Shola Oshunkeye: 10 dead squatters and the rest of us

by Shola Oshunkeye

Nigeria-soldiers-army

That contradiction clearly underscores the unhealthy rivalry among our security agencies. The disturbing development has become a recurring decimal since the Jonathan Administration declared war on Boko Haram, the terror organization that has been desecrating our country with the blood of the innocent.

Since she became the spokesperson of the Department of State Service, DSS, Ms. Marilyn Ogar, has always acquitted herself well on the beat. Elegant, and blessed with the gift of the gab, she has been the perfect face of the vastly improved and hugely urbane security service, hitherto known as SSS.

The DSS deputy director of information was in her element on primetime television, the other day, when she was explaining off the raid that led to the death of 10 people in an uncompleted building in Gudu Disrict of Abuja on Friday, September 20. Watching that report, I got the impression that the operation was carried out exclusively by her department. That was until last Thursday, when the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, told the House of Representatives Committee on National Security and Intelligence, that the Commander, Guards Brigade, actually coordinated the attack.

That contradiction clearly underscores the unhealthy rivalry among our security agencies. The disturbing development has become a recurring decimal since the Jonathan Administration declared war on Boko Haram, the terror organization that has been desecrating our country with the blood of the innocent.

But that is not the thrust of this column today. The focus is on the definitive declaration by Gen. Ihejirika that contrary to claims by residents and rights activists that the Gudu 10 were artisans and tricycle operators, they were terrorists. For good effect, Bala Mohammed, Minister of Federal Capital Territory, FCT, who also addressed the committee, told the panel that the ‘terrorists’ were in an advance stage of a plot to bomb the Radio House, shopping malls, as well as churches in the nation’s capital on Sunday, September 22.

Gen. Ihejirika, who informed that the police were deliberately left out of the operation because of its specialised nature, further stated that the primary objective of the raid was to seize improvised explosive devices, IEDs, which the ‘terrorists’ had buried in a cemetery.

If we are to hold the narratives by the troika sacrosanct, we should be having a national thanksgiving service, today, to thank the Almighty for helping our security agencies to amputate the plot by that pre-emptive strike. If we accept that the Gudu 10 were actually terrorists caught at the edge of launching coordinated attacks on Abuja, then, we must offer sacrifices of praise to God Almighty for saving us from a catastrophe that would have quaked the foundation of our nation. Just like the recent Westgate Mall massacre in Nairobi, Kenya, by Al Shabab militants, that claimed 62 lives, with another 60 still missing.

However, rather than lay the matter to rest, and help the dead to rest in peace, the declarations by the COAS, the FCT minister and Ogar have added more fuel to the public’s interrogation of what actually happened that Friday. Judging from the way the issue has spiked the pulse of the public, the security agencies involved in the operation need to do a lot more in their narratives if they must sustain their claims, and erase public cynicism and outrage.

For a start, they need to convince Nigerians that they did not profile the Gudu 10 before killing them. They need to confront Nigerians with incontrovertible evidence(s) that the victims were neither artisans nor residents of Gudu but merchants of death currently unleashing a war of attrition on the country. Such evidences should include showing the world the IEDs captured during the raid. For better effect, such efforts should also include a media tour of the spot(s) where the weapons were buried.

Prior to the disclosure by Ihejirika and Mohammed, it was widely believed that a retired Army General was the owner of the yet-to-be-completed property, a twin duplex. It was also rumoured that the unidentified General used his influence and ‘connection’ to instigate the attack after several attempts, by him, to eject the ‘illegal residents’ had woefully flopped.

However, Yahaya Yusuf, Director, Development Control, Federal Capital Development Agency, FCDA, who accompanied the minister to the House session, solved the riddle when he gave the name of the owner as Mrs. Adunni Oluwola Salisu. The woman is rumoured to be a relation of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Without prejudice to the ex-president, the military authorities should make the lady to tell Nigerians all she knows about the incident. Did she use her influence to send the victims to Golgotha?

Although it is practically impossible not to suffer any collateral damage while warring against terror, relevant authorities need to provide sincere answers to those posers in order to obliterate the allegation of ‘extra-judicial killings’ slapped on the security agencies. Faithful response to the questions would also knock the bottom off the suggestion in some quarters that the Gudu 10 were wasted because they were poor.

In the face of all these, I think diligent investigation should be launched into the September 20 killings to unearth the truth about what transpired that day. If at the end of the day, the agencies were not indicted for any unprofessional conduct, Nigeria would have moved the war on terror several notches up. But if, on the other hand, they are found to have done untoward things, those found culpable should be brought to account.

Meanwhile, the authorities should seize this moment to appraise the campaign against terror. They must tighten all loose ends. They must ensure that the campaign conforms to international benchmarks, at all times. It must show copious respect for the sanctity of life.

The agencies must strengthen their cooperation in our collective interest. Since the ultimate objective is to make Nigeria safer, better and more conducive for all of us to achieve our aspirations, the campaign should not be about personal or departmental victories. It should be about the nation, about our national interest. Should the current interagency distrust persist, it may be advisable to appoint a shuttle diplomacy practitioner of sort, who would interface between the agencies that regularly butt heads for superiority.

On their part, Nigerians must be more security conscious. They must be sensitive to their environment, as well as events and persons around them. People should not hesitate to report suspicious movements or persons around them. And the agencies should treat such report with utmost confidentiality and high sense of professionalism. Above all, we must constantly lift up this shaky union in prayer.

 

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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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