One outrage too many
The Monday morning explosion at the Nyanya bus station in Abuja, which led to at least 75 deaths, seems to have forced a rethink among Nigerians, especially those who consider the North East, which has been blighted by terror for so long, to be another Siberia or outer Mongolia.
It appears that the tragic incident has helped to concentrate our collective attention to the gravest challenge to our nationhood since the Nigerian civil war which ended over 4 decades ago. The Nyanya incident is not the first to have been carried out so close to the top echelon of Nigeria’s power elite. At least 4 other such ugly incidents have happened at Mogadishu barracks, the police headquarters, United Nations building and a church in Madallah, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory. All those bloody events were heralded by the first such dastardly act near Eagle Square on October 1, 2010. The incidents in Abuja could be described as just a blip in the long-drawn campaign of terror that has gripped North East for so many years and which is now, in one form or another, threatening to consume the North Western and North Central Nigeria. Whether it is the insurgency being ascribed to Boko Haram or the more recent terror attacks being blamed on herdsmen, there is a clear pattern of divisiveness which, rather than throw light to the broad terrorism faced by different Nigerian communities, only adds to the muddle which the counter offensive has been reduced to.
Meanwhile, the terrorists, whoever they may be, are having a field day, showing the authorities as unconcerned and ineffective, while citizens’ lives and livelihood are being snuffed out with such reckless abandon. One day it is hapless commuters setting out to work in Abuja, the next, it is schoolgirls abducted in Chibok, Borno State, another day it is someone going about his lawful business in the remote Gwoza mountains of Borno State or schoolchildren at a government school in Buni Yadi.
Meanwhile both the government and the opposition have turned the whole tragedy into a political football for them to kick and dribble at will while more and more Nigerians lose their lives and livelihood. With an eye on the next election, the partisans are busy making outrageous claims as they try to link one another to the unfolding tragedy. The Presidency, which should know better, appears to egg on the current tragic-comedy by failing to rise above it and provide the leadership needed to confront the affront to our nationhood. It bears reminding that the President swore an oath to preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and to devote himself to the service and well-being of the people of Nigeria.
That federal republic includes every inch of Nigeria and allowing terrorists and criminals to treat our citizens as if they belong to no nation is unacceptable. Even more abhorrent is the stereotyping and profiling of the supposed assailants in order to promote religious and ethnic division. It is partly the success of that narrative which has made other Nigerians, far from the theatre of outrage, to wrongly think it is about others and does not concern them. That attitude is what has brought us this far and could push us into the abyss if we do not hold our leaders in and out of government accountable for their action and inaction. This newspaper believes that Nigerians will need to close rank and see terror as something that will devour everyone in its path and challenge the received wisdom on our current situation. Since the politicians appear more interested in the next election, citizens will need to force a sincere approach to tackling the menace on their agenda.
As some communities in Zamfara state, the new theatre of criminality and terror, told some government officials on condolence visit after nearly 200 people were massacred 2 weeks ago, the politicians should not bother coming to campaign for the 2015 elections as those communities may have been wiped out while the authorities are fiddling. It is probably an apt message to the whole Nigerian elite, both within and outside government, who are not doing much while the communities are being wiped out or forced to flee and citizens are feeling forsaken by the leadership.
The security meeting called by President Goodluck Jonathan scheduled for this morning to be followed by another with governors is a good first step to get serious about the ominous challenge facing Nigeria. If need be, a Council of State meeting should also be called with a view to setting up a war council that may draw from retired security officials who may have insight on how to deal with this unprecedented challenge. But meetings in themselves will mean nothing if all they do is restate what everyone already knows while our frontline troops are left to be cannon fodder for terrorists to gloat about. As this newspaper has stated several times earlier, all options should be open in a sincere approach to dealing with the continued bloodletting.
Daily Trust calls on both the federal and state governments to close rank and work out strategies of dealing with the existential challenge facing a large swathe of Nigerians. Whatever the strategies devised should be implemented within a short time frame in order to restore confidence of Nigerians that our leaders are not just fixated on the next election while scores of citizens are slaughtered on a daily basis. It should shock all rightthinking people that Nigeria is now ahead of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria in terms of the daily tally of dead and injured. As many senior government officials have admitted privately, Nigeria is at war and everything necessary should be done to win it in the shortest possible time. Like all wars however, we should be careful of those who may want to perpetuate it while they continue to benefit from it.
The current government and all those with a stake in Nigeria cannot afford to let the terrorism challenge fester and consume us all. We all have a duty to challenge President Jonathan and support him in dealing with terrorism and criminality in a more decisive and not so divisive manner that could allow us to put it behind us in the not so distant time.