EDITORIAL: Abductions of schoolchildren: What else will agitate our communities?



It now seems certain that terrorists are bent on normalizing the abduction of our children in their schools as a part of our daily life. In the last few months, hundreds of pupils in the northern part of the country have had to go through the horror of living at the mercy of terrorists. While we are glad that almost all of them have been freed, within short intervals, full state might has to be activated to prevent the act from being normal. But beyond state action, what is more fundamental is the involvement of our communities in the counter-terrorism operations.

Indeed, the speed with which the recently kidnapped pupils were rescued, almost at once, is indicative of the improvement in the responsiveness of our authorities. Of course, as they do it frequently, driven by haughtiness, the criminals are both demystifying themselves and exposing their modus operandi. What we must now turn our attention to is prevention. But this cannot be done by the state alone, without the full participation of our communities and local authorities.

Recently, the minister of defense, Retired Major General Bashir Magashi, came under intense criticism for, partly, attributing the prevalence of banditry in parts of the country to cowardice of our communities. He was accused of absolving himself and the government of the state of insecurity in the country, thereby passing over the duty of securing the nation to the people.

But what do you call it, if not cowardice, when a handful of terrorists mounted on motorcycles storm our communities and "herd" hundreds of our children on foot to their dens in the full glare of daylight? These hideouts, their sizes, exact locations and even the identities of the terrorists are well-known; yet a community of thousands of able-bodied men would wait to listen on their radios as the terrorists make boastful demands and conditions for releasing their children! There is a certain bandit who boasted right in the presence of a sitting state governor that were it not for dialogue, he would never have been captured--relying on his charm. Assuming his so-called charm is potent, when did our communities become so barren of them?

When a handful of terrorists go as far as kidnapping our school children as a routine in our yards, and we still do not feel actuated to rise up in defense, then you have to wonder what else will agitate us. What happened to the bravery inherent in the Nigerian blood which saw our forefathers resisting colonial occupation in the late 1800 and early 1900? What happened to the stubborn bravery that led our women in Aba to rebel against the colonial master in 1929? Are we truly the descendants of those who stood up for and fought for our independence?

Until we begin to make it difficult for terrorists to operate in our communities, as Civilian JTF did to them in Maiduguri, we are in for a long ride. We must not surrender our communities to the whims and caprices of a few!


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