I was going to give you another dose of Nigerian survival secrets, but as you all heard, they bombed my city again last Sunday. So, I stopped and asked myself: What does it profit a poor columnist to save the whole ungrateful Nigeria and lose his limbs and life?
The bombers had sent a message about two weeks ago saying Kaduna was going to be bombed soon. We knew but, trust me, nothing can prepare you for a bomb attack. I was in the toilet when the bomber prematurely detonated his bombs. The window rattled and because there is a quarry near my house, I thought, ok, Bulus and his boys have started. But I got the phone calls to say ‘our people’ have come again. You see, when I heard it went off prematurely, I felt a bit sorry for him. The bomber, I mean. I hear he is supposed to say a final prayer for his soul or something. Apparently he didn’t get to say that prayer. I wonder where that leaves him. Kai, a serious mission like that, you go without final words? Bad.
Anyway, the reality of the situation dawned on me. My dear Kaduna is now Iraq reloaded. In the past, when they tell you so-and-so is killing people with machetes at so-and-so junction in Kaduna, you could at least avoid the junction. With bombs, there are no warnings, just a loud ‘kaboom’ and plenty deaths.
It has changed everything and everyone. I see a man driving unusually slow in front of me, I overtake or stop completely to let him go past. I notice a man has gallons in his car, empty or otherwise, I turn off at the next junction. When I have to take public transport, I am kind to everyone. I say ‘shift’or ‘dress’ very kindly, just so I don’t annoy any potential bomber. And if some scary looking guy refuses to shift, I will tell him “It’s ok not to shift, I can manage” with a smile.
I have heard many stories of taxi or bus drivers who unknowingly transported Boko Haram people and were only saved by their kindness. Half of them are lies of course, but the coolest stories these days in Kaduna are ‘How-I-survived-deadly-Boko-Haram-passengers’ stories. I just acquired my own story. I left my jalopy with the mechanic and took a bus into town a few days ago. There was this man by my side who was unusually quiet. The other passengers, still reeling from the effects of the bomb the previous day, began complaining, cursing, hmmm-ing and ahhh-ing about Boko Haram. Through all of it, he was casting passive aggressive glances at the talking passengers. As he leaned back and put his hand into his pocket, I immediately shouted to the conductor that I had to drop. Now! Nearly 1km before my stop. Truth is, he could have been looking for money to pay the conductor, but what do I care? I have my ‘how I survived a Boko Haram bus attack’ story. This story will be retold with increasing colorfulness and imagination on what could have happened to the remaining passengers after I alighted.
I am sad that many of our cities are now so unsafe. That I get sweaty in hold-ups, not because of the heat, but because I know that if some dude decides to blow himself up, I have nowhere to run. That because of the sins of a few, innocent men with beards and caftans get profiled and dragged to corners and searched in ways that diminish human dignity. That there are only two certain things in Nigeria these days: power outages and the Boko Haram attacks. I am sad that people are scared to report anything to the Police because that is a sure death sentence. That the Police are powerless in this matter. That the government seems powerless.
But there is hope. As I write this, the second batch of trainees on the use of dogs in the fight against terrorism have just completed their training. God bless the Nigerian government for responding to this Boko Haram threat with well-trained dogs. What a Nigerian man cannot do, a foreign dog can do.
Ok. I am done complaining about my city. Find below, an abridged version of what should have been my article:
HOW TO REACT OFFICIALLY TO NEWS OF TERROR ATTACKS
- Do nothing. Yes. At least for the first few hours. Do they know whether you were in the middle of a meeting or drinking session when they attacked? What if you were praying –they don’t expect you to interrupt your prayers to the God who won you the elections, do they?
- Release a statement through one of your aides, calling it a dastardly act. Promise that by June (or some other far away month) the bombings will be a thing of the past.
- Set up a committee to look into the bombing.
- Send a high-powered delegation to visit the site of the bombing
- Commiserate with the traditional ruler of the area and with the governor, because they are the most affected by the blast, not those who actually lost friends and family.
- Swear by your God that you will catch them.
- Set up another committee to look into the recommendations of the first committee.
- After a long time, visit the scene of the blast.
- Award a contract for the importation of good Israeli dogs to counter terrorism.
- Go back to whatever it is you were doing before the blast.
- (Or tell people that the bombers have infiltrated your government, the army, the police, Immigration, Customs, SEC, EFCC, your town meeting, and there is nothing you can do about it.)
This article first appeared in Daily Times Nigeria