Let’s face it; Nigeria can’t, and is structurally unfit to, fight terrorism. A people who cannot run a democracy long thirsted for are only qualified to be the yes-men of colonial governments, which is what the so-called heroes of our past had done, for which they even earned their Queen’s medals, long before we realised that the foundations that hold our mud-built nationhood is badly done—bad is not irreparable. But how reparable are our security lapses, since the coming of the militants? Amnesty, yes amnesty I agree, is the easiest way to hamper our exploding mortality rate.
As I reflected on the state of our despair in the rough hands of Boko Haram insurgents, especially the killings in Baga town in northern Borno when two elephants, the task force and the terrorists, fought, I was attracted to the misadventures of the Nigerian journalist Ahmad Salkida. He remains the only Nigerian reporter, as far as I know, who has reported extensively on the psyche and ideology and militancy of the sect. In a sane country, with brains for security and intelligence, our bogus security votes may be invested in this journalist. Unfortunately, Nigeria couldn’t protect him, hence he fled the country. Just like that!
Of course, I too wouldn’t have given exile a second thought if I were in his dilemma. 185 citizens killed and our world is still the same. NTA is still airing pro-government propagandas only the imbecile watch. The Nasir El-Rufais are still tweeting some useless budget statistics to their ego-massaging crowds. And the Dino Melayes, drama queens, are still screaming that assassins had come for them and that everybody is just their antagonist. And the Femi Fani-Kayodes are still writing some poems of the semi-literate and bragging over these intellectual delusions. And the activists of past student unionism days are here boasting over who spent the most days in General Babangida’s prison. These are the activists who have chosen to fight for these people, yet all they could offer are tweets and status updates. None makes an attempt to ensure media coverage and exacting of the massacres; none bothers to really task the government with upholding the sanctity of our lives; and, perhaps, none bothers to call the attention of international human rights bodies, which is what we are good at, to Baga; just a few taps on keyboards and keypads from their air-conditioned rooms and offices… dazall! Their brand of activism is only to tweet an insult on the presidency and how their absence in this cabinet, whereas they were no better in their days, seems to be a loss. How we embrace their Out-of-Office syndrome as solidarity with our kind I don’t know!
Ahmad Salkida’s latest interview with blogger Abang Mercy takes us on a soul-depressing journey down the precipice of a misfortune initiated by an armed circus that calls itself Nigerian security organisation. The uncontrollable storm that is now Boko Haram militancy was, according to Salkida, born with the killing of Mohammed Yusuf, leader of the sect, alongside “hundreds of sect members and other innocent bystanders” under a seeming conspiracy championed by the then Governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff, and taken over by the Federal Government. “I guess that crisis in July 2009 was never meant to be prevented by the government of President Umar Yar’adua,” says Salkida, who also says he had unrestricted access to Mohammed Yusuf and was even to meet him on the day he was executed but for unjustified detention by agents of our security circus. That was the beginning of a war for which the sect reacted the wrong way, with reckless monstrosity; the killings of innocent Nigerians, churchgoers, social development workers, dissenting Muslims and other non-aligned citizens, all in retaliation of the extra-judicial killings of their leader and members. They have carried out evils which have outdone the jackboot attempts by the Federal Government to stamp them out. I think the Nigerian security circus must be regretting the unfortunate day they provoked a downpour whereas they had no umbrellas. The rain, however, has beaten us enough, and, yes, we need to find a way to resolve our differences and unscrew the lids off our egos. You can never fight a man who is ready to die! It is a good thing that the Federal Government hides its inability to crush who it earlier branded “ghosts” under a bogus amnesty. But is Boko Haram being approached the right way? Hear Abang Mercy and Ahmad Salkida:
Abang: Do you agree for Amnesty to Boko Haram as proposed by some politicians and religious leaders?
Salkida: If you read my last interviews with Abul Qaqa, he has always said that if amnesty means forgiveness then they are the ones that should forgive government for the wrong done to them in 2009. According to them many Nigerians don’t see what they undergo instead it is only what they do that is easily shown in the media. And I think issues as sensitive as amnesty suppose to have been tabled first through a trusted mediator who has access to the leadership of the sect before you take it to the media. The sect as I understand heard about the amnesty on the pages of newspapers. Abang, how would you feel if you heard about your marriage proposition with a man from a third party and not from the man? I think you will feel irritated at best.
These past years I have been struggling to really understand the brand of marijuana smoked by the occupants of Aso Rock. Everything from them has been flawed and logically dumb, from their proposed (sorry, partial) removal of fuel subsidy to the imposition of Cassava Bread project on uninterested citizens. How can anyone organise a wedding fanfare without the consent of the groom—which in this scary case is Boko Haram?
While it’s morally impossible for me to sympathise with Boko Haram, counting the deaths it recorded in its rash of retaliation, we must remind the members of our security circus to be wary of the manner they kill innocent citizens. Extra-judicial killings, and the enjoyed impunity, are the reasons we are in this mess. This is not the time for expressive prose; this is the time to resist having our intelligences turned into volley balls. First, which Boko Haram is the government offering amnesty? Second, Ahmad Salkida has declared that any other, including the so-called Abdulaziz’s, aside from Mallam Shekau-led group is a fraud. Third, if the government proposes a genuine amnesty, what happened in Baga? Fourth, if Boko Haram was in the know of amnesty, and has agreed to be part of it, we need an explanation for the Baga massacre!
I feel that Ahmad Salkida knows more than he can ever express in an interview. And being a victim of our police/military brutalities, it’s understandable that he does not trust our gun-toting men anymore. So long as the soldiers and the policemen treat every innocent citizen as suspects and those killed as collateral damages, for so long is our fight against terrorism lost. The boy who lost his mother is already an enemy of the state, and his aunties and sisters his supporters. That is what ill-planned counter-terrorism showoffs cause. Let whoever labels Ahmad Salkida a Boko Haram member do so, but this mess can only be redeemed by the Ahmad Salkidas, not by a Cabal tasked with doing what they are good at—arguing in air-conditioned conference rooms and hiring small boys like us to ghostwrite their exchanges of “exotic” grammars. May God save us from us!
By Gimba Kakanda
Blueprint Newspapers (26/04/2013)
@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)