Ghosts are on the loose in Kogi State. On 4th August 2024, gunmen invaded Agojeju-Odo in Omala Local Government Area of the State and killed many people. The deadly attack has elicited the usual noise from the authorities:  The killers will be caught and punished. The communities would be secured. So far, there’s been nothing said about compensation, how to compensate the living for the losses in a country that is failing to secure them.

The clearest hurdle to Nigeria’s rather feeble efforts to check those who kill and destroy its people is that there is no genuine commitment. If there was, the bloody experience of the last decade would have been mined to provide a lasting solution to insecurity.

Every society exists on the basis of a social contract variously hailed as the masterpiece of social engineering. When a society calcifies into a country, any existing social contract acquires a sacred status. It is this sanctity that the Nigerian government is currently desecrating by failing to keep lives and property safe.

Staring perpetual displacement in the face, the victims of the attacks have appealed to the government that they want to return home or the husk that is left of it. They must be homesick. It is a sickness that reflects the struggles of an insecure country along the lines of its failure to secure its people.

Nigeria has become one large litter of displaced people woven together by their anguished desire to return home. Some of them have suffered the spectral humiliation of their attackers occupying their ancestral homes.  Some of them have nothing to return to but memories, but are homesick because the squalid camps where they live in render their displacement in even starker relief. But to return, the ghosts, those they know and those they are better off not knowing must be kept at bay. It centralizes the question of what to do with memory but especially how to treat crime so that criminals no longer have to control the lives of their victims.

Nigeria has tried to wear a human face when dealing with terrorism that has cruelly derailed its progress as a nation. It has sought to redeem the humanity of repentant terrorists by reinforcing not their crimes but the human response to changing circumstances, by rehabilitating and repatriating them to some of the communities they once devastated. If it echoes some of Rwanda’s disconcerting post- genocide experience of perpetrators and victims living cheeks by jowls, it is also a testament to the human capacity to forgive.

 However, the government must attempt the impossible this time around: to break the fall of victims of yet another attack on defenceless community, and most importantly, latch the door after they have gone through. The good people of Agojeju-Odo deserve to exit the grim hopelessness of their present situation and be supported by the government to return to some semblance of normalcy.

The door must be shut against these agents of insecurity once and for all.

Nigeria’s security agencies usually so driven in the pursuit of petty criminals including crossdressers and internet fraudsters must now show that they have an appetite for bigger fights and fish by going against those who have so far proven to be formidable foes.

Ike Willie-Nwobu,

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