What Nigeria Must Do To Secure a Total Victory In The Current War Against Boko-Haram Terrorists

I have always told myself that there are things I will never feel normal enjoying as a human being.  But I don’t know what has happened to me. Of late my taste and appetite have gone beyond food, drink, luxury and other life-giving staples. I’m beginning to discover that such things as stories of human tragedy and death now rank high among the things that delight me most. One needs only to feel the relish, the thrill, the sheer felicity of mind and lush of psychological calmness, with which I feed fat from this strange regimen, to understand my concern here. Though mortality with all  its limitations has remained and still remains for me, a matter of the profoundest existential concern, I have nonetheless found the tragic human cost, of the ongoing military offensive against the Boko-Haram insurgents more than interesting. I now follow the media with an ever busy interest for an up to the minute account of the military progress on the ongoing offensive against the Boko-Haram terrorists. I read with joy the media account of military raid in Sambisa forest where the death toll on the part of Boko-Haram insurgents was placed at 210. I have also read with obvious delight about the gun duel between the military and the Boko-Haram insurgents in Maiduguri and how the military foiled the terrorist attempt to cease the military base and possibly free their captured members. This very account placed the death toll at 207. There was also that other account carried by Sahara Reporters and some media houses where the captured Boko-Haram terrorists were said to be begging the soldiers for mercy. Not only that I almost killed myself with laughter over such a plea, but I also felt like picking up arms and joining rank with the military in order to vent my spleen on those monsters that have brought so much pain to Nigerians. My joy for their tragic fate is so natural, pure and even heavenly. Unfortunately this feeling of pure joy over such tragedy is now my latest worry. I have been asking myself questions like: how come that my nature so given to sentiments of emotion, pity and empathy in the face of human tragedy and misfortune now contends with joy over such things? Has anything gone wrong with those humane instincts like empathy, compassion, pity and love that should be at the core of my humanity? Feeling so concerned about such change in my disposition as human, I went about to sample the feeling of most Nigerians, regarding the death tolls, casualties and heightened rate of life’s contingency trailing the ongoing military offensive against the Boko-Haram insurgents. I discovered that just like myself, the feeling of almost every Nigerian met on the issue was that of joy and gratitude to God for the death of those terror elements. Nigerians are happy that the military is winning the war on terrorism. It is now not uncommon to hear men and women of God preach or pray openly for the death of Boko-Haram criminals. Whether it is clothed in the garb of justice, peace and mercy,  the fact remains that priests, monks, men and women of God, peasant and aristocrats, scholars and illiterates have all in unison expressed joy and gratitude to God and to the military for the death that has been brought to the camp of the Boko-Haram insurgents. While it is far from my intention to rival anyone of this joy or advocate for a more lenient measure towards the Boko-Haram terrorists, I still have a case to make.

The first point to admit is that living under the yoke of Boko-Haram insurgents for over half a decade is such a trying experience for us Nigerians. Apart from the tears that furrow our chicks and the pains ripping and tearing through our hearts as we count our losses, there is also a desire for revenge, a deep-seated passion to pay back the perpetrators in their own coin. Consequently, it feels so normal for one with so terrible an experience to gloss over empathy, compassion, forgiveness, mercy and other virtues that constitute the core of humanity in order to secure a vendetta. This is exactly my feeling and possibly the feeling of most Nigerians towards the Boko-Haram terrorists. I doubt if any living Nigerian has anything less than hatred, curse, loathing, animosity and all that is evil for them.

 The second point is just one hard truth I still loath to admit. It may sound funny or even cynical to one with a better judgment, but it does appear to me that the Boko-Haram insurgents are still winning the war. The feelings of hatred, rancour, animosity and resentment we have developed for the Boko-Haram terrorists are in a curious way a sort of victory for them. You see, even though such feelings of hatred and the sorts can garner some points in the scale of justice and retribution, they can hardly promote our nature as humans. This is not to say that justice does not promote our nature as humans. However, I believe Shakespeare has a reason for maintaining that in the course of justice, none of us shall see salvation. While psychologists and most scholars contend that humans are naturally disposed for feelings of anger and hatred, they have never failed to dare man to triumph over such petty feelings and rise to the challenge of improving his humanity. The fact that most Nigerians can’t help being mean and unforgiving towards the one people that have brought so much tears to this nation, reveals another area of no less subtle victory for the Boko-Haram insurgents. These Boko-Haram terrorists are not only claiming the lives of our people but they are also making claims on our humanity. This baying sound on everyone’s lips for the blood of the Boko-Haram terrorists, is symptomatic of the fact that our humanity as humans is seriously under trial. I think history has a word for us on this. Way back in history, precisely during the Second World War, Pope Pius XII made a very perceptive remark that appears to be resonant with Nigeria’s situation at present. After weighing the exigencies of the war and the impact on man, nature and Europe as a whole, the pontiff predicted that the postwar man would be more changed than the postwar map of Europe. What the pope was saying is that the physical damages like human carnage, bombed and broken houses and other sundry destruction that war will bring to nature and the entire land mass of Europe, would be nothing to compare to the damage that will be done to the nature and psyche of any man that passed through the experience of war. In the case of Nigeria, what this means is that when the chips are down, the brunt of the whole Boko-Haram saga may well be on the living than on the dead. This is because no living person who has been resident in Nigeria for the whole long night of Boko-Haram’s reign of terror, is psychologically without a scar. If you doubt it, all you need do is to ask the next few people around you and you will discover how far our humanity has been tried as a people. Like the Boko-Haram terrorists, every Nigerian now thirsts for blood.  We now lust for blood not because Nigeria as a nation loves killing but because Boko-Haram Terrorists have challenged our character and conviction as a nation. They are practically converting all Nigerians to the belief that killing of human being is good and pleasurable. However, this is one last victory we will never have them claim over us, the victory of allowing them to destroy and claim our humanity. We must win the present war on terror but not at the terrible cost of our humanity.

Therefore, the greatest challenge facing Nigeria in her present war against terrorism is the challenge of guarding the humanity of her people while at the same time destroying the terror elements in the land. This can be achieved by the way we go about the killing of the Boko-Haram terrorists. Even though Boko-Haram terrorists have no method in their madness since they kill all their victims in a most gruesome manner, Nigeria must for the sake of her integrity and global image, bring method to her own madness towards them. Certainly there must be a strong urge to liter our environs with the corpses of slain Boko-Haram terrorists and subject them to constant media gaze, as a way of disgracing and paying them back in their own coin. Even the frenzy of the moment will also allow for such macabre specter, to grace the front pages of our national dailies and go viral online as a warning augury that shows how mean Nigeria can be in dealing with terrorists. But to what end will it serve since dead men tell no tales? Such deathly sights can only confront the living, ravage our sensitivity and in the end make Nigeria come off as a nation that makes killing of human being something of a spectacle to behold. Nigeria must therefore not allow the Boko-Haram terrorists paint us in that light. Nigeria must rather let the world know from this battle that who we are as a nation that values life matter more to us than anything. Even if we are killing, the world must be made to understand that we are killing not because we love killing but because we have no choice. As a sign of sanity even in madness, effort should be made to bury the fallen terrorists with haste and media personnel should be human enough with their coverage and also be less passionate in sending clips or images of gory scenes of death to global consciousness.

Finally, this is no plea bargaining for the Boko-Haram terrorists. Heaven knows I have no such thing for them. It is rather for the health of our nation that I write. This present crisis should be resolved in a such a way that in future, Nigeria will not stand the chance of receiving from history, the burden of memory like America was made to receive in the case of Leopold and Leob.  During the murder trial of Leopold and Loeb, one of the most celebrated criminal litigations that stirred the legality of jurisprudence in America, Clarence Darrow, the famous American trial lawyer had among other things in his 12hour final submission, blamed the murderous act of Leopold and Leob on the effect of Vietnam War on their psyche. He argued that passing through the experience of war and seeing how human life was wasted and how every winning nation cheered their soldiers for victory in the battle field, was enough reason to give Leopold and Leob the impression that life is worthless and that killing could be quite a fun. Social reformers and stakeholders should warn against allowing the war against Boko-Haram terrorist to create such a problem for Nigeria. Therefore, as the war with the Boko-Haram terrorists rages on, the tendency to put everything including our values and humanity on the line might just be too much to resist, but I appeal to my fellow Nigerians to have an eye to history and count the cost of our victory. May God be pleased to help us in this war.

(You can contact this writer through jienislaw@yahoo.com)

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