By Adekunle Adekoya
IT had the trappings of an action movie from one of those Hollywood film-makers. Tuesday night, news broke that bandits had opened fire on the advance security convoy of Mr. President at Dutsinma, on their way to Daura, Katsina State, to prepare for the President’s arrival in his home town and state for the for the forthcoming Eid-el-Kabir celebrations.
Presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, in a statement said: “The Presidency has described as sad and unwelcome, the shooting incident near Dutsinma, Katsina State, at the convoy of cars carrying the Advance Team of security guards, protocol and media officers ahead of the President, Muhammadu Buhari’s trip to Daura for Sallah.
The attackers opened fire on the convoy from ambush positions, but were repelled by the military, police and DSS personnel accompanying the convoy. Two persons in the convoy are receiving treatment for the minor injuries they suffered.”
The nation was not just shocked but completely bewildered by the development, and while discussing the implications on the security of their persons and families, another attack was in the offing, this time at the Kuje Prisons in Abuja. At about 10pm, bomb blasts and sporadic gunshots rent the air in Kuje. It would later become common knowledge that the exchange of gunfire was between security agents and the gunmen who stormed the prison to rescue some inmates.
It is also now in the public domain that over 200 Boko Haram terrorists stormed the prison and freed 69 of their colleagues, in addition to hundreds of other inmates.
All of these, and worse before that, in a nation that has a government. We are yet to recover from the Owo Massacre of a few weeks ago, though it is not clear if we all will ever recover from the daily kidnappings, killings, and bombing that are slowly but steadily becoming daily fare in Nigeria. Human life suddenly became cheaper than gutter water. How did we get to this sorry pass? It was pathetic reading a frustrated President Buhari when he visited the prison.
His words: “How many inmates were in the facility? How many of them can you account for? How many personnel did you have on duty? How many of them were armed? Were there guards on the watchtower? What did they do? Does the CCTV work? How can terrorists organise, have weapons, attack a security installation and get away with it?”
So many questions, no answers. Perhaps, the answers would have been ready by the time the President returned from Senegal yesterday.
Ordinarily, excitement will be at its peak as we count down to the Moslem feast of Eid-el-Kabir. Adherents of the Islamic faith would be busy with preparations on how to make the feast grander than the previous one.
Women and mothers would have secured their budget (no deficit, sans padding!) from their husbands, clothes would have been bought, sewn, with new shoes and other accoutrements for themselves and their children; everybody is trying to look his/her best on the day and at Eid praying grounds.
In the neighbourhoods, the bleating of rams on tether, ahead of the big day pleasantly disturbed eardrums as everybody hustled and bustled, busy with one thing or the other.
Non-Moslems, on their part, would have compiled a long list of friends, and neighbours from whom they were sure ram meat would come after Eid prayers. For people in my part of the country, it is another thing entirely; non-Moslems perhaps celebrate Eid-el-Kabir more than Moslems.
In Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, the Ojude-Oba Festival holds on the third day after Eid, and is usually a dazzling event incorporating horse-racing display, high-street fashion, and parades by the age-groups among many other things.
But this year, it is looking a lot different from previous ones. People are worried. They do not know whether it is safe to travel to celebrate with their kith and kin in other towns and cities. They are not sure of arriving safely at their destinations if they set out, the roads having become unsafe as sections of highways in virtually all parts of the country have been taken over by marauding, mindless kidnap gangs, bandits, and unknown gunmen.
Others who wish to travel are shelving the idea because of one thing; there is no money. Better to stay where one is than set out and return broke.
Many men have already disappointed their families; the lack of money means the children and women will not be going to Eid in new attires as had been the custom.
For others, there will be no ram to slaughter this year, it’s just too expensive. From a mere N40,000-N50,000 some four, five years ago, a ram now sells for the princely sum of N300,000. Frozen fish would be the poor substitute, and even that is beginning to cost an arm and a leg.
All said and done, can we celebrate? We must, despite the determination of agents of darkness, and that includes those whose job it is to make us secure but are not doing their job. We must keep hope alive. There is no substitute.