Like joke, like joke,’ as they would say in common Nigerian social linguistic parlance, Anambra State almost caught fire a few days ago with the viral circulation of speculations that the Nigerian Prisons Service marked Ekwulobia Prison in the state for housing some Boko Haram dissidents on transfer from Northern Nigeria.
Though the restive tendencies persist till date, the prompt counsel of Gov. Willie Obiano restrained the effusive passion of residents of the state from boiling over. Markets in the state were closed down on Saturday, 27 June, 2015, as traders, artisans and other people engaged in a protest march to demonstrate stern rejection of the proposal to use any part of Anambra as dumping ground for a section of the leprous group. The protesters aptly described the proposed consignment as toxic, malignant and unacceptable.
They expressed readiness to resist any attempt to foist it on them. A similar protest march followed at Ekwulobia on 30 June, 2015 where the protesters queried the appropriateness of the peaceful and densely populated town for such exercise; more so when the Ekwulobia Prison is sited in a fully built-up residential neighbourhood that bears no profile of high security confinement yard. For well over five years running, Nigeria – its government and people – has been rattled stiff by the fiery, rabid and blood thirsty band of criminals whose claim on Islam provides a smokescreen for indiscriminate perpetration of lethal criminality against Nigerians and other people resident in the country. The atrocious activities of this group repulse Muslims and whosoever else that understands the precepts of Islam, albeit remotely.
Devotees of Boko Haram who are largely uncouth Muslims from the northern part of the country are generally perceived as outcasts in sociopolitical and religious circles. The devil-may-care ‘scotched earth’ mode of operation of the group as they destroy lives, property and neighbourhoods provokes utter reprehension from everyone who recognizes the sanctity of life and the economy of interpersonal or group relationships.
The Federal Government of Nigeria and the international community have rightly branded Boko Haram as a terrorist pack with the capacity of causing severe socioeconomic disorder in the country and beyond if not consciously checked. Little wonder then the prevailing palpable anxiety in Anambra State where the residents cannot fathom any reason why the Nigerian Prisons Service should opt for the state as host to Boko Haram chieftains: What military strategy or shade of diplomacy justifies the fortification of a trouble zone and liberally exposing a peaceful spot to high vulnerability?
How would the Federal Government relocate the operations Headquarters of the Nigeria Military to Bornu State to facilitate the routing of Boko Haram, and turn around to undermine Anambra State whose peculiar security challenges of armed robbery and kidnapping have been successfully contained by Governor Willie Obiano? I guess President Buhari is not privy to this plot. But how can such sensitive security issue fly beyond the reach of the presidency?
There are many unsettling questions which only prompt and fair appraisals from the appropriate authorities can effectively address for the reinvention of the trust of the distraught people of the East in the government. It is too early in the life of this administration for the sensibility of a vital section of the Federation to be discounted with impunity.
Though the North East geopolitical zone is the hotbed of Boko Haram’s nefarious activities, there is hardly any part of Nigeria that has not lost persons or property to the group’s brigandage. The South East, particularly Anambra State, has its own pains from the group. About three years ago Adazi-Nnukwu town in Anambra State lost over fourteen of its illustrious citizens in just one Boko Haran attack in Adamawa State. This suggests the enormity of loss Anambra and the South East would have registered in the face of Boko Haram onslaught. For these, the South Easterners would not wish to touch Boko Haram even with a long pole.
Again, it is strategically faulty to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime on a people into their fold. Boko Haram prisoners in Ekwulobia is like telling the people ‘Here, your enemies!’ and daring them to vent anger on such enemies and get ‘lawfully’ mowed down by government forces positioned to further rub in the people’s pains.
The reality of the above readily justifies the anxiety that has enveloped Anambra State since news of the spiriting of the unconscionable rascals into the state filtered in. The uneasiness is heightened by the enhanced sense of security and safety that Chief Willie Obiano’s administration has provided in the past fifteen months which the citizens hold sacrosanct and would not want breached. Although the Governor has prevailed on the people to be calm while peaceable positions would be sought to the issue in question, tempers are still very high.
The people have refused to wholly accept the denials from the Nigerian Prisons that no persons of Boko Haram bent are billed for Anambra. Lessons of hindsight encourage citizens to pry into official government positions to test the veracity of the content. Recall the contradiction in the safety that government assured at the collapse of the First Republic, and the decimation of lives of those cajoled into trusting such official position.
With the sad fallouts from trusting and naively yielding to the leaders’ penchant for bluffing through contentious issues in the past, the citizens now choose to adopt a skeptical stance: asking questions rather than preferring to be victims of either the whims or the vain indulgencies of the leadership. Our President has the challenge of restoring the people’s trust in their government. History entreats and tomorrow beckons.