The butterfly effect is a concept that describes how small and seemingly insignificant actions can have an outsized impact on a system. The idea uses the imagery of a butterfly flapping its wings in one location and causing a typhoon elsewhere as the flap interacts with other factors and its force becomes exponentially multiplied. Right now Nigeria is dealing with the outcome of a butterfly flapping its wings in Zamfara on January 27, 2000, when Zamfara State governor Ahmad Sani Yerima instituted Sharia Law in the state.
After Sharia Law kicked in in 2001, Buba Jangebe became the first Nigerian to be legally amputated as a punishment for a criminal offence after he was convicted under Islamic law after being found guilty of stealing a cow.
Next up was Lawali Isa who would have his right hand cut off after he was found guilty of stealing three bicycles. Both men were made to declare that they welcomed the amputations and that it had made them better people.
Then a woman Amina Lawal was sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery but the international uproar and activism from Nigerian lawyers led to the setting aside of the death-by-stoning sentence.
The die had been cast at that point though.
A certain level of brutality had been given legitimacy and fast forward from 2000 to 2021 and Zamfara State has been hit with a wave of Islamist terrorist violence so intense that the government has shut down schools across the state following Wednesday’s abduction of 73 students from a public school.
The recent attacks had targeted students of Government Day Secondary School Kaya in Maradun and reports say 100 students were taken along with the Vice Principal of the school. Kaduna State has also banned the transporting of cows, goats, and other livestock from and to Kaduna to other states and also declared the Kawo weekly market opened on Tuesdays in Kaduna North LGA had been suspended with immediate effect.
Other Northern state governments are imposing curfews, banning the transportation of cattle, and even placing limits on fuel purchase quantities as they try to cripple the logistic capabilities of the terrorists.
A lot has been said about how the North’s political, cultural, and economic choices have led to this disastrous situation but the region’s elite and the general population remains reluctant to make any changes and have instead chosen to double down even instead with President Buhari insisting on having nationwide grazing routes for herdsmen that will be armed and act like colonial advance forces.
In the book “Collapse”, Jared Diamond talked about how societies take self-destructive steps that seem implausible in hindsight and there is a quote from the book referring to the Norse that seems apt for Northern Nigeria; “The lesson of “Collapse” is that societies, as often as not, aren’t murdered.
They commit suicide: they slit their wrists and then, in the course of many decades, stand by passively and watch themselves bleed to death.
This was a society on the brink of ecological disaster, and if there is anything that is clear from the study of such societies it is that they inevitably descend into genocidal chaos.”.
Nigeria could make things easier by choosing to learn from recorded history but we struggle with the principle of education as a people. We are terrible at learning and just as likely to place cultural survival over our own existence itself.