Post-traumatic stress disorder

Niger Delta militants

It was a crude joke, really, cracked by a somewhat insensitive stand-up comedian: That while the first words of babies in other parts of Nigeria, indeed the world over, are da-da-da-daddy; and, ma-ma-ma-mama;  their counterparts in the Niger Delta say, “rat-tat-tat … f-i-r-e!”

The message: The Niger Delta zone has been so militarised that even infants are familiar with the sounds of guns.

Another stand-up comedian says that the situation is so bad that while the Yoruba man will take cover if he hears the sound of a gun, and his Northern brother will break into swear words – shege, dan boro ba! – their relations in the South South will first engage in arguments; bros ye, no be AK-47 dem fire so? And the “bros ye” will reply, “shuo, una no know double barrel again?

Wicked jokes, I agree. But they are a strong pointer to what awaits Nigeria in the very near future, if urgent steps are not taken to address the problems of the oil bearing region.

The United States of America should also learn from the Nigerian debacle, if it is to avoid the Frankenstein monster of war that its outgoing President George W. Bush has created in his eight disastrous years in power.

Successive Nigerian leaders, who believe that they are insulated from the negative effects of their poisonous arrows while in office, will soon learn, the hard way, that when you sow the wind, you cannot but reap the whirlwind.

Bush, who in his eight years as U.S. President created jobs for the American youth, not at home but abroad — with his war on Iraq and beefing up of military bases across the globe –  may today be clinking glasses. This is particularly so, with his “success” in the Middle Eastern country, especially in view of the capture and state execution of the equally evil one, Saddam Hussein.

But, I daresay, that the U.S. President and his citizens will soon know that in war, we are all losers. The victor and the vanquished are, usually, big losers. Some may lose at the battle field, but surely, the others will start counting their losses at home.

While Iraq will continue to suffer the indignity and physical trauma of losing a war, particularly at the home front, the US and its allies in the military misadventure – as well as Nigerian leaders who are still prevaricating on the Niger Delta issue – will soon realise that the bell tolls for us all. And that internal battles are more dangerous and more telling than military expeditions on foreign soil.

The leaders who prefer — or permit, as is the case with Nigeria – military engagement by the youth should take a weekend to watch, once again I am sure, the first in the John Chase Rambo series, First Blood.

Played by Sylvester Stallone, the 1982 film is a fictional creation of David Morrel in his novel by the title, First Blood.

It has become an eponym for military aggression and a demonstration of great heroism through extreme violence and skill, especially when outnumbered. The term can also, however, be used derogatorily for someone who thoughtlessly charges into a fight with no regard for personal safety or careful planning.

The others in the series are Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Rambo III (1988), and Rambo (2008).

They feature Rambo, a returnee Vietnam War veteran, who is inexorably forced to turn his various survival skills in the use of weapons, hand-to-hand combat and guerrilla warfare, on the society.

Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Rambo is disliked by fellow Americans, who are scared of his scruffy looks. He is pushed out of town (Hope, Washington), by its Sheriff, Will Teasle, and arrested for returning to the town. Handcuffed and threatened with physical injuries, Rambo, in self-defence, wreaks so much havoc on the town that he can best be described as a “one-man Army!”

It has to take his former unit commander, Colonel Samuel Trautman (played by Richard Crenna), to talk him out of violence and to surrender.

The poser: What kind of people will return to the United States after the wars? How will the U.S. deal with the returnee soldiers? And, what kind of persons is Nigeria breeding in the Niger Delta. What does the future hold for our children, with this growing number of kidnappers, bomb throwers and paid killers?

Of course, it is axiomatic that a nation should prepare for war if it wants peace, and a measure of justification is readily available to the U.S. in the Afghanistan saga, going by the unfortunate September 11 terror attacks by the al Qaeda.

But the defence does not avail Bush in the Iraq offensive, that is daily being seen as the American president’s excuse to purchase more military weapons to prosecute the wars, but really, only to satisfy his capitalist election backers and deputy Richard Bruce “Dick” Cheney.

Also, the Nigerian government has continually branded the Niger Delta boys “militants,” indolent people who want money from oil companies for work not done.

The American soldiers, who were drafted to wars in their teens and have shed blood day and night in Iraq, can not return to the U.S. the same persons who left their homes. Don’t be deceived by the sophistication and efficiency of the country’s psychologists and the relative economic self sufficiency that the soldiers may have. Wars are no tea parties. Their consequences on the country and the soldiers are dire.

The soldiers can not be free of  post-traumatic stress disorder, an anxiety disorder that may develop after exposure to life threatening circumstances, like Rambo’s.

This is also the disorder that Nigeria will still have to contend with, even after the Niger Delta issue will have been resolved, a wish that in itself a will-o-the-wisp, given the cosmetic treatment being given the open sore that the problem of the oil bearing communities has become.

It is the same post-traumatic stress disorder that awaits Nigeria from the Niger Delta “militant,” who  has taken to arms to reclaim his ancestral land and sea, which have been seized from him by the country, using the Land Use Act.

  • First published in the Nigerian Compass circa 18 September 2008



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