Few years ago, Otpor, Serbia’s non-violent pro-democracy youth movement known for organizing non-violent civic protests decided to play a prank. They took an oil barrel and taped a picture of President Slobodan Milosevic to it. They had it set in the middle of Belgrade’s largest shopping district with a baseball bat placed on top. The activists left, sat in a corner and watched with fun as scores of shoppers lined the street, each waiting for a chance to take a swing at the dictator whom many couldn’t stand but too afraid to criticize. As expected, the junta’s police came but couldn’t find the culprits to arrest and so they just did the only thing they could which was to take possession of the barrel. The image of two policemen dragging the barrel would later become an internet meme in Serbia that spread like wild fire. Of course, the dictator was livid and called for the head of the opposition.
If you are a public intellectual beaming a searchlight on the excesses of public men or EndSARS protesters, the group that Nigeria’s president accused of wanting to remove him, you are tagged the enemy of the state. In the home front, if you find yourself becoming the reality check on your spouse’s surmised sex appeal, in the vast social media ecosystem of today’s make-belief world, you might also have been that enemy as well. The army of Instagram followers, who hit the “like” button on a whim in her page, is sure to make you out as the foe that is totally blinded by hatred and see no good.
Yugoslavia was a country located in Southeast and Central Europe for most of the 20th century. It was a melting pot of ethnicities and religions positioned at the crossroads between East and West. Her status as a cultural mosaic was also a source of contention between these competing groups, resulting in a series of conflagrations in the early 90’s that led to its disintegration.
The nation came into existence in 1918 after World War 1 by the merger of the provisional States of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, which were part of the former Kingdom of Serbia and the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. It disintegrated to seven nation states of Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro on April 27th, 1992. The single most important factor that led to the disintegration of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was the Serbian nationalistic policies pursued by the former President, Slobodan Milosevic.
Milosevic served as the president of Serbia within Yugoslavia from 1989 to 1997 and president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from 1997 to 2000. Upon his rise to power and with the help of Serbian media started to espouse Serb nationalism while promoting xenophobia toward other ethnicities in Yugoslavia.
His whole idea was to create the greater Serbia which meant taking over some part of Croatian lands as well as displacement of ethnic Albanians that triggered three wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. This culminated in an almost a decade of bloodshed and vengeance that led to the death of more than 200,000 people and earned Mr. Milosevic the sobriquet “Butcher of the Balkans.” He would later become the first sitting head of state to be charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia and later died of heart attack in his prison cell in The Hague on 11 March 2006.
Like former Yugoslavia, Nigeria is today fighting a war of survival in so many fronts. The northwest is buffeted by heavily armed terror bandits who are committing atrocities on a scale that has never been seen before. The bulk of the criminals belong in the President’s Fulani ethnic stock whom like Slobodan Milosevic Serbs, have been accused of orchestrating a tribal nationalistic agenda, and allegedly recruiting their kith and kin in Mali, Niger and other places in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin to join in the unholy campaign. The president has been castigated for showing a great deal of restraint, reluctance and even unwillingness to tackle headlong, this raging monster. His kinsmen are at war with the Nigerian state.
As Yugoslavia was being torn apart in a bloody conflict, Western nations were unwilling to intervene untill the genocide against Albanians forced many to flee into the neighbouring countries which had the potential to destabilize the entire region. As a result, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) led by the United States, citing humanitarian intervention, began an aerial bombing campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia even prior to the UN’s approval. The war ended on December 14, 1995 and Yugoslavia splintered, after the signing of a peace agreement known as Dayton Accords.
Despite some striking similarities with the Yugoslavian conflict, the West is very unlikely to intervene directly in the Nigerian crisis. Aside from the general apathy towards anything Africa and the recent unsavory experience in both Iraq and Afghanistan of a war weary nation, the predominantly Muslim population in Nigeria’s north would likely interpret a US intervention as another anti-Muslim campaign by a Christian foreign power. In addition, the porous borders of West African nations would likely render attempts at isolating the insurgency from potential foreign support futile.
U.S. security assistance to Nigeria has sought to bolster peacekeeping efforts, improve maritime and border security as well as combat transnational crime. Nigeria participates in the U.S State Department’s Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP), an interagency effort to build regional counterterrorism capabilities and coordination.
Nigeria also has benefitted from the provision of U.S. training and equipment to the Multi- National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) coalition in the Lake Chad Basin. A total of $451.4 million in bilateral aid for Nigeria was allocated in FY2020, nearly 90% of the money, however, supported health programs and not the military. Concerns with human rights abuses by Nigerian security personnel continue to be cited by the US as an impediment to continued security assistance and counterterrorism aid.
In Africa, men in power are often bland, hollow and insecure, preferring to be surrounded by sycophants and hangers-on while keeping intelligent minds at bay. Sycophants are duplicitous, constantly feeding their principals with false narratives and work overtime to convince them into believing they are God-sent. They are the biggest enemies of their principals and pose the greatest threat to the State. On the other hands, some perceived enemies are actually the real friends with no interests in sugarcoating things. Oftentimes there are standing in front with a mirror to help the leader notice some blind spots if he cares to see. The EndSARS protesters made Nigeria aware of the sins against her citizens in order to force some sober reflections. The man who tells his wife the truth and not what she wants to hear is the real MVP and certainly the Otpor protesters were no enemies of Yugoslavia.
“When the Baboons and Monkeys heard that the Man who used to chase them away from the maize field had died, they hysterically celebrated. The following year, there was no maize that was when they painfully realized the dead Man was the Farmer.”-Unknown author
The lessons of history is never too late to learn.
Dr. Agbo, a public affairs analyst is the coordinator of African Center for Transparency (ACT) and Convener of Save Nigeria Project. Email: Eagleosmund@yahoo.com