By Chioma Gabriel
As a little girl, I had the privilege of watching a lot of British television series in our Black & White TV and later on, colour Televison. I loved horror movies and would always wait till late night of certain days to watch the Hammer House of Horror, a British television series.
The episodes were riddled with different kinds of horror varying from witches, werewolves, ghosts, devil worship and voodoo and sometimes, non-supernatural horror themes such as cannibalism, confinement and serial killers. I grew up believing such things were make-believe because they could never happen in real life but only on TV and in only foreign television stations of America and United Kingdom.
I also thought the horror news about bomb attacks and terrorism were meant for other countries other than Nigeria.
But I was wrong. Mais je me trompais.
Nigeria has since joined the league of ‘big boy’ countries that can be seen on TV the world over where human beings are butchered like cows, goats and fowls in the public glare. Now the whole world has seen that Nigeria too can make things happen! We are also happening people!
And trust Nigeria never to disappoint. Recently, we made international headlines again. The news spread across all cable TV stations like wild fire.
Terrorists abducted more than 100 schoolgirls in the town of Chibok in northeastern Nigeria. They dared the Nigerian military in a gun battle and herded the girls out of their beds smoothly and onto buses, and sped off.
The Nigerian military couldn’t stop the abduction but few days later, they claimed they have rescued 80 girls from the terrorists which the families of the victims and Borno government had since refuted.
Which report should we believe? Should we out of shame claim gallant victory for what we did not achieve or should we swallow our pride and acknowledge that we need help so that those who have what it takes will help in the search?
And what crime did these innocent girls commit? What crime did anybody commit to have necessitated the onslaught of terrorists in our country?
Who would have believed when we were watching the collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in the United States that Nigeria would one day be in the news for such sinister attacks? I thought it’s only James Bond movies, ‘Hammer House of Horror’ and other mafia films that could produce such horrors but it has become a reality show of our times. More like ‘Big Brother Nigeria’. Our situation leaves nothing to the imagination. We don’t need to spend money to activate our DSTVs to watch our own horror movies!
Massacre here. Bomb blasts there. Kidnap here. Rape there. The Nigerian story of all times!
But for how long is this going to continue? Is this situation beyond solution?
Why are terrorists turning Nigeria into a synonym for fear and bloodshed?
It was not in our character as black people to shed blood in such a brutal manner. We were always our brothers’ keeper, watching each other’s back. But something has gone wrong.
Even in our worst period in history, it was never this bad.
Alors pourquoi maintenant?
The terror attacks have intensified in an apparent show of defiance amid the nation’s military onslaught. It appears to be targeting the destruction of the Nigerian government which appears to be tackling the matter with kid gloves while the terrorists are getting more violent and defiant.
The attacks are escalating.
The menace of Boko Haram doesn’t appear to have an end in the nearest future. We dismiss it by saying it happens in other places; that it’s a global phenomenon. But if it’s a global phenomenon, it’s definitely not a Nigerian phenomenon!
The attacks have brought divisions amongst religions, ethnic groups and governments. Politicians are feeding fat on it.
But whether we believe it or not, terror attacks appear to be the fight by northern Islamist fundamentalists against the north and even as many leaders pay lips service to peaceful co-existence and some northern leaders pretend to abhor the violence, there is an inherent local sympathy and support for Sharia law, which many believe is the only way to end a corrupt and inept government.
The consistent attacks have created abject poverty in the northeast with many abandoning homes for safer places of abode. Economic activities have been crippled completely and suspicion reigns supreme. Military efforts appear to be failing as the terrorists appear to be winning the war and more people are questioning the competency of the joint military task force. Issues are being muddled up as rights groups accuse the Nigeria military of human rights violations in the fight against the terrorists.
Not even the United States $7 million bounty on Shekau’s head could achieve anything?
Perhaps, US should increase the bounty to $70 million. Who knows, those sponsoring the terrorists might have offered much more and might have included juicier packages to the informants of the terrorists?
Good money that would have been used in tackling the power sector, rebuilding our refineries, reconstructing more roads and fixing the general infrastructure is being wasted to tackle insurgency to no avail.
To show the confidence of the terrorists, Shekau had the effrontery to openly boast about the fire power of the terrorists and even vowed to attack the United States.
Shekau claimed their strength and firepower are bigger than that of Nigeria as Nigeria is no longer a big deal to them. Perhaps, Shekau was talking as an al Qaeda affiliate in Nigeria. To rub it in, the terrorists have invaded Abuja, the seat of government and that feat alone defies explanation. And they have done it first and repeated times!
Just this week, a massive explosion ripped through a bus station in Abuja, killing over 70 people. The blast had the hallmarks of a Boko Haram attack.
Boko Haram has consistently carried out attacks in the seat of government without qualms.
In 2011, a suicide attack on the United Nations building in Abuja killed at least 25 people.
Indeed, this hydra-headed Jama’atu Ahlis Sunnah Lida Wa’ati Wal Jihad which became manifest in 2009 is shaking the very foundations of our nationhood. A similar threat reportedly existed in the past, the Maitatsine which broke out in 1980 but was suppressed after over three years with the capture and execution of its leader, Muhammadu Marwa-Maitasine.
But in this case, the capture and execution of Muhammed Yusuf in Borno State in 2009 did not stop anything. As a matter of fact, the Boko Haram seems to wax stronger and more disastrous after the death of its founder, extending its networks and having international links.
As for its most recent escapades with 100 school girls, families of the girls have accused the Nigerian military of lying. When the military claimed that nearly all the girls have been rescued, the families and Borno state government are saying that nearly all of them are still being held.
Borno government said Thursday that only 20 girls were rescued and over 80 are still missing but the military said 80 were rescued and only 20 are still missing.
Why would anybody lie about issues like this? We need help as a country and that is the truth. Many things are falling apart. Or should we say the centre is still holding?
In early March, Borno closed all its 85 secondary schools and sent more than 120,000 students home after increasing attacks by the group.
But Government Girls Secondary School Chibok was opened for students to take their exams. And so, the girls became victims.
Chibok community has threatened to go into the bush to search for the missing girls!
Life is getting tougher in the north.
The fear of terrorism continues to cast a long shadow over the city and across the north.
Bombings, kidnappings and bloody assaults by Boko Haram occur on daily basis and these have deterred investment. Farming, the north’s main source of income has become history. Insecurity has forced farmers to retreat from some areas. Traders are no longer in business.
Even before Boko Haram’s insurgency intensified nearly three years ago, the north was struggling like other cities in the South, with its own share of unreliable electricity, cheap Chinese imports, smuggling and counterfeit goods . Vast spaces on Kano’s edges have become industrial graveyards.The situation since the insurgency has become worse.In rural areas, the picture is bleaker. Poor education puts off investors seeking skilled labour. Whereas the literacy rate in the south is high,in the north, things are deteriorating educationally.
In future, this will affect the north drastically. Without better education, the zone will struggle to attract investment or create jobs. This will further give room for terrorist activities.
I don’t know if Nigeria will survive this but I hope and pray she does. The impunity of the gunmen is getting more scary. Could it be that our leaders are running out of ideas on how to go about it? Is President Jonathan losing the battle against terrorism? I hope we wake up to the reality of this truth confronting us.