Aiming for Prevention: International Initiatives

Medical Voices Against Violence
IPPNW medical professionals tell their stories

Nigeria, activist

A fellow activist in the field of research, development, education and community health volunteerism once told me something during a discussion we were having in his Abuja residence on the trafficking, proliferation and use of small arms within a country such as in Nigerian context. He said "Monday, the truth is that it may not be out of place to say that at least over 2.5 million illegal small arms and light weapons could be in circulation in Nigeria today." I didn't believe him and never even wanted to count that statement as reality since then, until recently when with my two eyes I saw and beheld the wanton waste caused by hoodlums and furious unemployed youth/adult, who used all forms of illicit and sophisticated small arms and light weapons in carrying out the merciless and brutal killings, maiming and destruction of life-time properties through violent conflict that befell the calm city of Jos in November 28, 2008.

This is what I called the flood of human blood and tears in Jos----after the curfew for the elections was lifted at about on Thursday, everyone left for their homes to await the announcement of results, which never came till the following Friday morning: 27th day of November, 2008 when all of a sudden, children, women, youth and men - all manner and everybody was running out of their homes to the main-road of Tudun Wada, the area I reside in Jos. By the time I followed suit to the road, I discovered the atmosphere was already tensed, "the September ninth 2001 thing has started up again" I whispered within me. And a little while, news came in that a Church was set ablazed at a location afar off where I was. Before I knew it, my area also was surrounded by smoke on all sides - dark undoubtedly black smoke rose up strongly, which later mixed up with white smoke. Houses were on fire; tires were also brought to the road and set on fire.

As if that was not enough, I saw persons coming in gangs and clusters, armed with cutlasses, self-loading pistols, Dane guns, heavy sticks, arrows and bows locally made pistols and assault rifles, local bombs made from petrol canned in bottles and all manner! And for the defenseless ones, we kept running from edge to edge. I finally ran into a hospital close by, where my project, Youth Education and Leadership Forum (YELF) is situated. There I watched the remaining story as it unfolded bit by bit. It was already 12 noon and I started seeing the realism of my friend's statement… people being cut on their heads, chest, legs and those shot with gun were rushed to the hospital with blood gushing out forcefully. Their blood (from injuries sustained) and the tears from the relatives that brought them mixed together and flowed down through the hospital pedestrian stair cases into the abyss, like a river of water. It was terrible!

Many of those causalities were treated; some whose cases could not be handled were referred to bigger health facilities, while others gave up the ghost there and then. My heart bled. Tears ran through my eyes. I saw everything, the devastation caused to children, women and other vulnerable groups. That fateful Friday was an upsurge that ended up turning the Tudun Wada tare road to a refugee camp for many who slept with their one eye opened, thirsty and hungered, as there was no food, and no water.

Things seemed to have calmed down in the night. The silence that was later broken by the noise of gunfire which welcomed the early yellowish rising sun of November 28th Saturday morning… It was a little bit too much to think or talk about whether we had security agencies and officials on ground to contain the situation. But all that was available to think about (as I can still recall) was perhaps they all had gone on an oversea vacation. As Saturday violence took a harder dimension, and recorded more injury cases, death tolls rose to a thousand plus and number of displaced persons to thousands. The situation became worst.

Little did I know that a member of my group (YELF) was also shot by 7 bullets sporadically. After the extraction of four bullets from his body, he stills lives with 3 bullets as I write this story, for the fear of what my medical student friend called "further injuries owing to the delicacy of the affected body tissues". Another female friend who was pregnant at the time of the crisis also gave a distressed call on my mobile phone informing me that I should pray for her and her two kids as the husband was already brutally killed in the compound and that her house was surrounded by furious armed persons, who may put the building on fire in few moment. Before I could respond to that call, she started screaming and shouting "fire, fire, fire," until everything ceased. The pregnant woman, her husband and the two children, including the unborn innocent baby were brutally murdered cold blood and burnt to ashes in their home.

This among many has left a lot of people in shambles of hopelessness, frustrations, pain and hurt of unbearable injuries and broken hearts. It was indeed an event that has left an indelible single inscription on my mind: "flood of human blood and tears." And since then, I kept asking the question, why have human beings gone wild? Where have we kept our milk of human kindness to take up to using small arms and weapons against ourselves? One of the solutions to this social problem of man inhumanity to fellow man lies in the work of groups such as the Intl' Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), which I am proud to be part of it and will continue to promote peace and prevention of violence.

I would finally live us with the words of Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, scribe of the defunct OAU "we must recognize that the widespread availability of small arms and light weapons in our societies has contributed to the development of a culture of violence, to massive violation of human rights----and the aggravation of the plight of refugees and displaced persons, not to mention millions of deaths and injuries among civilian populations".

More stories

For more information about Aiming for Prevention, contact Maria Valenti, Campaign Coordinator, 1.617.440.1733 ext. 303.