hate speech

BY NICK DAZANG

ON Sunday, October 23, 2022, the United States Embassy in Abuja issued a terse security alert, to wit: “There is an elevated risk of terror attacks in Nigeria, specifically in Abuja.” Another terror alert came hot on the heels of the American one by the United Kingdom High Commission. In quick succession, the Embassies of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, Bulgaria, Finland and Germany followed suit.

The sheer shrillness and quantum of these terror alerts, expectedly, sent apprehensive Nigerians, particularly those resident in Abuja, into a frenzy of fear and the panic mode. Many Abuja residents either kept away from their offices or elected to work from home. Schools and supermarkets closed. The construction giant, Messrs Julius Berger, promptly shut down its operations.

Churches and mosques beefed up security even as worshippers kept away in droves. It is instructive that only the usually slovenly Nigerian government, its loquacious handlers, its security bigwigs and a few cynical Nigerians made light of the terror alerts. A cynical writer went as far as to deride the alerts by underscoring their coincidence with the unfortunate attack on Paul Pelosi, the U.S. Speaker’s husband.

Three days after the alarm raised by the United States and its allies, the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, reflexively ordered a counter terrorism exercise tagged: “Operation Darkin Gaggawa” in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. Meanwhile, the President and Commander in Chief, Muhammadu Buhari had departed Nigeria for South Korea on an official visit of dubious value. He attempted, abortively, to calm frayed nerves by saying that Nigeria was not an exception in having security threats. He argued, speciously, that terror was a reality all over the world.

According to him, “Since the July prison raid, security measures have been reinforced within and around the Federal Capital Territory. Heightened monitoring and interception of terrorist communications ensure that potential threats are caught further upstream.” He added: “Attacks are being foiled. Security agents are proactively rooting out threats to keep citizens safe – much of their work is unseen and necessarily confidential.” He concluded that “Nigerians’ safety remains the highest priority of government.”

Shortly after his junket to South Korea, the President summoned an emergency security meeting, at the end of which the National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (retd), declared that the security situation was not as dire as it was portrayed by the U.S. and its allies. He also dismissed the alarm they raised as unnecessary and unfounded. In spite of concerted efforts by the government to downplay the terror alerts and to lampoon the U.S. government, Nigerians are justified to panic.

First of all, the security advisories came from influential Western countries with intelligence agencies whose bona fides and networks are formidable and extensive. Second, the number of countries that issued these advisories is so overwhelming and thus makes it credible and unimpeachable. Third, given its woeful pedigree in matters concerning security, only buffoons or persons who live in the Extra Terrestrial will trust this government. Until recently when it accorded “full freedom” to our armed forces to extirpate the terrorists menacing this country, this was an administration which was distinguished by its bizarre and inexplicable coddling of these terrorists that most Nigerians were tempted to conclude that they were working in cahoots.

Fourth, the President’s evidently uncaring attitude and disposition did not suggest that this government sets store by human lives or their sanctity. This was a country which was in the throes of an unprecedented flooding, surpassing the recent Hurricane Ian in terms of loss of lives and destruction of properties. More than 700 Nigerians lost their lives as a result of floods while 85 Americans died in the wake of Hurricane Ian. Yet, the President did not think it wise to postpone his visit to South Korea in order to comfort his citizens who had either lost relations or were displaced.

Fifth, even though the war on terror is turning the corner by virtue of the gallant efforts of our armed forces and the superb intelligence garnered by our security agencies, a lot remains to be done to achieve an outright victory or attain the lofty status of Mission Accomplished. For though some of the terrorists have been bombed out of existence, most have fled the enclaves in which they were once ensconced and are said to be rapidly melting into the larger population. This not only complicates matters, but makes the task of tracking them uphill. Apart from the cache of weapons which they had amassed, they had equally stockpiled huge amounts from the victims they extorted or robbed.

With these they can buy their ways and settle down in the larger population. Sixth, to lend credence to the alarm raised by the Western countries, the Wawa Military Cantonment in Niger State was attacked by the terrorists last week. Thus, rather than play the ostrich, indulge in gas lighting or dismiss the terror alerts as “unnecessary” or “unfounded”, we should be eternally vigilant, prime and motivate our intelligence agencies to do their work and engage with the said Western Embassies to proactively identify and neutralize these terrorists.

It is idle and ludicrous to continue to repeat the hackneyed and well worn refrain, each time we have a challenge that our security agencies are “on top of the matter”. It is also foolhardy to conclude that the valiant efforts of our armed forces to root out these terrorists – which are in their inchoate stages – given their huge numbers compared to the infinitesimal ones that have so far been neutralized, will be over in December. As it is, December, which is the deadline the government appointed for itself to get rid of the terrorists, is a mere one month away!

Nigerians, members of the international community and stakeholders in the electoral process must be deeply perturbed by this state of affairs. Given the terrible place we are in in terms of security, can we wager that five months hence, Nigeria shall conduct the 2023 general elections in a tranquil atmosphere? This question acquires significance and urgency given the fact that even as Nigeria was awash with terror alarms, Social Media were, at the same time, agog with speculations that the impending terror attacks were part of a sinister design to make the country ungovernable so as to pave way for the inauguration of an Interim National Government, ING!

*Dazang, a public affairs analyst, wrote via: [email protected]

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