Following the incessant killings by Boko Haram , I asked Nigerian writers home and abroad for their reactions and here they are. Eloquent, moving and they are unequivocal about their demand for an end to the horror.
First published in Sunday Trust
“I think it is past time every Nigerian of conscience begins to speak out about what is going on not only in the North East but also in Plateau and Kaduna States. We are witnessing an unprecedented spate of violence perpetrated by a sick and lunatic group, all in the name of religion. There is another motive for this, but it is certainly not religion. No religion will sanction the killing of innocent children in their beds.
So far the government has failed to realize the magnitude of this threat to the future of the country as a whole. It has been fighting a half-hearted war, in the process many of our military personnel have been killed needlessly. We need to know the full number and names of the military casualties, and the full number and names of every victim.
Politicians keep pointing fingers at one another, trying to score cheap points. Some of them see the chaos as an opportunity to continue their looting and misgovernment, since all eyes are focused on the North-East. Meanwhile, a whole generation is being wiped out, in front of our eyes. The government needs to do more than it is doing. The Nigerian people need to stop acting as if all is well, it is not. We must speak out and force the government to take this seriously. You do not fight terror with kid gloves.”
Habila is the author of ‘Measuring Time’
“There is no other better way to imagine the affairs of our state than to admit that we are gradually slipping into the crucible of darkness where intrigues rule above reason, and where the spillage of civil and military blood is almost equal to the spillage of oil on a daily basis in our country. The latest disaster of massacre where students were gunned down by religious or political Boko Haram fundamentalists must not only be condemned in strong terms; it must be met with the adequate and intelligent force that the federal government can muster. We should not make any mistake about it. We should desist from waxing political and politically correct in the face of these organised irresponsibilities all over the country. The impunity of disorder and banditry must be stopped in its track, and quickly too. No one will gain from this bloodletting except those who are too self-centred and fixated on the spoils of office, and those who want to hang onto power by all means necessary.
The federal government of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan will do better to stamp out these obscenities, once and for all.”
Raji is a poet and professor of English and African Studies, University of Ibadan
“I admit with shame that I had almost become inured to the daily news of killings in the North-east, but this one struck me particularly hard. Coming so soon after the kidnap of 20+ girls, it spoke to someone’s utter incompetence. For hours afterwards, I kept asking, how do you leave a Federal Government College, a symbol of our commitment to unity, to education, how do you leave one unguarded in a region where you are at war with a group who thinks that education is haram? What was that about a checkpoint near the school? What was that? The school should have been garrisoned! My outrage has since become tempered and is herein replaced with pleading. Please end this. End it, my government. You can not be allowed to be stupid about this. You cannot be anything but brave and resolute. Just end the killings.”
— Imasuen is the author of the novel Fine Boys
“As a young girl, I was a boarder at a Federal Government College for six years. Before going to FGGC Bwari, Abuja, I had never been to the northern part of the country. I had hardly met any Non-Igbo Nigerian. The only Muslim I knew was a man who was considered eccentric because he was Igbo and Muslim. I remember being so excited I could not wait to leave. I remember that when the day finally came, I cried for a long time in the car that my mother threatened to have the driver turn back. She’d register me at one of the state schools near our house and I’d be a day student, she said. I thought of the biscuits and powdered milk and milo packed in my suitcase. I thought of the pocket money in my purse which I would have to return, and I stopped crying. However, even though I cried at the beginning of every term from missing home, I always looked forward to going back to school. Those six years at FGGC Bwari, Abuja, were some of the most glorious years of my childhood. Living with fellow students drawn from all over the country and across religious divides, I learned tolerance and open-mindedness. Before meals, we said both Christian and Muslim prayers. Whatever our parents believed in, at school we were one. And as one, we obeyed the bedtime bell at 9 PM daily. Whatever happened during the day, whatever petty squabbles we had, we never feared for our safety. It would never have occurred to us that we could wake up to men in our hostels butchering us in the name of religion. When I heard of the Yobe attack on students ( and students in a school designed specifically to foster unity) , I could not imagine the horror. Boko Haram seems intent on ruining Nigeria. Sadly, the Nigerian government seems to be doing precious little to halt them.”
—Unigwe is the author of the novel ‘On Black Sister’s Street’
Ismail Bala Garba
“For a long time in our country now blood has been flowing almost ceaselessly. We have become disillusioned and can’t seem to avert the cycle of death that has so blithely marked our country. It is time this madness should stop. Enough is enough”
Dr Garba is a poet and lecturer at the Bayero University, Kano
“With the recent revelation that at least 136 students have been killed in separate attacks on schools in Yobe State in less than a year, it is now very obvious that the Boko Haram issue has reached very worrisome dimensions.
The development has also confirmed that rather than an all-out military exercise, a combination of dialogue, intelligence gathering and provision of poverty alleviation measures in the affected areas should be undertaken.
If need be, Nigeria should also not shy away from requesting for foreign assistance especially in the area of intelligence gathering, border patrol and surveillance including the use of drones.
In view of the observations by some of the residents of the recent Yobe attack that Military checkpoints in the area were removed a day before the attack, it is very important that a thorough shake up of the military officials in the area be undertaken. This is to discover and remove possible moles in the military who may be working hand in hand with the insurgents.
Finally, it is important to heed the recent advice given by the Borno State Government for the Federal Government to improve the current morale and fire power of the military which in the governor’s opinion are far lower than that of the insurgents.”
Dr. Okediran, author of ‘Tenants of the House’, is a former national president, Association Of Nigerian Authors.
“It is very unfortunate that this is happening. Never in this country have we witnessed anything of this magnitude. We appeal to government to bring this under control. We also entreat the members of this sect to desist forthwith from further attacks.”
Mrs Obi Obasi was shortlisted for the NLNG prize for her children story ‘The Great Fall’
“This Boko Haram thing is becoming a known mystery in the sense that what used appear like a bad joke with a short lifespan has now turned into a general death fertilized by ineffective, inefficient military operations supported dutifully by an unwilling government that is ineptly unserious securing the citizens. The totality of these suggests what Governor Nyako said that the whole thing may not be unconnected with the Nigerian army, Federal Government and some Western countries to have a grip on national resources. Don’t be surprised if the bloodletting stops immediately after the 2015 elections.”
Dzukogi is the DG, Niger State Book Development Agency
“There was a time in the past when human life was said to be brutish and short. It was the time when only the fittest survived. Then man witnessed the evolution of government, which is an individual or a group of individuals vested with legitimacy to control the conducts of the strong and weak, etc, with society. And, government has come a very long way since then; the best of them rising up against any individual or group that threatens the lives or limbs of other members of society, and the worst of it being one that raises no finger against such wickedness in its area of jurisdiction. Nigerian government, in exhibiting nonchalance regarding the consistent massacre of defenceless Nigerians clearly mirrors to us the horrific fact that the worst government ever known to man is the one that currently sits at the helm of affairs of this country, Nigeria.”
Maiwada is a lawyer, poet and author of the novel ‘Musdoki’
“I have been emotionally defeated by the activities of the Boko Haram. The killings of innocent school kids in Yobe, just a few days after 20 school girls were reportedly abducted in Borno, is a reason for every thinking Nigerian to understand that this country is a disaster. Yet our policians are playing politics with the security of the nation. More heartbreaking is the vulnerability of Nigerians to political polarisation, such that no citizen is even willing to stand up to demand explanations, and also ask the government to account for how such a huge security vote was used and yet the war against terrorism is obviously only being prosecuted in propagandas.
I listened to the President’s responses to the happenings in northeast during that stage-managed show called “presidential media chat”, and his indirect concession of defeat in another of his promises to “prosecute (the) war against terror.” It dampened my spirit. His ‘threat’ to withdraw soldiers stationed in Borno to prove a point to Shettima was an extraordinarily dumb wisecrack, because I don’t think Shettima was actually being ungrateful; I think he was only crying, that the soldiers are exposed to undermined danger, yet ill-prepared.
Of course, I’d be similarly devastated and even suspicious, aware of how trillions of naira were obviously cornered in Abuja without me. The Borno issues were badly handled in that chat. They gave away Mr President’s wicked sense of humour. For that, he shouldn’t make any more effort to be funny outside his bedroom. There’s no honour in chuckling at a funeral!
Yet Nigerians remain in their bedrooms and offices tweeting at perceived injustice and incompetence, and expecting such cyber-venting to change the system. This is how we’ll keep watching the ruins of a section of the country from the sidelines until bombs begin to land in our backwards. We don’t learn. We really need to study the middle-east to see how some of the most beautiful countries and cities in the world are now dominated by the apparitions of terrorism. It’s either we begin to prepare for many funerals in our towns and cities as soon as the insurgents are done with our brothers and sisters at the remote towns and villages of the northeast, or we must come together, with our demands harmonised in the quest to reclaim the country even if by crying for foreign interventions. There’s no excuse to be political or bigoted in times of such national tragedies.”
Kakanda is the author of the poetry collection ‘Safari Pants‘
“For about one week now, scores of lives have been lost daily to marauding Boko Haram terrorists. The time to say enough is now!
The brutal killings have assumed a whole new frightening accent; the murder of children, school children sent to school and thus in contravention of what these blood thirsty terrorists refer to as ‘haram.’
But is it not ‘haram’ for these monsters who operate under the cover of darkness to spill the blood of the young, the innocent and the defenceless?
These modern day worshipers of Moloch are committing crimes that even the most hardened Sicilian Mafioso would baulk at because it is a time honoured truth that combatants sheathe their swords when women and children and even the infirm are involved.
But not these ones, men whose blood thirst can only be sated with the blood of innocents. We say no more!
President Jonathan as Commander-in-chief must rise up to the challenge. Nigeria is under siege. Today, the theater of war may be Borno and Yobe states but what happens if and when this madness is exported down South? And must we wait that long to act?
And this is for the elders and Statesmen from the north; we cannot play politics with human lives. Speak up! Condemn this bloodletting in the strongest terms.
And the military; why do you run when Boko Haram approaches? Are you well armed and equipped and motivated or are the funds allocated to fight Boko Haram ending up elsewhere?
The time to say enough is now. It is time to rise up with one voice and condemn this madness for what it really is. Boko Haram is an affront, a misnomer, a blood thirsty dance that must not be allowed to continue.
As a father, a Nigerian and a writer who values human life and dignity, I lend my voice to this campaign; Boko Haram must be condemned by Muslims and Christians alike because who is this GOD THAT DELIGHTS IN THE BLOOD OF INNOCENTS?”
Kan is the author of ‘Nights of the Creaking Beds’