WE DON'T KNOW HOW TO WEEP ANYMORE
The date was December 25th 2011; Christmas day. The one day I look forward to more than my birthday. I went to the village with my cousin Okechukwu because I wanted to spend some time with my Grandmother. I remember sitting down outside basking in the solitude of a quiet environment and breathing in the fresh, clean air that you can only get far away from the townships. But I was not at peace, I was trying to find it but like a rare cut diamond it evaded me. I kept thinking, what if Boko Haram tries to pull the Al Qaeda trick and attempt a Christmas bombing. I checked the news on my smart phone to assuage the turmoil within my soul. Lo and behold, those evil, dangerous, ignorant savages had struck again. They threw a bomb in a Catholic Church while mass was going on. I felt cold dread pass through me in that moment; my head was a mess, my heart was bleeding with emotion I couldn’t understand for the victims who just wanted to have a normal Christmas but got the worst kind of tragedy in exchange. I wanted to stay home and not enjoy Christmas but that would have given victory to those animals. So I ate Rice and Chicken, went to a bar with my cousin and drank Hieneken with Suya, watched football, listened to high life music and I let the magic of Christmas flow through my veins, seep into my heart and heal my spirit.
That night when I went home, I closed my eyes and I saw the girl I had seen from one of the images of the bomb blast. Her eyes were red, swollen and puffy with tears, her hair disheveled, she seemed to be screaming the words NO!!!. I stared at that image and I saw confusion, anguish, sorrow, pain, tears and the death of life in those eyes. She was beautiful but in that moment all she could understand was that she was alive and the people she loved the most were dead, on Christmas day. She probably had a huge feast cooked up at home and maybe planned an outdoor activity for herself and the rest of her family but it was all gone; in the blink of an eye she had lost it all… on Christmas day when magic was supposed to be real.
There are 18 incidences of suicide bombings that have occurred this year. Too many in my opinion, yet not a single thing is seriously being done to avert or manage these crucial crisis. All I hear is excuses, panels, committees, sabotage, betrayals, infiltration, lies, deceit, ignorance and helplessness. Where were we when these bombings started in Maiduguri two years ago? where are we now that it has spread over the northern and middle belt region?
I knew there was a problem when I heard there was a bomb thrown in a Catholic Church in Kaduna and I had no reaction. I was numb to the death, numb to the pain, numb to the atrocity; because I had seen it too many times it became ‘normal’. The victims became a number to me. The first bomb blast we could excuse on a freak incident, the second on security lapse, the third we could say we were learning to cope with the harsh reality of organized terrorism existing in Nigeria, the fourth we could blame on a conspiratory theory, the fifth definitely a mole in government, the sixth, government is the terrorist and from then on we run out of excuses to make, we pass a victim on the street and ‘sorry’ seems to be too much to offer, we turn the newspaper and we see news and pictures from a bomb blast. What is our reaction? Not tears, nor pity, nor sadness, nor sorrow, just the words ‘hmmmmmmn’. That is all we have to offer. The national dailies do not report the killings anymore except it is in double figures, Joint Task Force and state governments conspire to hide the real events going on.
I remember when I was in camp in Maiduguri, Borno State. There was tight security; everywhere I looked I saw the Police, Army, Civil Defense, Man ‘O’ War, Red Cross, name it! Any security outfit worth its onion was manning guard at the camp, still people were sneaking in, I would watch the ease with which the camp was infiltrated by ordinary individuals under such tight surveillance that supposedly consisted of sophisticated and well trained security units and I’ll wonder how much easier it would be for Boko Haram with just a tad-bit more determination to break into any government or security building. It is really too easy. My friend in Maiduguri lost her Uncle to Killers suspected to be associated with the Boko Haram Sect; there was no proper investigation by the police, the case was shut down within two months and that was it. I was angry with my friend’s uncle; I didn’t understand why the Igbo’s wanted to stay in a place that was perpetually a death zone. She told in five words “Chima, their lives are here”. What she meant was it would be near impossible for the Igbos to pack up and leave Maiduguri just like that. Some of them were born there, their shops are there, and they know no other means of survival. Asking them to pack up and go to the village or another town to start over would fall on deaf ears because if there is one thing an Igbo man holds dear to his heart it is his business.
Boko Haram suicide attacks in 2012:
· Nov. 25, 2012 - A suicide bomber drove an explosives-packed bus into a church at a military base in Kaduna, followed by a suicide bomber in a car outside the church; the blasts killed 11 people and wounded over 30.
· Oct. 28, 2012 - A Boko Haram suicide bomber drove an explosives-packed jeep into a Catholic church in Kadun, killing at least eight people and wounding over 100.
· Sept. 23, 2012 - A suicide bomber killed a woman and a child in an attack at a Catholic church in Bauchi.
· Aug. 15, 2012 - A suicide bomber killed three civilians in a failed attempt to target a vehicle belonging to the Joint Task Force in Maiduguri.
· Aug. 5, 2012 - A suicide bomber killed five soldiers in an attack in Damaturu.
· Aug. 3, 2012 - A Boko Haram suicide bomber wounded several people in a failed attack outside of a mosque in Potiskum.
· July 30, 2012 - A suicide bomber killed a policeman in an attack at a government office in Sokoto.
· July 13, 2012 - A suicide bomber killed five people in an attack at a mosque in Maiduguri.
· June 17, 2012 - Boko Haram killed 48 people suicide attacks on churches in Kaduna and Zaria. The terror group claimed credit for the attacks, calling them a "victory against Christian Churches in Kaduna and Zaria which led to the deaths of many Christians and security operatives." Three other churches were bombed on June 17.
· June 10, 2012 - A Boko Haram suicide bomber killed three people in an attack outside a church in Jos.
· June 8, 2012 - A Boko Haram suicide bomber killed four people an attack outside a police station in Maiduguri.
· June 3, 2012 - A Boko Haram suicide bomber killed 15 people an attack on a church in Bauchi.
· April 30, 2012 - A Boko Haram suicide bomber killed 11 people and wounded more than 20 in an attack on a police convoy in Jalingo, the capital of Taraba state.
· April 26, 2012 - The editor of ThisDay confirmed that a suicide bomber drove a jeep into the newspaper's office in Abuja, killing two people.
· April 8, 2012 - Boko Haram killed 36 people and wounded dozens more in several bombings outside of a church in Kaduna on Easter day.
· March 11, 2012 - A Boko Haram suicide bomber killed three civilians in a bombing outside of a church in Jos. The suicide bomber was stopped before he could enter the compound.
· Feb. 26, 2012 - A Boko Haram suicide bomber killed six Christians during an attack at a church in Jos.
· Jan. 21, 2012 - Boko Haram killed more than 140 people during a series of blasts, including a suicide bombing, and shootings in Kano. Boko Haram claimed credit for the attacks, which targeted police and immigration buildings.
(Source: the Long War Journal)
I have been having recurrent nightmares since 2009; the dreams sometimes vary but it is always the same event happening. I am caught up in the midst of a crisis that has led to a riot and escalated into the total breakdown of law and order. In all the dreams, I live. I always remember the fear I feel even in those dreams, I remember running to nowhere in particular, I remember moving with hunger in my stomach, thirst in my throat and pure adrenaline leading me on. They are always horrible events of death and bloodshed in the dreams. These dreams began happening when the Jos Crisis started reoccurring, the pictures from the riots were gruesome, I saw dead bodies stacked together like mashed potatoes in dug holes ready to be buried en- mass. I saw the image of a girl whose body had been cut in two. A colleague I used to know, told me his mum and dad, the only family he had got burnt alive at their home in Jos in one of such crisis and he vowed not to return to that city. My friend was in Jos at the time of one of the crisis; when we got back to school she told me the terrifying story of how they (she and her sisters) made it out alive. They had been sleeping in the night when one of them woke up because she saw smoke coming from outside, they were setting her fathers’ cars on fire. She and her sisters ran away using the fence in the backyard wearing just their night gowns and nothing else at 2:00 am. Their house was set ablaze and the miscreants waited for about 15 minutes to see if anyone would make it out alive. The shocking thing is that in all of the incidences of outbreak of riots, it would go on for at least three days before there was an intervention from the army and a state of emergency announced. More than 600 people have died from the Jos Crisis in recent years.
The problem does not seem to have been cut down from the root, the government rather chooses to let sleeping dogs lie; hoping in ignorance that another crisis won’t occur; but we all know in the inner recess of our hearts where only truth dwells that another crisis could be lying in wait in Jos looking for something, anything to make the fake water bubble of peace burst.
The incidences that hurt me the most is watching my youth die. The Aluu four and the Mubi Killings comes to mind in these kinds of situation. Four students of the University of Port-Harcourt burnt alive like witches at the stake from 1500 years ago. It shows the heart of a human to tape such inhumane violence, the absence of conscience from man to impose Jungle Justice on individuals without evidence. It is despicable and worrisome the level we have degenerated to take people’s life in such savage manner. It also proves the total failure of the police and their lackadaisical attitude in responding to emergency situations.
The Mubi killings; young people murdered en-masse in one day because of a student body election. More than 40 people dead in scenes that resembles sights from a gang movie. The killings were said to have lasted more than 40 minutes, the killers took their time and when they were done strolled away like they had no care in the world.
Two incidences over the space of 6 days, both with similarities:
- The failure of the administrations of tertiary institutions to provide security to students who live off campus.
- The death of police as an emergency response unit and transparent organization.
- The loss of youthful life that could have become great men in the future
- The absence of government action
The President is weak; he was weak when fortune took him from glory to glory, he was weak when people voted him into power and he remains weak in the face of crisis. The government does not know how to deal with violence, they are only good at fueling it, they have no solutions to Boko Haram, Jos Crisis neither do they have answers for the families of those killed in Mubi Polytechnic or to those left behind by the Aluu four.
Sometimes I blame all the people who voted Jonathan into power, other times I do not blame them because the system has degenerated into a rot so bad the options presented before us every election are not the best in terms of democratic governance but the ‘best among the worst’ in a corrupt society that condones kleptocracy.
We don’t know how to weep anymore; death piles up at our doorstep at such alarming rate that sometimes we wonder what doom we will find when we open the pages of the newspaper.
We don’t know how to weep anymore; no condolence visits by government representatives to victims of bomb blasts, sectoral killings and electoral violence because there are too many dead people with families left behind to be visited.
Where is the one minute silence in memory of those we have lost on TV, public gatherings or before Nigerian Premier League matches are played?
Where is the shrine of candles, flowers and pictures of those we have lost close to the sites where they happened or in other locations of value?
Who comforts those the dead have lost? when will human life in Nigeria be accorded with the respect and protection it deserves? when will the government strike back and put a stop to this madness?
When shall we know peace again?
When shall my night mares stop?
These politicians probably have not had to grieve, so they remain aloof because the problem does not affect them personally; they see no need to find a lasting solution to the real problems of the country instead they spend money on committees and panels that we do not need.
Nigeria is headed towards anarchy, riot and uncontainable violence. After all, violence is the only word we seem to understand when all is said and done. There are no rooms to regret things that could have been done differently in past situations because regret is a friend of procrastination, what we need are real life, workable situations that can stop the violence once and for all.