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By Olusegun Adeniyi
There is this story of a cowboy who had a serious accident with his vehicle in which he was carrying a dog and a horse. Not long after, a police officer who happened to be an animal lover came upon the scene. He saw the horse first and realizing the serious nature of its injuries, he drew his service revolver and put the animal out of its misery. Walking around, he also found the dog critically injured. He couldn’t bear to hear it whine in pain, so he ended the dog’s suffering as well. Finally, he located the cowboy who had suffered multiple fractures and was battling for survival. “Hey are you okay?” the cop asked. The cowboy took one look at the smoking revolver in the trooper’s hand and mustered: “Never felt better!”
The moral of the story is that however difficult the circumstance a man may find himself, the guiding philosophy remains that once there is life there is hope. That explains why many of the poor people in our country would keep on believing that they can still score a great victory in life despite the odds placed against them by a succession of governments that have been unable to mobilise the nation’s potentials in advancement of the public good. Unfortunately, that flicker of hope is also being gradually taken away from them by the manner in which some serial murderers seem to be gaining control of our country with the vulnerable of our society becoming sitting targets for extermination.
Nobody has put the Monday tragedy at Nyanyan (a suburb of Abuja) in perspective for me as Member Feese, the young lady who survived the United Nations office bombing two years ago. In a message to her friends in TeamMember and the Board of Trustees members (of which I am one) that serves as a reminder of the task that still lies ahead, Member wrote: “…two and a half years ago, I was at the mercy of all Nigerians of goodwill who rallied to ensure that I got the help I needed in order to be alive today and tell my story. I was lucky to survive albeit with severe disabilities. On the 26 of August 2011 it was you, my family and friends, who were running around looking for me not knowing whether I was dead or alive. I heard that my Dad had to go into the morgue looking for me there. When finally he found me in the intensive care unit of the National Hospital he could not recognize me due to the severity of the injuries I suffered. I was lucky! I am still alive!
“As I watched with difficulty on television the report of the pain and suffering of those affected (by the Nyanyan bombing) as well as the agony of those families who lost members in this unnecessary act of hatred, it calls to memory what we have been through. Unfortunately not much lessons have been learnt in caring for the wounded. As for the families of the dead and injured, my prayer is that the government and indeed all Nigerians will remember them not just in prayers but also to support and counsel them. It is going to be a hard and long journey. We should know; as we have been travelling on this road for the past two years…I would love to hold someone’s hand and just say to him or her that ‘God willing, it will be all right’…”
Despite those moving words from Member, I still cannot come to terms with the fact that some people would sit down to plot the Nyanyan mayhem that has now subjected hundreds of innocent families to anguish with scars that may never heal. But it fits perfectly into a pattern of violence that is gradually making our country a living hell as several people are killed, villages are razed and innocent female students are abducted ostensibly to turn them into sex slaves.
However, the bigger tragedy is that at a time the body bags were still being counted on Monday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) decided to play politics with the carnage. In a statement made public shortly after the bomb exploded and signed by National Publicity Secretary Olisa Metuh, the PDP put the blame on some “unpatriotic persons, especially those in the APC, who have been making utterances and comments, promoting violence and blood-letting as a means of achieving political control…Their hearts have been hardened and they are embittered by the fact that they have been rejected by the people.”
Like most reasonable Nigerians, I found it difficult to understand how the PDP could make that statement at such a tragic moment. When a terrorist attack happens, citizens of most countries band together not only to grieve the dead and offer support to injured victims but also to send a message to the perpetrators that violence cannot, and will not, defeat their societies. But in Nigeria after every horrendous attack, political leaders are always eager to exploit the situation to make unfounded allegations that can only help to compromise whatever efforts the security agencies may be making in the bid to unravel what happened and why.
Projecting a persecution complex of “the terrorists are killing people because some opposition politicians are bent on making the country ungovernable for President Jonathan” has become a perfect alibi for the inability to seek a multi-partisan and “whole of society” solution to the growing insecurity in the nation. But the cynical attempt to politically exploit such a monumental tragedy is not only unconscionable, it betrays a mindset that has made tackling the Boko Haram insurgency rather difficult.
Unfortunately, the counter-narrative from the opposition is no better. In the last one year, there has been a rationalization of the violence by those who would argue that the Boko Haram insurgents are killing because of poverty. As the argument goes, it is because of the hopelessness in the Northeast that some misguided young men are carrying bombs and AK-47 to kill defenceless Nigerians and abduct innocent girls (about 130 female students were reportedly taken captive at a Government Girls School in Chibok in Adamawa State on Monday). And according to this self-serving logic, that is because the Federal Government under President Jonathan is not providing jobs!
While I will not dispute the fact that we have a huge population of those who live on the margin of society that may have provided a recruiting ground for Boko Haram, I deplore the not-so-subtle attempt to rationalize, sometimes even glorify, the bestiality being perpetrated by the insurgents on the pretext that the Federal Government has failed to meet certain expectations. Now the question: Do those politicians who are ever quick to argue that the insurgents are killing because of poverty really care about the poor? No, they don’t! The real motive behind their narrative is to blame President Jonathan for the calamities that daily befall our country so they can use that to mobilize the people against him.
The foundation for the crisis we have today in the North was laid over a long period of time by political office holders from the region who have been shirking their responsibilities: the Governors who never paid attention to education, including those who introduced political Sharia while helping themselves to public treasuries. In some of these states also, secondary schools have in recent past been closed for several months due to disagreement between the authorities and the teachers; in a few others, students are taught under the tree and then you hear about primary school teachers who fail some elementary examination that is meant for primary four pupils!
Situations like the foregoing can only provide fertile grounds for Boko Haram and allied forces and Borno which serves as the epicentre of the insurgency is a classic example. In 2006, while receiving a team of broadcasters to his state, then Governor Ali Modu Sheriff said he was not concerned about the criticism of his administration in the print media because 95 percent of the people in Borno State could not read and write. And perhaps to rub it in, Sheriff added that less than two percent of Borno residents had access to newspapers! Even while the “statistics” reeled out by the governor may be false, the mindset that informed such disclosure is very telling of the kind of leadership that has led us to the current crisis.
We are at a rather challenging moment in our history and it is one that calls for a multi-partisan leadership which only Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), seems to appreciate. In describing the Nyanyan attack as “horrific, heartbreaking, and a cruel act of merciless slaughter”, Buhari on Tuesday called for a broad based, non-partisan coalition to fight the scourge before he added: “The security and stability of Nigeria is inviolable. Our security and stability cannot be conditioned on any ideology or partisan agenda. Every Nigerian reserves the right to his own security, to his own freedom and dignity, and no amount of terrorist blackmail can make us surrender these.”
I agree completely with the General. As matters stand now, we have four and a half explanations competing for primacy on the Boko Haram scourge. One is the social responsibility explanation: long standing neglect by northern governors. The second is the assertion that Boko Haram continues to fester because the federal government seems clueless as far as national security is concerned. The third explanation (the PDP narrative) is that Boko Haram is the military wing of some political group that is intent on seizing power through sporadic acts of terror meant to frighten President Jonathan out of Aso Rock. The fourth explanation (the APC narrative) is that the terror acts are being perpetrated not by Boko Haram but rather by some rogue security agents with a sinister political agenda. The remaining half theory is the one that seeks a religious explanation for Boko Haram, based on the logic that adherents of the terror group are so foolish as to imagine that our country can be bombed into adopting a sectarian polity in place of the present secular order.
The solution to the current terror upsurge must be sought among the possibilities opened up by those foregoing explanations. While we should not dismiss any of them, what ought to worry most Nigerians is that the current approach is not working because there is no unity of purpose. That means things are likely to get worse before they begin to get better. We need, however, to join the patriots who insist that the will of the Nigerian nation must not be dissolved by the incendiary madness of some demented gangsters.
While I commiserate with the families of the dead and pray for quick recovery for the injured, I wish all Nigerians a happy Easter.
The Verdict By Olusegun Adeniyi was culled from Thisday Newspaper; firstname.lastname@example.org
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