By Elvis Iyorngurum
A bomb blast was averted at ECWA church, Tudun Wada, Jos by a private security guard on Sunday, 12th July, 2015. The guard had spotted the device where it was strategically planted by the entrance of the church. He quickly picked it and threw it away from the church premises. The device on hitting the ground, caused a massive explosion that was heard miles away across the city.
The magnitude of the explosion showed that if the plan to bomb the church had succeeded, the carnage would have been unimaginable. The loss in terms of lives and property and the psychological trauma the tragedy would have inflicted on survivals, relations of the bereaved and every human being with a sense of empathy would have been immeasurable. With every such attack, we feel a collective sense of loss as humans. Our dignity is assaulted and our psyche is haunted. Whether or not we share any form of direct relationship with the victims, we feel a personal sense of loss, so long as we have our humanity intact. So that attack would have inflicted a deep wound not only on the victims and the people of Plateau state, but on all of us as one body of humanity.
We are at war and it has been one long and extremely difficult war which we have no idea when it will end. Since his inauguration, President Mohammadu Buhari has consistently promised a new approach that will see to the defeat of Boko Haram. That is as far as the military offensive is concerned. The recent appointment of new service chiefs and the NSA has brightened our prospects in the military aspect of the war. But fighting a war takes more than a military offensive and I am afraid we are yet to get it right on other fronts of the fight, such as the psychological warfare.
My worry is our cold attitude towards our heroes of this war and our many other wars. They are hardly ever acknowledged, let alone celebrated. We are only excited about the tragedy of victims and never about our heroes because our media tells only the stories of lives that have been lost and the property destroyed. Those are the stories that sell because of the element of sensationalism that they bear. When a bomb blast is averted, it hardly makes serious news.
How can a nation at war record only victims, when it has won several battles? Perhaps we have become so accustomed to tragic news that when the news is good, we seem totally uninterested in it. Initial reports of the bomb blast at the church had claimed that lots of lives were lost and citizens escalated it within minutes, especially on the social media. When it turned out there were no casualties, there was a sudden lull which showed the initial interest in the incidence was lost since it did not claim lives.
I searched through all the media outlets that reported the story and I could not find the name of the guard in any of the reports. He is nameless and faceless, the nation does not recognise his bravery. If he were an assailant that had killed scores of people, we would have known his name and made him a celebrity. We are a nation that celebrates criminals and despise honest and selfless people. The media and the government are the biggest mongers of this strange culture we have of undermining our true heroes and making false heroes of criminals. No medium, to my knowledge, has made any effort to tell the nation who the guard is and the story of his gallantry. In other climes, for days, all the major news outlets would have focused on the young man and made him the trending news and the government would have honoured him. Private organisations would have also reached out to him with gifts that would reward his sacrifice. This is how nations win their wars. They celebrate their heroes and inspire others to contribute their own bit to the victory of the society.
This is one opportunity we have to re-write our story and turn the psychological tide of the war in our favour. Unfortunately, we are missing out on it and I hope we don’t let it happen. It is not too late to act on the matter of the security guard and various individuals and members of our security forces who have harnessed their bravery to save lives. The Nigerian society must cultivate the culture of rewarding excellence and sacrifice. It is the right of those who exhibit these virtues to be rewarded.
We cannot undermine the action of that security guard. He saved us pain and grief. He saved lives and the destinies of children and dependents whose breadwinners were worshipping in the church that morning. Perhaps there was an only child in the church whose death would have brought unending grief to the parents or a young couple who just got married and were looking forward to raising a family and pursuing their marital dreams and he saved all of them. If we look at the human angle of that incidence, we will better appreciate the action of the young man. He wrote a beautiful episode of our story and it is our responsibility to tell it to the world.
We always condemn the western media for telling only negative stories about us, when we do not care about our good stories. We do not only have bombers, we also have people who risk their lives to save others from bombs. And we must tell their stories.
This era of change is a good time to begin a new chapter in our attitude towards our good citizens and the security guard who saved lives in Jos is a good starting point. The nation must rise to his ovation and honour his bravery. The device could have detonated the moment he touched it. He could also have simply ran away from the scene to save his own life. But he made a decision to stand on the side of humanity and risked his life to save all the others in the church. It is a matter of right for him to be honoured and Nigeria owes him a debt of recognition and reward. He did not do it for a reward and he is not demanding for any appreciation from us, but it is in the interest of our dignity and reputation as a nation to honour him as an encouragement to others. We must make this statement that we are a people that value and reward sacrifice.
Iyorngurum is an editor, the secretary of Abuja Writers’ Forum and a member of the #BringBackOurGirls advocacy group. He writes from Abuja and can be reached on: [email protected] or @ElvisIyorngurum on Twitter