Kuje Police Station, Kuje Main Market, and Nyanya Bus Station. Three bombs in two towns in one night; they have once again attacked our capital city, Abuja. The rebel tactics of Boko Haram have become more rampant as they are being decimated on the front lines of battle by our military. However, we must all ask ourselves: “Six years into this insurgency, have we become numb?”
Those of us that are blessed to be alive and unscathed must question if we have truly become desensitized to the dangers of this insurgency. We must begin to search deep within ourselves to find out whether or not we have turned a blind eye to the plight of our fellow countrymen and women who have lived through the chaos of Boko Haram. We must not delude ourselves into thinking that a terrorist attack in Borno State will not have ripple effects in Lagos State. We are one country bound together under God, law, a Constitution, and a common Federal government. Hence, what happens in Chibok must start to resonate in Surulere. To paraphrase Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo’s recent speech on terrorism in Nigeria: “Bombs do not discriminate.”
Any student that has read Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’ will understand that the guerilla approach that the extremists have resorted to is clear. Instill fear in the minds of every Nigerian; announcing with every explosion that evil knows exactly how to fight back. Boko Haram is attacking the unarmed, untrained, and always unprepared citizenry because as Sun Tzu says: “You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended.” As everyday citizens, we have let down our defenses.
Needless to say, a rally to arms by everyday Nigerians will not be the solution to this problem. However, a final rally of our collective consciousness against our common enemy can lead to a citizen-centered approach that will send our own message: Nigeria stands united. Nigerians are ready to prevent, manage, curb, and end the conflict once and for all.
We must develop that righteous anger that stems from a place of unjustified provocation. We must push our minds to believe that truly and surely, Nigeria will defeat Boko Haram. However, just as our men and women in uniform are advancing on the frontlines of this war in the North East, those of us at home must also commit ourselves to ensure that once Boko Haram is dealt with in the fields, they can no longer regroup to strike at us in our cities.
As we approach this situation from a citizen perspective – asking ourselves: what can I do to make this situation any better? What can I do to contribute my own little quota to expedite the end of this insurgency? We must also ask: am I guilty of making this a political or ethnic issue? Am I guilty of thinking: this is not my problem because it is happening over there. If you have ever had or still have this ‘over there’ mindset, please, be rest assured that ‘over there’ is closer than you think. Over there could be at your doorstep someday if we do not program our collective psyche and efforts to defeat Boko Haram and all its splinter groups now.
For far too long, we have sectionalized terrorism as a ‘Northern Nigerian’ problem. We have viewed this issue through certain prisms and flawed perspectives that make it difficult to solve this problem. We have been guilty of politicizing this war, ‘ethnicizing’ this conflict, and regionalizing the fact that the Southern part of Nigeria remains basically unscarred. For now, Boko Haram is ‘situation specific.’ If nothing is done, this situation will change. Consequently, we must remember Pastor Martin Niemöller’s statement during the Nazi’s campaign to dominate Europe:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
If we do not remember the North East now, who will? If we do not donate to our internally displaced people now, who will? If those of us that live in communities that are likely to get attacked do not start meeting to proffer solutions on community vigilance at the local level, who will? If we do not begin to push our local, state, and federal representatives to focus on educating and reorienting the needy in our society, and establishing social security programs, we can be rest assured that the recruitment pool for those that may wish to hurt us using the neglected and forgotten members of our communities will always be overflowing.
Although we must focus on education, as I mentioned in one of my previous articles: “A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to education is no longer sufficient in Nigeria. Children must be taught the basic subjects that they need to know in this fast-paced world. However, they must also be taught the relevant issues and skills that are germane to their immediate environments. If they live in areas with high agricultural activity, our children must be taught the benefits, and best practices of farming in their schools […] Therefore, if they live in areas with high-insurgent activities, they must be taught the practical skills needed to survive in such environments. Teach them to detect manipulative and brainwash techniques early, and they will resist the recruiters when they come along. Teach our young men and women self defense, and in the absence of security – they can rally to hold the fort in their communities before help arrives.”
Finally, we must accept the fact that the government by itself cannot provide jobs for everyone. As such, unemployed young people are more likely to be recruited into nefarious activities. Consequently, there should be new public-private partnership focus to create ‘hyper-localized’ empowerment programs. Not every Nigerian that has a credible business idea, can write a proposal that would make him or her a beneficiary of empowerment scheme funds. However, hyper-localized community banking systems can give the skilled but illiterate members of our society access to funding for their small-scale ideas. Let us think outside the ‘status quo’ box.
As things stand, we have been at war against an enemy that is seeking to destroy us at any cost. We have been at this for 6 years. God willing, we will not get to the 7th year. Again, everyone has his or her part to play. Our military is doing the best that they can, but we must compliment their efforts in our own communities. Lead where you stand.
Four bombs went off in our capital city. By attacking Abuja, Boko Haram has sent us a message – they will not go down without a fight. As citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the ball is now in our court.
How will we respond?
Olu Onemola is the National Public Relations Officer of the All Progressives Congress Youth Forum (APYF). The views expressed here are his own. He tweets @OnemolaOlu.