June 25, 2013
NewsRescue-Just 16 years old and in secondary school, Babagana(not his actual name) looks furtively at his watch. He has been on this look out for the past 8 hours. A report to the command and control center of the civilian jtf in Maiduguri, alerted the organization to an impending operation being planned by Boko Haram in the neighborhood. Babagana is on a reconnaissance mission. His briefs are simple, find his way as fast and discretely as he can to command, once he sees a suspicious vehicle driving into town, and give them the description of the car, its course and its occupants. If he notices Sule-terror, returning to town, do the same. Yesterday he was part of a “stop and search,” team that caught 8 Boko Haram terrorist suspects in a car with ammunition rounds and several AK 47′s.
The activities of these bands of courageous youth have been gaining prominence after the Nigerian military successfully decimated the operational capabilities of Boko Haram. Youths like Babagana are perhaps the biggest testimony to the fact that Boko Haram doesn’t represent the aspiration of Borno youths. With numerous citizen arrests recorded, these untrained volunteers have become quintessential components of the security apparatus in many of the neighborhoods of Maiduguri and its environs. Motivated principally by a sense of patriotism and protection of community from the Boko Haram’s maniacal destructibility, youths armed with nothing more than flash lights and clubs have been able to confront an enemy trained in urban warfare and guerrilla tactics. In metered behavior, the civilian jtf capture and hand over culprits, without taking justice into their own hands—by killing them—as is common in Nigeria.
In recent history, it is hard to find a competing example of such sacrifice and bravery. Civilians with sticks and stones, organizing, waiting for the bullets of terrorists to get exhausted and then catching them with just hands. They are not working for an earthly reward. Assuredly, their reward is in heaven. But should we not seize this opportunity to celebrate true patriotism? In a world bugged-down with harrowing stories, their actions put Nigeria in the world headlines in positive light. Courageous actions in the true and critical citizen action spirit, the much I with our little organization can do, is give them the “Every Nigerian Do Something(ENDS)” award for “Valor and citizen bravery.” Boko Haram too have recognized and underlined these youth, Nigeria’s youth, describing them as their new great enemies. But apart from the bewildering and sacchariferous nature of the youth crusade, it is important not to miss the greater message that this clearly signifies—the powerful youth force in Nigeria and its unlimited and capable potential against terror, tyrants and tyranny. The youth of Borno and environs have set an unseen precedence in the history of Nigeria. To be written of, and remembered forever in history books. And perhaps a debut of things to come.
Nigeria has done very little for its teeming youth population and even less for those of its poverty stricken north east. The youngsters of Borno and Yobe have had next to no reason to feel they are citizens of the nation. Next-to-no benefits. Terrible schools, poor hospital care, no job security. These are some of the reasons why Boko Haram with a certain amount of financial promise, social relevance and job security, enticed the most vulnerable. Our oil wealth has had little to no impact in the lives of the fishermen living in the thatched huts of Bama. The nation’s security forces provided little security to the lives of the tax payers of Baga. Nigeria’s airports hardly ever flew residents of Gwoza. Our banks and interswitch never saved and switched their funds. And in our discussions and plans, we hardly ever considered them. The only thing many of these youth get out of our oil, is what they buy of it at the pump, and this at some of the highest prices in Nigeria.
Who is more worthy of amnesty and some form of social and economic rehabilitation than the brave vigilante anti-terror youth of Nigeria’s North eastern states? Where are the voices that should be crusading for restitution based on bravery, rather than compensation for evil? In current news—that’s aside from the dispiriting discussions on who has larger numbers of the dead—these brave multi-ethnic youth, using mere sticks and stones, arrested 31 Boko Haram suspects. The youth have decided to never rescind, to continue their war until Boko Haram are expunged permanently from their world. Does this not make us all feel proud? So where are the calls for an amnesty for these world heroes, as the president rightly labeled them?
The modest successes of the civilian jtf is mainly due to the broad acceptability and encouragement given by a citizenry keen on living a normal life bereft of the Boko Haram menace. Looking at the 6 ft 2 Babagana, one cannot but marvel at the bravery and nobility of these youths. One thought that crossed my mind was gratefulness. How does a nation reward these youths who having gotten so little, yet, rather than run away, they risk all for the sake of community and nation? How does Nigeria utilize today to develop a culture where wealthiness albeit, ill-gotten is not our only celebrated trophy, but where virtue and selflessness is a national pride? Unfortunately the authorities and elders have paid scant attention to youths like the civilian jtf. On the contrary, Nigeria’s leaders, politicians and elders, jostle among themselves to recommend mouth watering incentives for ex-terrorists and criminals. While we wait for the response from the marauding and incarcerated Boko Haram members, whom we are begging to accept our compensation, how about a restitution plan for our responding youth? The question being asked is simple; does anyone reward noble acts in Nigeria?