By Abdulwahab Oba
The event of the now infamous Black Thursday will linger in our mind for a long time to come. Even though there have been several words to soothe the pains, the memories of the bitter experience where some enemies of humanity and civility massacred innocent lives in Offa all in a bid to rob banks in the ancient community, will stay with us for a long time. They brazenly murdered sleep. They shall never sleep with their eyes close; they shall sleep no more.
Unfortunately, some people are attempting to make political gains out of the cold blooded murder of our innocent brothers and sisters. They are making unsubstantiated allegations. This definitely is politics carried too far. Rather than sympathise with families and friends of the victims and suggest ways to prevent future occurrence, they are busy with hate speeches. And according to Governor Ahmed “what has befallen us is too terrible and saddening for anyone to trivialise for selfish political gain. Those utterances do not reflect our values as Kwarans and should stop, out of respect for the dead and injured. Rather, our people must be vigilant and security conscious as part of community involvement in effective policing”.
And as we prepare to deal with the difficulties of living with the sad tales of the brutal murders by the daring armed robbers, we must also begin to live with questions that will assist in dealing with what has happened effectively and proffer possible solutions that could deter future attempt by these wicked sons of the guns.
No doubt, the major lesson to learn from the sad episode is that we were all caught unawares; apparently no hint, no clue the evil visitors had decided to camp on our land. We were literally sleeping when they came and embolden by our posture they carted away money and snatched several souls. They went about the job as if it were leisure, spending almost one hour as they bombed and killed. And even when they had completed their unenviable job, they still went out of the community with the air of the devil himself!
But don’t blame us too much. While we weep about our apparent state of unpreparedness for the onslaught that befell us, we must not lose sight of the fact that even the best of most prepared nations have fallen victims of such planned attack that we all stand with mouth open in wonder. The United States of America must, in my estimation, be one of the most policed communities on earth, but still the last few weeks have shown how vulnerable that nation is also to these sorts of planned attacks; armed men invading public schools and wasting the lives of innocent youngsters just because of disagreement with one policy or philosophy. This is not a justification of the Offa attack, though. It is to show that security issue is not a one off arrangement but a continuous and sustainable vigilance.
The Offa attack is still a wakeup call for all of us in Kwara state in particular and across Nigeria at large. We have slept long enough and today we must be angry enough to put in place strategies and structures that will henceforth put these hoodlums to shame and block them from ever daring to dare as they did on the Black Thursday. From government to community, from groups to individuals, from compounds to households, we must all rise up to action to defend our society; the gift of God to us which these robbers now seek to rubbish. It is gratifying to note that government has taken steps that are evidently assuring; the provision of Armoured Personnel Carrier for Offa and the deployment of more mobile police units are part of efforts to prevent future occurrence of the ugly incident.
But we need more than these physical and human infrastructures to fight this menace. What happened at Offa, which was a more brutal repeat of an earlier version of the same attack, and which has also been demonstrated in Omuaran and Oro respectively, demand more than that from us? My people, there is an urgent need to look into ourselves; there is need for introspection. Why Offa again? Why Offa in the first instance? Where is our native intelligence gathering mechanism? What are we doing to monitor our communities? Where is the place of local internal security arrangements that could detect such evils before they land on the land?
I think there is an urgent need to strengthen our community vigilante groups by training then in intelligent gathering and operations. That is at the level of the communal, while federal and states government synagise on the task of providing the needed security infrastructure. I align myself completely with the position of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki on what we need to do as a nation to stop this type of carnage. According to Saraki while speaking during a condolence visit to Offa, “this issue requires a very radical and serious minded approach. Unless we address this, we will continue to have this kind of scenario where a bunch of criminals will hold a town for two hours and carry out this mayhem. There is no society that will really allow this kind of thing to happen”.
The federal government also acknowledges the lacuna in our security arrangements, signifying the acceptance of the advocacy for a review of our national security architecture to achieve something more effective than what we have currently. Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture shared this view when he also visited Offa few days after the tragedy: ‘‘I hope also that we are all going to learn from the mistakes; and we are going to factor this into the larger security architecture in a manner that we will have a much more secured and safer states and a country’’.
While Governor Ahmed has “reassured Kwarans, and indeed all Nigerians, that the culprits will be apprehended and brought to justice swiftly”, the real issue in Offa is how to reinvigorate the security system to prevent such a brazen rape of our collective peace. It is no doubt a commendable step that security infrastructure in the state is currently being strengthened, especially through procurement of additional Armored Personnel Carriers (APC) to beef up the security in Offa and strategic locations in the state.
While I find it personally challenging to support state police, I think special attention should be giving to the welfare of our men and women in union. The appointment and removal of police officers should be the exclusivity of the police service commission, while the Senate must approve the appointment and removal of the Inspector General to instil discipline and security of tenure for the office holder.
May we truly learn, all of us, from the mistakes that allowed those shallow minded confused men invaded our land and went unscathed. May the blood of the innocent dead fish them out of their lockers now!
*Oba can be reached via e-mail:email@example.com