By Muhammadu Buhari
Sinister terror and hatred have again reached from the shadows to steal the lives of innocent Nigerians. In Nyanya, seventy-two people were killed by a car bomb. Hundreds more were injured in the devastation.
Their killings served no purpose except for those who exalt in evil. The bomb blast quickly came and went like the deadly thief it was; but we shall be left to endure the pain and loss from this terrible act for a long time to come.
What the nation lost is irreplaceable. The number 72 seems like just another grim tally among the death statistics that have become all too common. But what occurred is much more than that. We must really stop and take notice of where evil is attempting to drive us to. The abduction of over one hundred school girls is unacceptable, condemnable and saddens me greatly.
We cannot allow these merchants of death to make us numb to the tragedy they manufacture. Those who were killed were not merely numbers on a page. They were human beings, made of flesh and blood body and soul like all the rest of us.
They were someone’s father or mother, brother or sister. They had parents; they were someone’s child. They were husbands or wives, neighboring friends and colleague. They had dreams and hopes. They were loved and loved others in return. Now, life has been taken away and those who cared from them must bear a grief no person should be asked to carry.
These people committed no wrong. Their only crime was to be ordinary working class people seeking to eke out a livelihood and tend for themselves and their families. For this, they were killed.
They represent the backbone of the working people. Not many of them lived an easy life. Most worked hard and long for modest wages. They lifted themselves up every morning to earn their daily bread. They faced the many social and economic challenges and obstacles our society poses, yet they worked not to destroy but to make this a better place by bettering the lives of their family and loved ones.
These people lived anonymously and died the same way. We do not yet know their names. But, in a fundamental sense, we know who they were. They were part of us. They shared the same aspirations we all do. We seek an improved fate for our children and hope to leave them a better life.
We want to work and live in dignity and respect. We want a life of peace and harmony with our neighbors regardless of religion, ethnicity or background. We seek prosperity not poverty. We seek brotherly understanding not strife. We seek peace, not bombs.
It was not just 72 people who were taken in this depraved assault. Each of us lost something that day. Yet, despite the loss and suffering, we must not cower in fear, and let the purveyors of death believe they have scored a victory over us.
Those who committed this act have declared war on all that is decent and good. They have declared war not against the state or even the government. They have declared war on Nigeria and all Nigerians because this murder took men and women, old and young, Christian and Muslim alike. In trying to scare, frighten and divide us, the evildoers committed injury to their own cause. For they have shown us that we all suffer inhumanity in the same way.
No matter our religion or place of birth, we all bleed and are wounded the same way by injustice. Decency runs through the teachings of each religion and ethnic group that comprise the people of Nigeria.
We may have our differences, but the vast majority of Nigerians stand united against the appalling violence committed in Nyanya and other places.
These acts have no place in Nigeria. Those who commit them have no place in our country. The perpetrators may look like human beings. They may have limbs and faces like the rest of us but they are not like us. In killing innocent people, they have become inhuman. They live outside the scope of humanity. Their mother is carnage and their father is cruelty.
They have declared war against the people of Nigeria. They have shown that they do not want to liberate the people. They want to kill them. Yet, with all the energy of their evil and ignorant hatred, they shall fail. The good people of Nigeria shall triumph.
Such a wicked mission shall not succeed. We have gone too far in our journey to nationhood and endured too much to allow these terrible acts to divert us.
Not only have these agents of death killed innocent people, they also abducted over 100 young women from their school. Why abduct school girls? Whatever they plan, they should be ready to face the wrath of Nigerian people. They should release these young girls unharmed. Anything else would be an abominable crime.
We all must take close heed at this moment and recognize the severity of what is upon us. A small minority seeks to bring the nation to its knees through terror. Thus, we must stand tall and united. We can ill afford to allow their crimes to go unpublished united.
I call on the government to improve and redefine its strategy in the light of this expanding menace. Clearly, its intelligence gathering needs to be improved so that it can break terrorist plots before they hatch.
Moreover, it needs to enact greater social and economic reform in the blighted areas of the nation to win the hearts and minds of the people. Give the youth a viable alternative and they will not be duped by the lure of extremist dogma. A major initiative with immediate and long-term strategies for mass employment should be introduced right away.
Nigeria must and will overcome this scourge but it cannot do so merely by wishful thinking. We need wise and decisive strategy.
As for me and my party, we deplore and condemn these and all such attacks. Those who commit them must know that the nation stands four square against them.
While we are engaged in tight political competition against the ruling party, we shall not play politics on this issue so vital to our national survival and wellbeing.
We pledge ourselves to the unity and safety of this nation and shall do nothing to undermine national security. We seek no political advantage from this calamity and wish the present administration success in fighting it.
We stand ready to help in any meaningful and productive way to fight this battle against evil. We extend our hand and earnest offer of cooperation in this regard.
Nigeria and Nigerians have suffered enough. Those who now lead the nation and those who would lead her must overlook political differences to find whatever ways we can cooperate to make this a safer, more secure nation for all.
Thank you and May God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
General Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, (retd.) was one time Nigerian Head of State and a former presidential candidate.
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