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Friday, 9 September 2011



By Emmanuel Onwubiko

An informal discussion at the weekend between me and two of my South African friends that began with banters and smooth exchanges soon turned into a heated debate when one of the South Africans took strong exception to my observation that President Jacob Zuma of South Africa has never been decisive in tackling the protracted political crises in the neighboring Zimbabwe following the softly-softly diplomatic approach that the South African government has adopted in the last few years in the internal political upheavals between supporters of President Robert Magabe of Zimbabwe and prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

One of my two South African friends objected strongly to my criticism of the tepid diplomatic roles played so far by her home government in the ongoing political crises and questioned the credentials of any Nigerian to question the South African President’s handling of Zimbabwe’s political ordeals. According to her, Nigeria is a country of rioters and the political leadership are people who lack the political will and the necessary competencies to tackle these crises. The evidences are as graphic as they are cruel and savagery.

My South African friend who has spent over a dozen years in different parts of Nigeria stoutly defended her assertion that Nigeria is either a failing state or a failed state with graphic details of how many cases of bomb explosions by suspected religious extremists known as Boko haram that were detonated with adverse consequences in the last couple of months in different parts of Northern Nigeria. She further dismissed a statement credited to the Inspector General of Police Mr. Hafix Ringim that the days of the boko haram’s sectarian violence were over.

The Inspector General of police had on June 14th 2011 in Maiduguri, Borno state the hot bed of the armed religious extremists (boko haram) boasted that the days of boko haram sect members are numbered in Borno state.

My South African co-discussant said that there was nothing pragmatic to show that the Nigeria police was ready to confront the rising threats of terrorism and bomb explosions by suspected members of the boko haram religious violent sect.

She recalled that on April 18th 2011 there was a twin bomb explosion in Niger and Kaduna States on the eve of the botched April 9th National Assembly election which claimed lives of six members of the National Youth Corps Service who were being deployed for national assignment for the just ended elections. On April 9th 2011 there was an explosion at a polling unit in Maiduguri near Monday market which left the suicide bomber dead and in Maiduguri again on April 25th 2011 three bombs exploded killing at least three persons.            

The South African lady further graphically reminded me that on May 19th 2011 three policemen and two soldiers were injured during an early morning bomb blast along Lagos street in Maiduguri and on May 29th 2011 the inauguration day of re-elected President Jonathan, three powerful bombs exploded in Zuba near Abuja, Zaria and Maiduguri in which two persons died and sixteen others including children as young as three were seriously injured. The deadliest bomb explosion happened in the Army Barrack in Bauchi on May 30th 2011 when bomb explosions by suspected boko haram members killed thirteen persons and injured scores of others.

Looking at me with profound pity, my South African co-discussant reminded me that the Spokesperson of the armed boko haram sect recently threatened to unleash unprecedented violence all over Northern Nigeria and Abuja because according to the spokesman some newly recruited fighters have just arrived from Somalia. The South African said that the best thing Nigeria can do in the current disturbing situation is to practically and actually carry out comprehensive and genuine reforms of the entire security agencies and equip the operatives with modern intelligence gathering capacity.

Thanking her for her profound knowledge of security matters, my mind went straight to the fact that the spokesman of the boko haram sect threatened to teach the Nigerian state a lesson it will not forget in a hurry by the time they are through with their threats of unleashing devastating violence all across Nigeria.

Few days after the threat, powerful bomb explosion happened right inside the vicinity of the Nigeria Police Force headquarters which claimed the lives of over a dozen persons including the suspected suicide bomber. This incident featured as breaking news even while I was still in conversations with my South African friends just as the most outspoken South African eventually concluded her argument with a categorical statement that Nigeria is a nation of rioters and bombers. I agree substantially with her submission because so far the nation’s security agencies have failed to prevent the spate of bomb explosions in parts of Northern Nigeria.

Thinking about the phrase that Nigeria is a nation of bombers reminds me of the June 16th 2011 bomb explosions in the Force Headquarters which incidentally was a sad reminder that the Nigerian state has lost control of its territory or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force therein which is one of the salient characteristic of a failing or failed state.

FUND FOR PEACE, a United States based Think Tank recently published a finding that the attributes often used to characterize a failed state include but not limited to a loss of control of its territory, or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force therein…. Are there doubts in our minds that Nigeria has approached this dangerous precipice?

One of the salient social indicators of a failed state is the presence of what scholars called “the legacy of vengeance seeking grievance” and this precisely occasioned rightly or wrongly from recent or past injustice which could date back centuries including atrocities committed with impunity against communal groups and/or specific groups singled out by state authorities.

Boko haram members said they are unleashing the spate of violent bomb explosions on some key security facilities of the Nigerian state because their leader Muhammed Yusuf captured alive by the police in 2009 but was killed by extra-legal means. This extra-legal execution is reprehensible and despicable.

 That the remnants of the extremely violent religious sect can penetrate the so-called fortified headquarters of the Nigeria police in Abuja which is a stone throw to the nation’s Presidential palace is one of the biggest security breaches of our modern day and has brought home the argument of whether Nigeria is a failed or failing state. 

What I think should occupy the minds of Nigeria’s political leaders is bow best to bring this regime of targeted violent killings and bomb explosions to an end even if it means approaching the United States government and the Israelis to teach our security operatives effective lessons on how to combat the widespread terrorism-related bomb explosions by identifying the masterminds and sponsors for lawful prosecution.

The Nigerian government must promote social justice, equity, fair play and eliminate all traces of impunity according to the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria in their statement to mark Nigeria’s golden jubilee.

*          Emmanuel Onwubiko heads HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS’ ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA, Abuja, and can be reached on 


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