THE GOMBE EASTER KILLING
The nine slain members of the Boys’ Brigade were laid to rest on April 27 after a funeral service was conducted in their honour at the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Centre in Gombe, the state capital. The Christian youths, aged between 11 and 21 and two others, were killed when a car deliberately rammed into their procession at night within the metropolis, ahead of the last Easter Monday celebrations. Some 30 others sustained various degrees of injuries. “We call on the Christian community in Gombe to take the situation in good faith and follow the right channel in seeking redress,” said the North East CAN chairman, Rev. Abare Kala. “We are aware of the pain this sad event has caused, but let’s be calm and allow the leadership to handle the matter.”
While we commiserate with the families of the dead, we strongly condemn this latest unwarranted violence against innocent children. This development does not bode well especially at this critical time when the nation is experiencing serious security challenges. The killing has unnecessarily heightened tension and fear in the city and indeed led to clashes between groups, reportedly leading to more killings, and prompting the government to impose curfew for some days on the metropolis and surrounding communities.
The Gombe tragedy became particularly worrying given reports that the driver of the vehicle, said to be a staff of the National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), was fully conscious of his vicious act. He allegedly turned off the headlights of his vehicle before ramming the car into the crowd of Christian merrymakers. Even if we decry the resort to self-help and mob action which led to the death of the officer who committed the act, we challenge the security agencies to thoroughly investigate what exactly happened.
The incident is a pointer to a worrying tendency that does not augur well for the unity of the nation. The brazen manner in which human lives are being taken, especially by sundry terror lone wolves, is unacceptable. This is against the background that a good number of these casual killings were carried out by persons or groups brandishing sectarian credentials. From the hundreds that were mowed down in Zaria by the military in the recent past to the more isolated killings of individuals in Kano, Abuja and now Gombe, there would seem to be a contest about who can take more lives between agents of state and the growing army of casual fundamentalist executioners.
The casual execution of fellow citizens for the simple reason that they believe differently is the beginning of something more frightening. As we have stated in this space, we must all remember that televised public beheadings by global terror merchants, of perceived adversaries, began this way. In a nation swarming with all manner of militant groups, we might be headed for that day when some fundamentalist crack heads could just round up people of a different faith and routinely execute them in utter defiance of the state which has repeatedly proved ineffectual in protecting lives and basic freedoms.
This aspect is quite worrisome because the state, even with all its imperfections, remains the ultimate guarantor of our individual and collective freedoms. If, by act of omission or commission, it fails to act as that guarantor, then anarchy is the clear and present danger. At a time like this therefore, we need to emphasise the point that one Nigerian life unjustly lost in the manner of these recent incidents diminishes all of us and corrodes the fabric of our society. That is the only way we can reaffirm and reinforce faith in our suddenly fragile unity. The security agencies must ensure everything is done to prevent another bloodbath at another front.