Hassan Mohammed Damagum
Today’s homily is on Hassan Mohammed Damagum and so we devote the space to him.
Hassan was a 19-year old indigene of Damaturu, Yobe State. What distinguished Hassan from his age mates wasn’t the simple, normal desire to enlist in the university and pick a degree, no. What was rather unique with Hassan was his chivalry.
On Wednesday, 7th October, 2015 at the Muhammadu Buhari Housing Estate, Damaturu, Yobe State, Hassan had sensed that the individual standing next to him was a suicide bomber trying to kill people. Hassan must have told himself, like many of us that it was time to confront these callous, murderous individuals spreading death among the innocent. On this day, our 19-year old Hassan did the unthinkable: he challenged the suicide bomber. The bomber, determined to die with any other person that volunteered, held Hassan tightly and then detonated his bomb. He and Hassan instantly died.
This gory sight was witnessed by none other than Hassan’s father, Garba Babayo, who narrated his experience: “Early this (Wednesday) morning, we heard a heavy sound of a bomb and my son said he would go out and see what was happening. It was not long when I also followed. By the time I came out, I saw him wrestling and struggling with the suicide bomber. Everything just happened like in a speed of light and the bomb went off. When the bomb exploded, I saw my son in pieces with the suicide bomber. His head was cut off from his body. His leg was on another side and some of his parts were scattered on the street.”
Altogether on this day, 18 people were said to have been killed in multiple bomb blasts suspected to have been carried out by Boko Haram insurgents. More than ten other persons were also injured in continuing terror attacks perpetrated on innocent persons. In recent weeks, the insurgents have come under increasing military bombardment on land and air and so they are left with soft targets to avenge their losses.
Initially, we underestimated the Boko Haram insurgency. The Boko Haram evil is rooted particularly in Borno and Yobe States. It’s not a simple matter at all considering the international dimension it has taken. Boko Haram continues wanton destruction of human life and property not just in Nigeria but also in Chad, Cameroun and Niger. It’s amazing that despite the serious military action that has jointly been carried out against them in recent months by the countries mentioned above, members of the Boko Haram group still have the nerves to continue deadly bombings against the citizens of these countries.
This year has seen a lot of bloodletting by the insurgents. Last month, about 117 people were killed by suicide bombers in the outskirts of Maiduguri, just as another 48 persons were killed and 99 injured, all in the same state. Last weekend, they struck again in Dar village, in Madagali Local Government Area, where they killed 12 persons. The Nigeria Social Violence Dataset prepared by the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) puts the number of deaths at more than 11,100 since the escalation of Boko Haram activities in July 2009.
It’s doubtful if Boko Haram can be completely annihilated by the end of December as President Muhammadu Buhari directed. Every time there’s some lull in their murderous activities and you think their back has been broken, they come up with fresh new attacks against soft targets. Yes, the group’s ability to move in groups and take territory as they were doing in 2014 may be curtailed, but how do you stop a determined suicide bomber who dresses and behaves almost like everyone around? How do you check the murderous activity of an impressionable mind of teenage girls sold on the belief that they have a short cut to heaven if they are able to detonate bombs on the “enemy”?
They could be stopped in schools where pupils and staff are all registered and identifiable and their surroundings enclosed. But how do you stop a suicide bomber that stealthily comes to the market feigning to buy the same stuff you have come to buy? How do you stop a suicide bomber that comes to the mosque pretending to worship God like you, whereas his intention is to snuff life out of other worshippers when they put their foreheads to the ground? Perhaps, if the worshippers pray in turns and look after themselves, they can succeed against these wicked suicide bombers in smaller mosques but is it something you can replicate in bigger mosques that spill over with worshippers?
The de-radicalisation programme is also very vital in the drive to end Boko Haram terrorism. As long as the terrorists have access to our youths, they will continue to brainwash them to take up arms against citizens. We must take steps to educate and create employment for our youths in order to dissuade them from accepting the teachings of Boko Haram.
We should also herorise the courageous men and women, ala Hassan Mohammed Damagum, who identify and confront these suicide bombers trying to enter our schools, markets, mosques and motor parks with intent to kill, maim and destroy. For sacrificing his life to challenge a suicide bomber and preventing him from killing others at Muhammadu Buhari Estate, Damaturu, Yobe State, Hassan Mohammed Damagum, deserves our admiration as well as support for the loved ones he left behind.