THE United States Code of Federal Regulations defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives”. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “The unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.”
Whichever authority you cite, and whoever is defining it, terrorism has become the hottest hell scorching our world. That evil phenomenon and its awe-inspiring products, has driven the fear of God into our world. It makes the powerful and the mighty jittery, even if in their closets; and mere mortals melt in trepidation. From Ankara to Dhaka, Bama to Burma, Baghdad to Brussels, Boston to London, Orlando to Paris, Maiduguri to Mogadishu, Nairobi to Tripoli, and Nice to Sana’a, to cities seemingly immune against the malaise, the fear of terrorism marks the genesis of wisdom. In fact, terrorism is now so widespread, and so horrendous in its effects, that it has forced people across the globe to re-order their priorities, re-shape their lifestyles, and redefine their geography.
That is the terrorism that is obnoxiously popular across the world. That is the terrorism you thought you knew, and that has claimed, and continues to claim, thousands of lives worldwide.
But there are other variants of terrorism. They are equally deadly but less talked about. You either didn’t know them as terrorism or you simply never gave them any serious thought. Regardless of your disposition, these hybrids, that we shall discuss shortly, debase our humanity with the same devastation as the one you know.
Let’s get started with the heart-rending story that emanated from the Celestial Church of Christ, Key of Joy Parish, Atan-Ota, Ogun State, recently. In the ramshackle church building that ought to have been appropriately called Killer of Joy Parish, a so-called Prophet, Francis Taiwo, chained and padlocked Korede, his nine-year-old son, like a condemned criminal, and locked him up in a dungeon for months. By the time officials of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps rescued him, last week, death was almost rapping his door. He looked every inch a child of war. His eyes were rheumy and his ribs jutted underneath his thin skin like a kwashiorkor kid.
And what did the boy do to warrant such indignity? He indulged in petty stealing, especially taking meat from the family’s soup pot. The father alleged; the stepmother concurred; Korede pleaded guilty with reason.
He said he resorted to small, small thieving as a result of relentless hunger pangs that always wacked him; almost comatose. So, to exorcise the spirit of stealing from a kid he never fed well, Prophet Francis Taiwo clamped his own son into a dingy, filthy ‘cell’ like a death-row inmate for months, while he awaited ‘further counsel’ on the matter from his parish pastor. Call this paternal terrorism, and you would have hit the nail right on the head.
Thankfully, Korede’s darkest night has turned into joyful day. He has been adopted by the Ogun State First Lady, Dr. Olufunsho Amosun, who pledged to raise him like her own child. There are many Koredes out there who are constantly dehumanised by the very people God mandated to nurture them. In our country, many Koredes have died, and are still dying, from the inhumane treatment meted to them by their own parents. And many of such deaths often go unreported. That is why the brutality keeps galloping by the day.
Equally on the rise are incidents of fathers-turned-predators, who prey on their own daughters, repeatedly raping them, sometimes siring children from them. In the good olden days, this was a taboo. It was unheard of. But nowadays, reports of predatory fathers are now replete in our news media. Not too long ago, a predator-father, when caught, shamelessly confessed to crime reporters that “na only once I do am o”! In the past, such confessions used to send people swooning in shock. But because they now occur so frequently, they no longer shock. This animalistic behaviour by predatory dads fits paternal terrorism smugly.
Let’s move to our citadels of learning. When a lecturer betrays the sacred trust between him and his student, and swaps sex for marks, he is a terrorist. This is because he is using his office to extort sex from his seemingly powerless victim. Like the other terrorism, this too, has grave implications for both victim and country. One, as a result of the unholy activities of the randy lecturer, the student may bag unwanted pregnancy and STD instead of degree. Many girls have been so defiled they lost the essence and beauty of sex such that when they get married, coitus becomes something they endure and not enjoy. As a consequence of constant abuse by people who swore to nurture and groom them to become responsible citizens, some girls have grown to become scarlet ladies. You can’t fathom the gravity of this tragedy on a developing nation like ours. If this is not terrorism, what is it?
There is also what I term medical terrorism. During her glorious tenure as the Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, the late Professor Dora Akunyili (God rest her soul) got many death threats. In fact, she was almost murdered in an assassination attempt on her life while pursing reprobate pharmacists and drug dealers who were dispensing death to fellow citizens through fake and adulterated drugs. Despite the booby traps and dangers on her beat, she was unwavering in the campaign against the merchants of death. She remained resolute till she succumbed to cancer. And a grateful nation and world bathed her with honours and recognitions till she bade the world bye.
As she told the world, she couldn’t help but get mad at the purveyors of death because she lost her sister to adulterated drugs. Years back, I, too, almost lost a friend to fake drugs. The friend had typhoid fever and was placed on chloramphenicol tablets, among others. Curiously, rather than get better, he got worse each day. It was not until he slipped into coma that his doctors sent the drug for laboratory analysis. Then, they discovered that what they had been administering to the patient as chloramphenicol was ‘ordinary chalk’. They quickly changed the course of treatment and my dying friend bounced back to life. As a result of the relative ease with which people faked chloramphenicol, doctors later changed the course of treatment of typhoid fever to ciprofloxacin. Still, the merchants of death faked it, though not as rampart as the former.
You can imagine the thousands of people that had succumbed, and are still dying from fake and adulterated drugs in our country. If this is not terrorism, what is it? How do you describe it when a drug dealer travels abroad and bribes manufacturers to reduce the active ingredients of certain drugs to enable them maximise profit back home? By their iniquitous activities, thousands of Nigerians have met untimely death.
Consider this also: a motor spare parts dealer goes to China or Korea or Taiwan, and bribes manufacturers to make substandard vehicle parts, and brings them home to sell as genuine. Through that satanic act, the depraved parts dealer exports death, sorrow and tears to many homes, whose members perish in unnecessary road mishaps. They die because of somebody’s insatiable appetite for profit at all cost. Blood money. How do you classify that? Business? No. It is business terrorism.
When a Minister accepts bribe from multinational companies and facilitates the flooding of his country with GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) products, and people begin to succumb in their thousands to cancers hitherto unknown in this clime. If this is not terrorism, then, what is it? I call it medical terrorism. Or, agricultural terrorism. Or, terrorism of processed foods. I recommend the firing squad or the gallows for any Minister that is found culpable in those mission of death. We shouldn’t see that prescription as too harsh because GMO products are killing our people in their numbers, and our government pretends not to know this. What a shame.
What about this: government awards a road contract to, say, Eni a mori ibaa ku Construction Company, valued N1billion. After winning it, the contractor bribes the commissioner or minister in-charge with N250million; gives engineers supervising the project N50million; and spends only N100million to execute the project. Then, he begins to paint the city red with money. First, he marries another wife. Second, he goes to a remote village and cooks up a chieftaincy title that never existed, then, he organises a grandiose installation ceremony; and rocks the city with state-of-the-art automobiles. After a few rains, the asphalt disappears from the so-called road. Potholes emerge. Craters follow. And cars begin to swim or sink in them. Then, containers begin to fall off articulated vehicles, plummeting smaller vehicles, killing people.
Visit the Federal Road Safety Commission, and witness officials reel out records of hundreds of such fatalities from road accidents that occurred in the past few years, and months. They are simply mind-boggling. They are ominous proceeds from the terrorism of corruption.
What of lawmakers who pad budgets or make anticipatory declaration of assets to facilitate future looting? What of governors who embezzle local government allocations, making teachers and their families to adopt hunger as their second nature? What of military chiefs and their collaborators who misappropriate defence funds, and send troops to fight Boko Haram literally with bare hands, resulting in heavy casualties for the nation? Or, politicians, who are not up to 0.5 percent of Nigeria’s 180million people, but who steal our commonwealth and leave the people to suffer and die needlessly?
I would not side-track my primary constituency-the media- in this. Despite the best efforts of the various organisations, and professional bodies like the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria, Nigerian Press Council, as well as Nigerian Union of Journalists, we still have some people working very hard to pull down the house. They water down or kill stories, or skew editorials in exchange for keske, or kua, or communiqua, or soli (as they call it in Ghana) or brown envelope as you know it. This is the terrorism of the pen.
Keske journalism has ruinous effects. It could set the nation ablaze, pervert justice, ruin our timeless values as Nigerians and Africans, and induce death and destruction. That is why the aforementioned professional bodies would not, and should not rest on their oars till our noble profession is purged of all bad elements and sanity is restored. To accomplish this, however, media proprietors must up their game. They must pay living wages, and pay regularly. They must provide modern working tools, good incentives and conducive environment for journalists to ply their trade. It is double jeopardy for journalists to endure the dangers they face daily and yet go to bed hungry.
I will, also, not forget the judiciary. Our judicial system may not be the dirtiest in the world, it is certainly not among the cleanest. Not with judges who sell justice to the highest bidder; not with justices who send the innocent to the slammer, and set the guilty free. This is judicial terrorism.
Every day, scores of citizens perish through the various hybrids of terrorism that I have mentioned. And the perpetrators seem to be having a field day because the variants, as discussed, do not get the same treatment and attention by the corporate media and regulatory agencies. Consequently, we think Boko Haram is the biggest evil that has ever befallen our land and generation. Wrong. If you add the deaths yielded by these other forms of terrorism, the fatalities resulting from the activities of Boko Haram may take a back seat.
That is why governments at all levels, civil society organisations, regulatory agencies, law enforcement, churches, mosques, traditional religionists, atheists, gay and straight, leaders and the led, all of us, must fight those odious variants to a standstill. We must fight them with the same ferocity as we have confronted Boko Haram. That is the only way the Koredes of our generation could be freed from the shackles of oppression.
God bless Nigeria