In the summer of 2010 when I made a trip to parts of Northern Nigeria, I did first to re-acquaint myself with the security situation of Jos where I had lived for one year and which had descended into chaos where northern hegemons with the backing of shadowy political powers have taken laws into their hands, killing residents of the town to make it ungovernable. I also visited Kaduna – for the very first time – and found, in spite of a normalized environment that reminded me of some parts of Ibadan where I grew up, a certain sense of unease. After all, the whole of the northern section of the country had a notorious reputation of being a flashpoint for ethnic and religious crises that disproportionately targets “non-indigenes” and Christians.
The situation in Northern Nigeria has greatly deteriorated since that time. (It also sadly seems that the last time I talked about Nigeria on this blog, was also to complain of another series of crises based in that part of the country, and the threat it posed to the future of the nation). In the last couple of days, the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram has graduated from small sporadic attacks on police stations to more sinister strategic attacks on other parts of the country’s civil society. They have attacked the UN building, and churches, markets, and as at last weekend, a national newspaper house, and a University. They have promised more attacks on many more media houses around the country and other symbols of pro-government or pro-Western ideas. Beyond depraved, this is despicable, and sad.
It’s important for context that westerners watching the situation now realize how worse this has become over the years. I remember in December 2009 when the news of the underwear bomber socialized in that same extremist environment in Katsina (and later London) almost blew up a plane all over Detroit. We all agreed that although it was a lone case of international terrorism never before associated with Nigeria, it was also worth watching. I can’t make that same case of “lone wolf” anymore. From the extent of alien infiltration of the Northern part of the country from larger terrorist networks from Yemen, Niger, and other places as evidenced in the sophistication of a hitherto local amateur extremist group that now makes car bombs and are able to detonate them in cities, it is clear that it has clearly got out of hand. Where next would we see them? In airplanes making local flights? Obviously, the federal government’s security forces can’t handle it either.
I don’t know what to think or what to say now that is new, but news from my home country now only makes me sad and depressed. Am I really going back to that place? And what will the value of my life be while I’m there, watching my back every time I walk out of my house into the larger world. The roads are not safe due to robbers and accidents. Now, neither are buildings and religious worship places. I only have two questions: 1. How do I file for asylum anywhere else in the world now that I’m done with school? And 2. Why is the world (especially the other Islamic nations of the world who have claimed all along that their religion is peaceful and should not be unfairly targeted for discrimination) now remarkably silent at this evil turn of events?
One year ago, the leader of Al-Qaeda was killed in Pakistan. From the look of things in these other little corners of the world as Northern Nigeria, it is clear that the terrible seeds of his hateful reign has grown to be equally pernicious, and will only get worse without adequate attention.