During the May 2023 Group of Seven (G7) summit, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, near where the meeting was held. Not doing so would have been an act of immense discourtesy. Despite many calls for an apology from the US for dropping an atomic bomb on a civilian population in 1945, US President Joe Biden has demurred. Instead, he wrote in the Peace Memorial guest book: ‘May the stories of this museum remind us of all of our obligations to build a future of peace’.
Apologies, amplified by the tensions of our time, take on interesting sociological and political roles. An apology would suggest that the 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were wrong and that the US did not end their war against Japan by taking the moral high ground. An apology would also contradict the US’s decision, backed fully by other Western powers over 70 years later, to maintain a military presence along the Asian coastline of the Pacific Ocean (a presence built on the back of the 1945 atomic bombings) and to use that military force to threaten China with weapons of mass destruction amassed in bases and ships close to China’s territorial waters. It is impossible to imagine a ‘future of peace’ if the US continues to maintain its aggressive military structure that runs from Japan to Australia, with the express intent of disciplining China.
In his radio address on 9 August 1945, US President Harry Truman said: ‘The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians. In reality, Hiroshima was not a ‘military base’: it was what US Secretary of War Henry Stimson called a ‘virgin target’, a place that had escaped the US firebombing of Japan so that it could be a worthwhile testing ground for the atomic bomb. In his diary, Stimson recorded a conversation with Truman in June about the reasoning behind targeting this city.
When he told Truman that he was ‘a little fearful that before we could get ready the Air Force might have Japan so thoroughly bombed out that the new weapon [the atomic bomb] would not have a fair background to show its strength’, the president ‘laughed and said he understood’.
Two-year-old Sadako Sasaki was one of 350,000 people living in Hiroshima at the time of the bombings. She died ten years later from cancers associated with radiation exposure from the bomb. The Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet was moved by her story and wrote a poem against war and confrontation. Hikmet’s words should be a warning even now to Biden for laughing at the possibility of renewed military conflict against China:
I come and stand at every door.
But none can hear my silent tread.
I knock and yet remain unseen.
For I am dead for I am dead.
I’m only seven though I died.
In Hiroshima long ago.
I’m seven now as I was then.
When children die they do not grow.
My hair was scorched by swirling flame.
My eyes grew dim my eyes grew blind.
Death came and turned my bones to dust.
And that was scattered by the wind.
I need no fruit I need no rice.
I need no sweets nor even bread.
I ask for nothing for myself/
For I am dead for I am dead.
All that I need is that for peace.
You fight today you fight today.
So that the children of this world.
Can live and grow and laugh and play.
For those that have the depth of understanding, you will understand the lines above, but let me quickly state that all that is above is not exactly about China, US, Japan, G7 or Europe for that matter, it has very little in fact to do with atomic bombs, Truman of the past, or Biden of then.
The above is about Nigeria of today, a country that is not a nation, a people that are battling to grasp shared value, one that has shared experiences, but have refused to hold hands, to dialogue across the Niger, to look for consensus.
Our stereotypes have further been dragged, in the last eight years our social, cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity have been stretched. These divisions that have historical roots have been badly handled in the country’s political and social landscape in the last one decade.
Mr. Tinubu must address our ethnic diversity, Nigeria is home to over 250 ethnic groups, each with its own language, traditions, and cultural practices. At no time has these ethnic diversities led to tensions and conflicts like now, especially when it comes to issues of resource allocation, power sharing, and representation.
Mr. Tinubu and Shettima his vice has torn Nigerians apart by bringing to the fore our religious differences, with half the conversation around the entire campaign around the northern region being predominantly Muslim and the southern region mainly Christian leading to the Muslim=Muslim ticket narrative.
We need to re-enact our long history of religious coexistence and remember how many communities still practice a combination of traditional religions alongside Islam or Christianity.
Mr. President, there are socioeconomic disparities, with regions varying in terms of development, infrastructure, and access to basic services. The northern region, in particular, has faced challenges related to poverty, illiteracy, and underdevelopment compared to the more economically prosperous southern region. These socioeconomic disparities continue to exacerbate the sense of division and marginalization among different parts of the country, as the north has largely held power and the southeast feeling alienated.
The APC has retained power but political differences, as the landscape is characterized by competition and power struggles between different political parties, regions, and interest groups. In the run up to the last elections political divisions aligned along ethnic and religious lines, leading to a complex web of allegiances and rivalries. Mr. Tinubu must navigate firmly as these same-difference realities impact policy-making, governance, and the distribution of resources.
Despite these divisions, the new administration must draw from our rich history of cultural exchange, interethnic marriages, and collaborative efforts among different groups. Mr. Tinubu must work out the country’s diversity as a source of strength, providing a foundation for vibrant arts, music, cuisine, and cultural heritage.
Efforts must be made to address these divisions and promote national unity through initiatives such as dialogue, interethnic and interreligious partnerships, and inclusive governance. The promotion of shared values, respect for diversity, equitable resource distribution, and fostering a sense of national identity are crucial for building a more unified and prosperous Nigeria, the Nnamdi Kalu debacle, Ibraheem Yaqoub El-Zakzaky, Boko Haram, Bandits, Kidnappers must be handled because Nigerians are divided and how Mr. Tinubu navigates them—Only time will tell.