The tragedy of the Tudun Biri 126 brings to our doorsteps and window panes, the images of human carnage, brought by the ‘mistaken’ bombardment of the people of Tudun Biri, by an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle of the Nigerian Army, as it did a reconnaissance of terrorist movements and hideouts at Igabi Local government area of Kaduna State. Effortlessly reminiscent of the bombings of innocent civilians in Gaza, it was a national tragedy of immense proportion, with well over a 100 people confirmed dead, and a similarly huge number injured, and hospitalised. Put at between 300 to 500, since 2017, the number of innocent civilian lives lost to military operations as airstrikes continues to grow. Surveillance, Intel and other precision components have been suspect, and lacking; and more than ever, there is growing public concern over the expertise, technical know-how, as well as the standard of the equipments used in executing the aerial-warfare, that is fast becoming an albatross, to the successes of the war against terrorism. If the number of innocent civilians killed is brazenly competing with the number of terrorists exterminated, then to say there is much to be desired is a light way of saying that the war is flailing and failing.
Tudin Biri no doubt is an ‘uncleansable stain’ on the records of our nascent democracy, and has so quickly become a tool for opposition politicians, arm-chair conspiracy theorists, religious and tribal bigots, and other unpatriotic zealots, whom are falling over themselves, celebrating such a national tragedy. Verily it should not be left to the unknown, or to error, as there exists the possibility of some egg-heads or deranged individuals being responsible for the double bombardment of a wrong and harmless target. It should not be dismissed at all, and decisive action must be brought to bear as a consequence to the neglect, or the intent, as the case may turn out to be. Mr. President has rightfully asked for a proper investigation into the incident and has pledged that the culprits, if any, would be punished immediately. The COP 28 Climate Change Summit hosted in Dubai is scheduled to end on the 12th of December, but Mr. President cut short his visit, to attend to the national tragedy at Tudun Biri. Public space is amok with calls for the heads of the ‘errorists’, whose mistakes are responsible for such precision-less airstrikes that had us counting casualties in hundreds. On sighting the images of the destruction, I felt tears swell up in my eyes, and some salt tastelessly in my mouth. A chuckhold hung around my throat and I was more than saddened by what I was seeing. A man had lost his entire family, as victims were interviewed, while another asked that Allah forgives those who carried the bombardment out, and prayed that he guides them to the right path, be it in error, or as a deliberate act. Such heart, in so much pain was too overwhelming for me. Forgiveness is truly an act of divinity.
I was not in the least surprised when I saw the Vice President, Kashim Shettima, with the Tudun Biri surviving victims, at the Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital, Kaduna. Once a war-time Governor of Borno State, Kashim has had quite an ordeal, dealing with the destruction, and the carnage in the North East, with Borno as the epicentre of the war theatre. Dead bodies, injured victims, orphans of war, and gory pictures of doom were the order of the day, as the terrorists left in their wake, the hell they visited upon the villages and towns they stormed. Not even the Maiduguri metropolis was left out of the carnage. From bed to bed, and from one ward to the other, each and every victim had Kashim’s attention. He held the victims in his arms, and consoled them as they cried, while he battled the tears swelling up in his eyes, as his emotions enveloped him, and the humanity in him got the better of him. The very talkative Kashim could barely talk, as he was visibly shaken by the anguish he was witnessing. Some said it was for the optics, but you could tell or guess that the expression they were looking for was Empathetic Leadership. At some time not too long ago, our leaders held parties and jamborees at the same time victims of bombings languished in their pain and misery. It is Kashim’s duty as the no. 2 of the country to be there for them and he did not disappoint. He is duty bound to share in their misery and pain, and to commiserate with them. It was glaring that our bold Kanuri man had been softened by the tragedy as he spoke, trying to proffer some succour for the victims and their communities.
Aside The President’s pledge of an inquiry into the incident, the Vice President who oversees the National Emergency Management Agency NEMA, has instructed that the Pulako initiative, a non-kinetic approach to the war on terror, be kick-started at Tudun Biri, which would see the complete rebuilding of the community. This would include schools, hospitals/ clinics, housing, veterinary clinics, and solar power among other benefits and services. Lives have been lost, and more lives are being lost as some of the survivors at the hospital are giving in. It is our prayer that the issue of compensation for the lives lost is looked into, as it would assuage the challenges of some of the families as they are condemned to a life without their bread-winners and source of happiness. The Vice President has done well and we will continue to ask him for more wellness. We pray that he guides government towards a handsome recompense, as we have witnessed him do, from back in the days of his able leadership in Borno. May we never live to see such calamities befall our communities and may Allah Almighty bless the souls of the Tudun Biri 126, as we all seek the same blessings for our souls when we do depart, to part no more.
Our deepest sympathies are with the people of Igabi.