Different countries of the world have had one sad story or another to tell since the beginning of 2011. The United States has been at siege in the hands of Hurricane Irene in the past two weeks.
Already, 21 persons had been killed by the hurricane in the east coast of the U.S. since it landed in North Carolina. Baghdad and Kabul have had fatalities arising from recent suicide attacks. But for Nigeria and Libya last week was particularly too bad. While Libya was under the throes of an ongoing internal rebellion Nigeria was held in the jugular by terrorists. The situation in Libya has remained tense as rebel forces comb the country in search of pro-Gaddafi forces! Already the rebels are a few kilometres to Sirte – Gaddafi’s birthplace - believed to be home to a stockpile of sophisticated ammunition. The war in Libya started in March this year after the successful revolution that toppled the governments of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Ben Ali of Tunisia. Since then over 2000 lives have been lost, many of them civilians caught in the crossfire between Gaddafi’s forces and the rebels, including some airstrikes involving NATO’s warplanes. However, the war has dragged on beyond the time earlier stipulated to get it done with. This has prompted NATO to prolong its operations in the country at extra costs in men and materials.
The gains made by the rebels, especially since Thursday last week, have baffled watchers of the situation in that country.
Overnight the rebels overran Tripoli, making fun of the so-called Gaddafi’s impregnability. Contrary to the wide-held view that the entry of the rebels into Tripoli was a ploy by Gaddafi to lure them into a trap and annihilate them the rebels have tenaciously held on to their conquered territories and even gone ahead to push for the overthrow of Sirte – his last stronghold. Feelers from Tripoli and other parts of Libya have revealed horrific scenes of the atrocities committed by Gaddafi and his troops as they escaped from Tripoli. Last Saturday, mind-boggling and horrendous discoveries were made of mass graves and decaying bodies all over Tripoli.
Pro-Gaddafi soldiers were being fingered. According to media reports the bodies were those of civilians and soldiers earlier detained by Gaddafi and who were hurriedly executed before he and his troops ran away from Tripoli as the rebels advanced. One particular scene showed over 53 charred bodies – people shot and set on fire in cold-blood by Gaddafi’s troops. As I write this article, the National Transitional Council is working round the clock to set up a new government to oversee affairs. On its priority list is the restoration of essential amenities and services in the capital, Tripoli. The International Community has responded to the call for aid by donating medical supplies, food and water to ameliorate the sufferings of the people before it degenerates to a humanitarian disaster. Back in Nigeria, the situation might not be as widespread as Libya’s but what happened in Abuja last Friday was equally as despicable. The bombing of the UN Nigeria office by a suicide bomber has left the entire world traumatized forcing it to view the attack as an unwarranted aggression against the rest of the world.
Over 21 innocent lives, including a Norwegian’s, were lost in the senseless attack. From reports gleaned from the scene of the Friday attack the suicide bomber drove a car at top speed into the ill-fated building through the exit gate, ramming the car into the gate, tearing it off, and ending up in the building where the explosion-laden car exploded. The sound of the explosion reverberated across the Abuja Metropolis, sending hundreds scampering for safety. The response of the world to the attack was also spontaneous. They agreed that what happened was an affront on the global community and vowed to fight it head on. The manner of the attack in Abuja, including the timing and widespread damage caused, has reinforced the fear that Nigeria is gradually becoming a terrorists’ haven. It is the kind of things that happen in Afghanistan, Iraq and other flashpoints across the world. The commando-style suicide attack tells one story: Nowhere is safe in Nigeria anymore. It is painful that the world is heading for self-destruction going by the strange things that have been happening of recent. I remember warning of an impending catastrophe in Libya if world leaders failed to take drastic steps to call Gaddafi to order. I gave the warning when Egypt and Algeria were being ravaged by internal insurrection geared toward dethroning their sit-tight leaders. While the pro-democracy struggle in Egypt and Algeria ended on positive notes, with the successful change of leadership and less human fatalities, the crisis in Libya has taken incredible toll on innocent citizens, and created a humanitarian situation threatening the lives of over 3 million inhabitants of Tripoli.
My position at that time was informed by the fact that while Mubarak and Ben Ali were merely headstrong and power-thirsty persons Gaddafi was in addition a globally-acclaimed terrorist. It was preposterous that the world could believe him when he publicly claimed to have turned a new leaf and offered to cooperate in dealing with the menace of terrorism. The records show that Gaddafi was involved in diverse dastardly terrorism attacks prior to his heart-mending pledge to be a good man. The one that readily comes to mind is the downing of an American Airliner, PAN-AM flight over Lockerbie, in which over 280 lives were brutally terminated. The incident ruffled feathers and pitched Gaddafi against America, Scotland and the rest of the world. Despite the potential threat Gaddafi posed to the world he was left in control of power in Libya. This afforded him sufficient time to dig in and stockpile ammunition to protect himself in the event of any attempt to overthrow him. What the world is doing now to pluck his wings it should have done some 20 years ago. Not that removing Gaddafi would pose a big problem to the world. What is in contention is how legitimate such an action would be without adducing a sufficient, genuine reason to do so. Even though it is hiding under the guise of protecting civilians to deal with Gaddafi the world knows quite well that the cost of its action will be stupendous in the end. With enormous financial muscle, international connections, and support base among the tribal leaders in Libya, removing Gaddafi is a Herculean task. From what has happened in the past 5 months, it is clear that he will not go down without fighting.
The 5-month-old effort to effect a change in leadership in Libya has cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives, and led to the destruction of properties valued at over 10 billion dollars. What about the cost of repairing damaged infrastructure and restoring law and order? Only God knows!It is sad and grossly senseless to incur such huge losses for the sake of one greedy and blood-thirsty man! Who is Gaddafi that the whole world should stand in awe of him? He has succeeded, no matter how anybody looks at it, in taking the whole world to task and demonstrated that he is a threat. Forget that he is calling for a transitional government belatedly Gaddafi remains a formidable force and threat to Libya and the world. Look at the thousand of loyalists he commands across Libya. What happens to them, even where Gaddafi is killed or imprisoned? Some of these loyalists are ready to die for him and will do anything within their power to immortalize him and carry on with his ideology. This is where the real problem lies. Let us pause and consider what a post-Gaddafi era may look like: I see a situation where the country will be polarized across regional and ethnic lines just as is happening in Iraq. Have we asked for how long the rebel Transitional Council will hold on together before the centre breaks? Since the council is a conglomeration of persons of divergent ideological views and tribal orientations will there not come a time that they would squabble over trivial things to the point of creating a problem that will pull the country into a more serious internal conflict? The initial opposition of South Africa to the UN effort to defreeze some of the assets of Libya for use by the Transitional Council in the rebuilding of Libya is a sign that Gaddafi still commands some influence among world leaders.
Nobody could believe that South Africa which won its freedom in similar circumstances could be a stumbling block to the effort of the UN to liberate another country from internal colonialism. Who is sure some other countries will not come up in future to act the way South Africa did? That is where the real threat lies. Where do China and Russia stand in all of these? What the world should do at the moment, as a matter of urgent importance, is to come together and remove Gaddafi and try him for crimes against humanity; support the consolidation of power by the Transitional Council in rebuilding Libya; send a UN force to ensure that the new regime stabilizes; and sponsor surreptitiously the overthrow of any illegitimate and sit-tight leaders across the world. It should not shy away from these goals for the simple reason of legitimacy. It should approach the situation in Syria with all the seriousness it deserves. Hundreds of people are killed weekly by the crazy regime in that country. It is certain that President Assad will fall very soon, but at what cost. The man should be shoved aside now before he does more harm to his hapless people. In the case of Nigeria, something drastic should be done to restore security of lives and properties. Nigeria may not be fighting a civil war at present; nonetheless, what is happening at present is as serious as a civil war. What else is civil war when people are killed with impunity and when law and order have broken down irretrievably in some parts of the country? Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the attack on the UN building in Abuja. What was the motive behind the attack? Simple: to pitch Nigeria against the global community and create a semblance of insecurity in the country in order to scare away investors and satisfy the self-aggrandizement of the perpetrators and their sponsors. In all sincerity, Nigeria does not deserve any form of terrorism considering the peculiar circumstances of our nationhood. Since independence till 2009 Nigeria never witnessed any form of terrorism.
Not until 2009 when one Farouk Muttalab dented the image of Nigeria when he was intercepted with an explosive device aboard an American Airliner jet heading for Detroit. That singular incident marked a watershed in our nation’s history, and attracted unsavoury global attention. For good 6 months after the incident, even now, Nigerians are looked upon with suspicion at entry points all over the world. The situation assumed a worrisome notoriety when Nigerians were marked out for embarrassing frisking by security agencies at airports outside Nigeria. It was not until our authorities protested vehemently that it abated. With the turn of events in Abuja, it is almost certain that the klieg-lights will be beamed on Nigeria again. It is a huge embarrassment that Nigerians, once known for their peacefulness and candour, are being viewed as terrorists. What in the whole wide world do those who perpetrate these evils stand to gain? Why should a rational human being agree to die in a suicide mission in the belief that he would go to heaven thereafter? Have such people thought about the recompense for their evil deeds? The Bible, I am sure the Koran too, forbids and condemns the taking of another’s life under whatever circumstance, let alone through suicide attack. Did the man or woman who carried out last week’s attack ever contemplate the grievousness of his or her action before embarking on the mission? Did he ever reason that such an attack would involve massive loss of lives and properties? He sacrificed his own life in exchange for 28 others. That is how some people may look at it. But in my own thinking the life of a suicide bomber is not worth eve the blood of a fowl. This is true because the lives he took along he did not create, neither did he have the capacity to re-create any. All he succeeded in achieving was wasting innocent lives and leaving their families in pain and agony.
It may be auspicious at this point to advise all those agitated in any way to seek redress in some other legitimate ways rather than resort to unwholesome, unlawful actions that will in the end earn them a place in the pit of hell. I read in one of the dailies that the attackers wanted to make Nigeria ungovernable for President Jonathan. To me, that is arrant nonsense! Okay, let us assume the attack was aimed at discomforting Jonathan; how has it succeeded in achieving this goal when innocent citizens’ lives were wasted. Is it not misdirected aggression? What those who engage in suicide bombing do not realize is that they are doing a great disservice to themselves and the nation. Does bomb know who is who? If somebody senselessly agrees to embark on a suicide mission how would he be able to know if his or her own relation will not be present at the time the bomb will go off? Check it out: the latest Abuja bombing must have affected the bomber directly or indirectly.
That is the complex nature of the whole stuff. Jonathan’s emergence as President should not cost the nation its peace and unity that our forbears fought hard with their blood to win for us. If it is true that Boko Haram was responsible for the bombing, as reported by the papers, then something is wrong somewhere. I know that Islam does not encourage suicide bombing or any rascality, for that matter. So, those who kill in the name of religion are simply enemies of such religion. Let me advise my brothers and sisters in Boko Haram to sheathe their swords and embrace peace. Nigeria cannot make any progress in an atmosphere of rancour and bitterness. If what I heard about the origin of the group was true, then Boko Haram should be in the vanguard of the struggle to reposition Nigeria for growth and development. In my own opinion, we should allow Jonathan to carry on with his plans to take Nigeria to another level of greatness. Who knows, he may make it. I know for sure that those aggrieved by how the last general elections were conducted or the process that threw up the candidates of the PDP may have their reasons, but none of it is reasonable enough to throw Nigeria into anarchy.
After all, the President is working on the process of constitutional review that will address many of the grey areas in our national life, top of which is election management. I advise Mr. President to embark on genuine reconciliatory moves that will placate all the aggrieved persons and reduce the spate of violence in our polity.
He should not see such an action as compromising. As a leader it is expected of him at times to apply tact and diplomacy to achieve set objectives. Bravado and obduracy do not pay all the time.
Nigeria and Libya share some things in common. As two top oil producers both countries are important to the advancement of the global economy. This is why the world should pay more than passing attention to what is going on in them. The world cannot afford to see Nigeria and Libya in chaos. If that should be allowed to happen then we are simply courting a global cataclysm, which time is nigh.