A few people fell as one girl screamed; “I knew I should have left for London today. I knew it.” Was that a bomb I had just heard? I didn’t want to believe it.
Bombings in Nigeria first became a national issue the moment Abuja was hit on October 1, 2010. There couldn’t have been a more significant date and city to use as launch pad to change the course of our history. The ‘Eagle Square’ is supposed to be a symbol of Nigeria’s democracy. I marched on that ground back in the 90’s as a secondary school kid when it was still called the ‘New Parade Ground’. I have been there a few more times to attend concerts, and some other events. The first thing I said on hearing about the bombing on that day was “it could have been me or just anyone else.”
The ‘mami market’ at the Sani Abacha Barracks was the next to be bombed on New Year’s Eve a few months later. That market is popular for its unbelievably cheap yet extremely tasty grilled fish and chips. Between 2006 and 2010, I was probably there on every Saturday morning that I spent in the capital city. The shock on hearing the news and picturing the faces of the women, who grill the fish there, was too hard to take. Again I knew it could have been me or just anyone else.
The last time I was at the Loius Edet House, headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force, I had gone to process a tint permit for my father’s car. I actually remember walking in with little or no scrutiny and doing my thing then heading out. A few months later, the building was in the news with black smoke bellowing from its car park. It easily could have been me or anyone else at the building on that day.
I have a few friends who work at the UN building in Abuja. It is also pretty close to my church. I was there some years ago to pick up a friend and I still remember admiring the structure and imagining working for the UN at some point. When news that the building had been attacked hit me, I wasn’t sure how to react. I was worried about my friends who work there. I was also worried about how random the bombings had become. It could be me, or anyone next.
I wrote for ThisDay Newspapers for upwards of four years. I went to their Apapa and Jabi offices very often at the time. News of their Abuja office getting attacked, couldn’t have hit closer home. Who is to say that whoever was there on that day deserved death more than I or anyone else? It really could have been me.
Last week, I was at a bar ‘Beer Barn’ on Aminu Kano Crescent on the eve of my friend’s wedding. There’s a strip of bars on that road, so even at 2am, it feels as busy as 5pm. For the many attacks that have hit Abuja, the nightlife had been mostly untouched and thankfully so. I walked in and went to say hello to my friends. Less than 5 minutes later, another friend called on me from the outdoor wing of the bar. I went out to say hi, took in the wonderful view of the street, which also included Kryxtal Lounge, a bar less than 4 buildings away, and then I walked back in.
I ordered a drink and was just about to settle down to it, when everything changed. The bang I heard was deafening. It was so loud that the music at the bar went off. Everyone at the outdoor end of the bar started running in with the most desperate looks of fear on their faces. A few people fell as one girl screamed; “I knew I should have left for London today. I knew it.” Was that a bomb I had just heard? I didn’t want to believe it. Less than a minute later, my phone rang. My sister all the way in the Zone 5 area, had heard the bang and wanted to be sure I was safe. Next thing she said was; “Come back home now.” I didn’t even think twice before following her orders. I still don’t know that it was a bomb or transformer or balloon that went off that night, but I sure know that I heard a sound that was way louder than anything you would call normal.
The famous “I don’t give a damn” quote by President Jonathan during the Presidential Media chat last weekend, when put side by side the timeline above of bomb blasts in the federal capital, makes for a chilling outlook. And to think that all of these only happened in Abuja, a place with fewer attacks than Niger, Yobe, Plateau, Kano, Borno, Kaduna and Bauchi States.
Yes, there’s a new National Security Adviser who should be coming in with new ideas and hopefully a solution to the problem. His visit to Borno and Yobe States is significant, as senior government officials had stayed away from both states in the past, fearing for their lives. But visits are not enough. These bombings cannot and should not continue. Even if not for the fear it has left in many Nigerians, let it be for the lives that continue to be lost for no reason.
Nigerians do give a damn about their lives. Nigerians do give a damn that their President is not doing enough to secure their lives. Nigerians do give a damn that many more lives may just be lost because Mr. President does not give a damn. How many close shaves can I and other Nigerians afford and for how much longer?
We all are rooting for the new NSA to succeed. But the truth remains that he needs his principal to give a damn about getting the nation back in shape for him to succeed. It is Kaduna and Maidugiri and Jos today. The President needs to give a damn before it becomes all of Nigerians tomorrow.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija