By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
This admittedly convoluted headline speaks to the depth of my frustration and helplessness over the never-ending bloodletting that has become the lot of Nigeria in the past few years. Nigeria has become a nation that is drenched in its own blood. It has become immobilized by the continually unspeakable terror of a homicidal lunatic fringe and the rank ineptitude of a clueless state apparatus. It’s hard to resist being jaded and insentient.
Just as I sat down to write this week’s column, I was jolted by the news of yet another senseless butchery of innocent shoppers at a mall in Abuja. When I first read the news on social media sites, my instinctive reaction was, “Oh, not again! Will this ever end?”
I didn’t think I had any more capacity to be shocked by the ceaseless sanguinary fury of the murderous psychopaths that have made parts of Nigeria hell on earth--- until I found out that one of the scores of people that died at the mall was a journalist I had had a reason to relate with in Nigeria.
The tragedy of the mall bombing took on an added psychological proximity for me after I found out that Suleiman Bisalla, a former deputy editor at Daily Trust and managing editor of the New Telegraph, was among the dead. It was Josef Stalin who reputedly once said, “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” He was basically underscoring the fact that deaths evoke more emotions when we can personally relate to the individuals that are deceased.
I first met Suleiman in Jos either in late 1998 or early 1999 when I was a reporter for the Weekly Trust. I did a story on the notions of Middle Belt identity, which required me to travel to Jos and other hot spots of Middle Belt identity politics. While in Jos, I went to the Plateau State secretariat of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) both to familiarize myself with local journalists and to get leads on the best people to talk to. Suleiman was the first journalist I met. He was a reporter, I think, for the Nigerian Standard at the time. I found him to be very kind, genial, and obliging.
I recall being fascinated by his last name and asking him if he was by any chance related to the late Major General Illiya D. Bisalla. I don’t remember what his response was because it wasn’t a particularly comfortable topic for him. I also thought that being a Muslim who was indigenous to Plateau State, the notional political headquarters of the Middle Belt, he would have a unique perspective on Middle Belt identity. He shared very interesting thoughts with me about this but refused to go on record. He said he was a news reporter, not a news maker.
I had left Trust when he moved over to the paper. When I met him again at Trust many years after our first meeting in Jos, he didn’t seem to remember where and how we first met. But I couldn’t forget my meeting him in Jos. Were it not for his help I would not have been able to speak with such notable Plateau State politicians as the late Senator John Wash Pam and Mrs. Hannatu Chollom. He will certainly be missed by the Nigerian journalism profession
May Suleiman’s soul, and the souls of the others who perished in the blast, rest in peace.
As I think about this senseless carnage, I can’t help being angry at Nigerian security forces. Just a few weeks ago, the military seized thousands of newspapers and hounded news vendors because the military claimed it got “intelligence” that “materials with grave security implications” were being hidden in newspapers. Poor innocent people are routinely harassed in the name of preventing terrorist attacks. Yet when the real terrorists strike the security forces are often caught flatfooted.
Ismail Omipidan, a regional editor at the Sun, echoed my frustrations well when he wrote on his Facebook timeline: “First, they searched every circulation van of media houses, looking for explosives; they found none. They seized some sales executives, looking for explosives; they found none. And they got intelligence report that Petrol Tankers will be used to bomb Abuja. Then, they shifted to Kaduna, to search Speaker Tambuwal's car, again for explosives; they found none. But they were nowhere near Emab Plaza, Abuja, to search for the real explosives that eventually killed one of my friends and colleague. They did not also get the unusual intelligence report that Emab plaza was the target yesterday.”
It’s a terrible fate to live in a country that can’t secure its capital; where even the seat of power is vulnerable and helpless before terror. I am tired of being tired.
Re: When a Country's Future is in its Past
I received many great responses to my column with the above title, but I am publishing only one this week, because it corrects a minor but important factual error.
For your information, the late Gov. Abubakar Rimi did not appoint a commissioner from the South or any other state outside Kano, but he appointed non-Kano indigenes to other high offices, including a South-southerner as Director of Research in the Government House. Others were the Special Advisor, Political Affairs; the Chairman of the State Investment Co. and the MD of the State Newspaper, The Triumph.
Kassim Bichi, Kano