• Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Baga and Paris: A tale of two terror attacks

Baga and Paris: A tale of two terror attacks

Without a doubt, terrorism has become a major global concern. There is hardly any part of the world that has not tasted the bitter pills of audacious and vicious terror assaults. Recently, the attention of the world was, once again, drawn to the sad reality of terrorism in a world that is increasingly becoming troubled and vulnerable. In a tale of two terror attacks, Paris, a city renowned for its aesthetic splendour and grandeur, became the inopportune target of terror merchants who attacked Charlie Hebdo, a Paris-based satirical magazine, on January 7, killing 17 people in the process. As if the tragedy in Paris was not enough for a bewildered world to grapple with, about the same time, terror struck once again in Nigeria, in what is now referred to as the Baga massacre, leaving Baga, a rusty town located about 160 kilometres from the Borno State capital, Maiduguri, in complete ruins. By the time the agents of terror had finished their dastardly tasks in both Baga and Paris, as usual, they left in their trails sorrow, tears and blood.

The focus of this piece is actually not to paint the picture of terror as it happened in the attacks on these two ill-fated locations. Rather, it is to draw attention to vital inferences to be drawn from the two terror attacks and the reactions that followed from across the world. Of particular interest is the swift response of the French government to the Paris attack. Immediately the terrorists struck, over 80,000 combined French security forces swung into action in a well-coordinated professional hunt that led to the death of three of the terrorists. To protect the living, more than 10,000 police and soldiers were deployed across France, guarding churches, synagogues, mosques, schools and other sites.

Read also: After attacks, arm-in-arm world leaders join mass Paris march

In honour of the dead, the French government declared three days of national mourning while also rallying more than 40 world leaders to march against terror in Paris with at least 1.2 million to 1.6 million people streaming slowly through the streets behind them to mourn the victims of the deadly terror attacks that tore deep into the soul of the nation in a way akin to the brutal 9/11 terror siege on the United States. Millions more marched around the country and the world to renounce the terror attack. Massive rallies were equally held all over France and major cities around the world, including London, Madrid and New York, as well as Cairo, Sydney, Stockholm and Tokyo, among others.

However, in a sharp contrast with the French government that rallied its people and the whole world to stand up against terror, the response in Nigeria to the Baga attack was characteristically docile and uninspiring. In our usual jaded style, needless time was initially wasted by various government agencies on worthless controversy over the number of people killed in the attack. As if the number really matters, typically, military authorities tried severally to bring up casualty figures that played down the severity of the attack. How sad! We have got so used to bloodshed that we now count it as a great accomplishment that a ‘mere’ number of people were killed in a terror attack. In saner climes, human life is treated with utmost sanctity. This explains why 17 people were killed in Paris and the whole world came to a standstill.

While the French government briefed its citizens on the extent of the attack in Paris and efforts being made to reprimand the culprits, it took the revelations from Amnesty International for us to really come to grips with the intensity of destruction the Baga attack caused the town, its people and adjoining communities. According to Amnesty reports, the Baga attacks, which left over 3,700 structures damaged or completely destroyed, are the largest and most destructive yet of all Boko Haram assaults analyzed so far by the agency as it has led to the dislocation of thousands of people. The report further stated that, aside from Baga, at least 16 other towns were destroyed as over 35,000 people are reported to have been displaced, with many feared to have drowned while trying to cross Lake Chad and others trapped on islands in the lake.

If there is any lesson that we have to take home from the Paris experience, it is that we have to be more serious in respect of the sanctity of the human life. This has to reflect in every aspect of our lives. It should bother us as a people that the world paid more attention to the terror attack in Paris and empathized with the French while it scarcely commented on the more vicious attack in Baga. We should be concerned that, suddenly, news of reprehensible terror attacks in the country no longer commands widespread world interest. 

One other thing is that we need to put in place strong institutions that will ensure that criminals and crooks pay for their evil deeds in the spirit of the law of the land. What it takes for evil to triumph is for evil to go unpunished. Only God knows the number of unresolved murder cases we have had in this country. We are so used to people dying that it doesn’t really bother us again. Here is a country where a corpse could lie on a major highway for days without being attended to. We also need to reform our justice system because even when criminals are apprehended, our justice structure is so absorbent that criminal cases go on for years without getting to any logical conclusion.   

Perhaps more importantly, our leaders need to take a cue from the way the French leader, President Francois Hollande, personally got involved in rallying his nation and the world against terror. He did not only talk tough, he acted tough. He demonstrated the quality of a good leader. He stood by his people at their dark moment. He showed them he cares. He gave leadership and direction to a dejected people at a very critical period. He did not try to shift responsibility or divert attention by trying to curry unessential public sympathy. This is the hallmark of a great leader.

This is what is seriously lacking in Nigeria. Our leaders need to empathize with the people by coming up with programmes and policies that practically demonstrate their love for the people. We must build good roads in order to stop avoidable carnage on our roads. In everything we do, the interest of the people must come first. This is what it takes to be a great nation. This is what we should be doing.