I watched with horror the wreckage of the recent EMAB bomb explosion in Abuja and my heart almost fell out of my mouth. I could not believe that such a horrific incident could ever be recorded in our dear country. My mind quickly went to the families of those who lost their relations in the blast, especially my staff and friend, Suleiman Bissalla, who until his death was the Managing Editor of our newspaper, New Telegraph. As I was thinking about their pain and grief, and anger welling up in my heart, something in me reacted to the sordid incident: I felt a sudden surge of optimism and steeliness that very soon we shall overcome the present spates of bombings and killings ravaging our country. I did not know from where the strength came.
For quite some time now I have been wondering from where terrorism, which was alien to us found its way into Nigeria? For how long are we going to live under this scary and awful situation before normalcy is restored nationwide? I had always thought that terrorism was something common in other climes, such as Israel, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, and parts of Asia, including Pakistan and Afghanistan. Never in my wildest dream did I ever fathom that it would become a common spectacle in Nigeria.
But here we are living everyday with ghoulish tales of one bombing after another. Everywhere and everybody have become vulnerable. Even Abuja, which I had thought was a no-go area for terrorism, has lost its sanctity. The first bomb blast in Abuja was around the Eagle Square, and this was blamed on the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND). It was followed by the Mogadishu Barracks bomb blast. As if that was not enough, the Suleija Catholic Church bombing took place. It was this particular incident that made Nigerians become conscious of the gravity of the development. The bombing of the Force Headquarters and United Nations Building, both in Abuja, outraged the world and attracted further attention to Nigeria as a terrorist country.
Even though the Federal Government of Nigeria fought desperately and vehemently for Nigeria not to be classified as a terrorist country, it lost the battle since latter incidents unsettled the agitation. It would amount to an exercise in futility for anybody to deny the obvious fact that Nigeria has joined the league of notorious terrorist nations globally. What is the difference between Nigeria and Pakistan or Iraq where suicide bombers have continued to waste innocent lives with impunity?
Probably, what many Nigerians have not known yet is that no nation completely recovers from the harm done to it by terrorism. Like madness, that cannot completely be cured, terrorism leaves indelible scars on the psyche of any nation that has fallen victim to it. Again, it has been known that no terrorist or a group of terrorists ever lives a normal life even after they have given up the act. So, it is a two-way sword: it either terrorism destroys the terrorist or the terrorist destroys himself. Whichever way it is viewed it is an ill wind that blows nobody any good.
The truth we have to tell ourselves today is this: the end-result of terrorism is usually very grave, and happens abruptly. At whatever point the grievances (if any) of the insurgents (terrorists) are settled their agitation dies a natural death. This is why it is often advised that whoever is aggrieved in any way should seek peaceful resolution.
I have never wished the death of any Nigerian for whatever reason. The life of every Nigerian is as important as that of any other person. What I have always wished for is a peaceful, progressive and equitable society, where every citizen would have a sense of belonging and lead a fulfilled life.
Have you pondered how many lives have been wasted since the Boko Haram onslaught began in 2009? From available records, over 10,000 lives have been brutally cut down in different attacks on churches, mosques, marketplaces, beer gardens, hotels, TV viewing centres, barracks, etc. All these attacks aggregate to the present grief that has enveloped different families all over the country, leaving in its wake global umbrage and bafflement.
What of the over 200 Chibok schoolgirls that have been missing since April. It is nearly 90 days since they were abducted, and nothing concrete has been heard about their possible release. Why has it become difficult to negotiate their release despite the global attention the matter has attracted? Even the initial enthusiasm to get international support to get them released has died down considerably. So, does it mean this is the end of the road for these our compatriots who are being incarcerated for no fault of theirs? I am a father – I know how painful it is to lose a loved one, let alone your own daughter. What we have on our hands here is not a matter of losing a loved one to death. Rather it is a case of making one leave in irresolvable dilemma. Only God knows when they will finally come back to their parents and guardians.
The fact about the unfortunate Chibok incident is that our nation shall never know peace as long as those girls are still been held in captivity. By ‘our nation’ I mean all of us. Even those holding them hostage enjoy no peace too. If I were the funder or advisor of Boko Haram I would advise them to get the girls released without further delay. There can never be merit in an act that the whole world, including Al Qaeda, had already condemned. So, what is the sense in keeping them?
Those who know how well-endowed God has made Nigeria will agree that the ongoing bloodletting across the nation is uncalled for, unwarranted and a huge distraction to our march towards democratic liberty. There is no justification for us to kill one another in the name of religion or politics. After all, we are a people of one nation, with one destiny. Those who preach the contrary do so out of ignorance, greed, hatred or for personal gains.
In my thinking, no rational person will deliberately work to destroy his own nation or take another person’s life, knowing full well the grievous consequences of doing so. I asked a curious question in this column last week about what you would like to be remembered for at the end your earthly life. I received interesting and weird responses. But the summary of their collective submissions is that one would be remembered for his good deeds. How many of those who made this submission were genuine about it? This is the question now begging for an answer.
I would like to restate one evergreen truth: We shall reap the recompense for whatever we have sowed on earth. It does not matter who you are, where you come from, or whether you are rich or poor. God created the world for us to inhabit it in peace and brotherly love. But what have we turned it into: a theatre of the absurd, where life means nothing to certain people anymore? Is it not ludicrous that some people would conduct themselves in a most dishonourable manner, while walking the streets as if they own the world? As far as I am concerned nobody is worth anything before the throne of God. We exist at the mercy of He who is merciful and full of compassion.
Why can’t we live in peace with one another and carry one another’s burden in prayer? Those who kill should know that some day they too will be killed. What happiness does an evildoer derive from his wicked act?
I watch with unimaginable amazement how human beings have suddenly become bestial in their behaviour and character. They conduct themselves lawlessly and ravenously threaten to devour whoever stands in their way. This is exactly the way beasts behave. So, what is the difference between them and beasts then? Stories emanating from families make one’s jaws drop. They are not even good to the ears. Yet they happen with such frequency and equanimity as never witnessed before.
The words of encouragement I bring to us all today are that all hope is not lost. We may be in dire straits today, but tomorrow can be better. Great people are known for their resilience, courage and creativity. Nigerians are a people specially made by God to overcome any obstacles placed in their way to achieving their aims in life. They are not a cowardly people who are easily cowered by challenges. The killings, rape, kidnapping, arson, murders, official stealing, and other atrocities against the citizenry of Nigeria will soon come to a fatal end and Nigeria will be free again.
I do not see terrorism last beyond this year. The Boko Haram Sect is populated by Nigerians who are just like you and me. They are not spirits. Therefore, they also have feelings. What they probably lack at the moment is the courage to give up the fight and embrace dialogue. This is not the first time I have pleaded the sect to allow peace to reign. Is there any other way they want their message to be heard more powerfully than they had done already? I guess the whole world is aware of their capacity and capability to cause mayhem. If they have a genuine grouse about the government it should come forward with it, instead of hiding under the veil to destroy our collective heritage, which our forebears laid down their lives to build.
I urge them to consider the huge annual budgetary expenditure of government to provide security and fight insurgency. Would it not be better to channel these resources to the provision of basic infrastructure to aid development and growth? I learnt from competent sources that it runs into hundreds of billions. Imagine what the money will do for a state like Yobe, which is currently in dire need of amenities to better the lot of the people.
There is no doubt that the insurgents have their backers in high places, and this makes it very difficult to dislodge them. Now the question is: who are these backers? What exactly do they want? From what is bandied in the media they want to regain political power at the centre. If this is their real intention, then must they kill and maim before accomplishing it? All it takes is for them to test their popularity at the polls. It is the electorate who are mandated by the constitution to make the choice of who governs them or where political power resides.
If there is any ethnic group that should be compensated it is Igbo. Of all the major ethnic groups in the country it is only the Igbo ethnic block that is yet to produce the executive president of Nigeria. I wish to state the umpteenth time that it is only a presidency of Igbo extraction that will lead Nigeria to its Eldorado. Though this article is not for canvassing a president of Igbo extraction, but it is through avenues such as this that pragmatic views might as well be propounded. A presidency of Igbo extraction is a project long overdue. For the sake of peace and continuity we have opted to wait and watch as events unfold.
Let me state emphatically that Nigeria has come to stay, and no human force can change that which God has decreed. It is not an accident of fate that we were made to come together as one indivisible nation. If it was possible to divide Nigeria, as some people make us believe, the early patriots who fought for its independence would have done so in the early 60’s. Even the 30-month civil war could not achieve the same purpose. So what else can be done?
Great nations came about as a result of long years of struggle and travails. The United States, which today is the envy of the universal world, went through excruciating tussles to become a global leader. Rome, as they say, was not built in one day. It took years of pain, sacrifices and overcoming tragedies on the part of its citizens to attain its present heights.
The same can be said of Nigeria. It will take also years of tears and pain for us to reach global preeminence. All we need do as a people is to persevere, make individual sacrifices and be patriotic. We cannot get to anywhere with the bitterness and rancour prevailing among us. We may disagree and quarrel, but we should not allow all that to threaten our national peace and security.
It is only natural for us to belong to different tribes and races, religions and, even, political parties. Nevertheless, allowing these differences to divide us is the genesis of our present troubles. The United States again presents a classical example here. With a population of over 300 million people and 51 states it has tenaciously worked to stay together, building stronger bonds of unity among its various peoples. What is central to whatever they do is the interest of America. The life of a single American is as important as that of all other Americans put together. That is what we call respect for sanctity of life.
We rush daily to the United States to savour their rich and enticing environment. Why can’t we make our nation as appealing too? We can turn Nigeria into a nation of our dream if we chose today to bury our differences and work with one accord for the furtherance of the ideals for which our forebears fought and died. Wasting innocent lives, fighting one another, working against our collective patrimony, and stealing from the national till are nothing but retrogressive actions that will continue to draw us back economically, socially and politically. We need to stand up to be counted at this period of trial by shunning anti-social behaviours, and working in unity to achieve a sustainable democratic growth.
Know it today: the God whom we serve will turn around the fortunes of our nation and grant us victory over our adversaries. He will give our leaders new insight and impetus on how to govern us in accordance with his statutes and divine designs.
Our brethren, who are currently up in arms across the country, will soon have a change of heart and embrace dialogue.
We lift our nation in prayer before God’s heavenly throne and call on all Nigerians not to give up hope, but to continue to strive for justice, equity and even development.
May the name of God be praised now and forever! Amen!