RETURN TO ANARCHY
What happened in Abuja on Friday, October 1, 2010, on the celebratory occasion of Nigeria's 50th Independence anniversary, was despicable, wicked, condemnable, callous and inhuman. It negates all that decency and democracy stand for. There is nowhere in history, of any nation of the world, where anarchy has produced any virtue. It is an ill-wind that blows nobody any good. All it leaves in its wake is destruction and desolation. Ask countries, such as Liberia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Rwanda and Burundi, and Cote d'Ivoire what they have gone through in the hand of violence and you will understand the implication of the sordid incident of October 1.
The massacre of over 800, 000 innocent people in the genocide in Rwanda and Burundi was something nobody could wish his enemy. It was an unnecessary venting of anger, which only produced counter results. If the planners of the genocide had known that their action would precipitate such negative reactions and results, probably, they would not have embarked on the perilous adventure, in the first place. Somalia too has been going through terrible times, as rebels and government troops slug it out. The level of criminality in that country has reached an alarming proportion, and the masses are the worst hit.
Let us come back to the Nigerian incident. What on earth could have necessitated the wanton destruction of lives and properties on a day that our country was commemorating events that led to its independence? What an affront that the incident even happened in the presence of a retinue of global guests that had gathered to share the joy of the day with us! That the bomb blast that killed 14, wounded 66 and destroyed over 10 vehicles occurred 800 metres away from the venue of the celebrations makes the matter more worrisome.
I have ruminated over what happened on that fateful day and I feel very sad. As a person, I despise violence in whatever form. This is why I have always resorted to dialogue, as the best means of resolving disputes. I loathe any situation that engenders disagreement or rancour or vituperation. I am more pained by what had happened because our nation is never known for such senseless violence. The sight of hapless citizens in the pool of their own blood, with carcasses of burned and wrecked vehicles littering the landscape, was quite devastating psychologically. I could not believe that what was starring me in the face was actually happening in Nigeria - a land once known for its peace, splendour and tranquility.
We may quarrel and disagree, but we had never, as a nation, embarked on the use of terror to settle our scores. Even during the late 50s and early 60s when Nigeria underwent serious political challenges we never witnessed this kind of violence - which was not traceable to any prior, identifiable cause. Incidentally, the operation Wild, Wild West in the 60s could not be compared to this one both in sophistication and execution.
I find it hard to believe that the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) could resort to this kind of operation when the majority of militants operating in the region had accepted the amnesty of the Federal Government. In fact, there was no justification, whatsoever, to export the crisis in the Niger Delta Region into the Federal Capital Territory on a day Nigerians were celebrating the attainment of 50 years of nationhood.
To show that the Abuja carnage was unnecessary and uncalled for, the perpetrators acted without proper direction and justification. Even the style of execution of the plot was amateurish and puerile by all known standards. Looking critically at what happened, should the executors of the plot claim they succeeded in achieving their aim or target? Everything about the Abuja bombing underscores the level some people can go to destroy our march to sustainable democratic culture in order to achieve their selfish interests.
The kind of thing that happened in Abuja can only be acceptable in an environment where security has broken down irretrievably, but not in a civilized and forward-looking nation as Nigeria with monumental potentialities of emerging a global superpower very soon. Did those who sponsored and executed the senseless killings in Abuja intend to turn Nigeria into another Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen? Have they thought about the consequences of their action on our country and its citizens? How do they expect the international community to view us after the unfortunate incident? What would have happened if a visiting Head of State had been killed or wounded in the blasts?
Let us address these questions in as much detail as possible. Can Nigeria survive the catastrophe that has become the lot of Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan? The terrible things that occur in these countries have made them become pariah states in the eyes of the global community. Between September 11, 2001, when suicide bombers rattled the United States, and now Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan have not known peace. The situation has got to a stage that even the Al Qaeda and other insurrectionist forces waging war against the legitimate governments in the three nations have been negatively affected by the anarchy that has descended on them. Thousands of innocent citizens, including soldiers from the coalition forces, have been killed since the insurgency started. Apart from the collateral losses following the wars against terror the humanitarian conditions have been very awful. It is on record that investment inflow from foreign countries, especially in the area of tourism, has been seriously affected by the situation in those countries. The truth is that no nation can remain the same if it is enmeshed in internal insurrection. The dislocation of the nation's socio-political life by the Niger Delta restiveness reveals what is currently obtainable in countries where anarchy has become rampant.
The complex and heterogeneous nature of Nigeria makes the resort to guerrilla warfare very dangerous. The fear is that the escalation will get to a level of irredeemableness. It may be easier to contain the state of restiveness in smaller countries but definitely not in a nation as populous and multi-lingual as Nigeria. It was more easily comprehensible and justifiable why militants engaged federal forces in open confrontation over a share of the resources in the Niger Delta Region. But I am yet to find any plausible reason for taking the struggle to the Federal Capital Territory.
It is generally speculated by the media that the attack was targeted at the police. Okay. But how many policemen were among the dead or injured? This tells a story that terrorist attacks do not exempt anybody from harm. Even the planners of such terrorist attacks are as vulnerable as those they target to eliminate. Let us face it: what have the police done to have been so targeted? This is a question that begs for an answer if we are to unravel the mystery behind the double blast. It is true that the police are not directly involved in any way in the distribution of wealth that comes from the region. In actual fact, what the police have done in the region is to carry out their statutory duties that include policing the oil pipelines and securing the people.
Then to the next question: what would have happened if a visiting Head of State was killed or wounded in the attack? Surely a different scenario would have evolved, which could possibly have led to an inter-country face-off. The 14 Heads of State and scores of other dignitaries that attended the event came in solidarity with Nigeria. It would have been a tragedy of epic proportion if we had paid their brotherly support with evil. We, therefore, thank God that none of the foreign guests or any of our top government officials was hurt in the attack, even though the lives of those who died are as important and valuable as any other. This brings me to the general security woven around the Eagle Square – venue of the event. From all standards, security was not as water-tight as one would have expected, considering the calibre of personalities that converged on the square. I was scandalised by the number of persons standing on trees and rooftops all around the square. What would have happened if any of them had acted as a sniper to do something harmful?
It is high time security around the square was improved to address some of the lapses brought to the fore by the unfortunate incident of October 1.
Now let us try to assess the likely impact of the incident on the relations between Nigeria and the international community. It is not arguable that the international community must have felt worried and embarrassed by the ugly incident. That it occurred when important international personalities were in Abuja made the situation more precarious. However, the argument maybe advanced that Nigeria is not the only country facing similar security challenges. But any argument along this line is not only untenable but also lame. There is no country afflicted by the activities of terrorists that is globally endearing to other nations. Such a country is treated with spite and opprobrium. We could recall what took place after the failed attempt by a Nigerian to blow up an American airliner on an international flight on December 25 last year. That incident pitched Nigeria against the rest of the world, causing several Nigerians psychological trauma.
Naturally, the incident will cause anxiety and unsettlement among members of the global community. To address this concern the Federal Government should step up investigation into the matter, with a view to arresting the culprits. Those who committed the heinous crime have no respect for human sanctity or for our collective heritage as a people united by one destiny. Our inheritance as a people derives from the unity of purpose we exhibit in the face of adversity when our resilience and patriotism are taxed.
It will be a sad commentary on our national life if we allowed this threat to national unity to go uncrushed. The Federal Government must show a strong will to fight terrorism in every guise even if it entails mobilizing our scarce national resources to achieve it. We have the financial and intelligence might to fight this emerging scourge. And we are challenged to do so.
There is no way we can allow a few miscreants and scoundrels that masquerade as crusaders for social justice and equity to threaten our unity and indivisibility as a nation. Agreed, we have many visible differences as peoples of diverse culture, religion and political affiliation, but we should not allow these differences to constitute any obstacle to our collective aspiration to build a united Nigeria in which all of us will live in peace and happiness without fear of intimidation or molestation.
The will of the Federal Government has definitely been tested by the Abuja bombings. And the only way it can redeem it and demonstrate to the outside world that it has the capacity to contain such insurrection is to get to the root of the matter swiftly and decisively. Anything in the contrary will only alienate us from the rest of the world.
I sincerely commiserate with the families of those that lost their lives in the senseless attacks. They should not take what happened to heart; rather they should see it as a price to pay for the continued existence of our dear country. Though they are dead they have written themselves into the history books as martyrs of our sovereignty. Just as some persons laid down their lives for the independence of Nigeria, so also these innocent persons who perished in the twin-bombing have shed their blood for the continued survival of our fatherland. I am confident that the good Lord will grant their souls eternal rest in his bosom.
I cannot fail to warn the enemies of peace to sheath their swords and embrace dialogue. They should desist from tampering with any life because they cannot even replace a strand of hair on their own heads. They should not forget that he that kills by the sword also dies by the sword.
In the same vein, I urge the Federal Government to do all that is needful to foster peace and justice in our land. One of the causes of social disintegration is injustice and suppression of the will of the people. The people should be allowed to express themselves freely while efforts should be made to ensure that the development of the Niger Delta Region is given continual attention until its present retrogression is fully addressed.
Next year's elections, for which millions of our people have expressed morbid fear because of the current situation, will be free and fair. This is the best way of tackling the present insecurity that rules our nation.