About 38 of the “terrorists” were killed. The “insurgents” fled, leaving behind three vehicles and various arms. Assorted ammunition for machine guns and AK 47 were “captured”. Only one soldier died in action.
A similar report must have been read somewhere in Nigeria in 1967 or ’68. But this was an update on the war in north-eastern Nigeria as provided by the Nigerian Army authorities on Friday. Such statements are now routine, as the military strive to make us believe that they are winning the war on Boko Haram. This time, they were proud to announce that the enemy had suffered “heavy losses” when soldiers repelled an attack on 195 Battalion in Danboa, Borno State, in the early hours of Friday.
In times of crisis, said Hiram Johnson, the first casualty is always the truth. Thus, we should not expect to get the whole truth from statements issued by the military authorities. When they admit that one soldier was killed, the actual number might be 11 or even 21. Boko Haram is aware of this propaganda and has often debunked lies told by its adversaries.
The tragedy of this time is that the resources that should have been used to make life comfortable are being diverted to a war that has no end and no winners. Will those benefiting from this security/defence vote be willing to let the war end? Perhaps we should ignore those meaningless statements, including assurances from President Jonathan about the soon-to-end fight. Five years have passed by.
No fewer than 5, 000 Nigerians have been murdered. Families have been wiped out! Each year, well over N1 trillion is no longer accounted for.
I have chosen to use “war” to describe what has been going on in the north-east. Exactly two years ago, when Kano city came under heavy bombardment, I did not fail to point out that the Nigerian Civil War II had begun. Boko Haram, I have learned, still operates freely in Kano but its activities are under-reported. Placing Kano under emergency rule – even in its diluted form as witnessed in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa – could be injurious to businesses and to the government, I have been told. I wonder how long the truth will remain hidden.
But why all this bloodletting? When did counting the dead become the pastime of those we pay to keep us safe? If the several security agencies sustained by public funds cannot keep Nigeria secure, then, it’s time to scrap them all. That’s what a strong leader can do.
Unless the current leadership is strengthened, I don’t see this war ending in the next 10 years. In fact, with public funds going astray and good programmes that can reduce unemployment getting frustrated as a result, the war may stretch to several other fronts. The politicians would therefore do well to stop wasting our scarce funds on “elections” that may escalate the war next year.
Forty-four years ago – on this day and month – a major attempt to divide the country was averted at the cost of over one million Nigerian lives and property of inestimable value. Today, the country is more divided and less peaceful than it was 44 years ago. One valid explanation for this turn of events is that the three Rs declared by Gen. Gowon – reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation – were nothing but a fraud. No lesson was learned from the first Nigerian Civil War. And nothing has been gained from keeping Nigeria one. All around us are blood, tears and sorrow.
Today, I join the Nigerian Legion and the Nigerian government in paying tribute to the one million men, women and children sacrificed by their vainglorious, wicked, greedy and stupid compatriots. Those who died – as soldiers or as civilians – were the true patriotic Nigerians. Cowards who couldn’t get near the war front but hid in their mistresses’ bedrooms were the ones who wrote books and granted interviews containing distorted accounts of the war. They were the ones that seized the reins of government and stole the nation blind. Today, they have been made drunk by the blood of the war victims they caused to be martyred for nothing. Through ill-conceived “open” letters, they seek another coup – and another war – at a time they would be considered too old to be conscripted and they would easily escape to peaceful countries.
Where are the soldiers for peace? Forty-six years ago, it was Biafra; today, it is Boko Haram. A more sinister rebellion may soon emerge to make this nation ungovernable – from the north-west to the south-east and from the south-west to the north-central. Gunpowder has been spread in every corner of the nation; someone is about to strike a match.
The land is filled with mourners already. Injustice has been done to too many. And this injustice is at the root of widespread poverty, unemployment, crime and social unrest. Without justice, the sages tell us, there can’t be peace. I plead with fellow compatriots to accept the proposed national conference – and vent their anger on it. It may be one small step to justice and to peace.
A Nigerian Enlivener @ 50
In one office room, this cold harmattan season, your correspondent met a tall and handsome 50-year-old man. There was also a cerebral man who obtained a first-class honours degree from BUK, and then a master’s degree in Development Economics from Cambridge University, England. In the same room was a former bank executive. And there was the chief executive of a conglomerate, as was the chairman of a leading aviation handling company. One man was in the room, however: Suleiman Yahyah.
Mr Yahyah could be regarded any day as one of Nigeria’s best and brightest. I call him a Nigerian enlivener because he represents the best side of the nation: unassuming, full of life, friendly to all, brimming with ideas, endowed with entrepreneurial spirit, untainted by the ills of the country, patriotic, cosmopolitan, optimistic.
In half a century of his life, Mr Yahyah has become an accomplished man and the pride of his generation. From him I have learned to always provide solutions to, and not lament, the nation’s problems. I am proud to be associated with this prince from Funtua, Katsina State, who celebrated his 50th birthday last Tuesday. A member of my generation, he gives me hope that Nigeria’s salvation will come someday.
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