And the word of the Lord came unto me the second time, saying, ‘What seest thou?’ And I said, ‘I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north.’ Then the Lord said unto me, ‘out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land.’”
This biblical prophecy recorded in the Book of Jeremiah 1:13-14 sounds like it is directed at Nigeria. The north hosts neither the optimism of the rising sun nor the regenerative beauty of the western sun. Geographers say north is where you face when the sun rises to your right and the sun sets to your left. Think of the geographic North Pole and the Pole of Inaccessibility and the chilly death that lurks forever there. Think about all the evils gnawing at the heart of Nigeria, where is the spring head? Boko Haram from the North-East, Fulani militia and bandits from the North-West. In the North-Central flows a very poisonous colada of all the evils in the first two zones.
Did you hear the Chief of Army Staff last week? He told Thisday newspaper that terrorism is a long-lasting curse meant for everybody, everywhere, an acid rain for all roofs north to south. Hear him: “There is nowhere you will not find Boko Haram – even in Lagos here, there are Boko Haram. In Kaduna, there are Boko Haram. There are more across the North-East. Many have been arrested here in Lagos. We have been tracking them. We arrest them and take them into custody.”
That is from the supreme head of our army, General Tukur Buratai. If you are still not worried at the thought of a tomorrow ravaged by today’s distant atrocities, sit up, the General has more for you. He said: “Terrorism will outlive you and me and probably everybody in this house because, terrorism, since it started, just like armed robbery, like kidnapping, burglary, cultism, will continue.” That was a verdict of death, straight from the main man himself. Imagine the head of fire fighters racing to the rooftops to bellow that this fiercely burning fire that is eating up everything will rage forever. That is a sad, scary closure of hope.
Buratai is from Borno, the birthplace of Boko Haram. He understands the affliction and its treachery more than all of us. His village and local government area have had more than a lifetime experience of terrorism. When was the last time the elite of the North visited his village? When a doctor hired to cure Nigeria of terrorism says the tumor is malignant and drug-resistant, we should be wise enough to accept that only death will cure the sick. And did we not have enough warning of (and about) these calamities from the North? In Islamic texts, the name Jeremiah is vocalized as Irmiyā. Every nation has had at least a Jeremiah warning of days as we live today in Nigeria. We had more than one; we ignored all. The prophesied evil has broken forth out of our untreated North, there is no hiding place for “all the inhabitants of the land.” Lagos people who think themselves safe, and who see ‘others’ as vulnerable yokels should now brace up for the rigors of survival. The same for all others south of the north who live in suicidal denial. Horrible things that happened yesterday happened again today; they will happen tomorrow. That is the message from four-star General Buratai. He cannot be said to be happy about it; every genuine general wants to win a war and be so decorated but the Nigerian North’s genie is simply, sadly out of the bottle – and Buratai knows. The out-of-control flood water is from the vast, collapsed social dam of our General’s part of the country. It will take more than the combined forces of state to conquer the ravaging ‘flame in the flood’.
The Sultan of Sokoto has done very well in the last couple of weeks. The soldier-statesman marched almost non-stop from Sokoto, through Kaduna where he asked diffident elders to repossess the social leash; to Plateau where he disclaimed odious claims of the Fulani owning Nigeria, and to Osun State where he said many right things the right way. But the Sultan needs to do more than talking. I wish I could drive him round Ibadan and show him what his North and the elite there have done to their youths. If I could, I would show him how northern youths live in boisterous suffering and emitting signals of ticking trouble. I would show him mosquito-infested uncompleted buildings in the Oyo State capital which are five-star abodes of northern youths. I would take him to the unsmiling homes of Arewa boys in Ibadan which all have certain things in common. He would see that where youthful migrants from the North live have neither doors nor windows nor toilet nor any other thing beyond bricks and mortar. He would see human beings in clusters of hundreds live, sleep, wake up and bathe right there in the open – and give neighbours reasons to fear and tremble. At night, he would see timid twinkles of phone torches which daily tell that children of some people hide their darkened souls in those caverns. And these disconsolate thousands are a tiny fraction of what the North has bred, and the possible reason the army chief said terrorism would outlive Nigeria.
Let all who think they stand beware. The ground on which the country stands has lost its firmness and integrity and godliness. It is bloody wet and treacherous. Check the map of Nigeria; conflate it with the blood trails of the terrorism of bandits. Banditry appears following the famed grazing route of the Fulani towards the South. It moved from Zamfara left and right to Katsina and Sokoto -then to the latest bride, Niger State where blood flows daily. A friend from Kwara told me he had warned his people at home to learn from the South-West’s Amotekun armor and prepare for the evil running southwards. Father Mathew Kukah at the funeral mass of a murdered seminarian spoke of rescuing the North from its chokehold. He spoke of the North being “one large graveyard, a valley of dry bones, the nastiest and the most brutish” part of Nigeria.” Kukah stressed that the kidnappers of the destiny of Nigeria, despite their narcissistic nepotism, still had “no answers to the millions of young children on the streets in northern Nigeria” while their North “still has the worst indices of poverty, insecurity, stunting, squalor and destitution.” He was soundly abused by partisans whose bones may soon join the dry victims of the northern horror.
It appears too late to rescue the choked from the hold of terrorism. Experiencing at least a tornado of bloodshed is a daily ‘thing’ in the North. On Friday, its whooshing vortex moved to Katsina where bandits killed more than 30 people in our president’s home state. Every fresh killing is a renewal of tragedy with its peculiar pangs. Alhaji Tukur Muaazu, the district head of Batsari, one of the areas where the killings took place, saw the horrid carnage and shivered. A newspaper quoted him as saying: “I have never seen this type of destruction in my life. The bandits arrived here at about 7pm on Friday when residents were about observing Magrib. Some were also preparing to sleep. The bandits laid siege to the village, killing and destroying anything they sighted.”
The state police commissioner, Sanusi Buba was also overwhelmed. He said: “Twenty-one people were killed in Tsauwa while nine were killed in Dankar.” As bad and tragic as the incident was, it may not be the last and the worst – and we have been told by the army chief that such terrorism will outlive this generation of Nigerian leaders.
Jeremiah is described as the Bible’s “prophet of strength and tears.” Some Islamic scholars say he was that prophet “who passed by a town which had fallen down upon its roofs…”(Quran 2:259). All his prophecies came to pass for the people of his time. But how about for Nigeria (and) about its North? If Boko Haram is truly in Lagos and is incubating in other southern states, then the prophet has been here too. While one prays that this will never be confirmed, what is known is that the care-less northern rainmaker has conjured more than its drain could manage. We see clearly that the self-made rain that is pouring on the mountain top of northern Nigeria is getting the valley of the South flooded.
The Chief of Army Staff said it plainly: terrorism won’t go away so soon; Boko Haram is now beyond the land of its creators; it is everywhere, and that includes the South. That was a plaintive call on all who live everywhere outside the North to stay awake. Storm water will inundate all walls and fences and take down all homes and houses if the landlords allow it. My people have this warning in more elegant lyrics: Àgbàrá òjò kò l’óun ò ní’lé wó /Onílé ni ò’ní gbà fun.