Yesterday, many watched with sobriety the fleeing of the Afghanistan president, Ashraf Ghani, and the takeover of The Taliban in major cities, including Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul. This new regime comes with a lot of questions and the fear of what the future of Afghanistan looks like, particularly for women and girls. In several shocking videos, I see Afghanistans at the Kabul airport trying, desperately, to flee their country; 3 dead bodies at the airport; two men clinging desperately to the landing gear of an American airplane taking off and falling off the plane mid-air; women fleeing their homes for fear of murder, rape, or being married off to Taliban soldiers.
Ruth Polland, for Bloomberg, writes that “A generation of Afghan women who have taken their place in society are now watching that space shrink before their eyes. Now The Taliban are going door-to-door in some areas, compiling lists of women and girls aged between 12 and 45 years for their fighters to forcibly marry. Women are again being told they cannot leave the house without a male escort, they cannot work, study or dress as they please. Schools and colleges are being shut and businesses destroyed.”
For many Afghans, the future is uncertain, bleak and dark. For Afghan women, the freedom they have long fought for could go down the drain. Their future is one of no freedom, one where they could be erased, and lost in historical books.
In Nigeria, the fear is different, the major one being that this development could be a source of encouragement for jihadists in Nigeria and in other African countries plagued by religious extremism and wars. There’s the fear that Boko Haram and other terrorists – whom the Federal Government of Nigeria and the media have given a less-dangerous-sounding name – “bandits” – may seek the help of the successful Taliban to conquer more territories and spread their ideologies.
This may or may not be true. But if there’s one thing that is certain, it is that it is time for the Nigerian government and Nigerians to pay more attention to terrorism in the country and the war that is ravaging the Northeast.
If we are to be factual, we would agree that the fight against terrorism in Nigeria is currently being handled with kid’s gloves, and there has been little or no progress. Our inability to stop the activities of insurgents, curb religious extremism, and stop the spread of jihadists is costing us lives, properties and territories. Our accommodation of ‘repentant’ Boko-haram fighters is reflective of a nation that is unserious about winning a war, and is yet to take the lives of its citizens serious.
Here, terrorism is being thinly disguised as banditry, and terrorists are painted as little boys who are simply throwing tantrums. Still, this terrorism is spiralling out of control, and is affecting every aspect of our society.
Between 2017 and May 2, 2020, it was reported that ‘herdsmen’ conducted 654 regular, systematic and targeted attacks, killed 2,539 and kidnapped 253 people. The report noted that most of these attacks were armed assaults against civilians who were mostly farmers practicing a particular religion.
Since Boko Haram, a jihadist terrorist organisation based in northeastern Nigeria, started operations in 2009, they have killed tens of thousands of people and displaced 2.3 million from their homes. In 2015, Boko Haram was ranked as the world’s deadliest terror group – ahead of ISIS.
In the month of June, 2021, those we call “bandits” reportedly killed about 300 people – their highest figure so far. Between January and March, 2021, a total of 323 people were reportedly killed and 949 people were kidnapped by bandits in Kaduna State. In February, they abducted about 397 people who were mainly students, in March, they abducted no fewer than 281 people and 125 in April. In 2020, these bandits reportedly killed 1100 Nigerians. Sahara Reporters report that “the terrorism by the bandits has outpaced that of Boko Haram/ISWAP and Fulani herdsmen which have been described as among the deadliest terrorist groups in the world.” The International Crisis Group says that the ‘herders’ have been rated six times deadlier than the Boko Haram insurgency.
This situation is dire and these figures are staggering. These are not just some random statistics. These are real people who had dreams, and hopes, and life in them. People who were just unfortunate to be in a country that has little regard for their sanity and life.
At this point, we need to pay serious attention to religious extremism, and jihad ideologies spreading in the Northeast, and the terrorism that may sweep through the country in the coming years. We cannot pretend not to read the signs: people are being beheaded for practicing a different religion; Hisbah is shaving off people’s haircut they deem to be immoral; schools are being attacked and ultimately closed; school children are still in captivity; certain places of worship are being targeted and burned down; documents released showed a minister of a secular state’s extremist religious views and his promise of jihad; people’s limbs are being caught off for wrongdoings; people are fleeing their villages/regions because it is riddled with guns and blood; girls are being married off at a very young age; secessionists are springing up from every corner; little boys are wielding rifles and capturing it in photos; militants are hoisting their flags in captured villages; bandits are demanding taxes from villagers – these are things we must never condone, or handle with levity.
More than ever before, Nigerian leaders must rein in their ever-hungry bellies and constant urge to loot the country dry, and focus on curbing this impending catastrophe. They must sacrifice their overwhelming need to politicise insecurity and foster divisiveness in the country for their political gain for a better cause: security. As Nigerians, we must look beyond our religion and tribe and speak against terrorism. That you live in the West or East does not mean what happens in the North is not your business. Terrorism is strategic, creeping slowly until it consumes and subdues. Our “e no concern me” attitude will cost us a lot in future.
The disintegration of the Afghan state over a few short weeks has been shocking to watch, and the takeover of The Taliban shows what could happen if we sleep with both eyes closed and let terrorism in Nigeria fester.
Nigerians have worked too hard to get here, terrorism will take us too many decades back.
Love and light to Afghans in this trying period.