Welcome to the Republic of Fear, By Emmanuel Onwubiko

Emmanuel Onwubiko

“We must stop playing ethnic or religious cards on matters of counter terrorism campaign”.

Fear in the expert opinion of psychologists is said to be a vital response to physical and emotional danger and they also said that if we don’t feel fear we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats. This is correct because we grow up to learn the native intelligence that self preservation is the first law of nature.

Aside native intelligence, we also learnt from http://www.psycholgytoday.com/ how we often fear situations that are far from life or death, and thus hang back for no good reason. Fear also triggers trauma and in this same professional dictionary of psychology we also learnt that trauma or bad experiences can trigger a fear response within us that is hard to quell but in their words ‘exposing ourselves to our personal demons is the best way to move past them’.

Speaking about the phenomenon of fear reminds us of the national traumas that most Nigerians are experiencing now as a result of the consequences of the bombing campaign by the armed Islamic insurgents over the past three years. From Maiduguri in Borno state to Umuahia in Abia state, panic and fear of the unknown is spreading like wild fire
no thanks to the diabolical inclination of these terrorists to instil fear and apprehension around the country in their sinister moves to take their brand of Islamic radicalism to a new height. Usman Stanley Ola [not real names] told me that since after the last bombing campaign in Abuja he stopped going to any commercial complex around
town and he avoids the markets like a plague.

Again, Nigerians of all classes and affiliations have come to recognize this ugly fact that fear has become our new national demons even as most persons have begun debating the best methodology to bring about the lasting resolution of the campaign of terrorism across Nigeria.

In Abuja, fear has replaced enthusiasm and the usually boisterous character of the municipality just as majority of the residents are now contending with the uncertainty of where and when these armed insurgents will detonate their weapons of mass destruction next after they succeeded in mid April 2014 in detonating high caliber bombs in
the most centralized and easily the busiest commercial complex in the nation’s capital- Emab Plaza in Wuse two which killed a high number of Nigerians who were simply there to transact their daily businesses.

The latest explosion of bombs in Abuja followed the successful attacks by the armed insurgents in Nyanya commercial bus park parked with thousands of commuters which also resulted in very high casualty rate. Symbolically, what these armed insurgents have succeeded in doing in these rash of bomb explosions in Abuja is that they had
targeted the most populated areas of the nation’s political capital to pass a message that they are on a campaign of mass slaughter and killings of ordinary Nigerians and that the law enforcement agencies are incapacitated and incapable of providing fool proof security to Nigerians.

Understandably, Abuja residents in their thousands are now jittery and fearful of patronizing commercial buildings which has now crippled the economic activities of a dominant sector of the Nigerian society- the
small and medium scale enterprises.

This much has been repeatedly emphasized by prominent Nigerians who have ceaselessly tasked the Federal and state governments to move rapidly to bring to an end the spate of attacks targeted at ordinary Nigerians and to salvage Nigeria from imminent collapse.

The latest high profile personality in Nigeria to add her voice to the widening worries over the terrorism spreading fear across Nigeria is the Chief Justice of Nigeria who delivered a key note address recently at a national judicial event and rightly reminded Nigerians that terrorism is gradually destroying Nigeria.

Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mariam Mukhtar, who spoke in Abuja, said the adverse effect of the seeming unending insurgency in the country has manifested itself generally in such a dastard fashion that it has affected economic activities and thrown spanner in government’s effort in attracting Foreign Direct Investments (FDI).

The CJN also charged judicial officers to brainstorm on ways by which witnesses and victims of terrorist acts could be best protected and supported to give evidence in court against perpetrators of these unwholesome acts.

There is no gainsaying the fact that because of fear of reprisal, most persons who have critical information that will assist in reducing terrorism, are not sufficiently providing those vital information to the public and/or to the security agents. Again, the few suspects arrested and taken to court for terrorism have remained in detention longer than necessary because people are frightened by the danger that may befall them if these terrorists and
their sponsors trace them to their places of abode.

So the charge by the chief justice of Nigeria on the authorities to work out better protective measures for witnesses in cases of terrorism is a welcome development and should indeed be promptly addressed. This is because the delay in bringing decisive justice to suspects accused of carrying out widespread killings of innocent Nigerians has created doubts in the minds of most Nigerians concerning the commitment of government to fight this menace of terrorism. If mass killers are not punished sternly then impunity will take root in the society.

It was in a bid to save Nigeria from sliding into lawlessness and impunity that the chief justice of Nigeria is calling for immediate action. Speaking at the opening ceremony of the national workshop for judicial officers on anti-terrorism, Chief Justice Mukhtar noted that “terrorism poses serious challenges to any nation unfortunate to
experience it as it has the risk of undermining core values of the nation such as the Rule of Law, respect for human rights, protection of civilians, tolerance among the various ethnic groups.”

“Its motivation, financing and support mechanisms, methods of attack and choice of target are constantly evolving, thus adding to the complexity of any effective strategy to combat it”, she lamented.

The CJN said “Terrorism undermines overall economic activities and development, thereby seriously affecting living standard of the poor segment of society. It has driven all investments away – both local and foreign. Terrorist attacks devalue the quality of life and affects the enjoyment of some basic rights like right to life, freedom of
movement, access to possible employment and educational opportunities.”

The CJN said the onus has therefore fallen on the judiciary to contribute its quota to ongoing effort to combat the menace, which has led to several losses of lives in the country since the activities of Boko Haram started.

On this ground, I think the government should set up military tribunals to handle the prosecution of cases of terrorism even as witness protection program must be activated so that more convictions can be obtained.

Prosecution of terrorism related cases must not be treated just like the conventional criminal trial since these
terrorists are the worst kinds of mass murderers who are out to destroy the fabrics of the nation state.

The Nigerian Chief Justice stated as much when she affirmed thus: “Faced with the above scenario, the strengthening of the capacity of the judicial officers on the system adopted to suppress and combat terrorism becomes imperative and a crucial component of a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy. This is because the perpetrators when apprehended must be brought for trial in full compliance with the National and International legal regime against
terrorism and Rule of Law”.

The other issue that has mystified most observers is how fast Nigeria has declined in her ability to protect the citizenry which is the most basic and fundamental duty of every government in contemporary time.

Reports in the media concerning the combat readiness of Nigerian soldiers are frightening. This calls for sober reflection on how the defence and policing sectors of Nigeria has deteriorated due to ineptitude and corruption in the procurement systems in place in those two key security institutions.

While it is imperative to task government to check corruption in the defence and policing sector so as to protect
Nigeria’s sovereignty, it is also timely to generally task Nigerians to stand up to defeat this situation of monumental fear that has enveloped our nation and has made us a republic of fear.

All segments of the Nigerian society must be united with a common purpose of defeating terrorism. We must stop playing ethnic or religious cards on matters of counter terrorism campaign going on by the armed security wing of the current government.

It is pathetic and obviously primitive that some state governments especially in the North through their officials have made some vexatious claims in the media alleging that the counter terror fight is being waged against their people. The governor of Adamawa state and a retired Naval Chief in the Nigerian military sector was recently in the news for alleging that the armed Islamic insurgency going on especially in the North was a sinister design by President Jonathan to depopulate Northern Nigeria. Retired Rear Admiral Murtallah Nyako who took part in several military coups in the past which progressively weakened the combat readiness of Nigerian soldiers, went to the
ridiculous extent of alleging genocide against President Jonathan.

This line of argument is puerile and infantile because what we contend with in Nigeria are a bunch of monsters that are well armed and ideologically bent to destroy our basic freedom by planting bombs which go off every now and then killing thousands and inflicting psychological pain and fear in the minds of millions of Nigerians.

Government at every level has the constitutional obligation to protect lives and property of law abiding Nigerians for this is the primary constitutional duty of government. It is dangerous and satanic for someone like the Kano state governor for instance to claim that security forces are targeting Northerners when in actual fact Kano has come under several attacks by terrorists which cost the precious lives of mostly Southerners and even Kano indigenes.

Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria. He blogs at www.huriwa.blogspot.com


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