“…In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future.
When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations”.
—Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn
I will never understand how this Boko Haram phenomenon got this far. Sometimes when I read about their atrocities, I pinch myself to be sure that this is still the same Nigeria where I grew up. Things have really gone out of hand in this country.
Incredible things have started to happen here. One of them is the total lack of respect for the aged. Things weren’t like this. In the days when I grew up, no one would dare harm the elderly. We all wanted to advance in age and we imagined that anyone who wanted to grow old would not disregard, let alone, do harm to an elderly person.
This was more so in the north where religious, monarchical and patriarchal authorities were almost incontestable. But all that has evaporated before our very eyes.
Just a few hours before I started writing this, Nigeria’s one time Minister of Mine and Power, Dr. Shettima Ali Monguno, was kidnapped in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. I found that as unbelievable as I found it disheartening, a telling sign of how fast we are plunging into the abyss. Ali Monguno is not just an extremely old man of 92 years, he was returning from Jumat service where he had gone to worship God. Those are two immutable reasons why no one should have contemplated snatching the old man, but I guess I live in ancient times. Things have so terribly changed that we can barely recognise ourselves again.
But maybe we needed to get here. For years now, Boko Haram insurgents have terminated the lives of thousands in a variety of violent ways. Some were slaughtered, some were bombed, some were shot, some were burnt alive. And sex or age did not matter. Men were killed; women were killed, so were children; these killers discriminated against nobody.
Although statistics will very likely show that more Christians and southerners, especially people from the South-Eastern part of the country have died in the hands of these godless human beings, there were times that they didn’t care where the people they were killing came from or what faith they professed. They killed in churches as they killed in mosques. They killed in restaurants and drinking joints, they killed in market places and on the streets, places where one would never be able to say who was who.
It was like they were possessed by the demon of destruction. At the last count, no fewer than 3,000 people, as the Human Rights Watch claims, had lost their lives in the hands of these misguided elements.
Yet, not one concerted effort at putting an end to this unfortunate menace has come from elders and leaders of the Northern stock. We are talking about a North which produced the current second, third and fourth citizens of the country. I mean the Vice-President, the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives. A Northern Nigeria which parades the likes of the Sultan of Sokoto, the Emir of Kano and Shehu of Bornu, the Emir of Zauzau and so many heavy weight traditional cum religious leaders. We are talking about a region which produced former leaders such as Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and Gen. Abdulasalami Abubakar, all of who are still alive.
A region with countless elder statesmen and politicians, 19 state governors, God knows how many intellectuals in the various fields; federal cabinet ministers, chairmen of boards and government parastatals; local government chairmen and so on and so forth. All these people, even the big shots in government, do nothing but call on government to put an end to the killings.
The failure of these respected leaders to intervene in the insecurity that has taken over the North-East, parts of the North-West and North-Central of Nigeria has always bothered me. Not even attacks on the Governor of Niger State, the Shehu of Bornu, Emir of Fika and the Emir of Kano triggered the patriotic alarm in these leaders. I have concluded that there must either be some conspiracy at work or the North is not as united and homogeneous as we believed in those days.
We were told about a few mafia groups in the North and that whenever these groups got together and took a decision, the North fell in line. The last few years indicate that this either existed in the imagination of some people or the North is up to some grand conspiracy.
Oh well, I remember the recent blackmail of the President into considering amnesty for the terrorists. And in spite of how bitter that tasted in my mouth, I thought these leaders were at last standing up to the situation, only for me to hear the rejection of any amnesty by the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, as he indeed boasted that it was the Federal Government that should seek amnesty from the group. That shocked me to the bones.
Does it mean that those who canvassed for amnesty did not even talk to the intended beneficiaries before they started harassing government? Did they just assume that amnesty would work for Boko Haram insurgents? Shouldn’t these Northern elders, including governors have come together to arrest the attack on the total psyche of the North all these years?
In my opinion, it is the failure on the part of all these leaders that has brought us to where we are now. Now, the chickens are coming home to roost.
These criminals have moved from killing the common man to attempts on the lives and kidnap of high class target. Suddenly, no one has a hiding place, not the poor, not the rich, not the young, not the old; we are all at the mercy of these cheap crooks. We are all victims.
Our leaders have failed us by their silence and unless they find their voices promptly, there would be dire consequences for our future. I guess this is what the Russian writer and historian means in the quote above.
These leaders have kept quiet for too long. Thank goodness that it is not too late to save us all from the doom which continuous silence and tacit approval of this evil portend. Now is the time for everyone who commands some respect in the North to speak up and save the country from this avoidable bloodletting, unless of course, there is some subtle message that the carnage is meant to send to us. We all should remember that when fire gets out of hand, it could consume the man who lit it up!