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Doctrines & Morals
 
 
Scripture Corner…

NOW THAT BENUE IS RED: A JOURNEY INTO PREHISTORY

 WHEN HE [THE LAMB] broke open the second seal, I heard the second living creature cry out, "Come forward." Another horse came out, a red one. Its rider was given power to take away peace from the earth, so that people would slaughter one another. And he was  given  a  huge sword (Rev 6:3-4).

The context of this quotation is the seven seals of Revelation. The first four seals are marked with horses of various colours; white, red, black and green respectively. The red horse symbolises war and internal strife and disorder tearing the citizens apart. The fifth seal is about the souls of those slaughtered crying to God for vengeance. This cataclysm marks the end of an era.  This is exactly the type of situation in which we find ourselves today. In Benue, this scenario is being replayed. From Akovolowo down to Oku, and then between the altar and the vestibule of the temple in Mbalom, blood flows like a river. Within the first trimester of 2018, an estimate of 261 people have died only in this state. Eguma, Agatu, Gambe-Tiev, Ayilamo,  Turan, Umenger, Tse-Akor, Tomatar, Okpoku, Gwer and other areas of this state mourn like Mama Rachel.  Of the recorded 89 attacks so far in 2018, 25 took place in Benue State alone and others in Nassarawa, Taraba, Kaduna, Plateau, Adamawa, Kwara, Kogi and Niger States. Each time it happens, we wail and shout and immediately relapse as if all has been well. Our memory is short, our psyche is wounded. A friend of mine read what is happening through the lens of Oswald Mtshali´s Night Fall in Soweto. It is a monstrous harbinger of death prowling around invisibly in the midst of mortal deprived of a hiding place. We are confused. We have no place to run to. We recourse to shivering in the heart of death. It is also time to ask ourselves some questions on why everywhere has turned red. It is not the problem of the Tivs alone. It is our common funeral. In Benue we all die every day. In Benue we must resurrect. Part of this resurrection is to make a journey into antiquity, to the world of prehistory in an attempt to  discover  how  it  all started.

The clash between herdsmen and farmers marked a civilisation stage in every culture. It is the nascent stage of agricultural revolution when homo sapiens began to lead a settled life. This developmental stage is also recorded in the bible in the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4. Cain was a farmer while Abel was a shepherd. In this story is recorded the first murder case in the bible and it was the case of a man killing his brother. In a nutshell, this story etiologically tries to tell us of the inherent tension between the agrarian farmers and the nomadic herders. Their coming together is usually a clash. This story has its versions in the then Ancient Near Eastern cultures. In the Hittite Epic, Kingship in Heaven, there was a case of a conflict between Anu and his more favoured brother Alal. Anu killed Alal but was punished by the god Kingu just as God punished Cain for killing his brother. Among the Summerians, in the Epic of Gilgamesh, it was a competition between the shepherd god Dumuzi and the farmer god Enkimdu over the bride Innana. Innana was pressurised by her brother Utu to marry Dumuzi, but she preferred Enkimdu because of his gentle nature. Dumuzi would not give up. He became belligerent and violent. Because of this, Enkimdu towed the path of peace by leaving Innana for Dumuzi and migrating to another place to start a new life. There is something common among these stories; the quarrel is usually borne out of jealousy. It is a kind of greed, a feeling of emptiness because of what the other person has which I lack. It is a feeling of allowing oneself to be defined by lack and deficiency. It is part of our Id stage in Freudian human development. Growth and development means moving beyond this stage and profiting in the other person what is lacking in me. It is an awareness of our uniqueness and that our gifts and potentials are not meant to create jealousy but to be complementary. Hence, this primitive stage of agricultural revolution is overcome by recognising that agrarianism and nomadism are two sources of livelihood in the human society. They are meant to complement each other in giving food to the people. Every society tries to put this in check by creating boundaries of operation.  

In Nigeria; in this digital age, Cain and Abel are still at war, Anu is still killing Alal and Dumuzi keeps on fighting it out with Enkimdu. In this millennium, it is a war between herdsmen and farmers sometimes orchestrated in two war lords; Obasanjo the farmer and Buhari the herdsman. The first message this sends across to us is that we are living in a Neolithic age (ca. 10,000 BC). It seems to me most strange that Nigeria has not solved the problem of cattle rearing till today. I could not believe it that people of this present age are saying no to anti-grazing bill. It defiles reason to learn that our government cannot rise and put a stop to this problem. How come that cattle rearing transcends private enterprise and is elevated to the status of a national project. How come a cow is more precious than human life?

This boils down to one issue, we still live at the level of barbarism. We may be living in mansions, sleeping inside aircrafts, operating sophisticated gadgets and yet remain uncivilised. Our inability to put our common goal before us and order other things towards it shows that we still have a long way to go. Our failure to transcend tribe and language in our national polity is enough indication that we operate a barbaric system of government. If we do not transcend this stage, we will never progress. If the government does not acknowledge the role of farmers and of the nomads and act accordingly, not only will we die of hunger, rather if hunger is unable to kill us, our fellow human beings will. This journey into prehistory only helps us to see the basis of the problem, the logical implications and inherent dangers. To resurrect we must move away from this primitivity and barbarism and walk towards the light of civilisation. At the individual level, it reminds us to be contented with what we have, to respect other people´s sphere of operation, and be open for exchange. This is the only way we can develop. This is acknowledged at the formative stage of Israel as a nation and enshrined in the Decalogue thus, "you shall not covet your neighbour`s house". Now that Benue is red, we are reminded not to covet our neighbour´s house, to overcome our barbarism and embrace civilisation.  

 

 


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