One thing that you cannot take away from the Boko Haram insurgents is their penchant to rush into where angels fear to tread. This is understandable. For anyone who has signed a death contract, perilous adventures become an enjoyable pastime.
The latest instance of their voyage of death was last Sunday’s misadventure of Boko Haram inmates inside the fortress of the Department of Security Service (DSS) located within the Three Arm Zone or TAZ in Abuja.
There are many versions of the incident that occurred in the precincts of the seat of power. One account has it that an inmate in handcuffs attacked a DSS operative on duty to serve breakfast, leading to an attempted jail break. The security operatives responded fiercely. And by the time the last bullet rang out, no fewer than 21 inmates lay dead.
Another version said that some terrorists on a rescue mission stormed the DSS stronghold and attempted to free their comrades-in-arms. The (ill-fated) task was challenged. The exchange of fire power reverberated across the sleepy environment. Reinforcement was sent for and a helicopter scrambled into the sky to assess the magnitude of the skirmishes.
If the antecedent of the Boko Haram fighters is any guide, then one is tempted to believe the second version of the episode. It would not be the first time they would undertake such a risky gamble. In fact, attacking military formations has become their stock in trade. Perhaps the most daring of such incursions were the perennial assaults on the Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri, the last one occurring on March 14, this year, during which over 200 deaths were recorded. The casualties included the insurgents on a rescue mission and those they had gone to save.
The gun battle at the DSS Headquarters which is a shouting distance from the Presidential Villa should rattle the government and its security apparatchiks who had assumed that it is only the hapless Nigerians in the North-east axis that are vulnerable to the frightening terror attacks. Last Sunday’s incident was not the first to occur around the Three Arm Zone. You will recall the October 1, 2010 bombing along the Shehu Shagari Way, Abuja, a few metres from the Eagle Square, venue of the Independence Celebration of that year.
That deadly attack, which claimed the lives of scores of innocent people and destroyed several automobiles, was masterminded by the MEND terrorists. Even though a thoroughly embarrassed President Goodluck Jonathan rushed to deny that the tragedy was their handiwork because they were his people, MEND insisted it did it. Rather than take the bull by the horns, the president turned tail and fled the Square. He never returned for any official engagement at the “theatre of death” until October last year, preferring to hold such functions inside the fortress of the Presidential Villa… and now, an assault close to his stronghold!
There was also the June 16, 2011 bombing of the Police Headquarters situated along Shehu Shagari Way, Abuja. It was the first suicide bombing carried out by Boko Haram and targeted at the vicinity of the Three Arm Zone.
I have written severally in this space that no one should perceive the festering terror activities of Boko Haram as an isolated predicament peculiar to the North-east axis. If the rescue mission version of the DSS gun battle was the reason for the attack, then Jonathan should stop politicising the Boko Haram conundrum and confront it with all the seriousness it deserves. To accuse the governors of the North-east or the opposition party of being responsible for the perennial insecurity engulfing the entire country is simplistic. Are the so-called fomenters of insecurity operating from another planet? Would they not appreciate the dictum that when the sky is falling, no one is safe?
If the governors of the North-east have failed (ostensibly because they belong to the opposition party), what shall we say of the heightening crises afflicting Benue, Plateau (and Nasarawa) states, two of which are controlled by the PDP, as to warrant deployment of troops to those areas? Nobody is even too sure of the identity of the criminal elements that are carrying out the dastardly acts. Are they wholly Fulani herdsmen or another brand of terrorists masquerading as aggrieved Fulani gunmen?
Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue state, whose convoy last month came under heavy attack at Tse Akenyi on his way to Guma Local Government Area, noted that the attacks were beyond herdsmen. “This is real war,” he was quoted as saying while addressing the victims of one of the attacks in Guma.
Pray, when will the blame game end?
The country is passing through a very difficult period of its existence. There is, therefore, the need for the Federal Government to brace up to the daunting challenges. No society can develop in an atmosphere of insecurity.
Every dark cloud, says an axiom, has a silver lining. Now that the Boko Haram terrorists came close to knocking on Jonathan’s backyard, maybe he will truly no longer treat the insurgents with kid gloves.