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Column No.6: When terrorists come bearing gifts

When I happened upon news of terror group Ansaru carrying out “outreach” activities and distribution of “Sallah gifts” in parts of Kaduna State, to be…

When I happened upon news of terror group Ansaru carrying out “outreach” activities and distribution of “Sallah gifts” in parts of Kaduna State, to be honest, I was not even slightly surprised, talk less of being shocked. In fact, the people who expressed shock shocked me. I mean, the signs have always been there, in glaring daylight for all who care to notice. And that is the exact problem, as it is with many other national plagues of ours: Only those who care to see it see it. And like we all know, there’s a serious shortage of such individuals.

Ansaru, a splinter group of Boko Haram known for the bloodlust of its members, has been operating in villages scattered around Birnin Gwari in Kaduna, operating multiple camps of heavily-armed terrorists. Just last Wednesday, it was reported that members of the group besieged almost 10 villages in a recruitment drive that has been described as “clandestine”, being that it is cloaked with faux altruism or what we it is a murderous group of terrorists carrying out PR campaigns can be called. 

Laughable yet deeply worrisome is the revelation that the terrorists distributed Sallah gifts in the form of biscuits and candy, distributed pamphlets, flash disks and other accessories holding info on their activities (I would have wondered if they included the number of people they’ve killed so far, but that would be a massive digression). They even performed motorcycle stunts to the delight of villagers, for God’s sake. They obviously did not give a hoot about consequences because the felt there would be none.

This development is a deeply disturbing one. Those who should care to see in order to do what needs to be done to address the problem are either distracted by frivolities, or are busy chasing their own tails in the name of political campaigns or my recent personal favourite buzzword of Nigerian politicians, “strategizing”. These people won’t be able to recognize strategy, even if it bit them on their buttocks. But I digress.

The implications of Ansaru doing “outreach” of any kind goes beyond the usual grammar-laden navel-gazing of terrorism experts and pundits, and lands smack on a more obvious, practical conclusion. The murderous group is getting more and more comfortable, to the point that they are carrying out activities to win the hearts and minds of vulnerable citizens in far-flung and even shockingly close areas of one of the most important states in Nigeria.

But instead of jumping on that problem head-on, it’s announcement after announcement of crazily-priced presidential nomination forms that populate our news feeds and Whatsapp groups. If it were only tiresome, it would be better. It actually is sickening.

Also on the list of priorities of people who should be working to solve the problem, is optics. Announcements across the media that the train tracks destroyed by the monsters who carried out the Abuja-Kaduna train attack have been fixed are being given so much attention, like that is supposed to calm our fears and make us feel safer. I, for one, am not getting on any train as it is right now. If they like, let them fix titanium rails, it won’t work for me. The last thing anyone wants to be is the second course in an all-you-can-eat serve-yourself buffet for bloodthirsty terrorists.

Don’t forget the ridiculously audacious and gruesome murder of two serving soldiers of the Nigerian Army murdered by “unknown gunmen”. Apart from a tepid press release, nothing concrete has been done, considering that the female soldier was assaulted by the murderous group which is said to be the rapidly spawning IPOB. Yet people who should pay attention to taking care of these problems are busy politicking.

It is not that they do not know what to do, it is simply that they do not care to even think about it. To call our political class ostriches with heads in the sand would be an insult to ostriches. The birds at least have the excuse of being birds, and with a tiny brain. What’s our excuse? And will we even be able to table it when the tide of mindless violence hits us, or our loved ones? I’m sure there won’t be answers to any of my questions, ours being the only nation on earth where terrorists have the leeway to join society while bearing gifts.

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