It was with shock waves that tunning my Kchibo transistor radio last wednesday morning to listen to the usual Radio Nigeria Network news, only to receive the news from the headlines read out by Nura Mohaammed that, “Police impound 486 suspected terrorists in a Check-Point in Abia state travelling to Port-harcourt”.
Hearing this, I hurriedly jerked off my ragged mattress, caught hold of my little black radio, turned up the volume and waited for a detailed report on that captivating headline. “486 terrorists in the heart of the hinterland! Something is definitely wrong” I said to myself clutching my device and moving it around to get more signals.
After the customary commercials that punctuate the broadcasts, the details of that report came to the effect that the suspects were travelling in about 33 hummer-busses in what seemed to be like a convoy before they were impounded by the police and after series of interrogation about their destination, it appeared to the officers and men of the force that they have to be taken into detention for more investigation having regards to their controversial logistics of their journey and the fragile security in the country. To be honest, I hailed the move at once, for while we could afford to grapple with insecurity in the form of insurgency in the North-eastern part of the country and parts of North-central, a spill over into the hinterland could spell doom for the entire country. I quickly saw their taking into detention for interrogation as a pro-active effort and some sort of a stitch in time, to save us some nine.
However, picking up a copy of the DailyTrust publication of Thursday 19th june, 2014 at the vendor downtown, I was totally disappointed by the comments of Jama’atul Nasrul Islam (JNI) over the arrest of the ‘travellers’. To my greatest dismay, I couldn’t help but ask what business has JNI got to do with detained northerners in far away South Eastern Nigeria by security agencies doing their job of guaranteeing security of lives and properties? Should it not have been an issue or a matter for the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) to dabble into? No way. The JNI hurriedly out of, God knows what, turned the whole affair into a religious affair and expressed concern over what it called/describes as a repeated crackdown on innocent muslims in the name of Boko Haram.
In the words of the Secretary General of the respected religious organisation, Dr Khalid Abubakar Aliyu in an interview granted to DailyTrust last wednesday in Kaduna, JNI does not support acts of criminality, insurgency, violence or extremism.
Said he, ” we do not support acts of criminality, insurgency, violence or extremism. These acts stand condemned. But why the sudden arrest of innocent muslims, who go about their lawful business in their own country. Is it simply because of their identity as muslims?”. He concluded by putting forth a rhetorical question, “would it be healthy to set this type of precedence in Nigeria?”
Also reacting to the same issue, former military governor of Kaduna state, retired colonel Dangiwa Umar, also condemned the action saying it is capable of causing tension in Nigeria. Speaking to Journalists shortly after the said arrest of the ‘travellers’ cum alleged terrorists,he said the accusation against travellers was unfortunate and heart rending-He went further to say among other things that, “the arrest of migrant workers and traders in Abia state by security agents under the suspicion that they are members of Boko Haram sect is unfortunate, needless to say that stereotyping can lead to reprisal reactions nationwide particularly from the victim’s states.
I was near confoundment reading the man say, “Boko Haram do not travel in luxury busses with members of their family unarmed. As much as security agents want to prove that they are working hard, they should do so by focusing attention on the real Boko Haram which is causing havoc unchallenged in the North-eastern part of the country”. And one wonders, when did retired colnel Dangiwa become the transport co-ordinator of the murderous boko Haram sect to know that they do not travel in busses without arms? Have we not at several times been inundated with reports of arms cache concealed in various forms in transit from one region of the country to the other? Must insurgents travel with their arms and ammunitions along with them as though they are commissioned soldiers? So what point was the aged Dangiwa trying to make. Is it not even more disturbing being that this is coming from a respected Arewa voice? Who would avail me the answers to this posers?
Also speaking on the same matter, the vocal president of the Civil Rights Congress (CRC), Alhaji Shehu Sani and who have different times shown apologetic tendencies to the murderous sect, said the war against terrorism must not be an excuse for a selective cruelty and intimidation of a people from a section of the country. In an attempt to sound somewhat logical, he concluded by saying, “Being a Kanuri, Hausa or Fulani man does not in any way mean association or sympathy for the Boko Haram sect, the same way being an Igbo man does in no way mean association or sympathy for MASSOB.
Aside the undue ethnoreligious sentiments evident in the foregoing comments, I’ve also had cause to question the locus of the commentators on this storm-gathering subject. To start with, JNI is a religious organisation, responsible for rallying muslims around the Faith and organising other religious events with prospects of drawing adherents of the Islamic religion closer to the Faith. While most of these so-called travellers currently in the middle of the morass may be muslims if not all, is it enough for such a respected body to make such dividing remarks which has ugly vistas of leading to a sectarian violence across the country? What business has JNI got to do with politics? Or is it also trying to tow the line of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) which many have labelled the religious arm of the ruling PDP? Such a comment must be unbecoming of it. Ordinarily, I had expected such a defence to come from the renowned Northern Tink-tank organisation-Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) as they have more vestiges or traces of a socio-political interest and an Arewa agenda. Why then did the JNI chose to dip their hands into a pie that obviously isn’t theirs to chew? Does doing so, not send some feelers of unwritten endorsement of the activities of the murderous Boko Haram sect? Alhaji Khalid Aliyu, JNI ronu!
Going further, when did it become the duty of JNI to advise our military (that have won laurels both at home and abroad but for the current security glitch dogging stellar performance) on how to carry about the job they spent years of training into? Such an act for us, is utterly disturbing and they must desist from such controversial remarks in the future.
For Shehu Sani and Retired colonel Dangiwa, who wearing the garb of National interest are quick to warn that the impounding of Northern ‘travellers’ may lead to reprisals from the victim’s states of origin, does it not occur to them that those responsible for the arrest of the 486 “business tycoons” are the military and not the locals in Abia state. Were they have been seized by youths in Abia state, they would have a good case of a possible reprisal in the northern part of the country, but since the ‘Tony Elumelus and Jim Ovias’ numbering about 486 and having less than a thousand naira on them were apprehended by security agencies paid with Tax payers money, we hereby in our ‘court’ strike our their case for lack of basis and describe their actions as a poster-card of crying wolf when there is none. ONU’KWUBE!
When did Dangiwa and Shehu Sani become the spokesmen of Arewa? Does it ever beat them that were it in saner climes, their comments are enough to secure them a place behind bars for making statements that have the temerity of inciting one section of the country over another thereby disrupting the relative peace enjoyed and before long, send us the way of Central Africa Republic that has been a theatre of sectarian crisis for months now. May God save us from ourselves and more from the Shehu Sanis and Dangiwas of this world.
While I have at several times frowned against the ceaseless stereotyping of Northerners in the eastern part of the country lawfully carrying on with their business as Boko Haram, I cannot, no should any sane individual trivialise and allow to carry on, 486 individuals mostly youths travelling in a convoy of 33 busses and having less than a thousand naira on them with a good majority of them having no identity cards nor knowing where they are headed to. In such an exceptionally rare scenario, will a trained security outfit worth its salt not apprehend/impound such a conglomeration of men/women to know who they are, on whose errand they are? Why the collective destination? How they were able to travel in such a convoy as though they are a community of men, moving the corpse of their deceased member for burial besides his ancestors in his country home. Even more worrying is the juxtaposition with the with our current volatile and fragile security situation.
So why the bickering by JNI and their coterie of religious extremists over display of professionalism by the military we love to hate and hate to love? Should we also lampoon them for trying to be on the top of their game by ‘shooting’ at the slightest ‘kurukere’ movement? What exactly do we want?
Now that news have filtered in that about 86 out of that humonguous number screened so far are terrorists including a Kingpin of the Boko Haram sect who has been on the watch-list of the DSS, does it not put a huge question mark on the claims of the detainees or does it not defeat the veracity of their predictable defence as the pushers and shakers of the Eastern Economy, otherwise business moguls? What sort of traders travel with with insurgents for long kilometres? Other questions begging for answers include: were they travelling in commercial vehicles? If yes, what Transport company? And if no, who procured the busses they travelled in? From where did they embark on the journey? What day? At about what time? Was there a passenger manifest? How come they all managed to be in a particular bus without other passengers of different ethnicity?
As a legal mind, I’m concerned and disturbed about the infringement on the fundamental rights of Liberty of the detainees, but given the height of what we are up against in a nation fastly racing to become a backyard of terrorism in sub-saharan Africa, we cannot afford to leave anything to chance. The end should justify the means. We must be eagle-eyed and accordingly question anything that doesn’t seem to conform to normal practice irrespective of whose ox is gored for not doing so, will put us in similar footing with a man who allowed into his house ant-infested firewood, and later on complain of termites in the same way the ones we allowed a decade ago to infiltrate the Northeastern corridor continue to chew us remoreselessly ONU’KWUBE!
In a fight against terrorism of this magnitude, everybody is a suspect. You, I,him, her, we, them e.tc because terrorism is always begging for footsoldiers to carry her guns and unleash a reign of terror and she gets that no other place than from the general population. Terrorism is whirlwind that blows no one any good. Therefore there are no sacred cows as terrorism knows no tribe, race, colour or religion in her carnage. We must mutually suspect each other as that it some of what it takes to guarantee a serene environment devoid of explosions and blood-letting that questions our humanity.
The military should be allowed to do its job with little or no interferences, it is immaterial, whose feather gets ruffled. What is more? In the final analysis, we are out to save Nigeria. ONU’KWUBE
The writer is a Law student in one of Nigeria’s leading universities. He shares some of his thoughts on twitter @RayNkah, firstname.lastname@example.org