Of ex-corps member Amuta, Coronavirus and Auno carnage, by Hassan Gimba

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Hassan Gimba.
Hassan Gimba.

The Arbiter

Last week, the nation was aghast at the unexpected news of Abraham Amuta, a former youth corps member in the clutches of Boko Haram who renounced his Nigerian citizenship for that of the group that is holding him.

Abducted by Boko Haram insurgents in April 2019, Amuta reportedly rejected an offer to be freed by the terrorists, telling negotiators who went to the Sambisa Forest to secure his release to go back home, saying he had renounced his Christian faith and is now a member of Boko Haram.

Negotiation for the release of Amuta and the other captives continued until the process collapsed at the last hour following the ex-corps member’s decision to remain with his captors.

Benue-born Amuta was kidnapped mid-way into his one-year mandatory national service in Borno State alongside three other members of the Living Faith Church (Winners Chapel) on their way to Chibok to distribute relief items to internally displaced persons as well as evangelize those they meet there.

When he was abducted last year, Amuta’s housemate, Ezeanya, who described him as an audacious chap, made a tweet that went viral, disclosing that a member of the church had told him that the insurgents had demanded N200m to release their captives.

He said of his abducted housemate: “He would always talk about his experience as a security agent in Jos (Plateau State) and how he is ready to go to Sambisa Forest whenever the opportunity comes because he has got security experience. He said during the crisis in Jos, a vigilante group was set up there and he was part of the group. He is a tough guy.”

However, we need to look deeper to understand the situation, and perhaps our nation would see the need to rise up and have every citizen’s back. And knowing Nigerians, whatever made Citizen Amuta stay back will not be an issue for long because, soon, he will be forgotten and we shall all move on. We are a forgetful lot really. Nothing occupies our thoughts for long.

In an earlier article about the abducted Chibok and Dapchi girls, I had said:

“You see, the way the innocent child sees its father as a superhero who will give it protection is the way the innocent citizen considers his country. The truth is those Chibok girls have realised the hard way that, in Nigeria, life goes on. Conversely, those under the captivity of the terrorists, being of impressionable ages, would have seen the ‘strength’ in the bandits and could possibly have savoured the ‘adventure’. Any wonder why some refused to return? They no longer have respect for a government or society that cannot protect its own”.

Most importantly, and sadly so, the average citizen sees all this and loses hope.

All those abducted by Boko Haram naturally expect their country to come to their rescue. This, of course, does not countenance the fact that our army has recorded exceptional feats, at times, by freeing many abducted victims. The issue is, every abducted citizen deserves to be freed by his country. The means matter little; their freedom is the ultimate.

When that is not the case, the victim’s faith in his country gets punctured. With the country’s might demystified in his eyes, he can begin to fantasize the power and invincibility of his captors. Is that Amuta’s case?

In a country weighed down by increasing insecurity, where life has become short, nasty and brutish, such victims may feel they are “safer” in the hands of the terrorists.

We need to do a lot of things in Nigeria to help citizens regain their trust in the country.

Take the issue of Nigerians in China. With the outbreak of Coronavirus, countries around the world hearkened to the distress call of their citizens and evacuated them back home. Some countries did not wait to be called; immediately they sensed that their citizens’ could be in danger, they quickly went and freighted them back home.

We are not even talking of America or European countries; Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and India all evacuated their people. Nigeria, however, has the likes of Pakistan for a company in refusing to lift a finger to save their own.

It is understandable considering that we are not as medically advanced as the advanced countries, therefore caution is required. Countries that have the capacity, have facilities where they can quarantine their evacuees for at least two weeks within which latent symptoms manifest.

We may not be able to do that; surely, if we bring in even one carrier, then we are done for. However, the way we are going about it is not commendable. There is no need for the drama that ensued at the House of Representatives over the issue of evacuating the about 300 Nigerians, most of them students from China.

The silence from the executive arm is also terrible. It does not need legislative approval to order their evacuation.

A simple assurance letter or words from Chinese authorities on its ability to take care of any infected Nigerian, which can be sourced through diplomatic engagement, could suffice and everyone would be proud. Now, just think of what the Nigerians in China, or even here in Nigeria, would think of their country.

Now to the carnage in Auno, a 14-kilometre drive to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, by Boko Haram insurgents. What happened on the night of Sunday has been long in coming.

Some weeks back, the Borno State governor, Professor Babagana Umara Zulum, had cause to confront the army who always locked out commuters from entering Maiduguri once it was 4 pm – it was later extended to. This unwise decision is not only limited to Maiduguri because it happened to me on my way into Damaturu from Maiduguri.

What’s saddening about this is not that people who ‘cooperated’ with the soldiers manning the checkpoints were let in, no. The implication is that Nigeria cedes that road to Boko Haram till the next day.

It is like saying “from 6 am to 5 pm, the road is Nigeria’s but from that time till 6 am, we have surrendered it to Boko Haram”. It’s pathetic but that’s the sad truth.

Now, by locking people out and returning to the safety of the town, the army is effectively telling those citizens that they are game for Boko Haram, and the insurgents can come and do whatever they want with them:  kill, burn and recruit. They are sitting ducks. What a shame!

Because of this thoughtlessness, over 30 people among those refused entry into Maiduguri were killed, close to 20 vehicles burnt and shops and residences of Auno residents razed.

Among those burnt to ashes were Fatima, a university of Maiduguri undergraduate; Mama Gana, a Mass Communication undergraduate of the same university and a three-month-old baby whose mother was mercilessly slaughtered by the heretics. Imagine any of them to be your sister or daughter! Can you think of how their parents and loved ones are feeling now?

But this also lay bare mischievous rabble-rousers’ attempt at misinforming the world that people of certain tribes or religion are the targets. All Nigerians, irrespective of the tribe or religious leaning must come together to fight these insurgents.

Like everything us, is this Auno carnage by these retards soon to be forgotten with no one paying for it? No probe, no punishment and no compensation?

At the time of writing this, I learnt that Boko Haram forces were attacking Tungushe, a village in Gubio Local Government, located along Maiduguri – Monguno road. The last kicks of the dying horse as we are told, is it?

One doesn’t know what to say apart from the oft-repeated phrase that Nigeria must wake up; the authorities must sit up. The time for cheap propaganda is over.

In 2014, Boko Haram’s plan was to isolate and encircle Maiduguri from the rest of the country and overrun it from all sides. Now they are reawakening that dream while we move on as if nothing is amiss.

READ ALSO: Insecurity: North Under Siege, by Hassan Gimba

But where in Nigeria is safe? One can only travel from one town to the next at one’s own risk. Travelling now must be undertaken only when absolutely necessary and with trepidation until one has arrived at the destination.

Everyone’s heart is in their mouth when a loved one travels on our roads, and they keep calling to assure themselves that all is well until the journey is over.

Indeed, most people travel now only if when it is absolutely necessary, or when they cannot avoid it. These are perilous times indeed and people have become ‘imprisoned’ in their communities.

But even in towns, people no longer sleep with both eyes closed. Soothing sleep has become a thing of the past as the owners of the night prowl unchallenged and breaks into people’s houses, take whatever they want, including lives.

Every morning, people greet their neighbours but deep down they mean, “we are lucky to see today, let’s hope we see tomorrow”.

But it does not stop at that. Moving around towns during the day or early part of the night is no longer advisable.  One can be stopped and robbed, kidnapped or killed just like that. In Abuja, the fear of “one chance” taxis and Keke NAPEP is the beginning of wisdom.

No one is safe anywhere and those whose job is to keep us safe tell us all is well; all is not.

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