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Jos to Warri: In the shadows of death

By Dele Sobowale

“There are three things that are never satisfied, yea four things that say not, It is enough. The grave, and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water, and the fire that saith not, It is enough”.
Proverbs, 30 Verses 15 and 16.

A modern philosopher has also added his own list, the stomach which demands food everyday and the sea into which all rivers flow, yet never seems to have enough.

That was before the Age of Explosives as I would want to christen the era which sneaked in on mankind about three decades ago ushering in the widespread use of explosive devices in urban and suburban areas far away from the battle front. Until then, mankind’s experience with explosives was limited to theatres of war and seldom in cities and towns; but, certainly not at seminar venues.

Today, almost overnight, the world has changed. Hardly a day goes bye without reports from one part of the world or another about car bombs or suicide bombers exploding devices killing several people. Indeed, in some countries like Iraq and Pakistan, it has become a daily occurrence.

So let me add my own to the growing list of “things that are never satisfied” – the mindless mass killer fighting for a cause; which are inexhaustible. Peace world wide is on holiday; for how long we know not. And the global blood letting has just started.

As usual, the African continent had been slow to join in the latest manifestation of lunacy by mankind because of all forms of killing there is none that is more random in terms of its victims than the devastation delivered by the explosive detonated in crowded areas and among civilians who are frequently not even directly involved in the conflict.

At least in conventional wars, the enemy is often well-identified; he is the armed soldier on the other side. And to limit the collateral damage to innocent civilians, the world had evolved the Geneva Conventions and other treaties which prohibit targeting of civilians and violators are sometimes punished. The shift of conflict from theatres of war to inhabited areas has brought with it the change in the choice of targets as well. Suddenly, it is not just the soldiers on the other side that are at the receiving end of lethal violence, the primary victims are the people themselves.

They are slaughtered all over the world, in thousands every week, by self-righteous individuals fighting for religious, political, ethnic and personal causes without remorse. All the treaties and conventions, which hitherto had provided some guarantee, although never absolute, to civilians, have been universally abrogated by individuals and groups and the end result is a threat to civilization as we know it. Mankind is gradually reverting to the age when nature was described as “red in tooth and claw”; we are back to the Age of Mindless Killers. Unfortunately, for us, it is just beginning. Things will get a lot worse before they get better. I weep for our kids and grandchildren as the world descends to Dark Ages II.

What has all these got to do with Jos and Warri, you might be asking? Plenty; let me tell you. I was in Abuja on March 11, 2010 on a private/official visit. The private cannot be disclosed. The goal of the public aspect was, like the adventurers of old (Mungo Park, David Livingstone etc), to find, and possibly rescue, our Ghost leader.

So far, it has turned to be a mission impossible. So, after spending the whole of March 12, 2010, in the futile effort, I turned my attention elsewhere. Jos, is always a mere three hours from Abuja. So on Saturday, March 13, 2010, I drove to Jos to see, hear and feel things for myself. What I saw, heard and felt could be summarized in one word – HORROR.

In my short existence on earth, I have traveled to at least 33 countries; I have seen gang warfare close-on in the Combat Zone of Boston; I have been locked in my hotel, along with other guests, by Mexican drug lords. But, seldom have I experienced so much hatred and suppressed violence in one place as in Jos; so much so, it is clear to me that if the army and police were to withdraw today, there will not be enough graveyards to accommodate the number of those slaughtered within72 hours.

On Sunday, I proceeded to Warri for what Vanguard Media had hoped would be a conference to deepen the peace process in the Niger Delta. On Monday, March 15, 2010, I arrived at the venue of the event, at 11.15 a.m, and I saw a car burning across the road from Government House Annex. On inquiry, one police officer informed me that “the vehicle just exploded, but there is nothing to worry about”.

I parked my car, started walking towards the gate of the Annex, in company of two acquaintances who came out of the Delta State Broadcasting complex –close to Government House. We took no more than 40 steps when the second car exploded – approximately 50 metres from us spewing debris, a mixture of car parts, flesh and blood all over us. My friends vanished instantly while I was rooted to the spot until parts of the car’s wind-shield wiper, bits of human parts and some blood landed on my cap. The time was exactly 11.20 a.m. The Ages of Explosives and Mindless Killers are here in Nigeria on 50th anniversary of independence. What a gift to ourselves…
To be continued…

“God grant me the courage to change the things I can change; the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; and the wisdom to know the difference”.

Either Saint Augustine, 354-430 A.D or Saint Francis of Asisi, 1506-1552
“Dele this is what angers me about Nija writers. So Iwu is d best for 2011. God forbid the man falls sick, what happens then. We shd build institutions & not personality”. Olu.

And what angers me most about people like Olu is that they sit in the comforts of their homes; don’t conduct any studies or research; arm themselves with conventional wisdoms like “building institutions” without asking if their prescriptions apply in the particular instance. He is not alone, so many people texted me going on about building institutions as if I don’t know that.

What they fail to take into account is the fact that institutions take time to build – much longer time than we have between now and the next elections;irrespective of whether it takes place in January or April.

Like a boat on the high seas leaking badly and some of the passengers are talking about bringing in a new captain who has not yet been recruited to save them. Whether Olu and fellow thinkers like it or not, we don’t have the time to build any bloody institution between now and the next election. We’ve got to use the faulty contraption we have now.

To be continued…


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.