When the news filtered in that Major General Idris Alkali (rtd) got lost in transit on his way to Bauchi from Abuja, Nigerians thought it was one of those cruel jokes by some mischief-makers. And that was because Generals don’t just disappear. They may fade away, that is what retirement entails, but disappearing without trace is not something that should be linked to a former Chief of Administration in the Nigerian Army. Curiously, it happened and for months. The army could not let that happen to one of its own and a search party was organised to find him or, at least, establish more convincingly how he disappeared and if possible bring those responsible for his disappearance to justice.
Among the Igbo of the South East, there is a saying about the crab that swam seas and oceans only to drown in a woman’s pot of soup. How were cutlass- wielding and stone- throwing villagers able to overwhelm a battle- tested army chief? That is a question for another day. Suffice it to stay that the combatants proved that they can act when challenged. For months they drained ponds and wells and were able to recover the mutilated body of the General.
With the burial last weekend of his remains in Abuja, what is left now is for the army to get those behind the blood-chilling act to tell their story. If it was robbery, why was his car not taken away instead of being submerged in a pond and why was the body first buried, then exhumed and later dropped in a shallow well in a weighted bag? These are issues that must not be allowed to go the Nigerian way, not because a General is involved, but because it is time we, as a people, started conferring on human life the sanctity it deserves. A sage once said that the ‘death of a person diminishes me’. That ought to be the revulsion Nigerians feel as they receive news of these remorseless and wanton destruction of God-given lives.
While the army is mourning their own, a 13 year-old girl, Miss Elizabeth Ogbaje, was also buried in Benue State as a result of the violent sexual assault she experienced in the hands of a family she had reasons to believe was home to her. In the two incidences, arrests have been made and Nigerians expect maximum justice. The question on the lips of most people who are still scandalised by the death of General Alkali is, when did Nigerians start stalking each other in murderous hate? Was that death a revenge mission in the aftermath of the killings on the Plateau? Or was it that, out of hardship-induced frustration, Nigerians are beginning to blame and prey on one another in a defeatist reaction to the pervasive malaise in the land? We hope not because of the reprisal fallouts.
Whatever was the reason for what happened in Shen District of Jos South local government area of Plateau State, and while we commend the army for speedily unravelling the mysterious disappearance of the General, the matter really gives a genuine cause for concern to the effect that the security of life can no longer be taken for granted. People can no longer feel safe enough to embark on a trip and hope to have a safe passage to and from their destination. If such gruesome death could be visited on a senior citizen, then it leaves very little to the imagination what lowly placed people are going through. How many could have been killed like General Alkali and nobody took note, not even their relations who may erroneously believe that their family member had gone on a business trip.
All this while, the spates of killings have only been on poor, hapless village communities. Now that a big fish, in a manner of speaking, has been caught in the web of the inexplicable bloodbath that has remained the lot and misfortune of the nation in the last few years, will the security agencies respond as swiftly in the wake of other killings still going on even as we read?
It is the view of this newspaper that the unfortunate murder of General Alkali should sound as a wakeup call for the security agencies so as to ginger them to bring about a reassessment of the security situation in Nigeria, restore in harassed Nigerians the assurance that they are, indeed, in their own country where they expect to live, move around and carry on with their daily chores without looking over their shoulders in apprehension and unyielding fright.
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