There’s this life-story of an Ohafia farmer (Abia State) who visited his farm and from the distance, saw seven chimpanzees come to devastate it. He observed there was a struggle between them and that if he made himself visible, they’d tear him apart. He left. Two days later, he returned with five sharp cutlasses, heavy logs, scattered them all over the farm and went home. The next day, he came, saw five dead ones and badly injured two. So much meat and his farm, free. Could that be the direction the cache of arms in the residence of Taher Fadlalla, the Lebanese is tending?
A wardrobe is for raiment, for Taher, it was raiment up and bunker beneath. A bedroom is for resting, but beneath it, a bunker. A prayer room is for prayers, beneath lay layers of reinforced concrete that housed deadly, offensive weapons.
In the wardrobe, weapons; in the bedroom, weapons; in the prayer room, weapons. All for Nigerian lives. Thanks to Eteng Bassey, director, State Security Service, for the find. According to him, thousands of life could be snuffed out in minutes by just a couple of them. Now the paradox: someone intending to erase thousands of Nigerian lives in a fell swoop and no thought about their right to life, now turns around to demand right to life and freedom.
You may ask, why all these? Business? True, Lebanese are daring in business matters and that mostly: anything, anyhow. Probably, Taher is one of those mindless practitioners. Peace doesn’t matter, life doesn’t either; just the money and rolls of it. When Libya was falling apart, people cried; not because of Gadaffi but more because of the fallout. The armoury of a strongman let loose with no one in charge – the result is Mali, Boko-Haram, and others to come. Now again, Syria and the Tahers of this world are close by in culture, religion and geography running around to buy arms at give-away prices, stockpile and resell to willing destroyers, careless of its attendant havoc.
As a smokescreen, they run hotels, supermarkets, travel agencies, amusement parks and clubs in what’s called the minor sector of the economy, though doing major harm. Get it right: there are good natured Lebanese who live a decent life and do decent businesses, but if they’re true to Nigeria, now is their time to separate from the evil ones among them.
Reason could also be religion. When Boko says it wants to Islamise Nigeria, their impetus is gathered from connections to people as these. Then you ask, how do the arms get in? People who share the same view and control the seaports as government officials, just let go. Add this to the porous land borders and air-cargo from ‘holy lands’ to which officials say ‘barika.’ Disregard not the average Lebanese antics. They connect to the powers-that-be and tell our law enforcement agents ‘you can’t do anything.’
But hear this: if indeed the arms trafficking has a Hezbollah connection, then it’s no more about Islam but deadly factions of it that are both destructive and self-destructive. Hezbollah is Shiite, loyal to Iran and in turn, supported by Russia. They are the avowed enemies of the gentler Sunni Muslims backed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. This fictionalisation will definitely play out in the North. It would then no more be about Islam, not about the north, just about which faction: Sunni or Shiite. That’s how a mindless person, in trying to drive for money, can import anarchy into Nigeria. Lebanese have homes everywhere in the world and hardly in their homeland. When trouble erupts, they simply relocate and leave you to your problem or continue supplying you arms as ‘friends’ but stay a safe distance. They’re quick to remind you that they have settled in Nigeria for a century and running, but that’s quickly discounted when it comes to destroying it for money.
What’s needed is in-depth investigation into who knows and who does not know anything about the arms cache. Some of them are rusted; maybe, as old as Boko insurgency. Isn’t it worrisome that everyday, one reads of 100s killed, especially in the north? Even herdsmen are well armed. Policemen are ambushed and finished. Boko overruns communities and sets up rag-flags. It’s all because of easy access to arms. Since arms are now here and keep coming, FG, state and local governments have to develop a citizens-watch program. People should be trained to become more conscious of their immediate neighbourhood and alert law enforcement agents as need may demand. Again, it isn’t enough to register businesses, what people really do should be known.
Behind all these is lust for power. As 2015 draws near, we may come into near-war situations.
Vigilance should then come to the fore.
Onyegbule, PhD, is the Consultant-in-Chief of Conflict Out- Peace In Consult.)
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