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Bloodied but Unbowed, We March On

29 Apr 2012

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Simon Kolawole Live!: Emailsimonkolawole@thisdayonline.com



THISDAY became the latest victim of terrorism last Thursday as suicide bombers attacked our offices in Abuja and Kaduna, killing at least eight persons. Immediately these co-ordinated and simultaneous attacks were executed, people started calling and asking: why THISDAY? What did you guys do to them? Later in the evening, a news website reported that “Boko Haram” had claimed responsibility. According to the claim, the attacks were meant to warn the media over biased reporting of their activities. The spokesman said the stories that favoured Boko Haram were not being positively reported while the angle of the security agencies was having the better part of the front page.

If indeed Boko Haram was responsible for the attacks on THISDAY, then a different branch of the sect did it. I know of the Boko Haram that is avenging the death of its leader, Muhammed Yusuf, in the hands of security agencies in 2009. They have been launching attacks on police, army and SSS ever since then. I know of Boko Haram that is seeking to Islamise Nigeria with the backing of some international terrorist groups. They deploy suicide bombers and are obviously carrying out the major operations in the North today. And now, as premature tension begins to build up ahead of the 2015 presidential election, another branch of Boko Haram—hired by some desperate politicians—may have emerged. And, my sense tells me, that political wing was responsible for the murderous attacks on THISDAY.

Why am I saying this? If we examine the allegations attributed to “Abu Qaqa” in the claim against THISDAY, they cannot be substantiated. It is just like giving a dog a bad name in order to butcher it. Any honest observer who could take the pain of doing a content analysis of this newspaper would come to the conclusion that we have been very fair in our reporting of the insurgency. There is nothing we have reported that other papers have not reported. In fact, we are not a “good” option for those who want to read exclusive stories on Boko Haram. As I read through the accusations by “Abu Qaqa” one by one, it became clear to me that whoever authored the claims did not study THISDAY properly. Most of the “offensive” reports “Abu Qaqa” was referring to were not carried by THISDAY. More so, when Boko Haram recently issued a statement threatening some media houses, they specifically named those that they had problems with. THISDAY was not on the list.

All that we have sought at THISDAY is a lasting resolution to the crisis, and this has guided our editorial treatment of stories in reporting the conflict. Personally, I have been a subject of intensive attacks from Southerners and Middle Belters who accused me of being “too soft” on Boko Haram. Some have gone to the extent of cursing me, heaping abuses on me and my family and anything that relates to me. When I wrote to support ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s underground moves to negotiate with some members of the group, I was thoroughly insulted by a man who said his aunty was injured in the UN House attack. When I wrote that the security agencies were wrong to, extra-judicially, kill the Boko Haram leader, someone accused me of trying to be “politically correct” by taking sides with “those animals”.

On this page, I have consistently canvassed a multi-dimensional approach to addressing the conflict. I am a student of conflict and development and I know, judging from case studies around the world, that any conflict that has religious undertone can hardly be fully resolved, much less with military force. Religious extremism is an incurable disease; if you cannot prevent it, then you have to devise a lasting way of containing it. This, unfortunately, involves some shifting of ground, which could be in the form of negotiation, without compromising the sovereignty of the state. The laws must still be enforced. Security must still do its work. But the door to a negotiated settlement must never be shut.

We are not dealing with a case of armed robbery; we are dealing with people who, having been thoroughly brainwashed, are ready to take their own lives in the belief that they will end up in heaven with loads of virgins at their beck-and-call. How do you kill somebody who is ready to kill himself? That is a serious complication. The situation is further worsened by the fact that members of the sect have now acquired the knowledge of how to make explosives. Which means they can make explosives right in their bedrooms and toilets! Are we now going to deploy policeman in every house? Someone can just improvise an explosive device in his sitting room, load it in his car and drive to the next target to unleash terror. The materials are everywhere. You cannot ban fertilisers or condensers or mobile phones. That is why terrorism is very delicate and frustrating to subdue. It is based on these sad realities that I have always advocated a multi-dimensional approach to tame the monster.

Indulge me to reproduce a mail I got when I wrote in support Obasanjo’s underground moves to resolve the conflict. The reader wrote: “In your last article ‘Jos: A Society without Statesmen’, where you commended Obasanjo for visiting the family of the late Boko Haram leader, I was appalled. You call his act that of a statesman?  Apart from the fact that the UN victims were being remembered, the fact that a former president dines with terrorists makes you ‘glad’? So you subscribe to negotiations, appeasement and of course amnesty, while law abiding citizens suffer fear and intimidation… There is nothing statesmanly about Obasanjo’s actions! I do not condone the extra-judicial killings of the Boko Haram leaders, but the law courts are there for them. Moreover they have killed so many policemen and innocent citizens, so where exactly does your sympathy stem from? As our ‘reputable’ journalists tread cautiously not to anger the terrorists (yes, who will bell the cat), stop pushing your theories down our throats! You have the power (of the pen), please don't abuse it!”

So how exactly does THISDAY, of which I’m the Editor, qualify to be a target for Boko Haram for “biased reporting”? I am by no means trying to be apologetic. We owe Boko Haram no apology and they are not in a position to edit our newspaper for us. They cannot determine for us what story should be on the front page and the one that should go inside the pages. But I have gone to this length in laying out the facts just to prove that last Thursday’s attacks on THISDAY were not based on the contents of the newspaper. The allegations by “Abu Qaqa” do not describe THISDAY at all. There is, therefore, more to the attacks than those accusations that are being peddled. It is either their media advisers misadvised them or—more likely—some political interests are at work and they have identified THISDAY as the newspaper that could hurt their narrow and selfish ambitions. So they hired some Boko Haram militants to do their bidding and, as afterthought, have now manufactured evidence to justify the act. I suspect that intimidating THISDAY is one of the strategies of these interests.

Because of the terrorist attacks on THISDAY, my friends have been asking me: “So, Simon, do you still believe in one Nigeria?” I still think we are missing the point. If Nigerians decide that the country should break up, how is that my problem? All I have said and will continue to say is that there is no challenge facing our nationhood that good leadership cannot address. If you create Republic of Southern Nigeria today, I would love to see how the Igbo and the Yoruba will sleep on the same bed without conflict! I would love to see how the South-South will stop talking about “our oil”! We also talk about breaking Nigeria into North and South on the basis of the activities of Boko Haram, forgetting that there is a vast population of Christians even in Borno State, the headquarters of the sect. Are we going to relocate them to Ondo State? What about the millions of Northern Muslims who do not agree with Boko Haram’s philosophy and who are also subjects of the sect’s attacks?

Breaking up the country looks good on paper but there is no neat way of doing it in a country of 250 ethnic groups and 5000 dialects, as Comrade Kayode Komolafe would always say. Every nation has its fault lines. It is the management of these challenges that matters. There will always be challenges, even in a mono-ethnic nation, as we have seen in Somalia. Our resolve should be that the sponsors of Boko Haram will be brought to book. Our resolve should be that our politicians will begin to put the interest of Nigeria above sectional and selfish interests. With the calibre of leaders ruling us at different levels, breaking up Nigeria will only change the shape of the map; our problems will remain intact. Fact.

And Four Other Things...

Thanks, All!
The outpour of condolences and support after the terrorist attacks on our offices in Abuja and Kaduna helped in relieving the pain. As soon as the news broke, our phones never stopped ringing as people from far and wide expressed shock and surprise at the unprovoked attacks. Many people could not really understand why THISDAY would become a target, no matter the excuse and afterthought being bandied around. My phone was beeping every second such that I had to abandon it for hours and even days to clear my head. The truth is that the hate mongers will not win this war. The outpour of love, in my opinion, is a billion times more powerful than the torrent of bombs unleashed on us, killing innocent people and sending their families into sorrow and pain. How any human being would be happy killing and inflicting pain on others for no just cause is something I will never understand in my life. But the terrorists should know this for a fact: hate can never overcome love. Thanks to all who shared in our moment of pain.

Azazi’s Outburst
The National Security Adviser, Gen. Andrew Owoye Azazi, launched a very brutal attack on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over the menace of terrorism in the land. He said the party was responsible because of the nature of their politics. “PDP got it wrong from the beginning by saying Mr A can go and Mr B cannot go, and these decisions were made without looking at the constitution,” Azazi said at the second South-South Economic Summit in Asaba. To be honest, I didn’t understand him, but I suspect he was indirectly referring to the “zoning” crisis in the PDP. He seems to believe that the growing violence is an aftermath of the failure of some politicians to get their wish in the last presidential election. “Is it not amazing that after the elections, Boko Haram became better trained, better armed and better funded? But I can assure you that Boko Haram could not have that kind of sophistication without a backing,” he said. I don’t know but as the NSA, I thought his job is to fish out these backers and bring them to justice.

Poverty Haram
I recently commented on the attempt to tie the Boko Haram insurgency strictly to poverty. I did argue that the sophisticated weapons being used by the militants don’t come cheap, so blaming the insurgency on poverty will not help matters. A reader, who did not agree with me, asked that I have a rethink over the argument. To be sure, I agree that there is a poverty element. When people are jobless, they become ready tools in the hands of the devil. I will be the first to admit that. But that begs the question on the motive and motivation for Boko Haram. The first thing driving these guys is religious extremism and religious hate. This trend has been there for decades. Poverty may be helping them to recruit foot soldiers, but when you tell a man to be a suicide bomber because you would give N200,000 to his family when he dies, I don’t think his motivation is the money. He believes he is performing a duty for God. That’s the drive. Let’s get these issues right and stop playing games.

Lagos Doctors’ Strike
One of the saddest, heart-breaking moments in my life is anytime I hear that doctors are going on strike. I can live with journalists going on strike, or even lawyers, or engineers. I can live with PHCN going on strike. I can never live with doctors going on strike. We are talking about human lives being saved and lost. A life lost can never be replaced. There is a saying I always deploy when discussing the importance of doctors: “After God, it is doctors.” When doctors embark on their strike to make a point against the government, who loses? How many governors’ or ministers’ children die during the strikes? It is the ordinary people that bear the brunt. The current strike by Lagos doctors makes me really sad because I know that they are better off than most other states. I am not saying they don’t have a point, but I don’t know how much sense it makes for doctors to be going on strike at the slightest provocation, like tanker drivers. No, it doesn’t make sense to me.

Tags: Backpage, Featured, Simon Kolawole, Bloodied

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  • Frankly, I have never come to these pages to kiss ass and/or tell back-page columnists how wonderful they write and what a classic your article is. But I can say, without any shame, that this article is the best thing that has happened since the mindless act of desperation by the terrorists this week. I mean, the first instinct for any rational, but shortsighted, human being would be to hunker down and capitulate in the face of murderous insanity, the kind that we have seen from this breed of terrorists. But this article is one clear evidence to the terrorists that their methods are as futile as they are insane. It would produce the opposite of what they intended. We are even now more resolved against these terrorists than we ourselves even imagined we would be. And let us sound one clear message to those who have become so obsessed with political and economic power that they have sold their souls to the devil: we do not care who become president of Nigeria in 2015, as long as s/he is the best candidate for THE JOB; but nobody can intimidate us, certainly not me, into making our decision, one way or the other - because, as far as I know, THE CONSTITUTION STILL PLACES IN OUR HANDS THE RIGHT TO DECIDE WHO LEADS THIS GREAT NATION!

    From: adoki

    Posted: 2 years ago

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  • Azazi's comment reveals that this administration does not have a coordinated approach to the boko haram menance. But then, if PDP has been in power since 1999, who you hold responsible for the aches bedevilling the country. If boko haram was a good thing, wouldn't PDP claim ownership?

    From: Philemon A.

    Posted: 2 years ago

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  • Again one of the main issue is the fact that most people believed their opinion is the superior and MUST be adopted by all. The whole truth is that we need all contributions/opinion for the country to move forward. Yes it is true that you belief "Breaking up the country looks good on paper but there is no neat way of doing it in a country of 250 ethnic groups and 5000 dialects, as Comrade Kayode Komolafe would always say" yet how about the opinion of millions that want to go their ways?. Simon we need to talk without playing God or arrogating only our way is the best or only way. We must all agree on how to relate, living together and indeed who govern who?. We can pretend and sweat talk till eternity until we agree peace will always elude the land. My opinion which should not be discountenance based on religion or race or sex!.

    From: gabriel adenawo

    Posted: 2 years ago

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  • The complexity of Nigeria is obviously indicated by the complexity of her problems. I know this for fact, that breaking a complex problem into smaller discreet elements, simplifies the problems and provides easier solutions. All the problems do not necessarily disappear; they become easier to manage. Let us wake up to the fact that the country as it is, is too complex for us to manage.

    From: Thompson Iyeye

    Posted: 2 years ago

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  • Aluta continua - victoria ascerta! All proponents and perpetrators of evil shall be defeated insha Allah.

    From: Abdulrahman

    Posted: 2 years ago

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  • I most heartily sympathise with Thisday and their staff for the heartless and unwarranted attack by those men from the hounds of hell. The truth is that our security agencies are still grappling with information gathering and modern day policing. The worst angle to it is that you are even at risk giving information to the police because you never know whether you are playing into the arms of the same people. This is rightly so because even BH enjoys sympathy and support from some quarters of our security agencies.

    From: Chinemerem Alvan

    Posted: 2 years ago

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  • I think we can link the boko haram demon to poverty Mr. Simon. If those almageris were occupied or engaged in a way, they would not be easily brainwashed by those evil clerics.

    From: Dare

    Posted: 2 years ago

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  • Dear S.K.,
    Good day to you my dear friend. I am an ardent reader of your article primarily because your analysis and or discuss are very objective, unbiased and insightful. lest I forget, accept my condolences on the lost of some of your workers who die as result of the recent bomb blast.
    However, I want to point out an observation I noticed in today's article titled "Bloodied but unbowed"
    You seem to be condemning the attack simply because your organisation did not do anything to warrant the attack. According to you your media house did not engage in any unfair comment etc.
    What I think you are saying is that were any of those reason giving by the spoke man of the sect to be true, then they would have been right. You also mention that when a list of some media houses seen to be engaging in unfair and unbalance report was released not long ago, your media house was not on the list. Does this mean that some of the media houses whose name was on the list and which was among the ones bombed was a justifiable act?
    My friend, I believe that this is what some people have been saying that because one is not affected directly, you may not feel the pain of the Boko Haram sect. How many of the lives lost in the church bomb blast were guilty of any heinous crime against the BH sect?
    I belief you remember the bible passage which says that "when sinners are being punished, few righteous would suffer." This I believe is what lead to your outfit being atacked amongst other reason.
    The bottom line is that every one of us should ensure we play our part in rebuking the government who seem to know the sponsors of this sect but have not done anything meaningful to reprimand or bring them to justice all in the name of playing safe. Every week in this country since last year April or thereabout, hundreds of innocent lives are being lost, If we do no say anything or start doing anything to awake this government to their responsibility, I am afraid several other innocent lifes would still be lost. The primary responsibility of evry govt is the security of lives and property of the citizens. Throwing money at the family of the victims would not solve the matter.

    From: S.Pope

    Posted: 2 years ago

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  • "With the calibre of leaders ruling us at different levels, breaking up Nigeria will only change the shape of the map; our problems will remain intact. Fact". I can't agree more with you. Thank you.

    From: Kunle

    Posted: 2 years ago

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  • Call them by the correct name, Boko Haram are MURDERERS. Your entire article smells of
    appeasement. You don't talk to retards who murder Christians because the Koran, nothing more than a dictionary of hate, encourages them to murder. It is solely a question of military co-ordination of all
    security services to track down these disgusting animals and execute them WITH THEIR FAMILIES.

    From: s.ducain

    Posted: 2 years ago

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  • Thanks for your apologies to BOKO HARAM,it is duly noted by them and the public.I always look forward to your article every sunday but i have to confess that this is the worst piece you have written so far.You are better off apologising to boko haram than commenting on doctor's strike cos your statement about the strike is flawed.

    From: kazi

    Posted: 2 years ago

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  • Poverty Haram.
    I believe that religion and politics are inseparable. Why will you not superimpose your religion if it will give you access to power. Look at the so-called Islamic countries. Not only are they intolerant of Christians in their countries, they also cannot imagine a state run by Christians in their climes. Boko Haram is political because access to power gives you access to the state resources. Very easily, the gladiators will use the weak ones who are religiously blindfolded and brainwashed to defend their 'sacred religion', while their manipulators plunder our treasury. Those who are poor are useful tools because in any case, they believe that their poverty is failure to please their God, and not because their handlers—across Nigeria, across all religions have ulterior motives.

    From: Olu

    Posted: 2 years ago

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  • of course there are three segments of boko haram...you were bombed by the capitalist boko haram...all south south owned establishments are fair game...

    From: TATA

    Posted: 2 years ago

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  • Another masterpiece Simon, you have said it all & i really don't know what to add. May God grant the souls of the victims eternal rest & we pray He judges the terrorist in His due time.
    the politicians behind these terrorist should be fished out & prosecuted in line with the laws of the land.
    God Save Nigeria!

    From: dfanthom!

    Posted: 2 years ago

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  • For me Azazi, NSA made sense. Yes, he lacks the intelligence and courage to pick out the offenders who are randomly obvious to us, the Northern politicians who felt short changed that GEJ took their turn as it were. We need a constitutional amended on the rotation of presidency across all geo political zones and strengthening of graft law to allow for death by hanging for corrupt leaders. That way things will shape up. Jonathan should go by 2015

    From: obi

    Posted: 2 years ago

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  • Simon, your article as usual was spot on but you did not live up to your usual standards in your comments regarding the Lagos Doctors' Strike. As a caveat and for avoidance of doubt, let me declare I am a doctor. However, I do not like the idea of strikes and as you rightly noted-a lost life cannot be replaced so the consequences of doctors and others in the health care sector going on strike is not the mere inconvenience we get with PHCN, etc. What I find troubling is the public expects only doctors to acknowledge and act responsibly considering their roles and the obvious consequences when they down tools. So what about their employers-the government and what about the people who elected these officials that travel abroad for common colds? Just as we have the leadership we deserve as a nation, we also apparently deserve the kind of health care system we have. There is no equity, fairness or justice...the issues on the table as I can gather from all the reports are-there was an agreement between both parties that has not been implemented as agreed to despite entreaties to the government to do this. Yet in the same state, workers in the judiciary went on strike for reasonable demands that were met without the threats of sack, queries, hiring of replacement or locum staff. I do not necessarily think doctors are the most important people in the health care system but the response of LASG in this matter clearly show the kind of regard or value placed on this staff cadre. Sadly, even medical elders who should know better are worsening the conflict instead of helping resolve it.

    From: tiffy

    Posted: 2 years ago

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  • Simon I totally disagree with you that "breaking up Nigeria will only change the shape of the map; our problems will remain intact. Fact."
    I don't want to drag the arguement and I'm not telling you to advocate Nigeria's breakage on your page, but I don't think you're speaking your conscience on this issue of breaking Nigeria.
    For your information,Nigeria has never worked, Nigeria is not working and Nigeria will never work. All these wishful thinking won't help us. The only solution is to go our separate ways.

    From: nwatah.com

    Posted: 2 years ago

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  • Thanks Simon. May the souls of the departed rest in peace. God will give everybody at Thisday the fortitude to bear the loss. On striking doctors, I will call them silent Boko Harams killing innocent Nigerians who cannot afford private care by their actions and inactions.

    From: Frankie

    Posted: 2 years ago

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