THEY MADE MY XMAS BAD
'Bomb blast now, now @ Catholic Church, Madalla, near Zuba. Several people killed. Quite a pity these bad people have refused to sheath their swords.'
It was 8.27 am, December 25, Sunday, I got this message. Because I just changed my handset, I didn't know the sender, but later I did. That piece of information changed my day, mood and plans for the day. I was at a barber's shop in Area 1, Garki, Abuja with my colleague, Iheanacho Nwosu planning to go to church when the text came. Just a couple of minutes after that we pulled the car racing on the Zuba-Abuja highway on the way to Madalla.
At Madalla, it was a bad experience. It was hell. It was callousness and depravity displayed in loudest and most audacious manner. The evil agents of Nigeria - be they religious, be they ethnic or whatever the coloration had done their worst. That was an antithesis of celebration even on a day Christians revere so much and worst still at a place they also revere.
I recall a story I was once told about a late Sultan of Sokoto, I think Maccido, summoning Muslim leaders in the regions of Sokoto in one of the heady days of bloodletting in the north at the wake of rumours that the killers were at their wits planning to attack Christians in Sokoto. Recall that Sokoto is like the headquarters of Islam in Nigeria. Recall also that Sokoto till date has been immune to religious attacks for which the north of Nigeria is known. Is that a surprise, coincidence or something more?
I heard the story from a man from Plateau State resident in Sokoto for years when some three years ago I was in the city to do a report The Sun Newspapers called Great Cities. At the Customs Officers Mess, a man narrated this tale. He was emphatic that there was tension in town and the Sultan had to summon all Imams of the various mosques and heads of units with a warning that wherever disturbances occur, the head there would be held responsible. The same leader called all strangers in Sokoto - religious leaders and others and cautioned them to be vigilant and live in freedom. Moreover, they were asked to move to churches or mosques near them in case disturbance erupts. The reason, according to the man is because Muslims believe that churches are holy grounds and places where Allah is worshipped too. And their belief is against desecration of Allah's holy places and whoever does that contends with his maker. That way peace reigned in Sokoto and has not ceased to.
But on Christmas day, people who see themselves as puritans of a religion that abhors attack on others while at a holy place killed Christians in Madalla church in dozens and we hear them say it is to please Allah. I doubt this. Let's bring the matter closer; a certain potter is busy in his workshop moulding pots, firing, finishing and burnishing them to his admiration and extolling his creativity, and the same potter also positions someone around him with an instruction to be busy smashing these pottery he toils to produce. Does that make logical sense? One could not possibly be killing to please the maker of human beings as one cannot possibly be doing the bidding of the potter by smashing his products after all his labour. And the great One - Yahweh said to Jeremiah that he is like the potter, and if the potter decides that the shape of what he has made is not pleasing, he crushes the clay and remoulds. So it is strictly in his hands to make or unmake the pot. He can't just send anyone to unmake what he made and whoever does that would not need a tutorial in religion or philosophy to know that he does not please anyone other than his intent of vagabondry.
I saw chilling carnage, I shed tears, and of course, none that gets there wouldn't. It was surely a contagion none would escape so long as you were at the St. Theresa Catholic Church, Madalla. You can't behold that scene and retain your decency. It was really tempting and who feels it knows it. Blood is not just thicker than water, but six times so. One reason I felt it is because I am a human being. I can't stand watching the throat of a fowl slashed, neither can I do that myself. Two is that I am of same Bible religion with these slaughtered people. Third, I am Igbo, and over 90 percent of the roasted persons were. I owe nobody any apology that my kinsmen have been made the sacrificial lamb of Nigeria. Their blood has watered the tree of Nigeria's unity for too long. And the merchants of death against the Igbo have never reasoned that that blood has not been fertile enough to make that tree of Nigeria's unity grow and flourish, therefore they should think of alternative - possibly their own blood or best of all no blood at all. A tree does not grow with blood fed to its roots or leaves, but with water. Nigeria has had more than enough of bloodshed, and what blood does to the land is defilement and desecration. And Yahweh said to Cain after he slew his brother Abel, that the land is defiled and cursed by reason of your villainy in shedding the innocent blood of your brother. Shall we then think of Nigeria defiled a million times over by the blood of the innocent shed in millions from the days before Independence?
Evil reigns in the land and no one seems to take action against it. Boko Haram at most might have some 20,000 members. So how does that number outclass the entire apparati of state? Why would the actions of these men so overwhelm the leaders of the land that none lifts a finger to do anything? I heard Nigerians commenting after the incident that the DPO of Madalla police was told about the attack before it happened. I heard Senator Awaisu Kuta alleging that the police got intelligence ahead of time that Madalla would be attacked. I heard a caller on Ray Power Radio phone-in programme the day after the bloodshed say her friend who works with the Defence Headquarters said they got intelligence that bombers had left Maiduguri days before Christmas and headed to several cities. Nobody had the responsibility of tracking them. I read in all newspapers a week before Christmas that Boko Haram sent notice that it must bomb Jos on December 25. We all heard. But nobody took action against it. They struck, they escaped. We live with the old lazy rhetoric of the people in power who seem lost on how to use power and rescue a nation under their watch from anarchy who would only afford a statement they never even wrote. From their media aides you hear same old 'animal talk' as Fela would dub them that 'the action is condemnable. The perpetrators would be brought to book. It is a dastardly act and we will not condone this act of violence against the state.' Silly, sickening, insipid garb. Yes, the act is all you have said, but what about the action to stop more?
Let us not forget that the act is fast wearing to shreds the patience, civility, brotherliness, grace and forgiveness of the citizens. Our stress threshold keeps narrowing by every more bombing. Our store of patience is by every bombing depleted. Sooner or later, the cord will snap, the pitcher will be shattered at the cistern and the mourners would go about the city wailing as the wise teacher said in the Bible. And then, it would be late for sloganeering because these people killed are also human beings. One day, many would reason that if the creator takes into his kingdom those that kill other human beings, they would also cherish going into that kingdom and will adopt the same method. Meanwhile, who is it that loathes the kingdom of heaven?
The reason for government is to foster the three-strand cord of social contract, eliminate brutish competition and do away with self help in alternative for cohesion, mutual existence and peace. If the government fails or goes lax about this compelling duty, it would be an incurable lapse. There is evil in our land. There is bloodletting in our land. Our aura is taint with blood. Fear has taken over from freedom.
Hatred now lives in the abode of love and brotherhood. We have compromised to make life unworthy of living and short. The inescapable truth is that soon, and very soon, the takers or violence would shed the toga of masochism and join the worshippers in the unholy place of sadism. And at that point, it would be too late to halt the drift and recall that piece of valuable the flood has swept away, and whoever insists on going for it would go with the flood. From the gully to the stream, to the ravine, to the seas and at last swallowed up in the oceans.