By Ochereome Nnanna
I UNDERSTAND what you are going through right now. No sooner did the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, declare a state of emergency in your state last week Tuesday, May 14, 2013, than the powers of the Nigerian State were unleashed on your area.
The Nigerian Army deployed troops, and the Nigerian Air Force, for once in more than 40 years, mobilised warplanes for action against agents of terror in your midst.
I understand it because as a sub-ten child in July 1969, the same Nigerian state sent soldiers to invade my community in what was described as a “war to keep Nigeria one”. The political leaders from my part of the country had mounted an attempt to pull out of Nigeria and live in a new country called Biafra. The Nigerian Army troops which hit my community, Abiriba, was led by then Col Mohammed Shuwa. Yes, the same Shuwa, who was assassinated by Boko Haram terrorists earlier this year, thus, fulfilling the legend that those who kill with the sword will die by the sword!
We were driven into the forests while my community was sacked. My ivory trader grand father’s mansion built in 1909 was not torched like others. But it was looted bare of its exotic furniture by the “vandals”.
But you are lucky. This time, the Nigerian Armed Forces conducting operations in your area are not vandals. They are neither on revenge mission nor fighting to quench ethno-sectional and religious vendetta. They are trained professionals and patriots sent to rescue you and your communities from the vicious grips of your enemies, the enemies of your country who are fanatically bent on imposing their warped style of Islam on you, irrespective of the fact that most of you belong to peace-loving, law-abiding true Islam, while some of you belong to other faiths.
These enemies have been killing, bombing, raiding and abducting innocent people at will. They have been destroying schools, attacking government institutions, killing health workers, kidnapping foreign tourists and murdering indigenous and expatriate engineers sent to build roads and infrastructure in your area.
They have been uprooting communication masts, emasculating your economic livelihood and targeting law enforcement agents sent to serve and protect you. They have rejected all attempts to settle through dialogue. This is because they are under the payroll of foreign powers to force you to live a life alien to your culture and forbidden by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; the only document that binds you and I together as compatriots.
I am writing you to let you know that you will have a rough time. Already, in some areas such as Maiduguri, people are being forced to stay indoors for 24 hours a day. It means there will be mass starvation unless the security operatives succeed in record time to remove the terrorists.
You will hear the strange and heavily alarming sounds of battle. You will see war games that are not games but actual war. Stay away from danger. Listen to the authorities and live to tell the story, as it has pleased God to let me tell mine which took place over 40 years ago.
How long the military operations – and the sufferings inevitably attached to them – will last, will depend, to a large extent, on you and your cohorts. One thing is sure: The Army will be among you for as long as it takes to remove the threat from among you. If the Army withdraws while the threat is still there, then it means the enemy has defeated Nigeria. Let me assure you: that will not happen.
Nigeria is possibly the mightiest military force in Africa, battle-tested, with a string of successes internally and externally. Nigeria will defeat Boko Haram and their sponsors and restore its sovereignty over its occupied territories and besieged citizens such as you. The battle may last weeks or years. It is largely up to you and members of your community how long it lasts.
Do you want it to be short? Here are the simple things you must do.
Number one: Cooperate with the military authorities. Volunteer information and obey instructions. Do not harbour any insurgent. You may be hit when he is targeted. Learn from the example of Abia people who cooperated with the Nigerian Army to eliminate kidnap networks from Aba and environs. Today, Aba is booming again. Once the terrorists have been flushed out, your area’s economy will boom again!
Number two: Be wary of what your local politicians are telling you. Some of them are patriots while some of them are evil. It is easy to know one apart from the other.
The evil ones are those who misruled you, pocketed federal allocations meant for your welfare over the decades and used the money to benefit their children, families and friends. Their children are well-educated and occupy the best offices in your state and Abuja.
Some of them are unhappy because political power has temporarily shifted out of their reach. They had threatened hail and high winds should this happen. Since it happened in 2011, they started arming, financing and supporting the terrorists to perturb you while most of them are cowering in Abuja. Their unholy intention is to make governance hell for the Federal Government under President Jonathan and probably frighten him out of the 2015 presidential race. I laugh!
Ignore them and get ready to use your voter’s card only in accordance with your assessment of our leaders at all levels. Only the principle of “Politics Without Bitterness” enunciated by your legendary son, Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim, leader of the defunct Great Nigerian Peoples Party, GNPP, which once held sway in your zone, will save Nigeria. Boko Haram is harmful to you and Nigeria. Shun them.