Home OPINION COLUMNISTS The Anguish Of Kidnapping And Extremism By Garba Shehu

The Anguish Of Kidnapping And Extremism By Garba Shehu


This is a very difficult period for many families, but it is even more so for the whole country, dealing with insurgency and kidnapping. I see a silver lining in the sky though, with Nigeria’s Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar now in the United States of America asking that this country be helped.

That is the right way to go. Nigeria needs international help because we just have been waffling and digging ourselves deeper and deeper into the hole.

Look at it this way. If we had spent the enormous quantity of newsprint and quality Radio/TV air time the country has used in the last two weeks discussing the ASUU strike, Boko Haram or kidnapping instead of the mismanagement of the Ministry of Aviation and the actions of one person, Ms. Stella Oduah, I  bet you some distance will have been covered in finding solutions. It’s clear to the world by now that we are not just serious.

I have a colleague who has not spent a night in his father’s house in the village for four years. This is a ritual he cherished a lot each time he came home from his the country of residency in Europe. Kidnappers would be happier with him in the village than family members if he goes there today.

Another of my friends who lives in Abuja says among the many tricks he plays against kidnappers to go  to his mum and dad is to sneak into the village late at night. Early the following morning, he excuses himself to visit a nearby uncle. He sneaks out of the village because to say bye-bye means to put someone on notice that he is leaving. He could run into a kidnappers’ ambush.

If you notice it, most high society weddings and burials have moved from the East and the South-south and from Boko Haram ravaged states of the North-East to Lagos and Abuja.

Kidnapping for ransom and terrorism have taken a centre stage and are major factors in planning meetings and social events. They are key in deciding when and where you travel around the country.

I was in Delta State recently for this year’s  Editors’ conference and chose a tour group to the hinterland to see how much impact enhanced oil revenues had made to the life of the ordinary people. I was impressed by so much development activity taking place. I was however taken aback by the many well-built homes in towns and villages whose owners have moved to safer places in Lagos and the North. They make  a terrible eye-sight. Many local officials who can afford it hire houses for their mothers and fathers away from their villages and have them on internal exile in safer towns. Some traditional rulers have equally moved, ruling their subjects from  the safe distances  of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and other places.

A group of armed pirates last Wednesday attacked an oil supply vessel off the Nigerian coast  and kidnapped the Captain and Chief Engineer, both United States citizens and the debacle is still on.

In recent times, hostages takers in that volatile region and the sea boarder have virtually seized citizens of all nations-Indians, Phillipinos, Labanese, British, Russians, French- just about everyone. It is a sobering thought that the  kidnapping of ” high value” Nigerians has itself become  routinised; we have become so used to that aspect to the point that it no longer warrants the  type of  frenzy we are witnessing in dealing with the Americans.

When a Nigerian of value is taken, family members are taught the correct line of action, which is that they keep the police out of it and negotiate and pay. It goes without saying that this has angered the security services in many instances but but there are also reported cases where they are the ones who point at this line of action. They simply blindside it.

The difference this one makes is that Americans are involved and the United States isn’t just another nation: it is the world’s only remaining super-power. That’s why every arm of the security services, especially the Nigerian Navy has been all action. All nations around the globe know that no one is allowed to mess around with American lives.

As President of Panama, Manuel Noriega, a rogue leader had done so so much to anger the neighboring United States but the sharpest case of American ire was ignited by the kidnap and rape of a female citizen by a Panamanian soldier. This culminated in the invasion of the Latin American country by the U.S army whose biggest prize was the overthrow from power and seizure of that errant nation’s leader. Noriega has since completed a prison term upon conviction by the U.S  justice system and has been handed to France who had planned to put him under yet another trial.

The latest incident in the Niger Delta has brought into sharp focus around the world Nigeria’a widely-seen failure to effectively deal with violent crimes and acts of terror.

Apart from poor governance, it has indicated two other challenges this country faces: a lack of leadership and the inability of the country’s security agencies to impose their competence on the domestic issue of insecurity.

While this is going on, the administration is using ethnicity and religion to cover unethical behavior as we are witnessing in the recent scandal involving the Minister of Aviation.

From reactions to the recent kidnap and the fact of the Gulf of Guinea becoming the world’s most dangerous waters,there is the prospect of growing U.S- and global- impatience with terrorism, sea piracy and kidnapping scourges, leading possibly to bold, if not unilateral action in the event of this country’s continuing lethargy. This, as is being hinted, could include a go-it-alone effort to rescue their citizens.

In many ways, the situation at the sea border mirrors the state of affairs inside the country.

In spite of the huge cash pay-outs, mouth-watering contracts, oversea scholarships and jobs, ex-militants in the region have persisted with their violent agenda, targeting the army, police, foreigners, oil pipelines  and all facilities. The recent arson claimed by the militant group MEND at the Warri Refinery is a case in point.

It is clear that violence pays in the region as it does in many parts of Nigeria. If militants, extremists and criminals can get away with violence, there is absolutely no incentive for peace.

Only a resolute leadership determined to to purge the scourge of violence and extremism can save Nigeria from this state of destruction.

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