For Domnic Olufosoye, inspite of the boisterous nature of Lagos, the commercial city is still considered the safest place to live in Nigeria.
“I don’t belong to any political party, but I am a fan of Fashola because of how he is transforming Lagos, everything is working, even the security is good. The former police commissioner, Akpoyibo helped in building this sound security,”Olufosoye opined during a free readers’ discussion at a newspapers stand in satellite town recently.
But beneath this confidence, lies a growing fear. And this was noticeable from his tone and that of others around him. “What on earth do this people want,” he asked referring to Boko Haram(the Islamic sect believed to be responsible for Abuja suicide bombing).
“It is only God that can save us from this group. This blast means that the whole country is not save because suicide bombing is so bad; even here in Lagos, we have to be very careful,” he submitted.
But Olufosoye is not the only scared Lagosian.
A cross-section of those who spoke with VF following the incident said it was an indication that the lives of Nigerians were no longer safe.
This was the view of Mr. Patrick Onyemalukwe, a civil servant.
“This is an obvious sign that we are in for the worst in this country. It shows that we have a very relaxed security network. This thing has been happening, yet the government has not taken any decisive step. We need action,” he stated.
From Badagry to Epe, Ikeja to Apapa, VF, gathered that fear is the word. This is also the mood across the country, even in the most obscure part. And the questions on most lips presently are: How did a suicide bomber gain easy access to Police headquarters. Is the parking lot in the premises an all comers’ affair? Could there have been an insider’s collaboration? Who provided the information about the Inspector General of Police’s movement?
In the past, the sect (Boko Haram) had claimed to have gained support from some people within the security agencies. This claim cannot be faulted given the ease with which last week’s operation was carried out. This also gave credence to the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Hafiz Ringim’s, claim that some unnamed police officers were informing Boko Haram sect members about police operations last year December.
He had berated the police in Bornu state for spying for the fundamentalist group, which had attacked and killed many people in recent months. Among the dead are police officers, soldiers, political and spiritual leaders. Added to this is the chillling information from the group that it has some members of security agencies in its fold. The combination of these, VF gathered has sent tongues wagging about alleged complicity within the rank and file of security agencies.
Considering the new dimension the bombings have now assumed, several concerned citizens are of the view that the Federal government should not handle the issue with kid’s gloves.
Perhaps, it was against the backdrop of dealing with the crisis that Bornu State governor Alhaji Kashim Shettima promised an amnesty package for members of the sect.
“I see no reason why we cannot take a cue from the late president’s foresight in granting amnesty to the Niger Delta militants. Members of the Boko Haram group are our sons, daughters; I see no reason why we cannot open a dialogue channel with them to end the crises. The Boko Haram crisis will be better handled through a political way; the best way to solve the crisis is a political means and not a military one,” Shettima had reportedly said.
Although, the sect had rejected the amnesty package, stressing that they don’t recognise democracy as a form of government, many believed that the government goofed by suggesting pardon for the sect.
But the Founder of Odua Peoples Congress,OPC, Dr. Fredrick Faheun, maintains that the sect does not deserve state pardon.
“Granting amnesty to Boko Haram would be the end of Nigeria, because every ethnic nationality has militia or militant outfit. That idea is like thinking out of context,” he stated.
When told that Shettima is trying to replicate the amnesty granted to Niger Delta militants, Fasheun said, “If those who suggested that did it because of the amnesty granted to Niger Delta youths, that is different. The Niger Delta youths had a mission, which was the marginalisation of their region. And the government reasoned with them. So, dolling out money to them as part of amnesty package would not mean well for this country. The problem is more fundamental than the idea of amnesty.”
The OPC founder is not alone in this stance against amnesty. A lecturer in the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Ibadan, Dr. Nathaniel Danjibo, has mix feelings about this amnesty.
“Well, a lot of people may be thinking that if you grant amnesty, perhaps we will be attending to the crisis, but if we look at it, these are two different issues; we cannot really equate the Boko Haram with the crisis in the Niger Delta,” Danjibo reportedly noted. Adding that: “One is ideological, Boko Haram, for example, which is the fallout of religious sectarianism in Islam, the other was resource-based, here, people struggled for change in their environment, improved standard of living, and so they took up arms against the State supposedly to call the attention of government to the Niger Delta plight. Of course, amnesty for Niger Delta worked, but I have serious doubts about amnesty for Boko Haram would work. Boko Haram is against modern institution, government institutions, the police, the prison, bureaucracy; they see them as sources of corruption. These institutions run contrary to their Islamic principles.”
Given this general disposition towards the proposed pardon, the question is: How can the relevant agencies arrest the situation?
For Fasheun, the solution should start from knowing why the sect took up arms against the State.
“What the government needs to unravel is why the bombing. We need to know. Is it because of the collapse of social justice? Could it be because youths in that area are not being sent to school? Or is it as a result of unemployment? These questions need answers if the Boko Haram issue must be confined to the dustbin of history,” he enthused.
Continuing, Fasheun said: “ The question of tackling the problem should not just be left to the government alone. The stage that it has got to requires that the entire nation be involved in solving the problem The issue of security is the responsibility of every citizen. That is why we have always clamoured for a Sovereign National Conference, SNC, where the various ethnic nationalities would sit down and fashion out our future.”
Unlike Fasheun, who suggested ways of tackling the crisis, a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Professor Tam David West, is angry that the government has allowed the group to get away with criminality.
“The government is incompetent in handling it. Any government that is not serious about corruption, security and that cannot guarantee security of its people is a useless government. I read a comment on the back page of one of the dailies, where the writer noted that this cannot happen during the era of Abacha. Despite his perceived flaws, under Abacha, there was no militancy and kidnapping. It happened like that because the people knew that they cannot get away with it, if they unleash terror on the State,” West fummed.
Continuing, he said, “Boko Haram is doing this because they know that the government is incompetent in apprehending them. It is a shame that 50 years after independence, we cannot take care of our internal security.”
When reminded that the government intends to get the American C.I.A involved in dealing with the issue, his response was : “ We are relying on American C.I.A. Isreali Mossad and other western agencies for our security. It is a shame that we ca not take care of our internal security.
“ We don’t have government that would protect us. If the government could exonerate MEND from the October 1, 2010 bombing, even when MEND claimed responsibility, what then do you expect. Nigeria is a laughing stock in the committee of nations, no one is taking us serious. They are doing this because they know they can get away with it. We are just living at the mercy of God. It is only God that can save us because Nigeria is a permanent failure.”
Boko Haram since 2002
The sect was founded in 2002 in Maiduguri by Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf.
In 2004 it moved to Kanamma, Yobe State, where it set up a base called “Afghanistan” used to attack nearby police outposts, killing police officers.
In Bauchi, the group was reported to have refused to mix with the locals. The group comprise members from neighbouring Chad who speak only Arabic. Like its forebearer, Boko Haram did not leave any one in doubt that it was poised to enlist Nigeria on it terror list.
For instance, in July 2009, the Nigerian police started investigating the group following reports that the group was arming itself. Several leaders were arrested in Bauchi which sparked off deadly clashes with Nigerian security forces. This led to the death of an estimated 700 people.