Terrorism is a psychological warfare. Terrorists try to manipulate us and change our behavior by creating fear, uncertainty, and division in society. – Patrick J. Kennedy
Terrorism, all of its tactics, the fight and its prevention are all asymmetrical while the target of terrorism is psychological injury and perpetual fear for both the rulers and the ruled. Two weeks ago, I was on my way to the beautiful and tourist city of Jos for some personal business and as we were climbing the Akwanga hill in Nasarawa state my phone beeped and it was call from Jos. I was informed there had been a huge devastating bomb explosion in the city. The first thought that crossed my mind was my safety as they say, “survival instinct is the most and basic instinct in human being. In the following five minutes or so after the news, I was engrossed in deep cogitation on the likely reprisals and backlash that may sprout out of the unfortunate occurrence.
Having had my university education in Jos, I know the city too well to know the idiosyncrasy of the dwellers especially with the incident of violence. I however decided to continue into the city as much as I could even if the city would be thrown into chaos as a result of the blast. It came as an unforgettable surprise as we drove into the city without any billows of smoke going up or road blocks here and there, in fact we met a tranquil city. Apart from the blast, there was no violence in the city but what I met was much more worse than reprisal attack. Atmosphere reeked of hopelessness, defeat, submission, disappointment and above all, the return of division. There was an uneasy calm in the city full of mourning and disappointed people for the ugly trend the upheaval in the city has taken. Telephone network services were so limited that many could not make or receive calls. As I began talking with the people I found out the psychological wound might be healed with time but the scar will remain for a long time.
The Jos explosions clearly shows that the extremists are getting uncomfortable at topmost north east states of Borno and Yobe hence are coming down. Their bombing of Nyanya, killings and kidnappings of Emirs and the skirmishes of attacks in Gombe, Nassarawa, and Benue states disguising themselves as Fulani herdsmen also indicate that they are heading southwards. This is a wake up call for southern dwellers to take security of their surroundings seriously as nothing is impossible. Before now we believed that no Nigerian would ever give up his life for suicide terrorism but today that notion is no longer a subject of debate as many have done so and possible more will if not stopped. However, walking through the city of Jos the following morning, I noticed that security alertness of the people was way beyond normal. No vehicle was allowed to slow down near any shop or building not to talk of parking them as every oncoming vehicle was viewed with suspicion. Movements, gatherings, freedom and every normal human activity were severely restricted as people weigh the options available to them.
From all the facts emanating from the news and what we have experienced since terrorists invaded us, there is no possibility of our security apparatus winning this war by open combat alone. Information gathered through intelligence network will be pay dirt toward winning this fight. Human intelligence (HUMIT) is a very vital part in intelligence gathering especially where high tech is lacking just like in our case but the biggest bane to this in our case in lack of trust for security agencies by our people. The news of some security officers, senators, and even Mr. President’s comment on Boko Haram infiltrating his government are not encouraging as people are afraid of passing information to the security for not knowing where the allegiance of whoever will receive their tip off lies. But this should not deter people from carrying out their civic responsibility because if one can not stand for anything, he will surly fall for anything. There is also anonymous ways of delivering information to the security without risking exposure to the bad guys and people should embrace it.
“The object of terrorism is terrorism. The object of oppression is oppression. The object of torture is torture. The object of murder is murder. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?”
― George Orwell, 1984.
George Orwell made reference to terrorism in 1984, a time the world had not known terror the way it is known today. Terrorists do not use only force and explosion in their modus operandi, they make use of intelligence, surveillance and time consuming study before deploying their arsenal of mass death. Likewise our security agencies should spend more energy, time and resources on intelligence gathering for a guaranteed successful onslaught and they should go for the jugular by getting, exposing, arresting and prosecuting their sponsors which will dry up their foot soldiers in the field. I left Jos with sorrow in my heart at what Nigeria has degenerated into within few years these mindless terrorists began their criminality. Some few years back we saw on the news of how cars and suicide bombers exploded in the streets of Baghdad and Afghanistan but now our streets have become our live broadcast of such incidents.
Obi Ebuka Onochie can be reached via email@example.com