NIGERIA is bleeding and convulsing in pain throes. She is gradually sliding into the impotence of error. Her efforts at steadying the tottering steps – even if on the slimy blood of the innocent victims quartered in death by the Boko Haram suicides – appears vacuumed of effect.
Since the emergence of the terrorist group, Nigeria has lost innocent thousands of her population. Among those wasted by the unsparing bombs of the suicides are youths of productive age. The blood spillers – who have variously made asinine demands – believe that inflicting maximum carnage on the nation would compel her to acquiescence. And they have carried on with defiance, and spoken with supercilious condescension. Every day presages some bizarre occurrence.
The resurgence of violence in the last couple of days shows that an end to the carnage may not be in sight yet. After the trail of blood from Buni Yadi, through Maiduguri to Mainok, the number of recorded dead stood at about 300. It was a dark day for Nigeria and a doomsday for the families of the violently dispatched. Life has lost its meaning as death is adrift, seizing men in their hundreds. It could not be worse. Vanguard newspaper in its comment on Thursday, March 6, 2014 observed that, “It is tiresome keeping track of the killings in the North East”.
The killing fields of the North East now overflow with the blood of innocent Nigerians. Nigerians have reason to be angry. But to do so upon indictment of the Jonathan administrationwill be a great disservice to the government, and an absolution of the political leadership of the area under siege.
Truth is that the terrorists have exploited both the elements of surprise and suicide to cheat detection and prolong the orgy of bloodletting. But more than that, the political leadership as well as the people of the area have not demonstrated enough will to nip the crime in the bud.
It is true that the surprises of the attacks and morbid interests in suicide bombings have conspired to stultify every effort, but active support from the people would have made much difference. Understandably, the crime of terrorism has no one-off solution. But no doubt adequate intelligence from the people will go a long way in frustrating the criminal activities of the homicidal group. They are not ghosts. They live among people.
In a conflict of this nature – with all the trappings of guerilla warfare of hit-and-run – information is crucial. No effort channeled inappropriately should be expected to achieve positive results. And if nothing is done on this score of heightening intelligence, the security forces will face more daunting challenges.
Already their assurances that they are capable of defeating Boko Haram are beginning to be greeted with skepticism in some quarters. This is especially so when a lull in the activity of the terrorists does not confirm a lasting peace, but an interlude before fresh horrendous occurrences. Nigerians, especially those living in the area, have learnt to keep their trunks ready and their ornaments few.
The Jonathan administration has stood condemned in the court of virulent opposition. The recent slaughtering of about 40 students of Federal Government College Buni Yadi, in Yobi State has provoked emotive condemnation of the government. Those who criticise it cite non-cancelation of the centennial celebrations in the wake of the tragedy as insensitive. A more sensitive country like the US – they argue – would have done so pronto.
This argument is puerile. How much of such cancelations will suffice in an orgy of unrestricted violence? Couldn’t it profit Nigerians more if the governors of the areas affected are encouraged to put aside partisan politics and support the efforts of the federal government in checkmating the menace? In which other country will a citizen declare that they would make the country ungovernable should their President decide to seek re-election?
Truth is that terrorism is not an easy-peasy crime to overcome, and no one-off solution has successfully nipped it in the bud anywhere in the world. Not even the US can claim to have a joy ride on this score. No matter the effort of the Jonathan government in trying to contain the terrorists, the death of any Nigerian in the hands of the suicides will blunt the sharpness of such effort.
The effort of the administration in trying to extricate the North East, and indeed Nigeria, from the menace of suicides, may take a longer time for the opposition to appreciate. After all, a cockroach, it is said cannot to be innocent at the gathering of fowls.
The crisis of the North East Nigeria predates the Jonathan administration, no doubt. But things since got from bad to worse. But that is not because of lack of trying on the part of the Jonathan government. If anything, the administration has experimented with a pollination of ideas, including, but not limited to inviting the suicides to a roundtable discussion.
Following the recent carnage Governors Isa Yaguda, Ibrahim Dankwambo and Garba Umar of Bauchi, Taraba and Gombe respectively have resolved to invite the sect members to a discussion. However late their action may be, it must be applauded since no time is too late to destroy evil. Only a fool chases a rat while his house is up in flame. There is a limit to politics.
The efforts of the Jonathan administration to end the orgy of violence, evident in the investigation of the extra-judicial killing of the Boko Haram leader; deploying of troops and declaring partial state of emergency in three most affected states and seeking co-operation with Nigeria’s neighbours on counterterrorism are public knowledge. All the efforts – be they negotiation or military action – can only work when the indigenes themselves are decided on cooperating with government.
Ditto for the political leadership of the areas, a section of which is alleged to have propped up the sect for selfish political reasons! When those youths were indulged in ways antithetical to good conduct their masters forgot that “an indulgent and intemperate youth delivers to age a body permanently worn out”. What we have in the North East today is a Frankenstein’s monster which destruction must derive essentially from the North East. It is not enough to condemn the Jonathan administration on an issue which it has demonstrated enough will to end but which lingers on because it is politically expedient for some.
Those who blame the administration forget that you cannot catch a tiger cub without entering the tiger’s lair. And it takes somebody who can wend through the maze to know where the tiger’s lair is. Now that the governors of the affected zone have come to realise the need to salvage the area from the carnage, a better result can be expected. The time is now to walk the talk. Augurs have variously predicted that an end will soon come for the unprovoked violence.
Perhaps the hour is here, for it is hoped the suicides would be content to air their displeasure before their own. Those who have played politics with this should cease and rethink the future of the zone and, indeed, the future of the whole country. It is not enough to mouth the condemnation.
ANDY ANYADUBA a public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja.