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A strange week of national shame and glory

This has been a strange week. Strange even by Nigerian standards. There has been the regular drama, like the Bishops of the Unveiling, which has…

This has been a strange week. Strange even by Nigerian standards. There has been the regular drama, like the Bishops of the Unveiling, which has been talked about enough I think, and Nollywood vs Church scandal revolving around Apostle Suleman’s rumoured amorous shenanigans with several actresses. This has been topped by a convergence of roaring national pride and monumental national despair, all within the space of a week.

It is a week that proved yet again that it takes very little to please Nigerians. Give Nigerians the little things, like stable electricity for a while, a year without fuel scarcity or something equally trivial that is standard service elsewhere and they will carry on with their business, their owambes and ululations.

It would be misleading to ask why can’t our leaders see this and give us these little things but the truth is they know. It is this knowledge that has kept them in power overseeing one disaster after another, while the masses remain subjugated. When our outrage becomes too irksome, they throw crumbs and go back to business as usual while Nigerians carry on with theirs.

In what has proven to be a chaotic and traumatic week for Nigerians, one incident was almost enough to restore gushing national pride. A Nigerian woman, who reportedly borrowed the Greek God Hermes’ winged sandal, according to bad belle oyibos, ran faster than any woman ever has over the course of 100 metres, with hurdles. Twice in one day.

Yet while Tobi Amusan was running her heart out in Nigeria’s colours, so fast she rekindled the flame of national pride, a coalition of terrorists and monumental insouciance conspired to embarrass the country.

First, Boko Haram or ISWAP or whatever nomenclature they go by these days decided to dehumanise the Nigerians they abducted from the Abuja-Kaduna train in March by holding a mass flogging session. They recorded this dehumanising act on camera and decided to share it with the world to prove what point?

Well, I think they are behaving like the attention-seeking serial killers who commit a crime and then take offence that their crime has been paid no heed, as we have seen in American crime documentaries. I mean, it’s not like Nigeria did not notice that dozens of passengers including women and children were kidnapped from that train in March, it’s just that those running the affairs of the country don’t bother. (If they do, well, honestly, we haven’t seen any sign of it. The government has neither directly nor indirectly addressed these kidnappings or addressed the country on what it is doing to get the victims back or even prevent future occurrence.) So, these terrorists decided well, what the heck, let’s attack the Kuje Custodial Centre and free some really dangerous criminals. They pulled that off on the day they also attacked a presidential convoy and somehow managed to irritate the president enough to say he was disappointed in his intelligence service (headed by a man who retired a generation ago and was recalled by the president) and that he was expecting a full report from these services. So far, nothing has changed weeks after these incidents. The terrorists got tired of waiting for some action and decided to vent their frustration on the hapless victims, beating the living daylights out of women and children to drive what message exactly? That they are going to kidnap the president, senators and the governor, specifically of Kaduna State.

Have they got the attention they wanted now?

I am not sure because this same week, the ministry of education ordered the immediate closure of schools in the capital over reports that terrorists have threatened to abduct school children. If there were any doubts about these threats, the night before, terrorists skulking around the Nigerian Law School in Bwari, Abuja, ambushed and killed three soldiers of the Presidential Guards Brigade, including a captain. So now we know, if we don’t already, that these undesirable elements are in the capital and with the attack on Kuje and Bwari, have demonstrated to this government their capacity to strike the capital.

So what is new about this? Well, aside from the fact that they have struck before, often cowardly bombings of soft targets, with the exception of the force headquarters in the past, even those like us who are not in the intelligence services have known for months that terrorists have set up camps around the capital, in Kuje, some parts of Nasarawa and Kogi states, ringing the FCT. How did we know? Because it is not rocket science. Everyone knew. People living in these areas saw things and said things. Newspapers carried and published reports. These things were public knowledge. Did the intelligence services investigate these reports, if they didn’t know already? Did the Nigerian state act to intercept these terrorists, destroy their camps and secure the country and its capital?

Then the Kaduna train strike happened. Kuje happened. Buhari’s convoy happened. And Bwari happened. And now FCT schools are forced to close out of fear.

In the last few years, hundreds of gallant soldiers (May God rest their souls and comfort their families) have been forced into avoidable sacrifices when they were thrown into battlefields with poor coordination and poor equipment. Others have fought valiantly to keep an increasingly shrinking line of safety for the rest of us. Thousands have been trained as Special Forces, to help with special operations, to precisely strike these terrorists. Yet while the poor victims of the Abuja-Kaduna train abductions were being flogged within an inch of their lives, a video emerged of some Nigerian Special Forces conducting a special operation of a bizarre kind. They were killing a wounded hippo in the wild, pumping round upon rounds of ammunition into the poor animal and chanting: Meat! Meat! Meat! like some famished cavemen. It was painful to watch an endangered species being needlessly murdered by those who should know better. It is even more embarrassing to see trained professionals whose services are desperately needed by Nigerians behaving like wildlings. Never trust an army that doesn’t have the discernment to save the things that need saving.

In the recent attacks and humiliation of Nigerians and our military by these terrorists in the South East and the North what has been astonishing is the total lack of response from the military. No response to the Kaduna train attack, none to the Kuje Custodial Centre attack, none to the Bwari incident and now that terrorists have coughed, Nigerians have to scurry to their burrows in what is clearly an admission of this government’s incapacity to protect lives.

Yet, as Tobi Amusan, God bless her, is running and flying the Nigerian flag high and restoring national pride, President Buhari, who has suffered the ignominy of having his convoy attacked by terrorists and being threatened with abduction by these same ruffians, without any reaction from the country or his security forces of which he is commander-in-chief, is travelling yet again away from this country under fire to deliver a lecture on security in Liberia. The irony of it. As Dr Adamu Tilde said in a Facebook comment, ‘There was a general.’

It is a thing of pride to see Amusan conquering the world. It is painful to see Nigerians being beaten like our enslaved ancestors were beaten. May God never show us the day the president or any of the people representing this country will be abducted and beaten like that by these criminals.

This has been a strange week I tell you. A strange one indeed.