By Dan Etete
In many of the great texts handed down through the ages; the indisputability of man’s dominion over the earth and within it, all that are its constituents is trite, what lends itself to disputation is the quality of our performance as custodians of that sacred trust and the need for a reassessment of that collective responsibility.
Without question, mankind’s recent scorecard makes very grim reading indeed, for rather than exact fair and noble dominion, we have been more content to engage ourselves in the deleterious domination of each other.
In the year 2015 alone, the number of deaths and dislocation caused by what the world now glibly refers to as religious extremism has approached frightening levels comparable only to the harrowing numbers recorded in previous world wars. These proponents make an incomprehensible political argument that masks itself with the need to fulfill a contrived religious one. The political leaders themselves respond with heavy-handed retribution that seemingly stokes the need for a louder political response from these non-state actors cloaked in yet more religious misrepresentations, leaving in their wake, the pain and suffering of innocents caught in the middle of a senseless and seemingly never-ending macabre dance of death and destruction.
In the ensuing melee, nation states rather than work together to resolve the root causes of this social disaffection, sometimes view it as an opportunity to further their regional economic and political agenda not minding the immediate and remote fallouts of their actions, not minding the greater responsibility of dominion naturally imposed by our creator.
Like the punchline to a deviously crafted elegy, it is frightening to see how mistrust and mutual suspicion between the world’s de-facto superpowers renders them “powerless” to resolve the root causes of the problem, leading to the rise of states within states; peopled, powered and policed by disillusioned and misguided non- state actors.
To many, the 2003 declaration of “Mission Accomplished” aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln should have heralded the dawn of peace and a safer world, instead it seemed to have the opposite effect of opening up the gates of hades and releasing a monster which has metastasized into something the likes of which the world has never before seen and may not ever see again. Can those who made those declarations still confidently beat their chests before the international community in view of the dire consequences that have attended their actions? Was the mission truly accomplished?
Rather than seek a collective resolution to what is now a global problem, our superpowers lend themselves to unnecessary saber rattling across multiple time zones and jurisdictions; Russia and the US are locked in a struggle for supremacy in Syria, China and the US over Islands in the South China sea, Russia and NATO over Ukraine, all at once undermining the efforts to constitute that necessary united front to tackle an enemy seemingly well versed and gaining confidence in the subterranean arts of urban guerilla warfare.
In Africa, the historical narrative of a continent ruled by hunger, famine, malnutrition, disease and civil war is now greatly exacerbated by the largely undocumented effects of this new threat of religious extremism. As the tragedy of the Syrian refugee crisis claimed shameful embodiment and personification through the innocent broken body of 3 year-old Aylan Kurdi as it lay washed up on a European beach, the corpses of countless African innocents, many younger than baby Aylan, litter the cornfields, grazing routes, beachfronts and forests of many African states, unreported and unrecognized by the world. Who will hear their feeble cries as they cower in the dark, awaiting whatever fate the dawn and a black market Kalashnikov dispenses? Who will tell their story?
From South Sudan to Kenya, from North Eastern Nigeria to Somalia, this is the tragedy that typifies the seething cauldrons of discontent and instability that are threatening to become Africa’s new reality.
I have seen many a controversy in my personal life propagated by traducers near and far and highlighted by a biased media given more to sensationalism than balance. If the cost of highlighting the suffering of my Africa is breaking my self-imposed exile from the media, by drawing urgent attention to a world at war with itself and somehow spurring the superpowers from their slumber, then it is a small price, which I gladly pay and will pay again.
I urge the Western countries, the militarily and economically powerful, to take cognizance of the urgency of Africa’s dire circumstances and the effect of their decisions on our continent’s most vulnerable, as the fluttering of their wings in the Western hemisphere causes tsunamis to make landfall on our homeland to devastating effect.
At the height of the cold war, when humanity itself came close to self-annihilation, the two great powers in a rare moment of introspection and wisdom came to a meeting of minds highlighted by the solemn interactions between Reagan and Brezhnev whereat the question was posed – “What should be done in order to preserve peace and to ensure for present and future generations, that basic right of each person- the right to life”. This question finds no greater bearing than in today’s world where that right has seemingly become no more effectible than the thought, which gave rise to it. The time for such an epoch meeting of minds is again at hand, when men of wisdom and good honor must brave the odds and step forward to rewrite the infamous history being forcefully foisted upon a docile majority by a deviant minority.
I call on President Obama, the breaker of all barriers and stereotypes to take up this unique challenge and engage President Putin constructively in a reenactment of that historic initiative that guaranteed the survival of the human race from the threat of the mushroom cloud and certain annihilation. The cost of initiating engagement pales in comparison to the rewards of a super power led united front.
I see myself as a man in the twilight of his days at once ensconced by the inexorable experience that comes with age and the fear and paralysis that comes with the inability to share that experience to the benefit of others. The cost of continued reticence in the face of a collapsing world neither lends itself to gentlemanliness nor good conscience. It is in this regard that I, Chief Dan Etete; Father, Nigerian, concerned senior citizen of the world, offer my humble suggestions in the hope that mankind may reclaim its rightful dominion over the earth rather than continue on this willful slide to perdition.
My proposals are directed at the remaining seemingly credible rallying points; the church, religious leaders of diverse faith, the state and the family unit such as the natural order was intended:
1. Like the International Climate Change Conference an International Time for Peace Conference is needed: One of the highlights of the year 2015 is the historic agreement on Climate change, an effort that took the setting aside of political egos and short term economic benefit to achieve. A similar conference of greater significance must take place with politicians, our holy father, the Pope and religious heads of the major faiths, economists and respected global leaders. It must be noted that the luxury of time is not on our side and as such the same involved period that was expended on the climate accord cannot be afforded here, even if it means long sequestration of its participants. If we celebrated with glee and pomp, the “hammering” out of a climate deal, then the same effort and commitment can be brought to bear to achieve a global peace deal that resolves the many unresolved questions bedeviling the world and giving rise to extremism. Mankind must ask itself the value and usefulness of clean air, when a dirty bullet lurks around every corner?
2. The Muslim World must do more to shed the toga of Religious Extremism: It is unfortunate that the world is slowly accepting the wrong narrative of Islam and Muslims being synonymous with terrorism following incidences like those attributable to Boko Haram in my country Nigeria and those attributable to ISIL like Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan massacres in Paris. Muslims and Muslim leaders must be at the forefront of rewriting this narrative before it becomes too late. Radicals must be exposed and expunged from their ranks and moderates and the peaceful message that Islam promotes must be disseminated as aggressively or even more so than that of the extremists. It is race to the finish line and the victor will claim all the spoils.
3. Africa and the Middle East must reform itself: As the Arab spring proved, there is an urgent need for greater political freedoms in Africa and the Middle East. The many years of “strong leaderships” have left the people with a suppressed voice in need of political expression. The lack of avenues for this political expression and inclusiveness are given vent by the available outlets provided by religious extremism. These societies must modernize by improving democratic structures, guaranteeing freedoms and ensuring inclusiveness in order that they are not left behind by the modern democracy and openness provided by the internet. The global community must demand no less from them.
4. The Family must be the central core: As time passes, the role of the family as the central building block of society has been eroded. The radicalization of our innocent children is in large part traceable to the vacuum left by the greatest support structure known to man; the family. Pressing economic and modernist realities mean the family spends less and less time together as a unit leaving room for pestilential external influences with ulterior motives to mimic that support role. As parents we must act proactively to protect our children from the clutches of extremists by providing an alternate and better reality through the unabashed exploitation of the family structure.
The world is in serious danger and mankind must reassert its dominion over the earth in the way it was envisioned and in a way that is fair, sustainable and takes into cognizance the pluralistic nature of its essence.
I remain hopeful that we will all play our part before it is too late as none are exempt from responsibility as none should be above reproach.
Chief (DR.) Senator Dan L. Etete. Nigerian, Senior Citizen of the World. Former Senator & Federal Minister of Petroleum Federal Republic of Nigeria