Dancing to the drumbeats of war. 2

In 1993, the war drums were rolled out for rehearsals. The staccato rhythms beat across the land in the wake of the June 12 riots. And the people fled from their homes across the country in search of a safety that had become elusive. And they died in large numbers. Very few, if any died from gunshot wounds though. Most died from motor accidents, highway robberies and in some cases, from the stampede.

There is a pathetic story of a family who hid their wad of cash in their baby’s diapers as they ran away from the Northern part of the country. When they got to the Lokoja bridge, they ran into highway robbers who demanded their money. They insisted they had no money and the robbers began a meticulous search. Unfortunately, they found the money in the child’s diapers; they took the money and threw the innocent baby over the bridge into River Niger. Father and mother turned back to where they were running away from, distraught, inconsolable. They had danced to the drumbeats of war, and it was not pleasant. This is just one out of the many horrible experiences that people went through in 1993 and 1994.

There was no actual war but the drummers drummed and the people danced. Rumours led to more rumours and panic bred pandemonium across the land as we all danced to the drumbeats of a war that existed in the hearts and imaginations of warmongers. Because you see, a war is not just a fight between two armies; a war is an attempt at destruction of everything your enemy represents. When a war happens, the lines are often blurred and the enemy becomes faceless. Fear and insecurity are the twin commodities that go on sale, and everyone is forced to buy. The reason I felt safe in 1970 was not that I was a child; it was more because the theatre of war too was far away for the drumbeats to be heard in my neighbourhood. But not anymore. This time, the sound is loud enough for the deaf to hear and the crippled to dance to its ugly beat.


Dancing to the drumbeats of war. 2

My sense of safety stemmed from my ignorance of the issues at stake in that war. I wish I could say the same now. I felt safe but not every child could say the same; for the child in the jungles of Biafra, whose father had gone to fight a war they did not understand, there was nothing but fear. The child who had to watch her mother set traps to catch a lizard for protein in a soup of backyard leaves, there was nothing but puzzlement at best, deep insecurity at worst.

For me, during the civil war, the play was uninterrupted and the food was in abundance. For some other child, the play was a distant memory, or in some cases, a word that did not exist, and the food was whatever Mother could scrape together.

There was neither state nor sense of peace. Because in war, there is no childhood, no play, no fun. Those who beat the drums of war are often not the same ones forced to dance to its cacophonous rhythm. It is often, the women and the children, the old and infirm, who dance to a music they do not understand.

Right now, the drummers seem to be drumming and calling us to dance to the sound of war. But it is a rehearsal, and the rehearsal is different from the action. Right now, they are setting the stage and calling us to the theatre for the opening act. Except that when the curtain falls, we will be the ones on the stage dancing to the drum beats of war. There will be no play, no food and certainly no peace and safety. It would be you and I, asking questions without answers and praying for an end to something we do not understand, while trying to explain to an innocent child.

Nigerians, let us be wise. War helps no one. War kills, steals and destroys. It strips a people of dignity and leaves pain and destruction in its trail. And the funny thing is, after all the killings, it is on the negotiating table that issues are settled. So rather than war first and talk later, why don’t we talk now and war never?

End. The conclusion of Dancing to the drumbeats of war. 2


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