The Laws of ‘Matrimonial’ War by ‘Lakunle Jaiyesimi

Boko haraammmmThis piece was first published on  (by meronymofmeroe) and the conclusive plea towards eradicating the actors called Boko Haram seems to be most appropriate now considering the concluding words of this article “it is expedient for the nation to plead for the help of superior nations at this time that the armed struggle has taken a new form other than freedom-fighting. Terrorism is alien to Nigeria as much as it is baseless”. Hence, this might just be the best time for the piece to resurface. Enjoy.

“Since independence, our governments have been a matter
of few holding the cow for the strongest and most cunning
to milk. Under those circumstances, everybody runs over
everybody to make good at the expense of others.”
– Obafemi Awolowo

WAR could be an interesting subject especially when properly painted by an Architect of words. Although, it is definitely never going to be a sweet experience if you ever had to live through one – just one war-experience is enough for a lifetime, there are ways wars are described that make them as commonplace as a diarrheal patient visiting the loo. So we hear phrases like ‘Theatre of War’ and ‘Staging a War’ as though war was some kind of drama played by local (Boko Haram) and international (Nazi Germany) actors. And then again, to guide the ethical staging of these wars, laws were created and were highly effective between 1856 and 1906, a period that was referred to as the Law of War’s ‘epoch of high repute’.

To effectively grasp the various manifestations (faces) of war, come with me as I shake hands with them.

Ogun is an orisha who presides over Iron, hunting, politics and war; fiery, he is a martial entity that once, vexed in his home town, he turned against his own people beheading everyone he met on his path. Nonetheless, Ogun has laws that guide his conducts and relation with people. One of such is to spare and protect any one of his adherents who appease him rightly.

On the Campus of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife as in many other students’ environment, there will always be student unrest, necessitating a clash between the Students Union Government and the University Management. What usually happens is that there’s a compromise (better put, there’s expected to be a compromise). That’s one of the laws of campus war. Either the students back down on their requests to allow peace to reign or the Management swallows her pride and accedes to the requests of the students. From experience, neither of these options comes easy and in making the choice, lives have been lost, properties destroyed and valuable time wasted.

For instance, as a result of the campus war of 1996, Anthony Fasayo, popularly called Tony Fash who was incidentally the President of Students’ Union Government at the time had to go (expelled from the University) because he was convicted of serious war crimes. His crimes consisted essentially of the violation of written and unwritten Laws of War. What that meant was that he disrupted that year’s University convocation ceremony that had in attendance eminent personalities and his actions brought disrepute to the School Management. No one cared to find out from Tony what his perspective was; that is, his actions were predicated on the Management’s violations of the Laws of War. Of relevance here is the bold exclusion of certain ‘qualified’ students from the convocation ceremony, which if true would constitute a violation of the law. The victor would be better without the vanquished; or better still with the vanquished swallowed into the victor’s mould. A scenario of peace! Tony and many of his colleagues wouldn’t get swallowed into any pacifying mould and that was why they had to go. To the streets, to the dogs.

Also the campus war of July 10, 1999, with the massacre of the then General Secretary to the Students’ Union Government and founder of Afrika Forward Movement (AFORM), George Yemi Iwilade a.k.a. Afrika and eight others constituted a barbaric violation of the laws of war. The endgame of this war was to be total annihilation or on the far-other hand, assimilation of the one party by another. This attack was to annihilate the discordant students’ party after numerous but unheeded summons for them to get assimilated. What happened next was to show the infallibility of the ancient truth, ‘no one has the monopoly of violence, wisdom…anything.’ With calculated ‘guerilla’ moves, the students finally (after many attempts) got the Nigerian Universities Commission to recall the then Vice-Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Prof. Wale Omole from his position. And there was tranquil! People’s hearts became heavy with thoughts, done and undone, clustering the space around their brains like a web of ants; and fear, with her ceaselessly coarse grip, made for everyone mechanical gaits and awkward mien.
However, the students’ victory had an unannounced lifespan because the war continued until very recently when the Management proscribed the Union. One should not be tempted into quickly seeing that as the last intrigue to be seen in an attempt to marry one to another, the Union to the Management.

On the home front, there’s just one war between a man and his wife but with many battles constituting it. These battles are by nature meant to homogenize the home, giving it a universal voice. To effect this, the battles make up the war of attrition (acquired and mutual understanding) or war for divorce (if attrition isn’t achievable). In the end, this war is supposed to achieve for the home uniformity (or conformity, if you don’t mind), however so achieved.
The process however, as in all manifestations of war, is guided by the laws of war. In this case, the man knows it is an absolute violation of the Laws of War to beat his wife (or any other woman for that matter) notwithstanding the level of anger of the man. This is so, even if the woman had committed the most grievous of crimes. The society frowns at it. Religion frowns at it. Morality does not condone it.
And for the woman, it is a violation of the Law of War (a war which is almost eternal in man-engage-woman issues) for you as a woman to shout at your husband (or any other man per se) in public or even private depending on your social inclination. And believe me if I say there are millions and more good reasons for you to be tempted to violate this law.

On the international scene, countries engage in hostilities against one another. Skirmishes, battles and wars that never seem to end. These wars may be as sublime as a country posing as a threat to another all in a bid to ensure conformity and invariably assimilation – a sort of global unitary government. In all of these wars, latent and developed, the Laws of war are ‘usually’ the guiding principles (with a few exceptions like the Hitler war, Iraq war some will say, Libya war still under scrutiny). It’s impossible to put aside Nuclear threats, economic sanctions, austerity policies, etcetera.

The war between corruption and the Nigerian masses dates back (and goes beyond) the birth of that ‘pandora-box’ baby that many refer beautifully and yet suspiciously to as Corporate Nigeria.

This war has an objective to homogenize the Nigerian life through either assimilation (be-like-them-if-you-can’t-beat-them) or extermination (kill-them-all-with-malnutrition-disease-and-accidents-if-they-won’t-join-us). For corruption to grow, it had violated many of the laws of war at the very expense of the masses, who – on their own and in order to ‘survive’ – resort to the extremes of violations of the laws of war but only against one another. Robbery, manslaughter, ritual-killing, smart practices are some of the indicators.

Only recently have we seen an exchange of sides. Sections of masses in the Nigerian structure, adopting whatever guise, are taking up arms in war against the Nigerian government and seem to be winning. As lame and ludicrous as that sounds, the Nigerian people are beginning to distrust the government while living in perpetual fear of militants (some of whom call themselves freedom-fighters). These militants are going about their business of winning by violating, in hitherto unthinkable ways, all the extant laws of war. They bomb government properties, bomb markets, bomb private properties, bomb universities, bomb Churches, bomb Police Stations, bomb Eagle’s Square, bomb…bomb…bomb places, people, properties everywhere. And the government of Nigeria is definitely dazed (if this should mean that the government is clueless as to how to prevent the next bomb from going up. Boko Haram, Movement for the emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) are just a few. In addition to these organised bodies, one may wonder justifiably about aggrieved individual (and madly independent) Nigerians wanting to do something, anything to hurt their Nation. This time, it is the people violating the laws of real war and one must say it is really pushing away the fortunes of this country.

As recently as this minute, Nigeria’s Boko Haram especially has dominated the media outputs with her various unethical acts against the Government and the Nigerian people. These aggressions have affected not only the Government of Nigeria, the masses herself but also the international community.

The nature of these aggressions, some will argue, is like a reprisal of the Nigerian masses against the government for her continued violations of the laws of ethical war. Others prefer to see it as sponsored fundamentalism to discredit a government that was once perceived as the ‘breath of fresh air’ for the people and render her toothless and helpless.

Whatever side of the divide one may find oneself as a Nigerian, it is a fact that we all agree that what we seek keeps being elusive. And that is a liberty to truly exist, in all its ramifications, as a united nation under one God, peaceful, prosperous and with an intact dignity. Collectively, we also agree that since the birth of life as a country, the fundamental laws of war (which are expected to guide us into a mutual-benefitting marriage of sorts) have been violated one way or another on every waking day and in every active sphere of our life. Or, how else does one explain an estimated disappearance of $12.4 billion gulf war windfall, killing of the collective voice of the people as in the denied mandate that was given M.K.O. Abiola in 1993, the callous disappearance of billions of already-victimised pensioners’ money, the desacralization of the holy womb of Niger Delta and that of her women and the purchase of 165 Rolex wrist-watches with N186 million with no account for 92 of them?

These and more criminal violations of the laws of war only make the conscientious victims defensive. Their defence may be violent (and it usually is) and one must condemn violence wherever one is seen. However, the fundamentalist group Boko Haram is difficult to categorise.

Unethical, irreligious, inhuman, uneconomical, anarchist, perceived faceless, they kill and spoil anything that even the government is not certain what it is the group is fighting for or against. Everybody lives in fear of that next bomb or whatever it is they don’t know from where it comes or to where it goes. It is now the fear of The Bomb and not of God that is the beginning of some wisdom. Every wise organisation, a potential target, has beefed up her security, including the anti-bomb squad (and anti-bomb measures) in her security details. That is not to say that the desperate group of callous individuals won’t device a different and worse approach. For instance, a telephone call was made to African Independent Television by a man pretending to be a member of the dreaded Boko Haram group. He threatened to attack Lagos and Abuja within 72 hours of the call. He also requested that Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan unconditionally meet with the sect in Yobe state, without security, to discuss
the terms of a ceasefire. This was however confirmed to be a prank played by some individuals. Another ridicule!

Like it is normal for a child to ask for help from superiors especially on matters it knows a little or nothing about, it is expedient for the nation to plead for the help of superior nations at this time that the armed struggle has taken a new form other than freedom-fighting. Terrorism is alien to Nigeria as much as it is baseless.

It should however be noted that while we plead for help, we must do so in ways that ensure our freedom, national sovereignty and human dignity are not tampered with, let alone obliterated. And if mine has to be, at least my consent is very important.

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