Mbaka: Blackmailing In God Name
Comfort Obi

I hardly know, by any stretch of imagination, why his colleagues  chose to hail him as the “Aggressor.”

It should have  been the opposite. Of course I know. He took the war, on a solo mission, to the enemies.

The enemies who have turned our lives inside out and upside down. The enemies who have taken over our farmlands, our forests, our homes. The enemies who have taken over our schools, sacked our children, their teachers, and  forced the schools to close  down.The enemies who have cut short the lives of thousands of us, including those of our Security personnel. The enemies who ra*ed our women and daughters and reduced them to s*x slaves. The enemies who are bent on making Nigeria one huge centre for illiterates. The enemies who have taken over our country, and made a laughing stock of us before the civilized world. Iraq, Somali, Sudan  Libya and Afghanistan must be green with envy at what the enemies have reduced Nigeria to. Nigeria has stolen the thunder from them.

But as I watched  Flt. Lt. Adeyemi Dairo climb down from the rescue military aircraft, and walked slowly, with a slight limp, flanked by two of his obviously proud colleagues, towards the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, and the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Isiaka Amao, my throat tightened. Tears welled up, and began to blur my vision.

As the young Pilot courageously walked on, bravely hiding his pains from injuries sustained, shouts of “Aggressor!, Aggressor!!”  rent the air.

Then, Amao did the un-Nigerian. He hugged the young Pilot. An Air Marshal hugged a Flt. Lt.

The tears which had blocked my vision escaped. It rolled down my cheeks. I let it have a free reign. They were tears of joy – joy that this young Pilot survived.

We have had it so bad in the past few months. Dairo’s story is refreshing. A far cry from the pains we’ve had to wear like a cloth. The pains of losing our young Airforce Pilots.

This year alone,  six of them  died in crashes in quick succession. And Dairo was going to be the seventh one. But his case came out like  a beautiful story book. It turned out one of bravery. Courage. Perseverance. Endurance. Discipline.

No wonder both the Chief of Defence Staff, General Irabor, and the Chief of the Air Staff, Vice Marshal Amao did the un-Nigerian.

There, they stood at the Military airport in Kaduna waiting for him. At that level, they hardly do that. Even in death. They send their subordinates to stand in for them. It is like “the officer is too junior in rank for a whole me to give him an honour by attending his funeral.”

Yet, it is an honour well deserved, particularly, if  the officer died in the line of duty.

I appreciated that more under retired Deputy Inspector General of Police, Parry Osayannde, during his tenure as the Chairman of the Police Service Commission. He always harped on the need to honour Policemen, no matter of what rank, who died in active service. He  ensured that a PSC Commissioner from the Zone attended the funeral.

He saw it is an inspiration to his colleagues, a consolation to his family; an honour to the dead.

It, also, gave Osayande joy to invite, to the PSC, and honour officers who had shown exceptional courage and bravery while performing their duties. “We should honour them to inspire them while alive, not just in death.” Embattled DCP Abba Kyari was once given a standing ovation, in absentia, during the Chairmanship of Rtd. IGP Mike  Okiro when his file was brought to the PSC, along with others, for promotion. You can imagine  how devastated and embarrassed we are over Kyari’s alleged tango with international internet fraudster, Hushpuppi.

On this day both Irabor and Amao stood at the airport to welcome Aggressor, I was more proudly Nigerian than ever,  with all our many imperfections.

You already know  Flt. Lt. Dairo’s story. The story of his miraculous escape from bandits. But for the purpose of this write-up, a brief recap is necessary.

He took off on a solo mission to a war zone. The war zone was a forest in Zamfara State where security intelligence detected “a cluster of bandits.” His job was to diseminate them. Why he went alone on that mission is known only to the Military High Command. Many of us, ignorant of how these operations work, are tempted to ask why he didn’t have company. A co-pilot for example. An aircraft engineer, for another example, just in case. Sounds like a risk.

So, the brave Pilot went to war. According to the NAF, he accomplished his mission. He disseminated all the bandits. Or so he thought.But on his way back to celebrate  victory, tragedy struck. A number of the qbandits were alive, alert enough, and had weapons Nigerians never thought they had. Surface to Air Missile.

Given the benefit of hindsight, I think we always knew these people had those weapons.  We were  in self denial. We were too scared to imagine the  implications.

Here’s why I think we were in self denial.

A couple of months ago, two young NAF Pilots went missing in action. They are still missing. They had gone on a mission, the type of mission Aggressor went to. That was the end of the story. They never returned.

But a few days after their clinical disappearance, some insurgents, I forget which group now – ISWAP, Boko Haram, Bandits? – claimed they shot down the Military aircraft. They showed large chunks of an aircraft which was shot down as proof. But it was  quickly denied. The Military said it was not their aircraft. They needed proof. The carcas of the Aircraft displayed by the devil’s were not enough proof. It is  the Pilots they wanted to see – dead or alive.

But more compelling, we were told that the devils “are not able to have, in their custody, a surface to air missile.” One of the questions asked was: “Do you know how much it costs to purchase one?”

Well, now, we know that they have it. And they are not  afraid  to use it for maximum effect.

We were warned by no other  person than Abubakar Gumi, Nigeria’s  self-appointed Ambassador for Banditry. After his many “diplomatic meetings” with Bandits, he told shocked Nigerians that the Bandits would soon have in their custody  surface to air missiles. Many people have a strong feeling that Gumi was economical with the truth. They think the bandits already had that in their custody when Gumi spoke.

And they have  a strong feeling that the two missing Pilots and their aircraft were shot down by Bandits. The Military should help us have a closure, and stop hoping against hope.

Flt. Lt. Dairo was lucky. NAF had initially denied the story of the crash. It said none of its Alpha jets went on any mission. That denial caused a quick retraction, sort of, by mainly Online publications which broke the story. But a few hours later, NAF made an about-turn. It  admitted the crash, and told the heart-warming story of the Pilot’s miraculous escape and survival.

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As the jet came under fire, and the Pilot noticed that they had hit target, he quickly grabbed his parachute, and escaped. They went after him in hot-pursuit. He hid in the dark, dangerous, forest. His thumping heart and cellphone, which torchlight came in handy, were his only companion. He was suddenly not afraid of wild animals. Dangerous snakes. He meandered his way like a stream, and got to a village. He told his story to the first man he met, after asking God for that favour. “Let the first person I meet be a good person.” His prayers were answered. He could easily have met a Bandit sympathiser. It was from the village that he contacted those who came to rescue him.

Nigerians have since joined the Military to celebrate  him. Everybody is happy for him; happy for his family, happy for the Military. Even President Muhammadu Buhari, his taciturn Commander-in-Chief, has refreshingly congratulated him.

But we should watch and pray, for the enemies are near, and  they are well armed and dangerous.   Beyond the celebrations,  there are dangers ahead. The truth is that we are more in trouble than before. That the Bandits were able to shoot down a military aircraft has taken banditry to another level. The game has changed. We have entered a new very dangerous low. Even though I can hardly, now, differentiate between Bandits, Boko Haram/ISWAP, and rogue herdsmen, it is deceit to keep referring to any of the groups as bandits. Those who shot down the Alpha Jet are no bandits. They are certificated terrorists.

It is perplexing that since after the incident, everywhere is quiet. Those that should worry seem not to be worried. Nobody is discussing the implications. We have moved on. Just like us. The Abba Kyari scandal has taken the centre stage.  Very soon, something else will displace Abba Kyari. It is already brewing in two political  parties – the. APC and the PDP.

Nobody is asking questions.

Question like how safe  our airspace is? If these bandits can shoot down a Military jet, what does it take them to shoot down a civilian/commercial aircraft, especially, private jets?

Which is why not a few people were shocked when they read Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, and  Gumi telling us that Bandits were lesser evils than the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, and the Sunday Igboho group. Their argument: IPOB and the Igboho group are fighting for independent nations while Bandits are just in kidnapping business for money. Really? They called it business. They don’t appreciate the number of the dead, including our soldiers.

It is such stupid talks and arguments that have reduced Nigeria to chasing rats while its house is on fire. While we are busy chasing IPOB members and Igboho associates and lionising them, terrorists, masquerading as bandits are holding hundreds of our children. They are starving them to death. Their bodies are being picked in forests like cherries  – kids as young as six years old. Bandits have effectively closed down schools in Niger, Kaduna and Zamfara States. They assault everything decent by  showing us videos of kidnapped pupils and students being tortured.

They show us their dead bodies. In addition to demanding money in hundreds of millions, they now demand motor cycles. They now demand bags of rice or they will starve  our children to death.They demand cellphone credit. And you ask: What has happened to Minister Isa Patami and his NIN/SIM registration?

This other day when I watched the video of the head teacher of the Islamic School in Niger State, tell the story of the kidnapped children still in detention for seven weeks and counting, I was diminished as a human being. But that’s even nothing compared to the viral videos of young people being beheaded!

They have, also,  graduated to raiding and attacking hospitals, kidnapping health workers, and snatching babies. The other day, it was  a centre for lepers that came under attack. They kidnapped two nurses and a baby. There is, also, this heart wrenching story of a mother who watched, in agony, as her screaming two year old baby was snatched from her in her house. How much can we take as human beings? And El-Rufai and Gumi call it business for money?

Their activities have now become infectious. Kidnapping spread to the South-east, for example, because young unemployed people found out that bandits in parts of the North are making millions of Naira kidnapping people. That is the kind of business El-Rufai and Gumi condone. That is the type of business they appreciate. That is the kind of business that has been recommended  to other zones. And they have gone a step further.

Now in the South-east, the most abominable is going on. In Imo State, for example, people are being beheaded, and their heads displayed in market places. The South-east should be ashamed, learning the worst. Nobody could have imagined it.

What happened  to their culture? What happened to things held sacred and seen as abomination? That Gumi, Katsina State Governor, Amina Masari, shockingly sit down comfortably  in a discussion, with AK -47 wielding terrorists, shouldn’t have pushed anybody  to also do the abominable;  so somebody can sit down and discuss with them.

The Igbo  are a hard working people, their brothers’ keepers. Whatever happened? How did they descended to blood sucking vampires, so much so that freshly beheaded heads of their kinsmen are displayed on tables in the market square?

These terrorists, masquerading as bandits must be laughing at us. They must be making a caricature of our Leaders. They must be laughing at the Commander-in-Chief who had promised, assured and threatened, a number of times, to deal with them. Such threats have not cowed them. Such threats have, instead,  emboldened them. After each threat, they carry out an operation to celebrate it.

But the shooting down of the   Alpha Jet by these bandits is the limit. It is remarkable that this happened just weeks after Gumi warned they could acquire such sophisticated weapons.

Gumi is known to be their regular visitor. Their friend and preacher and protector. He urges the Federal Government to pay them hundreds of millions. He asks for amnesty for them. The questions which follow are:

What did they tell him that made him reach that conclusion that the guys would soon purchase  surface to air missiles. What time limit did they give him? If they still acquired the weapons after he had discussed with them, of what use were his visits?

For the records, the identity of the leader  of the  group  that shot down the Military aircraft is not hidden. His location is not hidden.

He name is Ali Kachalla. He, reportedly, resides within the Kayambana forest, and is the emperor controlling swathes of forests across many states in the North. How difficult is it to get at him? Perhaps the Federal Government should consult Gumi who has always preached amnesty for the bandits.

President Buhari has made promises to  clear these bandits. The promises  have not quite worked out. Our Security agencies are doing their best. Yet the bandits get more brazen than ever.

The implications of bandits shooting down a Military aircraft are many. Perhaps, it is an over-reaction but many are afraid they could aim at a commercial aircraft one day. What will be the fate of international flights? What will be the reaction of the international community?

That is the day, God forbid, Nigeria will truly become a pyrhea State. It will not be funny.

*Obi is the Editor-in-Chief/CEO of The Source (Magazine), https://thesourceng.com.