I am a Kano citizen. I love my locality, the city and the country. I should be forgiven my sentimental involvement in this issue. I see the bomb and gun attack on our beloved Emir, Alhaji Ado Bayero, not just as a law and order issue but as a mark of our cultural decline. These institutions are the binding elements of any society. As for Kano, and the North, we are rapidly losing a sense of community. We are in a free fall. Kano today holds its breath in anticipation of the next terrorist attack. If anyone had done to the 84-year-old Emir in the name of Islam, then he, as the Imams have said, is not a believer.
All of us were brutalized.
If on the other hand it was done by over-ambitious princes as suggested by security agencies, then such competitors for the throne are not worthy successors to the man of peace, Ado Bayero.
The reader may have heard the parable of the Katsina praise singer who was at the palace of the Emir in fulfillment of tradition and earning his livelihood. He praised the Emir to the high heavens as they say and then resorted to curses and prayers against his perceived enemies. He wished death for the Emir’s enemies. An old man pulled the singer aside and said to him that this was the wrong place to curse the enemies of the emir. “Here, there are many who wish the Emir dead. Would the princes become Emir if their father does not die? No, don’t curse those who wish the Emir dead otherwise you won’t get a penny of their money.”
As the leaders of politics, government and the differing faiths have said, this attack on the Emir of Kano is the limit of mad killings by either fanatics, or lunatic politicians. That attack was despicable and needs to be criticized in the harshest possible words. The Alaafin of Oyo said the final word on the attack. He said, “If this could happen to the Emir of Kano, no one is safe anymore”.
The problem though, is that we are always heavy in words and very, very light when it comes to action. But we must stop playing with the safety and security of the nation and come to grips with the fact that we are in a war. It is not important whether a war has officially been declared. The challenges we face call for a response on a scale and intensity of the kind that followed the wave of terrorist actions in the United States and Europe. Our situation is no less revolting and it calls for the most stringent response. I have waged a campaign for peace and dialogue on this column but it must be clear by now that peace is not a one-way track. It’s a partnership.
Look at how London and Washington handled terrorism on their soil. In the United States, there has not been a major terrorist attack since the incident of 9/11.
In the aftermath of that attack, the U.S. government formulated homeland security measures that were harsh on the domestic population, and even more so for foreign visitors. This made their country and its leaders much hated across the globe. But those measures worked. Terrorists are apprehended before they strike. The U.S. is today safer from terrorism than at any time in the past decade. Obviously, there were hardships on the part of citizens and visitors alike. But if that is what it takes to save human lives, that is a sacrifice worth making.
In Nigeria, terrorists are either being released from detention or they are set free by fellow criminals who routinely attack prisons and police stations.
Another problem is the corruption which is prevalent in the country. In that respect, there is no shortage of accomplices for terrorists in the security arms who are open to bribery. The sad and unfortunate aspect of it is the small amounts that they get in order to sell out their motherland.
There is also a lot of concern that the country’s intelligence is porous, decrepit, shallow and ill equipped to deal with these challenges. But the major answer to these kinds of acts is community vigilance as done in the United States and Europe.
In some of those countries, youngsters in primary five are trained by the police to be vigilant of any suspected persons or objects in their locality. Students are often provided with emergency police numbers.
When hardship and excesses come arising from the rigid enforcement of the more stringent measures, the civil society will obviously come out crying that they be stopped. In this respect, I am one with them that the rules of engagement should clearly be written and advertised. But the civil society must also come to terms with the fact that in times of war as we have descended into, there must be restrictions of civil liberties. Excesses must however not be allowed. The U.S. State Department said a week ago that the police in Nigeria killed more people than BokoHaram. This ought not to be the case. But if hardship will accompany the ban on motorcycles, which are being used as vehicles for killings, it is another sacrifice worth making.
Lastly, the country must accompany these measures with jobs creation, improvement in infrastructure and must give education and enlightenment to the citizenry. How can 12 million children be out of school, roaming the Northern streets and to think that there can be peace? This has to be taken care of. When we do that, we can then talk about supplementing the environment with a world-class law and order, intelligence and anti-terror agencies.