Centenary Celebrations And The Souls Of The Slaughtered, By Femi Fani-Kayode
On February 26, 2014 one Mr. Adegoroye wrote: “Only an insane government will be celebrating centenary while the youths, women, children and citizens are being killed daily in cold blood. Rather than mourn the dead, we want to celebrate one hundred years of a failed state ruled by a failed and cursed generation. This country (Nigeria) needs more than just prayers if the government will be unable, for just twenty four hours, to protect the citizens. Who says we don’t have a war situation in Nigeria? Oh! Families of the pained and the dead should celebrate too? Why not invite them all to Abuja to come and dance and entertain you? Shame has only one definition – shame!”.
These are deep and powerful words and the rage, frustration and despair that fuels them reflects the thinking of many. Mr. Joseph Tobi Daniel drove home the point when, on the same day, he used his twitter handle to ask “what kind of leader focuses on a centenary celebration when the souls of slaughtered children are crying out for justice?”
Millions of Nigerians would like an answer to that question and they were utterly appalled as they watched our President glibly delivering his centenary broadcast speech on national television the night of February 25 where he extolled the so-called virtues of 100 years of our national existence. And as he spoke, more innocent people were being slaughtered. Yet the concerns did not stop there.
My friend and brother Mr. Azubike Ishiekwene, who is undoubtedly one of the most formidable and compelling columnists in our country today, spoke the mind of virtually every self-respecting and civilised Nigerian when, after watching the obscenity that was called the centenary ball on NTA on the night of 27th February 2014, he wrote: ”I can’t believe that President Goodluck Jonathan and co are having a centenary ball, literally dancing on the graves of over 50 innocent children murdered by Boko Haram. I can’t believe it. I’m bereft”. Azu got it absolutely right. As a matter of fact so shocked and disgusted was yours truly that the centenary ball actually went ahead barely three days after the mass murder of those innocent souls that I couldn’t even bear to watch it on television. We are in trouble in this country and our nation clearly needs deliverance.
The war against terror is raging and we appear to be losing it. Hundreds of people are being killed on a regular basis and it appears that no-one really ”gives a damn”. The bowels of our compassion have run dry and we no longer shudder or shed a tear when we hear that hundreds of our citizens have been butchered in one go by Boko Haram. We are just not interested anymore and as long as it does not affect any member of our immediate family the best we can do is to shake our heads and whisper ”what a pity”. We feel no empathy with the victims and neither is there any sense of outrage. We simply feel numb for a few seconds and after that we couldn’t care less.
Yet the truth is that the minute we become so dehumanised and so insensitive that we stop caring about those that are being slaughtered then we may as well give up hope and conclude that life is no longer worth living. The minute we begin to regard those that are being butchered on a daily basis as nothing but distant numbers we may as well stop regarding ourselves as human beings and instead we ought to describe ourselves as a colony of beasts or a nation of vampires.
The minute we stop caring about what is going on in the north and we no longer feel that it is necessary to honour the dead or to protect the living, we are no longer worthy of life. It is for this reason that I believe it is necessary to once again remind my compatriots about what is happening in some parts of northern Nigeria today and to remind them again about the sheer havoc that Boko Haram is unleashing on our people. They are indeed an affliction for which there appears to be no cure. Please consider the following:
On 1st March 2014, in the heart of Maiduguri the capital of Borno state, Boko Haram detonated two massive bombs slaughtering 100 innocent Nigerians including women and children.
On 26th February 2014 in Madagali and Michika Local Government Areas of Adamawa state three communities were attacked and 37 innocent Nigerians were slaughtered by Boko Haram. They also attacked some banks and police stations and burnt them to the ground. There are witnesses who reported sighting the large number of well-armed insurgents in their Hillux vans our soldiers fled the scene and ran into the safety of the bush to hide.
On the night of the 24th February, 2014 at Federal Government College Buni in Yadi, Yobe state 59 innocent school children were slaughtered by Boko Haram in the middle of the night in their dormitories as they slept.
On 23rd February 2014 in Malari and Izge villages, Borno state 12 innocent Nigerians were slaughtered by Boko Haram and both villages were levelled. On 19th February 2014 in the town of Bama, Borno state 91 innocent Nigerians were slaughtered by Boko Haram. Again on 19th February 2014 Boko Haram attacked the Buratai, Borno state country home of the Commander of the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta Area, Major General Tukur Buratai, and they killed one soldier.
On 17th February 2014 in Galga village, Gombi Local Government Area, Adamawa state 11 innocent Nigerians were slaughtered by Boko Haram. On 16th February 2014 again in Izge village, Borno state 90 innocent Nigerians were slaughtered by Boko Haram. On 15th February 2014 in Baga village, Borno state 10 innocent Nigerians were slaughtered by Boko Haram. On 12th February 2014 in Borno state 60 innocent Nigerians were slaughtered by Boko Haram and 24 young girls were abducted and carted off without any trace.
On January 27th 2014 in Adamawa and Borno states respectively 70 innocent Nigerians were slaughtered by Boko Haram in a series of attacks. On January 14th 2014 in the heart of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, no less than 50 innocent Nigerians were slaughtered by Boko Haram in a suicide bomb attack. Not too long before then Boko Haram attacked an army barracks in Borno state, killed 200 soldiers, carted off the wives and children of our military personnel and burnt the barracks to the ground. The soldiers were later buried in mass graves.
A few weeks prior to that, numerous schools were attacked and hundreds of our children were either shot to death, hacked to pieces or had their throats cut and blood drained. Consequently many schools have been closed down in Borno and Yobe states respectively. A few weeks back no less than 160 of our soldiers were killed by Boko Haram in one skirmish simply because they ran out of bullets.
In June 2013 at Government College Secondry School, Damatru, Yobe state 8 young students and one teacher were slaughtered by Boko Haram. On July 6th 2013 at the Government Secondry School, Mamudo, Yobe state 41 young students and one teacher were slaughtered by Boko Haram. On September 29th 2013 at the College Of Agriculture, Gubja, Yobe state 44 students and a number of teachers were slaughtered by Boko Haram. On the night of April 19th 2013 till the early hours of April 20th at Baga town in Borno state 228 people, including women and children, were slaughtered by Boko Haram. On March 8th 2010 in Dogo Nahawa, Plateau state 500 villagers, including women and children, were slaughtered by affiliates and associates of Boko Haram. There were many other attacks on churches, markets, motor parks and schools in various parts of the north including Kano state, Niger state, Abuja, Kogi state and others between 2009 and 2014. In each of these attacks many women and children were killed. The situation seems to have degenerated even further today with vast areas of the Nigerian state in the north-east literally being overwhelmed by the terrorists and insurgents even though there is a state of emergency in place there.
Worst still it has been generally acknowledged that the Boko Haram fighters are better equipped and better supplied than our soldiers. The beleaguered Governor of Borno state himself, my friend and brother Alhaji Kashim Shettima, sent out an S.O.S to Nigerians last week when he told journalists at the Presidential Villa in Abuja that ”Nigeria is at war. The Boko Haram insurgents are better equipped than the Nigerian military. We need more equipment and more troops”.
President Goodluck Jonathan responded to the governor’s concerns during his Presidential Media chat on 24th Feb. 2014 by saying the following- “Boko Haram is not easy to fight. If the Governor of Borno feels the military are that useless against Boko Haram I can pull out the military for one month and see what happens there and after I can send the military back to take charge. The Governor should be sensitive in his choice of words. It’s unfortunate”.
Clearly we are in trouble. The Governor of Borno state is asking for more help and more troops from the Federal Government because hundreds more of his people are being killed and abducted EVERYDAY by Boko Haram and this is the best response our President can give to him? Are those being slaughtered and abducted not Nigerians? Would this have been his response if those being killed on a daily basis were his own ijaw people?
Finally no less than 130 churches were burnt down in Borno state in 2013 alone and the Catholic Church alone lost 53 churches out of that figure. This genocidal pattern of behaviour and cycle of butchery by Boko Haram is systemic and has been recurrent and regular for the last three years. All in all Nigeria has lost almost 8000 innocent civilians to Boko Haram in the last three years and that includes women and children. It does not however include the vast number of women that have been captured and kidnapped by them and that are now being used as sex-slaves.
President George W. Bush once said: “I believe the most solemn duty of the American President is to protect the American people.” How right he is and clearly President Goodluck Jonathan has much to learn from that. .
The truth is that we as a people have lost all sense of compassion and decency when it comes to such matters and our feelings and consciences have become seared. To majority of Nigerians those precious souls and compatriots that have been killed by Boko Haram over the last three years are just a number- they are nothing but distant names, from a distant place, belonging to distant figures. There is simply no sense of national outrage from our people about this insidious rebellion and about these brutal killings and vicious attacks and neither is their any sense of urgency on the part of our government to bring them to an end.
Given the way we conduct ourselves, one would not have thought that Nigeria is currently enmeshed in the most brutal war against terror in its entire history. Yet as we go on with our day to day business and act as if all is well, thousands are being killed in the north-eastern part of our country by Boko Haram. There can be no greater evidence of man’s inhumanity to man when one considers our attitude. Such inhumanity and insensitivity to the plight of others has taken firm root in the Nigeria of today.
What a monumental tragedy this is. When did we, as a people, degenerate to this abysmal level of lack of empathy and when did we stop becoming our brother’s keeper? As millions of Nigerians ”celebrate” our one hundred years of national unity I hope that they find it in their hearts to spare a thought and say a little prayer for those whose loved ones are not with them today simply because they have been murdered or kidnapped by Boko Haram. May God heal their wounds and have mercy on them even as we grieve with them. And may God forgive our President and the majority of the Nigerian people for simply ”not giving a damn” about their sad and unfortunate plight.
There is no question in my mind that Nigeria is presently being governed by vile and evil men. These are cowardly men that are being guided by satan, that have no fear of God and that are more interested in persecuting the innocent and attempting to intimidate the opposition than in providing good and accountable government, protecting the lives of our citizens or fighting the war against terror. We have become a nation of vampires that is being run by a vampire President who feels no pain and who harbours no remorse when the blood of children is shed and when the lives of the innocent are cut short.
Permit me to end this contribution with two parting shots. The first is from the government of the United States of America who have said that ”Boko Haram is the second most dangerous terrorist organisation globally”. The report says “apart from the Taliban in Afghanistan, Boko Haram in Nigeria recorded the highest number of terror attacks last year whilst Boko Haram killed the second highest number of people”. The statistical report called ‘START’ which was conducted by the University of Maryland for the American government on global terrorism in 2012 revealed that ”while the Taliban killed 1,842 people in 525 terror attacks last year, and came tops on the infamous ranking, Boko Haram came second, killing 1,132 in 364 terror attacks. Both the Taliban and Boko Haram have killed more than Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Maoists in India, Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, rolled into one.”- United States Government, June 11, 2013. This is indeed food for thought.
The second parting shot is a chilling and insightful contribution from Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa state who is a man that has proved to be far more discerning and forthright than most when it comes to this matter. Barely 24 hours after 37 innocent people were butchered by the terrorists in his state he asked the following pertinent questions. ”In Buni-Yadi, Yobe state, the soldiers withdrew from checkpoints hours to the attack. Who ordered the withdrawal? In Shuwa and Michika, soldiers withdrew and shortly after that Boko Haram attacked. Who ordered the withdrawals? We also have the case of General Mohammed Shuwa (who was killed) in Maiduguri by the so-called Boko Haram. There is an army unit there but they didn’t respond during the attack. Who told them not to respond? The Airforce Base was raided in Maiduguri. There was a military base nearby. Who gave the base the order not to respond during the raid on the airforce base? Either this thing is controlled by unknown fellows or an unknown Boko Haram strategic commander who is in the defence system or are things being staged managed?”
Needless to say these questions need to be answered. Barely 24 hours after after he made these insightful comments and asked these pertinent questions Governor Nyako was shot at by unkown gunmen in Borno state. May God help us all.
Mr. Fani-Kayode is a former Minister of Aviation. He writes a weekly column for PREMIUM TIMES.