a threat to the global community (Sunday Punch – Dec. 2000). These situations have also bridled the fragile peace process in progress in the Middle East (M.E.) and have also triggered the already existing violence amongst the Israelites and the Palestinians.The Israelites and the Palestinians have resumed bitter violence following suicide bomb attacks by three Palestinians from the militant Hamas group who blew themselves up in Jerusalem and Haifa in Israel, killing few and wounding many others. The attacks brought a quick reprisal from the Israeli army. Three Israeli helicopter gun-ships fired many missiles into the Palestinian occupied Gaza Strip and headquarters of Yasser Arafat Palestinian leader (Newsweek – Dec. 2001:59).
The situation was worse in Afghanistan where violence took its toll under the leadership of the Taliban government and demonstrated an abuse of human rights, especially against women. This is the same government that was alleged to have housed and protected Osama Bin Ladin and his Al-qa’ida movement, and sponsored the terrorist attack in the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and other countries (Newsweek – Oct. 2001:36). Further threats of attacks by the Al- qa’ida movement have been confirmed by the terrorist group’s spokesman, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith where he was quoted as saying: The network is going to launch an attack against Americans; our martyrs are ready for operations against America and Jewish targets inside and outside. America should be prepared, it should be ready. They should fasten their seat belts. We are coming to them where they never expected (Guardian – June 2002:78).In respect to these terrorist pronouncements, the United States and its Northern Alliance forces declared a war on Afghanistan, thus, creating a new vista of violence (Tell Magazine – Oct. 2001:76). In the recent past, there was an unprecedented incidence of economic violence ever witnessed in the present century in Argentina, where there was a change of presidency five times in two weeks (Newswatch – Jan. 2002:43). People were seen destroying buildings and excavating foodstuff and other valuables for personal use as a result of hard economic strings.A similar scenario of violence is also found in Africa. In Sudan, religion is seen as the main cause of violence. The Islamic north and the Christian south have different leaderships and both took to their positions in regards to the implementation of Islamic legal system (B.B.C. Focus on Africa Magazine – July-Sept. 1988:8). This led to the birth of guerrilla groups, which resulted in a civil war that had continued for many years. Today the Darfur region in Sudan had been in war.
Zimbabwe was faced with political violence. Opposition leaders were being killed and others jailed by the Mugabe-led government. The white farmers had their lands confiscated and some of them killed or brutally assaulted (Newswatch – Nov. 2001:45). The situations in Somalia, Algeria, Burundi, Sierra-Leone, Zambia and Liberia are all incidences of political violence. Worthy of note is the South African situation (African Concord Magazine – Oct. 1988:43). A lot of violent actions took place during the apartheid days when the blacks were segregated and brutally maimed. Steve Biko was violently tortured and murdered (Gruchy III). The urge for self-rule by blacks that are the majority over the white minority rule led to a number of violent clashes. Violence is still continuing even after the fall of apartheid regime. There are violent actions amongst blacks themselves and against the whites.
Nigeria has also taken a queue in violent actions in various forms. Prominent amongst the violent actions after Nigeria’s independence is the Nigerian Civil war. General Olusegun Obasanjo describes the war as follows:It is a story of brother against brother in family feud, aggravated by outside intervention which held brother despising brother, brother killing brother and finally setting brother binding his wounds and both settling their feud by themselves in a spirit of understanding, mutual respect, love and comradeship (Obasanjo xiii).Serious amongst the incidents of violent activities or clashes in Nigeria are the intra and inter-religious crises. Cases in point include the Kano State Maitatsine religious disturbances of 1980, the Bulunkutu Maiduguri religious disturbance of 1982 and the Jimeta-Yola Maitatsine religious disturbances of February 1984. Others are the Gombe Maitatsine religious disturbances of April 1985, the Palm Sunday Ilorin religious disturbances of 1986, the Bauchi abattoir religious disturbances of February 1991 and the Kaduna State religious crisis of 2000 with its reprisal in Southern parts of the country. The Muslim Students Society (M.S.S.) of the University of Sokoto protest rampage of May 1986, the Kafanchan College of Education religious disturbances of March 1987, the destruction of wooden structure of risen Christ of May 1986 at the Christian Chapel of Resurrection at the
University of Ibadan. There is also the Federal College of Education Yola Students Union religious disturbances of 13th July 2001, are few examples.
Apart from the major Nigerian civil war of 1967-70, other forms of violent actions can be seen in the emergence of ethnic militia from different parts of the country. These include “Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra” (MASSOB); “Abia State Vigilante Services Group” (BAKASSI BOYS); “Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People” (MOSOP) in 1994 and later the killing of Ogoni nine in 1995 including Ken Saro Wiwa by the Abacha regime. There is also the “Ijaw National Congress/Ijaw Youth Congress”, (INC/IYC) there is also “Odua Peoples Congress” (O.P.C.). Many other ethnic militias that are not mentioned are also beefing up for the defence and liberation of their people for economic, political and religious reasons. There are also incidents of ethnic and communal clashes of 2000 in Shagamu, Ogun State with its reprisals in Kano. There are the Tiv and Nasarawa State “indigenes” clashes in 2001, Tiv and Jukun/Fulani clashes of 2001. We also have the Jos ethno-religious clashes of 2001 with its attempted reprisals in the state, which persisted up to the early part of 2004.In a radio commentary of Adamawa Broadcasting Cooperation, members of the State Security Apparatus presented a worst situation of the preponderance of violence. For example, the Nigerian Police in recent times killed three travellers that were journeying from Ogun State to Katsina to buy rams. They forcefully collected about six million naira and set the bus the traders were using ablaze. The recent scale of violence worth noting is the mayhem unleashed on innocent citizens as a result of the introduction of the Islamic criminal legal system in some parts of Northern Nigeria. This has caused a lot of stiff resistance by Christian adherents that are indigenes and those residing in these states and this has also resulted in the destruction of lives and properties.
We may go on citing cases and incidences of violent actions both locally and globally without exhausting them. It is thus pertinent to accept the views of Garver on violence where he said that; “violence in human affairs comes down to violating persons” (Cited in Betz 340). Therefore whether violence is overt or covert and quiet, it is in most cases classified into personal and institutionalised violence (Betz 340). Personal violence is that kind of violence perpetrated by an individual acting on his own, such as mugging, rape, murder, human mutilation, kidnapping, witchcraft and sorcery. Whereas institutionalised violence is perpetrated by an individual or group by virtue of the power vested on him/her or them by a constituted authority. This could include war, riots, mutiny, genocide, massacre, pogrom, assassination, coup-d’etat and armed robbery.
These dimensions of violence enumerated above are found in many countries the world over, Nigeria inclusive. It is perhaps for this reason that the scale and prevalence of violence have attracted greater concern globally. Perhaps too, this has led to the widespread agitation for global peace and harmony. The need for global peace has rekindled the United Nations (U.N.) declaration of the “International Year for Peace” (I.Y.P.) in 1986 (Tamuno 13). Consequently the United Nations has recently declared the year 2001 – 2010 as the decade of peace and non-violence. This means that various governments in the world must pursue peace and ensure that violence is eschewed in their society (Inyomi 2). The surge for peace has also led to the emergence of the Departments of Peace Studies in many academic institutions globally. Notable among these is the pioneer Department of Peace Studies University of Bradford in England founded in 1973 (Tamuno 4). Other Universities in Europe and United States of America have also followed suit. Voluntary organisations internationally have also been formed to fight against violence in various forms. This has also extended to the level of granting fellowships for prospective peacemakers and peacekeepers.
In Nigeria, the only National War College (N.W.C.) has a Centre for Peace Research and Conflict Resolution to enable it maintain peace in Nigeria and the West African sub-region. Similar agitation has also led to the development of Niger Delta Peace Forum (N.D.P.F.). There is also the Centre of Justice, Peace and Reconciliation in Jos, Plateau State. The Federal Government has also created an Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution in Abuja in its bid to pursue and sustain peace. The Catholic Diocese of Ijebu-Ode has Justice, Development and Peace Commission. The programme of one time Nigeria’s Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, tagged “Nigeria Prays,” is a notable effort in combating the menace of violent activities while encouraging peaceful co-existence among Nigerians.In its resolve to control the current violent situations especially in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria, General Olusegun Obasanjo, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, organised a three-day retreat on peace and conflict resolution. This retreat took place at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) Kuru-Jos, Plateau State. Religious organisations, voluntary agencies and the government are also being encouraged to proffer suggestions and areas of discussions through dialogue for peaceful co-existence and as a means of resolving conflicts in Nigeria. People that are concerned for peace as a result of widespread scale of violence call for theories by different scholars in respect to violent actions. Many scholars and schools of thought concerned with the scale and perversity of violence have propounded theories of significant reference points on matters of individual, institutionalised and urban, rural or domestic violence.
It is as part of this concern for the widespread and increased scale of violence that ethicists are equally interested in the issue of violence. What is then the issue about ethics in the widespread of violence in Nigeria? How are we to understand and cope with violent activities? What is the rational and morality behind any violent action?Violence has been used as means of settling quarrels and attracting attention of government against its perpetrators. It was used as a means of encroachment of human rights especially in the then apartheid South Africa. Violence was used also as a means of restoring social order and for decolonisation of many countries leading to independence. Frantz Fanon has vividly portrayed the nature of this phenomenon in his discourse on the Algerian revolution as he opined:National liberation, national renaissance, the restoration of nationhood to people. Whatever may be the heading used or the new formula introduced, decolonisation is always a violent phenomenon. Decolonisation is quite simply the replacing of certain species of men by another `species’ of men; there is a total, complete and absolute substitution (Fanon 27).
The question then arises, does violence act as a necessary cleansing agent or does it signal crisis? Is not use of force to restrain violence simply violence? Simply put, what is the morality in using violence to bring peace? Is there any condition that can justify the use of violence? (Guinness 5).It is clear to state that the basis of most of the violent activities perpetrated in Nigeria is as a result of multiplicity of ethnic groups. Violence has also arisen as a result of conflicting religious tenets and principles. In most cases religion is used as a basis for perpetrating and aggravating violent actions. The Bombing of the World Trade Centre in the United States of America by the terrorists is a typical example by the fundamentalist Al-Qa’eda Movement in advancing the course of “Jihad” against the “infidels”. This goes to suggest that religion is no more playing the functional role that it is supposed to play. Umar Danfulani has vividly portrayed this situation when he declared:We are however painfully reminded of the fact that religion has not always played the idealistic role, rather the history of humanity is punctuated and saddled with the ugly side of religion particularly wars and violence that have been carried out in the name of Allah and God (Danfulani 40).Why is it then that religion, which is supposed to be a source of peace is sometimes used as a source of violence? Admittedly, African Traditional Religion (A.T.R.) preaches morality of peace; Christianity equally propagates the morality of peace. In fact, its founder is described as the “prince of peace”; this is apart from the “peaceful verses” that are scattered all over the Holy Bible. This notwithstanding, adherents of Christianity involve themselves in many violent actions. Islam on its own is seen as a “religion of peace”, but many of the followers publicly use the sign of crossed swords on their vehicles as an emblem of Islam, perhaps as a deliberate act or out of ignorance.
It becomes pertinent to ask whether both religions, Islam and Christianity, subscribe to violence? In other words, are there other factors that are used to perpetrate violence but use religion as a guise? In describing the functional value of religion, Durkheim opined that: Social order is contained primarily in the system of ‘collective representation’ that is patterned essentially after the structure of community life. He recognized the role of religious image in upholding the unity and stability of society (Quoted in Danfulani 210).We can then see the ambivalence of religion especially in Nigeria. Thus, these incontrovertible positions of various religious faiths in Nigeria have raised the question of inter-relatedness of religion and morality. Given the fact that Nigeria is not fully secularised, religion still has a great impact and a determining role in shaping morality. Danny McCain insists that “the moral foundation of every culture comes from its religion” (Cited in Daudu 67). It follows that no nation can survive for very long if it opposes or even ignores religion because religion provides the moral foundation to the society (Daudu 67). Does this means to say that these religions have the moral capacity to contain violence? Why is the use of violence supported and aggravated even by the clergy? What actually are the ethical norms of these religions with respect to violence? Is there a basis for any violent action religiously? These and many other issues shall form the basis of our discourse in this thesis.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDYOne of the objectives of this study is to determine how traditional, colonial, religious and western values bequeathed to Nigerians have influenced their attitudes towards violence.Secondly, consideration shall be given to why there are increasing cases of religious bred violence in contemporary societies, and what has led to the increase in the frequency and the scale of violence inspite of the religious teaching on morality.Thirdly, the study will examine the ethical view points of the major religions (Islam and Christianity) in Nigeria on the issue of violence and determine whether there are similarities of teachings on peaceful co-existence.
Another objective is to determine what moral principles that can be used in justifying the various grounds for violence in contemporary times and to find out whether there can be conditions that can justify the use of violence for resolving misunderstandings and crises.Finally, the study will examine how tele-violence aggravates aggressive tendencies among children.1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDYThe significance of this study is to increase the awareness of the dangers of violence to students in various institutions of learning, Christians, Muslims, the government, private sector, various social and ethnic groups in order to stimulate strategies and ways of combating the re-occurrence of violent actions in Nigeria.This work hopes to enlighten and alert religious adherents in Nigeria on their role in keeping peace and maintaining the virtues of religious tolerance while shunning the tendencies of religious provocation The researcher intends to make valuable contributions to government, voluntary organizations and various religious groups on the need to create fora for intra and inter-faith dialogue, conferences and workshops on the need for peaceful co-existence in Nigeria.Finally, this study intends to remind the government of the need to find out the fundamental causes of various violent actions in Nigeria with the hope of reducing the tempo of violence and impose appropriate punishment on the culprits.
1.5 JUSTIFICATION OF THE STUDYOne of the reasons for undertaking the research in ethics of violence in Nigeria can be justified in the words of Guinness:There is today a renewed awareness of violence in the modern world brought into our homes by television coverage, portrayed in films, drama and literature studied in the reports of scientists, philosophers and commissions. Man’s violence is obviously a direct threat to his humanness and to the order of his institutions, perhaps even to his survival (35).Nigeria has continually witnessed violent actions within the shortest period of its nascent democracy. There has been continuous occurrence of violence in many forms. It has therefore become necessary to undertake a research into the area of violence.The personal involvement of the researcher in various violent related situations justifies the desire of the researcher to undertake astudy in violence. As a post-independent Nigerian citizen, the researcher has witnessed and experienced many violent activities that have bedevilled this country especially from 1980 – 2002. In fact the researcher has been unavoidably involved in few religious crisis especially the Maitatsine crisis of 1984, in Jimeta-Yola and the Jos religious and sectarian crisis of September 2001 among others. He has also at three different times and locations had encounters with armed robbers in the country. These and many other violent related experiences justify the researcher’s desire to undertake research in the area of violence.
1.6 METHODOLOGYThere are immense problems associated with discussing ethical issues on violence in Nigeria with the numerous religious and ethnic groups. One cannot hope to cover these groups exhaustively. There are observable cases of violent activities, which were witnessed by the researcher. This will give opportunity for personal assessment of such violent situations.The use of quantitative and qualitative approach in eliciting opinions from different people with varied ethnic and religious backgrounds will also be undertaken. This will be carried out through the use of a structured questionnaire and oral interview. The data used for analysis of this study were generated from questionnaire and oral interview.There are five hundred questionnaires distributed in all. They were meant to elicit responses that cover questions on personal data in the first section, while the second section covers questions on “Ethics of violence” as it relates to religious violence and traditional cultural values in Nigeria.
To ensure proper distribution of the questionnaires so that they cover the entire country, the five hundred questionnaires were distributed according to the “six geo-political zones” for convenience. The six “geo-political zones” are as follows: south-south zone, which comprises the following States; Cross Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta Bayelsa, Rivers and Edo. The southeast zone comprise States such as Ebonyi, Anambra, Enugu, Abia and Imo. The southwest zone comprises the following States, Lagos, Ondo, Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti and Osun. The North-central zone comprises, Niger, Kwara, Kogi, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Benue and Plateau. The Northeast zone comprises the following States, Taraba, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe. While the northwest zone comprises, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara States.
The ratio for the distribution of the questionnaires according to the six “geo-political zones” are as follows;
iii. South-South geo-political zone 60 “
The rationale for distributing 50 questionnaires each to south-east and south-west geo-political zones is because of the homogeneity of the ethnic groups in these zones who are predominantly Igbo and Yoruba respectively. For the northwest and south-south geo-political zones there are more than one ethnic group as compared to Igbo and Yoruba people. For the Northeast and North central “geo-political zones,” more questionnaires were distributed because of the heterogeneity of the ethnic groups found in these zones. Efforts were made in selecting representatives from the various zones who distributed the questionnaires. The researcher personally distributed the questionnaires that covered the northeast “geo-political zone” in Yola. For the remaining zones, the questionnaires were distributed in Jos by reaching out to the various ethnic groups represented in the zones mentioned.Because of the nature of Jos, which is Christian dominated, it will be realized that most of the respondents who answered the questions were Christians. But efforts were made in such a way that there would be Muslim representation in the zones that have pre-dominance of Muslims. This accounts for the disproportionate ratio of Muslims who answered the questionnaires to that of Christians.Out of the five hundred (500) questionnaires distributed), 368 were returned. The interview that was carried out involved members
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