During war time, fathers bury their sons
By Dare Babarinsa
We are counting the bodies from Greenfield University, near Kaduna. First, they brought three bodies. Then they brought two. And they say they are bringing more and to show a grieving nation the mutilated remains of its future. Which other country in the world eats its own children?
The kidnappers and murderers of the Greenfield University students are spitting on the face of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces. He has almost one million men and women under arms wearing the honoured uniforms of the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Navy, the Nigerian Air force, the Nigeria Police, the Nigerian Civil Defence and the muftis of the Directorate of State Security, the National Intelligence Agencies and the Special Units. Yet, our President appears helpless, though he is not. Few days ago, we were told that the President said he still has some teeth left. If indeed, he has one or two teeth left, let him bite.
The kidnappers invaded the premises of Greenfield University, a promising private university at Kasami village near Kaduna that obtained its licence from the Federal Government only in 2019. The university is a bold attempt to change the educational landscape of Kaduna State and create a new impetus for youths to prepare for a brighter future. Then the children of the devil came with their guns and accursed philosophy and led about 40 of the students and teachers away. The brazen operation lasted almost one hour.
The Greenfield University is situated within the axis of military power in Nigeria on the busy Kaduna-Abuja highway. Abuja is the seat of military power, with the bases of all Nigerian armed forces and paramilitary units. Kaduna State is the state with the largest concentration of military institutions in Nigeria. It is the home of the First Division of the Nigeria Army. It is the home of the Nigerian Defence Academy, now, University. It is the home of the Nigerian Military School, Zaria. It has the best airport for the Nigerian Air force. It is not a place where the Nigerian state should be trifled with.
In the heydays of coup making in Nigeria, once you are able to capture Kaduna and Lagos, you have captured power. Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and his co-coup makers succeeded in Kaduna but failed in Lagos during the first coup of January 15, 1966. The coup makers did not reckon with other military formations for they knew the power base of the Republic was in Lagos and Kaduna. Also on January 13, 1976, Colonel Bukar Suka Dimka, led his group of coup makers to seize Lagos and assassinate the military Head of State, General Murtala Ramat Muhammed. The GOC in Kaduna, then Brigadier Alani Akinrinade, issued a statement on Kaduna Radio, rejecting the Dimka coup and the coup became history. Dimka and his co-plotters were later executed.
Now Kaduna, the old seat of iconic Ahmadu Bello, is the home of the helpless Governor El-Rufai of Kaduna State. El-Rufai would have loved to do everything to protect the children of Kaduna State, but he is not the Commander-in-Chief. Now he has the Greenfield crisis to deal with.
Greenfield University is a private institution established by people believed to be from Southern Kaduna. The Pro-Chancellor is Simon Nwakacha and the Vice-Chancellor is Professor Seth Akutson. Both of them are Christians in a state with high religious sensitivity. Kaduna used to be the centre of tolerance and the melting pot of every ethnic group in Nigeria before the devil shifted address to the place. Now the children of the evil ones are holding Greenfield University and the state hostage.
The kidnappers are demanding N800 million. The parents of the kidnapped students were said to have raised a meagre N15 million. The kidnappers have rejected this sum. They want the N800 million or else, they would kill their hostages one by one. They have killed five. We don’t know when new bodies would be deposited by the road side. Samuel Aruwan, the Kaduna State Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs described the terrorists’ action as “an act of mindless evil and sheer wickedness.” That isn’t the solution.
This April may have been the worst April since the end of the Nigerian Civil War. Every day is filled with bad and frightening news. On April 1, Charles Soludo, the former Governor of the Central Bank and now a politician, barely escaped with his life when armed bandits attacked his team, killing three of his police guards. On April 2, bandits invaded a military base in Niger State, killing five soldiers and policemen as well as seven civilians. On April 4, some bandits invaded Igangan, in Oyo State and attacked a retired school principal, Ojedokun Ogunmodede, almost cutting off his two hands. The same day gunmen killed seven Hausa traders in Imo State. The following day, gunmen kidnapped the traditional ruler of Umuezie community of Imo State, Charles Iroegbu, and all his chiefs!
We should not forget that before the Greenfield calamity, there were other disasters in Kaduna State. Earlier in March, bandits invaded the premises of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Kaduna and abducted many of the students. In the wake of that mass kidnapping, Governor Nasir El-Rufai vowed that he would never pay ransom to kidnappers. He criticized his colleagues in the North who had been sending delegations to kidnappers’ den with many of Ghana-must-go bags filled with naira notes.
“Even if my son is kidnapped, I will rather pray for him to make heaven instead because I won’t pay any ransom,” El-Rufai said.
In recent years since the kidnapping epidemic started in the oil-rich Niger Delta, Nigerians have paid billions of naira to kidnappers. Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State confessed recently that the state government had paid more than N900 million in eight years. No one is telling us the figures for the other states, but if what the Greenfield kidnappers are demanding is a pointer, then we are talking of serious money. Suddenly kidnapping and politics have become the surest way to sudden wealth. Yahoo-plus may be taking a third place. All three may also be seriously related.
While the elite debate what to do with the crime, the kidnappers and bandits are still very busy. On April 6, bandits again struck on a Kaduna highway, killing nine and abducting many other persons. We have had incidents of mindless violence in all parts of the country. While the body counts mount, our governments, especially the Federal Government, appear helpless. Many governors, including the Governor of Niger, Imo, Benue and Kaduna are now lamenting openly.
Our leaders should stop wringing their hands like Pontius Pilate. We have had enough songs of helpless lamentations. They should do to kidnappers what is done to kidnappers all over the world: find them and bring them to justice. They should not allow non-state actors to overwhelm the state. In this category are the likes of Boko Haram, Miyetti Allah, other separatist groups and other bodies that are contending with the Nigerian state over its monopoly to legitimate violence. The state must not allow this for all Nigerians would be the losers for it.
Some misguided youths are preaching violence to effect change. They should remember the old Spanish saying that: “During war time, fathers bury their sons!” It is the youths that bear the brunt of war. We have tried the war option between 1967 and 1970 and it did not bring the expected change. If truth must be told, the war was both unnecessary and preventable. And yet more than one million Nigerians died in that carnage and everything remains the same or worse.
The change we need now is that our President must change the strategies and tactics in this war against banditry, kidnapping, cattle rustling and other crimes. Our Commander-in-Chief must be persuaded to fully occupy his office. Nigeria has the resources and expertise to eliminate the nest of kidnappers and criminals contending for space in our soil. There is therefore no alternative to action.
Dare Babarinsa is renowned writer and author