Some years ago, the word unknown gunmen was foreign to our lexicon. I remember some years ago when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab popularly referred to as the “Underwear Bomber” or “Christmas Bomber”, confessed to and was convicted of attempting to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear while on board Northwest Airlines Flight 253, en route from Amsterdam to Detroit, Michigan, on Christmas Day, 2009.
When the news came out, most Nigerians initially disputed the reports saying suicide bombing was not in our DNA. The thinking at that time was that an average Nigerian loves the good life so taking our own lives was alien to our culture. Then Boko Haram happened. Now we know better.
Daily we hear of killings by unknown gunmenp.In the past one week, four prominent Nigerians have been murdered by unknown gunmen. First, former Special Adviser on politics to President Goodluck Jonathan, Ahmed Gulak, was shot dead by unknown gunmen in Owerri, Imo State. Gulak was killed in Imo State on Sunday morning while on his way to Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri.
Also, the former judge of the Enugu State High Court, Justice Stanley Nnaji, was also shot dead by unknown gunmen. Reports show that the former judge was dragged out of his car by three assailants and shot three times. Similarly, a businessman, popularly known as Linus Owuamanam, was killed by unknown gunmen along Premier Hotel-Sango Road in Ibadan, Oyo State. Chief provost of the Nigerian Immigration Service in Imo, Okiemute Mrere was killed on Saturday night along Owerri- Port Harcourt Road in Owerri, and his remains discovered in a bush on Sunday morning.
Sadly, the death toll on the unknown gunmen hit list keeps rising everyday. How did we get here? How did we get to this sorry pass? How do we stop these killings? These are million dollar questions that we need to answer to get out of this mess.
I also discovered that we have even allowed ethnicity and religion to influence our reportage of the killings across the country. In the North West, all killings are attributed to bandits, in the North East to Boko Haram, in the North Central and South West to killer herdsmen , in the South East to unknown gunmen.
These days when you watch news on our TV stations , the first 15 minutes are usually stories of killings, kidnappings and abductions. If you want to maintain your sanity ,avoid watching the news.
No doubt , our security forces are trying to save the day but the truth be told , the security situation in the country has overwhelmed them . What’s the solution you may ask?
The shoot -at -sight order given by the president to security forces to anyone caught with an AK- 47 has not changed things . Some Nigerians have expressed fears that with this order, extra judicial killings by our security forces may increase. The country is yet to recover from the EndSARS protests of last year.
We have new service chiefs and the Inspector General of police, yet the killings by unknown gunmen, bandits and insurgents keep increasing daily. What do we do, do we surrender our sovereignty as a nation to the unknown gunmen?
Some governors in the North West have tried the carrot and stick approach to solve killings by bandits, yet the killings have not abated. They have granted amnesty, given the bandits cash and have also used force, yet no solution in sight.
Bandits have boasted openly that the security forces cannot crush them. So do we beg them with more cash and amnesty ?
Sometimes I put myself in President Muhammadu Buhari’s shoes. You wake up in the morning to have your breakfast you get a call that killer herdsmen have murdered over 100 persons in Benue State, when you drop the call , another one comes in that unknown gunmen killed over 10 and burnt down police formations in the south East . As you are trying to adjust to the two news reports , you get an SMS that bandits have abducted over 100 pupils in Niger State .As you walk to the office , you get briefings that Boko Haram is trying to overrun a military base in the north east. It’s a tough job .
I seriously think we need to stop politicizing the killings. When bandits attack on the highway, they don’t care if you are Hausa , Fulani, Muslim or Christian, all they are interested in is your money.
Honestly think we should stop referring to killers, bandits and insurgents as unknown gunmen.
We should also avoid the spin of attributing the killings in the South East to unknown gunmen.
We need the killings in the country to stop, whether by unknown gunmen, bandits or killers herdsmen. The grief map keeps spreading and it’s depressing. These killings must stop. We need to end the reign of the unknown gunmen.