Shortly after the bombing of Nigeria Police headquarters, one of the most visible symbols of state power in Abuja, a week ago today, the federal government quickly dispatched plenty of its crack plainclothes detectives to Maiduguri, the headquarters of Boko Haram terrorist sect.
By Sunday, this unprecedented rapid mobilisation had paid off as the police arrested 58 sect members, including some Somalians, Sudanese and Nigeriens. They are now held at the headquarters of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) amid heavy security provided by both mobile police and anti-terrorist squads. It shouldnâ€™t be long before the hired American bomb experts start unearthing the types and origin of the explosives used in the attack. We hope the report will be shared with the public with dispatch, unlike before.
This swift response contrasts with the police reaction to other recent terrorist attacks in the country. Despite publicly available evidence about the seriousness of these attacks and their sources, the authorities seemed too busy playing the proverbial ostrich. The arrest of the Boko Haram members with the foreign nationals finally confirms speculations and evidence our security agencies must have known for a long time that renegade former rebels and combattants from Mali (Tuaregs), Somalia and Sudan with sympathy for the Boko Haram cause and with possible connections with Al-Qaida in the Sahel have been working in tandem with the Islamic sect to wreak havoc on the country.
Unfortunately, these mercenaries have had a hand in the cyclical deadly violence in the city of Jos and its environs since the 1990s. As long as religious sentiment was involved, our very leaders who fostered the incubation of these existential threats to our nation tried to play down their significance. The perpetrators were called â€˜miscreantsâ€™; while Police and army forces often fought back in the most brutal manner they know, destroying intelligence necessary to forestall future occurrence. This is our story, from Odi to Zaki Biam to the Niger Delta, Aba-Ukwa area, and Bauchi. But because these threats were not happening in â€˜our neighbourhoodâ€™, Nigerians as a nation had not paid much attention, especially when itâ€™s Muslims killing fellow Muslims.
As these spate of violence escalate, many observers are wondering what it would take to get the Nigerian state to wake up and craft a smart comprehensive and workable national security policy that reflects the realities of the post-September 11, 2001 world in which yesterdayâ€™s irritant â€˜miscreantsâ€™ now have the potential to inflict unacceptable damage to the country. Could one answer, perhaps, be the possibility of or an actual â€˜nuclear optionâ€™?. That is, a terrible disaster above the scale of both the 2011 Fukissema Nuclear power plant disaster in Japan and the 2004 Asian tsunami; a nuclear bomb blast or massive multiple earthquakes that will obliterate everything we have coveted; or a military invasion by a powerful enemy that will reduce our country to the stone-age?
These are extreme dreams; however, they are predicated upon the opportunity to start anew. Nigeria is burdened with too much contested sectional memories that will continue to get in the way of constructing a nation-state in which everyone has equal citizenship. Our national monuments, laws, mores, values, even names have spatial, sectarian, and mental boundaries with deadly memories. Except school children few Nigerians identify with a truly single â€˜nationalâ€™ celebration. The apprehended terrorists were moved quickly to Abuja to prevent local sympathies from interfering or even releasing these murderers and their sponsors as have repeatedly happened in the past.
Like Europe, Nigeria needs a deliberate â€˜mis-memoryâ€™, i.e., forgetting as a way of life, in order to build an imagined community of citizens at peace with one another. Some 36.5 million of Europeâ€™s inhabitants died between 1939 and 1945. Most of the survivors were starving or without shelter; Germany lost 40 per cent of its homes, Britain 30 per cent, France 20 per cent. Yet in the next 60 years, Europe had improbably become â€˜a paragon of the international virtues,â€™ and its social modelâ€”free or nearly free medical care, early retirement, robust social and public servicesâ€”stood as â€˜an exemplar for all to emulate.â€™ This is the gist of the 900-page tome, Postwar, by the late Professor Tony Judt of New York University. We can quarrel with his historical sweep, but we all can agree that there was much to forget in Europe: Nazi collaboration, genocide, extreme deprivation, enslavement, rape, and colonization of Africans.
Nature has been so kind to Nigeria; our closest encounters with disasters have only created unforgettable memories not shared by all Nigerians. None of our neighboursâ€”and possibly even world powersâ€”has the appetite or the economic and military resources to contemplate an invasion. We are too big and too dangerous to invade. Isn’t it sadly then that a more devastating Boko Haram bombs inside the Police headquarters is what may have finally awakened the Sleeping Giant out of its slumber? After all, the dispatch with which the security agencies have acted since last week seems to suggest that the giant is capable of fighting back at all times.