I was not born during the years of the Nigeria-Biafra war but I am not sure that the Nigerian society had ever been more divided, distressed and disillusioned as it is today. The only visible strings connecting the strands of our social being are those of hostility, repudiation and violence.
Branded the ‘home of peace’ due to its hospitality and its people’s unique communal interactions, has now become a monster devoted to consuming its own.
This ugly descent to an almost unimaginable level of savagery was set off by the terror sect, known as Boko Haram. With its vicious display of bloodletting since 2009, the sect has ensured that the values that held society together have been brutally severed. The values, as they were, that exhorted the sacredness of life; of being your brother’s keeper; of patience; of love and tolerance and of the dignity of labour, have all been thrown to the dogs.
Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan, a third in a succession of non-soldier elected Presidents since 1965, seems overly optimistic about the fire power of his troops. The military had offered a full combatant response to the lingering terror activities by the Boko Haram, a position approved by the President, now bugged down by outright war against the terrorist band.
His last message to me came on April 1, 2013. I wish it were, but it was not an April fool’s message. Dear Mr Yawe, he wrote:
“After years of seeking ways and alternatives to working professionally and remaining with my family in Nigeria, I am afraid to report that I came recently to the conclusion that I have to flee. After my most recent expose on the scandal going in respect of purported ceasefire negotiated between government and Boko Haram, the danger to my life has escalated to new heights. I have had to go severely underground for several weeks leading to my final decision to flee Nigeria.”
The Conservations series with Abang Mercy spotlights a freelance Journalist, Ahmad Salkida who has extensively covered the sect.
He talks about his relationship with Boko Haram, ties with the late Leader, Mohammed Yusuf and how the Boko Haram sect have been more consistent with their message than the Federal Government
“The sect runs a council of leaders with the imam as the head. There is no second in command and there has never been.”
Sometime within the week, some shadowy character by the name Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulazees, who claims to hold a commanding position within the ranks of the dreaded insurgents, Boko Haram, announced what he called a ceasefire. He said he had sat with government officials in Borno State and had come to the conclusion that Muslims were also suffering under the sustained atmosphere of terror the sect had visited on residents of the state.
Just a few years ago, cross border trading used to account for a dominant part of the economy in Borno, and partly, in Yobe and Adamawa states in the north-east. The states’ defining outline landmarks are a significant part of Nigeria’s border with Cameroon, Niger and Chad Republics respectively.
Terror initiated bomb blasts from the Jama’atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda’Awati Wal Jihad sect in Nigeria otherwise known as the Boko Haram, may decline or escalate for any period of time but the indicators for overall peace may truly be far -fetched.
Growing up as a child in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State left me with vivid memories. There are clear memories of affinity, of love, of trust, of sharing and good neighbourliness. By the way, I was born a Christian, and raised as one. But I also had among my very closest friends, Muslims; and in no way was any sense of difference amongst us highlighted. The adopted official lingo of “home of peace” seemed very fitting.
Reporting terrorism is not different from reporting our normal, everyday news; news must be current and mean something to people though in different ways.
Terrorism means different things to different people as well. While others see acts of terrorism as a crime against humanity, some see it as a religious duty that offers martyr status to the perpetrators. In Nigeria, the concept of suicide bombings and armed robberies in the name of religion was initiated by the Jama’atu Ahl-Sunnati Lil Da’awati Wal Jihad, otherwise known as the Boko Haram, an Islamist sect in northern Nigeria. The impact and depth of their destruction to the institutions of government and public psychology is unparalleled and is at an increase.