25th December 2011, Christmas day, I was in Church for Mass like Christians all over the world, celebrating the birth of Jesus. Lagos had been agog with fireworks and knockouts all night and the joy was palpable. The tempo in church was not different. You could feel the excitement, the optimism, the Joy. But all these was short lived for me as it was for many families in various parts of Nigeria as I got home to the news of a bomb blast in a Catholic Church in Madalla, a suburb in Niger State.
This certainly is one too many. The joy of the day evaporated like a dew on a sunny morning. The internet was awash with gory pictures of the victims. Soon we got news that the Islamic sect, Boko Haram claimed responsibility. The thought that like me, these people who have been burnt to death, their body blown apart by the device made just for that purpose, had been at Church that morning to thank God for being alive only to meet their death hit me hard and I was forced to reflect once again on the really sad situation we have been condemned to in this country.
For me, this time it would be baseless heaping blames on the government or targeting the Presidency for ridicule. Surely, we must continue to make demands of them for the responsibility of securing our lives is theirs but then I think there are limits to what they can do at this point given the resources and infrastructure at their disposal. I happen to have few friends, young members of the security agencies and I know they have been on high alert regarding possible Christmas day attacks. In Jos for example where a second bomb was reported to have gone off, the police had a list of possible targets and had taken such measures as even banning the operation of Okada for two days in the state. In the Church in Madalla, a police man was on duty at the Church as part of security measures.
This time I would like instead to question the very basis of the madness. What is Boko Haram and what is their agitation about? What is their ideology and what is the basis for their strategy? World over, sects or movements who have a grouse with a segment of society or government operate with a clear cut ideology and strategy all aimed at successfully advancing their agitations or calling attention to whatever their grievances are. Even when they are violent, their violence follows a path which is clear. Boko Haram has none and has daily continued to contradict itself by its utterances and actions. What we have instead is a group with absolutely no regard for human life spreading a culture of death, recruiting illiterate urchins who in my thinking must see the making and planting of bombs as some form of game.
It’s been quite ironical that a group which says it is against western education has over time targeted security agencies for its attacks not schools and other educational institutions. Now they have taken it even further by attacking Christians and Churches. One wonders, how attacking Christians and bombing churches features in the said grievance with government or advances their course? Why is it that in all this time we hear of only Churches being bombed? Is this intended to get the Christians to also arise and carry out reprisals in other parts of the country and then turn the whole country into another Afghanistan or Iraq? Is this the hidden agenda of Boko Haram? Is this part of a larger conspiracy by actors yet to be identified?
I have no answers to these questions and I don’t believe any single Nigerian has them but I believe we can find answers by uniting as a nation in condemnation of these sect regardless of our faith or political affiliations and their dastardly acts, supporting the security agencies with intelligence information as we can pick up from around us, remaining critical of them so they can up their game, being eternally vigilant ourselves and each day remembering that all those who have died since this madness started expect nothing less of us.