by Femi Owolabi
It is troubling and disheartening, the reportage of the Baga killings which mostly paint the men of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) as the devil responsible for the killings.
I was poignantly held in a recent conversation with a friend who lives in Borno State. He told me that no thinking Bornu resident would place the blame on MNJTF. Boko Haram militants are responsible for whatever happened in Baga town.
A lot of articles have been published bearing unnecessary sensationalism and most of these writers who are being fed on half-baked foreign news prefer to open their unbalanced pieces with ‘The 185 people killed by JTF,’ ‘Baga people massacred by JTF,’ and bla bla bla. Nobody seems to be digging into the root of the Baga case. Nobody is telling us that it was a battle between the MNJTF and Boko Haram. And now, everything is appearing as if the commander of the MNJTF just woke up that morning, mobilized his men and decided to unleash war on the people of Baga. Not only that, even when the battle was between Boko Haram and the MNJTF, the MNJTF shunned their rules of engagement and started spraying their bullets sporadically at the innocent ones.
The media and the Nigerian people have been unfair to these men—MNJTF—who have submitted their lives in the fight against the terrorism which gradually pushes the country to the verge of disintegration. The MNJTF on the case of Baga is undeserving of the outrage. Human Rights Organizations calling on the government to probe the MNJTF for Baga killings; he U.S government threatening to withdraw its whatever from the Nigerian military because of the Baga killings; and so many undeserving commentaries and actions are undeserved. All these indirectly fuel the gusto of Boko Haram militants to continue to terrorize Nigeria. After all, attention has shifted from the sect and now everybody is screaming foul at the MNJTF.
We know what the rules of engagement are with the military, but who knows whether Boko Haram militants are bound by any rules or not?
In a recent interview with Al Jazeera’s Yvonne Ndege: Adam Abubakar, a fighter in the sect, admitted that he did take part in violent acts that led to the killings of innocent civilians. As to the killing of innocents, the insurgents explained the thousands killed were simply collateral damage. (Whatever this means).
Mohammed Ibrahim, a Boko Haram commander who has been a member of the sect since 2009, said the killing of innocent Nigerians “happens by mistake.”
“If for example somebody innocent is passing by when we are fighting, if he dies and he is innocent, we don’t worry at all. We are forgiven by God,” Boko Haram commander Ibrahim said.
One would have loved to ask this commander if those innocent people bombed in Kano and Jos happened by mistake. However, here, he’s talking about the case where they are in a fight maybe with law enforcement agents. What Ibrahim is simply saying is that he doesn’t give a damn if his men have killed over 200 innocent people in a fight with MNJTF in Baga.
MNJTF came out with a report that only six civilians died in their hands. The media and Nigerians are saying no, the 185 dead were killed by JTF and the houses too were burnt by JTF. How did they know? Some survivals were asked and they said they saw soldiers burning houses and shooting at innocent civilians. Why should one believe this when reports have it that Baga has been a Boko Haram base and everyone is held in fear which makes it difficult to attest against Boko Haram? In fact on the night of this ugly incident, we gathered that the L.G chairman and the town-head were not around which obviously shows that they may be aware of the crisis that was looming. The chairman and the town-head returned after things have been calmed and in a report, we read that they are still looking into the matter and can’t categorically give details of all that happened.
It is okay to express our sympathies with the innocent lives lost in the Baga killings, but to assertively say the military is largely responsible for these killings is unkind.
Bomb explosions in Boston, America. Ongoing CNN show placed on hold. Senior CNN correspondents assemble at the situation room, reporting live. Security officers and medical teams running, rescuing, and securing the perimeter. Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts comes on to talk. He invites E.D Davis, the Boston police commissioner to brief the people about the situation. Mayor of Boston also speaks on the matter.
On the other hand, President Obama is seen receiving a telephone call from the FBI director- briefing him on the Boston bombings- as the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Chief of Staff watch him in sobriety.
Members of the House of Representatives, witnesses, analysts are calling in, worried and showing sincere concerns. Americans are rushing to the hospital to donate bloods to the explosion victims.
Soon, as expected, President Obama comes up to make his statement. He looks furious. “…..Make no mistake, we will find out who did this……Anyone, any group behind this will feel the weight of justice,” he says.
Bomb explosions somewhere in Nigeria. NTA is showing Information Minister Labaran Maku’s good governance tour in Delta State. AIT is showing Tinsel. MITV is showing Baba Ajasco. Silverbird is showing Whiz Kid’s ‘I love my baby.’ Channels TV has the breaking news scrolling under an ongoing political show. Nobody is reporting live, nobody is following the updates. Nevertheless, Nigerians around the explosion scene are taking pictures and updating their BBM statuses ‘Bombing Things.’ Reuben Abati- President Jonathan’s spokesman releases his statement on behalf of his principal. He says, the president has condemned the bomb attacks at so so place.
The President? He is in Equatorial Guinea kissing the arse of the bloody President Nguema Mbasogo. When he returns, he says – his face is wreathe in smiles- “Terrorism is a global phenomenon ………. In fact, I can be bombed anytime too.”
Ha! I should sue my mother for refusing to marry that America man who promised to take her to Washington to live with him. There’s no value on human lives here. No.
For America, my condolence. May the souls of those who died in the Boston bombings rest in peace. For Nigeria, I am singing ‘shey na like this we go dey dey?….’
– Follow this writer on Twitter: @femiowolabi