Almost hourly, an aircraft flies over Sawmill area in the ancient city of Ibadan. And it has become a tradition for toddlers and other small living human creatures to come out of their mothers’ closets bare-chested and clad in nothing but pants. It’s a thing of joy to watch the little humancules with legs barely strong enough to keep them from falling, joyfully attempting to pursue the swift Boeing aircraft that is hundreds of miles above them. And when they realize that they can’t meet up with the aircraft speed, the children happily wave the plane bye. These days however, few mothers allow their children to chase the plane. Not that the effort is futile, but they are afraid of bombs getting dropped from the hovering aircrafts.
Haruna’s makeshift restaurant is a beehive of activities. Situated along the road that leads to Imo state government house, he enjoys patronage from far and near. His clientele links the high class with the middle and low economy classes; his tasty noodles, foamy hot cups of rich tea, expertly scrambled eggs and sizeable slices of bread – all at pocket-friendly prices, form a confluence town that unites a heterogeneous ethnically, religiously and professionally diverse population that set all differences aside at the smell of Haruna’s handiworks. But that was then. One after the other, the restaurant has lost most of its customers from the south. These days, his Hausa brothers are the only ones seen eating at the once national food factory.
Five years ago, Kano jewelers were nationally recommended when in search of original golden jewelries. People coming from far and near besiege the Kano jewelry markets without any second thoughts. But today, things are changing. Southerners are becoming less enthusiastic about travelling to the north in search of affordable golden jewelries.
Foodstuffs and other edibles are also feeling the hot Proudly Nigerian current of suspicion blowing across the nation. During a Sunday service in 2010, several pastors of churches in the east read a widely circulated text message to their congregations. The message clearly warned Christians to desist from eating roasted meats (Suya) prepared by northern Suya sellers in their metropolis for fear of food (meat) poisoning. Similar SMS was forwarded to worshippers during the beans poisoning season.
On Tuesday, May 24, 2011, The Sun Newspapers interviewed the Director-General of the NYSC, Brigadier-General Maharazu Tsiga who said that the “NYSC is traumatized.” But in the real sense, ‘trauma’ is an understatement. Following the incidence that claimed the lives of ten corps members during the post election violence in Bauchi, the headquarters of the NYSC was besieged by thousands of corps members seeking redeployment to their geopolitical zone. Even the pusillanimous National Assembly added its voice to the numerous calls for an holistic restructuring of the NYSC. But in a highly significant move that sealed the nation’s doom status, a university (Adekunle Ajasin University) that is expected to teach students how to become good tolerant Nigerians, reportedly got angry with NYSC for posting its students to the north.
Much ado with instances.
It’s a fact that the Nigeria of today is different from the one that got independence from the Queen of England. That Nigeria was truly national and there wasn’t any account of Obafemi Awolowo getting scared of Ahmadu Bello’s tunic. The founding fathers sat, ate and drank together without sending medical laboratory scientists to the kitchen to screen food stuffs for food poisoning. They trusted themselves because they fought a common goal that everyone played a vital central role in. But crisis arose when ulterior motives, regional interests, ubiquitous corruption and bad leadership became acceptable in Nigeria’s unwritten other constitution.
During President Olusegun Obasanjo’s eight-year administration, he used his military experience to subdue communal, ethnic, social, racial, civil and religious unrests – only Jos had the nerve to boil. MEND was nowhere near their current strength and Boko Haram couldn’t boast of a Wikipedia page talk less of their current demand for twelve states. But since “bloody civilians” came to power, the polity has been heated up. Focal unrests erupted extensively during the highly punctuated Late President Yar’adua’s tenure with most of the assaults coming from the Niger-Delta creeks warlords led by MEND. And when Jonathan got his mandate, Boko Haram won’t let him rest.
The timeless appeal to pity excuse of political involvement is a slap on the face of every Nigerian and peppered salt to the wounds of those that were affected by the security degeneration.
When there were fracas and skirmishes at political rallies across the nation – leading to several deaths, “they were political” was the response. When Jos boiled over and over again, “it was political” was the excuse. When MEND kidnapped and killed some foreign expatriates, bad southern politicians were fingered. And when Boko Haram’s crises birthed in Bauchi, political backings were mentioned. But the government has repeatedly failed to address the issue of why the security agencies were unable to nib the problems in the bud before they attained their current escalated proportion – terrorism.
The only Africa’s entry in terrorism history was Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). Founded in 1961, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) was the military wing of the African National Congress; it waged a guerrilla campaign against the South African apartheid regime and was responsible for many bombings. MK launched its first guerrilla attacks against government installations on 16 December 1961. South Africa subsequently banned the group after classifying it as a terrorist organization. MK’s first leader was Nelson Mandela, who was tried and imprisoned for the group’s acts. With the end of apartheid in South Africa, Umkhonto we Sizwe was incorporated into the South African armed forces.
MK’s story clearly shows that terrorism is entirely strange to Africa. Africans naturally lack the gene that codes for terrorism, except the aliens in their midst. In less than ten years, there has been extensive redefinition of Nigeria’s cultural ethos and societal rules. Two years ago, who can believe that a Nigerian – sane or insane – could tie a bomb around his waste, board a plane, or drive into a complex, and blow himself up? It wasn’t hard to believe, it was impossible. But now, even the president has agreed that there are terrorists amongst his citizens, and he is not safe.
Nigerians tremble at the current status of the nation, but the greatest fear that should shake all is what happens if the current trend goes unabated? During peak periods, bombs go off in Maiduguri almost daily; bombs had exploded close to Eagle Square during a presidential swearing-in ceremony despite several threats, and part of the Police Headquarters was blown off by Nigeria’s first suicide bomber – 35-year old Mohammed Manga. Where then is safe? If nothing serious is done, then in the next five years, Nigeria has every potential of getting worse than Afghanistan, Pakistan and other Middle East terrorists’ hide outs.
The way that the federal government and various security agencies are handling the incessant terrorist attacks give more impetus to the programs of terrorists that have something against the government, education and the human race at large. Also, the conglomeration of paucity of intel reports, lack of central identification system, porous borders, corrupt government officials, overzealous trigger-happy security operatives, illiteracy, poverty… present Nigeria as the desired destination for potential and professional terrorists.
On a Friday afternoon, a vehicle belonging to the counterterrori
sm unit of the Nigerian Police Force broke down along a major Lagos highway. Before it was towed away, officers alighted from the vehicle to unpack the content which were expected to be sophisticated communication gadgets and latest equipments – like those used by Jack Bauer in 24. But to their utmost surprise, passers bye looked on as Nigeria’s terrorist experts sweated under hot sun while offloading bags of rice from the NPF marked vehicle. Right there and then, many Lagosians concluded peradventure there is a terrorist attack, NPF is ill equipped with staff and strength to control, contain and contend with the assaults.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s Facebook status update of June 30, 2011, also showed the government’s inept unpreparedness. According to Mr President, “There are an estimated 150 million pairs of eyes in Nigeria and believe me, that is the greatest deterrent possible against terrorism. Today, I call on all Nigerians to be watchful. Be conscious of your surroundings and report suspicious activities and persons to the authorities.”
In the first instance, Mr President forgot that there are millions of blind people in Nigeria. Secondly, he sounds unaware of the pusillanimous status of the nation’s security operatives. It’s unbelievable to learn that the president is unaware of instances where policemen ran away for robbers. Are they the ones to combat resolute terrorists that want to kill as many people as possible? Also, it’s not the job of tailors to look for bombs, nor that of bankers to suspect suicide bombers. It’s the trained duty of security operatives. If they can’t – or won’t do their jobs, others shouldn’t be made to step in.
On his campaign train, GEJ didn’t promise the earth and Nigerians aren’t expecting heavens from him. Before the bombs began to explode nationwide, Nigerians had constant electricity as the top priority for the government. But now, their request has changed. The message on every lip is “If the president cannot give us constant stable power supply, let him keep us safe until we’ll find someone who can.” Until the president figures out how best to address the issue of security in Nigeria, Nigerians need to become responsible for their own safety because as far as the indices are concerned, the evil days are here.