The time was three am, and they ran into a military checkpoint! To their dismay, they discovered that many people were ordered by the soldiers to lie on the ground! Some of those on spread out on the ground were worshippers from a white garment church also going home from a vigil!
The young family were also told to come out of their vehicle! The man pleaded with the soldiers that he should be allowed to leave his car behind, and take his wife, and young child home, they refused his plea!
They were out there in the cold till five am when a superior officer came, and rebuked the soldiers for detaining the couple with an infant!
I will tell you where this happened later in the story!
When I visited Bayels state for the first time some years ago, it was at the height of the militant insurgency in the region!
I must confess that I was truly petrified!
Every move I made was with trepidation! This was because everywhere I went, I saw military checkpoints, backed up by machine gun posts, manned by fierce looking soldiers, behind sandbags! It just did not seem right!
It looked unreal, for Nigeria! It seemed like one was in another country, and another country it was then! The Joint Task Force, the JTF, were in control, and their jackboots, were planted firmly on the jugular of the whole terrain!
Their influence was felt everywhere! It was so bad that speedboats had to make a stop at every location where there was a JTF checkpoint on shore to settle, a silly euphemism for bribe!
For those who were back in the halcyon innocence experienced by the rest of Nigeria, the numerous calls by leaders of the region for the removal of the JTF seemed like a call from an ungrateful problem child!
The amnesty in the region has changed the scene, for now; and time has healed many wounds! But sadly, new wounds are being inflicted elsewhere daily! Imagine how the couple who were delayed with their infant, would feel right now!
In a part of the country where we least expected, on a people that felt secure in by their being far removed from the hurly burly conflagration of the Niger Delta; the JTF, now reigns supreme!And they are now viewed by the people of Maiduguri, as "an army of occupation"!
A doctor friend of mine once said that people should pray when they go to see the doctor thus " Lord deliver me from cures that are worse than the ailment" The import of this statement is that a solution could create a worse problem than the one it seeks to solve!
The good people of Maiduguri, probably hailed the JTF as messiahs when they moved into their town some weeks ago to confront Boko Haram fighters!
That view seems to have changed within days! Quickly!
They now understand what their distant, then ungrateful, kinsmen in the Niger Delta region felt! That the loss of lives, and liberties, and the the disproportionate use of force, does not seem to be worth whatever the final outcome would be!
Welcome to the new Nigeria !
It is a fact in the public domain, that terrorists, and guerilla fighters, do not adopt conventional methods!
They prefer skirmishes, and biting at the ankle tactics! They neither stand and fight, nor give any quarters!
The Americans had to learn this the hard way, at the cost of thousands of lives!
I even read a fellows comment on Facebook, that Nigeria had enough Mig, and Alpha Jets, (those museum pieces) to bomb the "bastards" to bits!
Obviuosly, this fellow has never been to Maiduguri before!
It is a big place, and it is sparsely populated, and there is no particular enclave called Boko Haramville!
Every part of Maiduguri is actually Nigeria, and all those feeling the horsewhips, and the bullets, are my brothers, and your sisters!
Conventional forces are a good show of force, they look good on television, but are as effective as a pistol against a man on the moon!
What the conventional forces are doing in Maiduguri, is taking a page from the typical conventional forces play book: profiling! If he looks like Boko Haram, and dresses like one, he must be one, or intending to become one! A measure of religious profiling has sullied the already muddied waters!
The black oval patch on the forehead, a result of praying to Allah five times a day, a sign of religious discipline, and piety; is now the official mark of identifying Boko Haram followers!
How we arrived at this conundrum, really leaves me stumped! That very mark, is what you are likely to find on sixty percent of all adult males in Maiduguri!
Because they are devout Moslems! People spend years acquiring that badge of honour!
A friend of mine wrote somewhere in a post concerning this issue, the whole of the WB Yeats poem, Things Fall Apart, "Turning and turning in the widening gyre,
the falcon cannot hear the falconer,
Things Fall Apart, the centre cannot hold,
mere anarchy is loosed upon the world!
That is what Maiduguri depicts now! Things have fallen apart, the centre is not holding, and anarchy is walking the streets in authority!
I have said it before in the past, that guns, and bullets will not resolve this issue!
Mere words will not be enough to "deradicalise" (to use the official line the government is putting out) the Boko Haram adherents, not even money! The converted, and pacified, militants in the Niger Delta accepted money, and gave up their guns, that would not work here!
If the government tries to buy it's way out of this problem, it would discover the limitation of money!
Only schools, and hospitals:development, would solve this problem!
We are discovering the inherent limitations of our unitary federalism, and the problems inherent! We are also discovering that we are actually spreading, and deepening, democracy; not of good governance: but of suffering!
To my fellow Nigerians in Maiduguri, I feel your pain! My wish is that we would jettison this destructive solution, and look for ways to win the hearts, and minds of the populace in Maiduguri! They are not the enemy, they may look like them, dress like them, and even smell like them: they are still not the enemy!
When we win their hearts, and minds, they are the ones who would expel Boko Haram gladly!
Right now, the JTF is doing Boko Haram a great service in public relations, and recruitment!
This is the last thing we need, more anarchy loosed upon the world!
(Ah yes! The young couple? They were on their way home to Mpape, one of the suburbs of Abuja, less than ten kilometres from the presidential villa! If this could happen in Abuja, think of the horror in Maiduguri)
MAY GOD BLESS NIGERIA, OUR NIGERIA, FOREVER!