(By Mmeje Chima)
“We open the newspaper and we see news and pictures from a bomb blast. What is our reaction? Not tears, nor sympathy, nor sadness, nor sorrow, just the word ‘hmmmmmmn!’ That is all we have to offer. The national dailies do not report the killings anymore except it is in double figures; Joint Task Force and state governments conspire to hide the real events going on.“
THE date was December 25, 2011, the Christmas Day. The one-day I look forward to more than I do for my birthday. I went to the village with my cousin Okechukwu because I wanted to spend some time with my grandmother. I remember sitting down outside basking in the solitude of a quiet environment and breathing in the fresh, clean air that you can only get far away from the city. But I was not at peace; I was trying to find it but like a rare cut diamond it evaded me. I kept thinking, what if Boko Haram tries to pull the Al Qaeda trick and attempt a Christmas bombing. I checked the news on my smart phone to assuage the turmoil within my soul. Lo and behold, those evil, dangerous, ignorant savages had struck again.
They threw a bomb in a Catholic Church while mass was going on. I felt cold dread pass through me in that moment; my head was a mess, my heart was bleeding with emotion I couldn’t understand for the victims who just wanted to have a normal Christmas but got the worst kind of tragedy in exchange. I wanted to stay home and not enjoy Christmas but that would have given victory to those criminals. So I ate rice and chicken, after which I went to a bar with my cousin. I drank Heineken with Suya, watched football, listened to high life music and I let the magic of Christmas flow through my veins, seep into my heart and heal my spirit.
That night when I went home, I closed my eyes and I saw the girl I had seen from one of the images of the bomb blast. Her eyes were red, swollen and puffy with tears, her hair disheveled and she seemed to be screaming the words NO! I stared at that image and I saw confusion, anguish, sorrow, pain, tears and the death of life in those eyes. She was beautiful but in that moment all she could understand was that, she was alive and the people she loved the most were dead, on Christmas Day! She probably had a huge feast waiting at home and maybe planned an outdoor activity for herself and the rest of her family but it was all gone; in the blink of an eye lid, she had lost all… on Christmas Day when magic was supposed to be real.
Some 18 suicide bombings have occurred this year. Too many in my opinion, yet not a single thing is seriously being done to avert or manage these crucial crisis. All I hear is excuses, panels, committees, sabotage, betrayals, infiltration, lies, deceit, ignorance and helplessness. Where were we when these bombings started in Maiduguri two years ago? Where are we now that it has spread over the northern and middle belt region up to Kogi and Plateau?
I knew there was a problem when I heard there was a bomb thrown into a Catholic Church in Kaduna and I had no reaction. I was numb to the deaths, numb to the pain, numb to the atrocity; because I had seen it too many times it became ‘normal’. The victims became a number to me. The first bomb blast we could excuse on a freak incident, the second on security lapse, the third we could say we were learning to cope with the harsh reality of organised terrorism existing in Nigeria, the fourth we could blame on a conspiratory theory, the fifth definitely a mole in government, the sixth, government is the terrorist and from then on we run out of excuses, we pass a victim on the street and ‘sorry’ seems to be too much to offer, for it literally a daily affair. We open the newspaper and we see news and pictures from a bomb blast. What is our reaction? Not tears, nor sympathy, nor sadness, nor sorrow, just the word ‘hmmmmmmn!’ That is all we have to offer. The national dailies do not report the killings anymore except it is in double figures; Joint Task Force and state governments conspire to hide the real events going on.
I remember when I was in camp in Maiduguri, Borno State, there was tight security. Everywhere I looked I saw the Police, soldiers, civil defense, Man ‘O’ War, Red Cross, name it! Any security outfit worth its onions was a manning guard at the camp. Despite the measures people still managed to sneaking in, I watched the ease with which the camp was infiltrated by ordinary individuals under such tight surveillance that supposedly consisted of sophisticated and well trained security units and I would wonder how much easier it would be for Boko Haram with just a little bit more determination to break into any government or security building. It is really too easy.
My friend in Maiduguri lost her Uncle to killers suspected to be associated with the Boko Haram sect. There was no proper investigation by the police, and the case was shut down within two months and that was it. I was angry with my friend’s uncle; I didn’t understand why his people wanted to stay in a place that was perpetually a death zone. She told in five words “Chima, their lives are here”. What she meant was it would be near impossible for the people to pack and leave Maiduguri just like that. Some of them were born there, their shops are there, and they know no other means of survival. Asking them to relocate to their village or another town to start all over again would fall on deaf ears because if there is one thing an average southerner holds dear to his heart it is his business. It is important to remind the government of the record of the horrible events which have occurred in one year in the hope that it will rise up to the challenge to save our country from disintegration.
Boko Haram suicide attacks in 2012:
November 25, 2012 – A suicide bomber drove an explosives-packed bus into a church at a military base in Kaduna, followed by a suicide bomber in a car outside the church; the blasts killed 11 people and wounded more than 30.
October 28, 2012 – A Boko Haram suicide bomber drove an explosives-packed jeep into a Catholic church in Kaduna, killing at least eight people and wounding over 100.
September 23, 2012 – A suicide bomber killed a woman and a child in an attack at a Catholic Church in Bauchi.
August 15, 2012 – A suicide bomber killed three civilians in a failed attempt to target a vehicle belonging to the Joint Task Force in Maiduguri.
August 5, 2012 – A suicide bomber killed five soldiers in an attack in Damaturu.
August 3, 2012 – A Boko Haram suicide bomber wounded several people in a failed attack outside of a mosque in Potiskum.
July 30, 2012 – A suicide bomber killed a policeman in an attack at a government office in Sokoto.
July 13, 2012 – A suicide bomber killed five people in an attack at a mosque in Maiduguri.
June 17, 2012 – Boko Haram killed 48 people in simultaneous suicide attacks on churches in Kaduna and Zaria. The terror group claimed credit for the attacks, calling them a “victory against Christian Churches in Kaduna and Zaria.’’ Three other churches were bombed on June 17.
June 10, 2012 – A Boko Haram suicide bomber killed three people in an attack outside a church in Jos.
June 8, 2012 – A Boko Haram suicide bomber killed four people in an attack outside a police station in Maiduguri.
June 3, 2012 – A Boko Haram suicide bomber killed 15 people an attack on a church in Bauchi.
April 30, 2012 – A Boko Haram suicide bomber killed 11 people and wounded more than 20 in an attack on a police convoy in Jalingo, the capital of Taraba State.
April 26, 2012 – The editor of ThisDay confirmed that a suicide bomber drove a jeep into the newspaper’s office in Abuja, killing two people.
April 8, 2012 – Boko Haram killed 36 people and wounded dozens more in several bombings outside of a church in Kaduna on Easter Day.
March 11, 2012 – A Boko Haram suicide bomber killed three civilians in a bombing outside of a church in Jos. The suicide bomber was stopped before he could enter the compound.
February 26, 2012 – A Boko Haram suicide bomber killed six persons during an attack at a church in Jos.
January 21, 2012 – Boko Haram killed more than 140 people during a series of blasts, including a suicide bombing, and shootings in Kano.
Boko Haram claimed credit for the attacks, which targeted police and immigration buildings. (Source: The Long War Journal)
Many have been having recurrent nightmares and frightening dreams since 2009 not unconnected with what the country has been experiencing in the hands of terrorists which appear to have been borne out by occurrences listed in the foregoing.
The problem does not seem to have been attacked from the root and so it festers. The government rather chooses to let sleeping dogs lie; hoping in ignorance that another crisis won’t occur; but we all know in the inner recess of our hearts where only truth dwells that another crisis could be lying in wait in Jos looking for something, anything to make the fake water bubble of peace burst.
The incident that is hurtful the most is watching the youths die. The Aluu four and the Mubi killings come to mind in these kinds of situation. Four students of the University of Port-Harcourt were burnt alive similar to what happened in the age some 1500 years ago when witches were tied to the stakes and burnt alive. It should take the heart of a human to tame such inhumane violence for it is the absence of conscience in a man that can make him to impose jungle justice on individuals without evidence. It is despicable and worrisome the level to which we have degenerated, taking people’s lives in a savage manner. It also proves the total failure of the police as well.
In the Mubi killings, young people were murdered in large number in one day because of a student government election. More than 40 people were dead in scenes that resemble sights from a gang movie. The killings reportedly lasted more than 40 minutes; the killers took their time and when they were done strolled away as if they had no care in the world.
The loss of youthful lives that could have become great men in the future and the absence of government action have portrayed the President as weak; he was weak when fortune took him from glory to glory, he was weak when people voted him into power and he remains weak in the face of crisis. The government does not know how to deal with violence, they are only good at fueling it, they have no solutions to Boko Haram or Jos crisis neither do they have answers for the families of those killed in Mubi Polytechnic or of those left behind by the Aluu four.
Sometimes I blame all the people who voted Jonathan into power, other times I do not blame them because the system has degenerated into a rot so bad the options presented before us at every election are not the best in terms of democratic governance.
We don’t know how to weep anymore; death piles up at our doorstep at such an alarming rate that sometimes we wonder what doom we will find when we open the pages of the newspaper the next morning.
We don’t know how to weep anymore; no condolence visits by government representatives to victims of bomb blasts, sectarian killings and electoral violence because there are too many dead people with families left behind to be visited.
Where is the one minute silence in memory of those we have lost on TV, public gatherings or before Nigerian Premier League matches are played?
Where is the shrine of candles, flowers and pictures of those we have lost close to the sites where they happened or in other locations of value?
Who comforts those the dead have lost? When will human life in Nigeria be accorded with the respect and protection it deserves? When will the government strike back and put a stop to this madness? When shall we know peace again? When shall my nightmares stop?
These politicians probably have not had to grieve, so they remain aloof because the problem does not affect them personally; they see no need to find a lasting solution to the real problems of the country instead they spend money on committees and panels that we do not need.
Nigeria is headed towards anarchy, riot and uncontainable violence. After all, violence is the only word we seem to understand when all is said and done. There are no rooms to regret things that could have been done differently in past situations because regret is a friend of procrastination, what we need are real life, workable situations that can stop the violence finally and for all times.
• Mmeje Chima, an unemployed graduate, lives in Abuja.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”