By Henry Olamiju
“Failure is an orphan but success has many fathers” ~ Anonymous
The news headlines in the past two days have been awash with the story, photos and video of the terror attack in Woolwich, London in which a British soldier was hacked to death by two black men.
The men who obviously didn’t mind showing their faces on camera and sending out their message, actually waited for the arrival of the police – probably to continue the ‘jihad’.
The dimension of the story that has caught on to Nigerians is that the two suspects (I don’t know why they should still be regarded as suspects though) have Nigerian ancestry.
It is no doubt a disturbing turn-out in the unfolding investigation especially when the last eighteen months in Nigeria have been riddled with terrorist activities crippling economic activities in many northern Nigerian cities. There was a time when the vice Nigeria was known for was trafficking hard drugs, then it was female prostitution, then advance fee fraud, now the country itself is being mentioned in the same sentence as Pakistan, Afghanistan, terrorism etc.
If the names of the suspects as we have been informed are Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, then there’s sufficient ground to say they have Nigerian parents. We cannot and should not deny them to be Nigerians. We would not deny them their nationality no matter remotely connected the link may be.
Afterall, we were glad when for Christine Ohuruogu when she won the Gold and Silver medals at the Olympics in 2008 and 2012 respectively. We rejoiced because though she was competing for Team GB, we identified her as our own. We call Gabriel Agbonlahor of Aston Villa FC ours as well. So if any of ours also put a dent in the image of our country, we cannot but still identify with them.
No responsible country will disown its citizen irrespective of the circumstances they might be enmeshed in. We however condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the acts perpetrated by these folks and expect that they face the full expression of the law for their crimes.
So, yes the two Michaels are Nigerians. We accept it. They follow in the line of ‘lone-wolf’ terrorists like Umar Farouk Muthallab (the ‘underwear’ bomber) who have thrown Nigerians living in diaspora under the bus again in issues relating to terrorism.
We also have not failed to notice the dismal and very unbecoming finger-pointing posture of security agencies and/or the news media who are quick to label award-winning Nigerians born or raised in the UK as British while at the same time distancing themselves from the criminals with remote ancestry to foreign nations.
For all they care, they can keep trying to make citizens of other nations look bad by pointing out what ‘one’ of them did. They can keep trying to convince the world that Britons are great people and that the United Kingdom is a conducive environment for all and sundry.
The truth about the matter is that there’s no perfect environment that is devoid of evil. The same environment that raises Olympic champions in the UK is at the same time now festering the seeds of religious fanaticism. How that has come to be is unknown to many observers. We can try to do case analysis that suggest the odds are in favour or against a certain group of people but that won’t get terror attacks off our streets.
I love how what a senior friend of mine Akin Akintayo (@forakin) put it on twitter:
“We can throw statistics at a problem and make it insignificant or recognise that a fuse has been lit to a bomb of social unrest.”
Labeling either of the suspects Nigerian does not solve the problem of growing jihadist movements or radicalisation of young people in the UK. It only tries to push away the responsibility of fixing what is broken in the society. Recent terrorist plots in the United Kingdom have been perpetrated by British-born people, whether they are of Middle-Eastern or African ancestry is inconsequential. What is important is finding out what is pushing these people to the edge. The war on terror is a global one, it is perpetrated by people of all races.
It is sad that lives are lost despicably everywhere and as such it is important that we realise that a man who heinously hacked an innocent man to death is not different from another man whose goes into a school and guns down dozens of helpless teenagers.
People of the world, what we should be looking for and desperately researching is that tipping point. That point where piety becomes fanaticism; where the normal crosses into the abnormal, where rationality morphs into irrationality and where grace descends into disgrace.
All the political grand-standing and nationalistic egoism will not achieve anything if we don’t squarely face the brewing local threats to national as well as international peace. That means that the Nigerian government has to also look inwards too and identify the possible factors contributing to the growing Boko Haram crisis.
At the end of it all, we either sleep satisfied that we have properly labeled our problems or be rest assured that we have our ears to the ground to stem the rising tides of terrorism.
P.S. There’s a spirit in man…