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THE NATION ON SUNDAY DECEMBER 30, 2012

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PERSON OF THE YEAR

R

EFUGEES, refugees everywhere – that is the story of Nigeria in 2012; and you would be amazed at the ‘democratisation’ of the victims, the spread of the suffering and the multiple direction of their panic fleeing. For starters, the commander-in-chief, chief symbol of state security, got banished from showboating the power and the glory of the Nigerian state, at Abuja’s Eagles Square, at important national occasions. Though President Jonathan loves to project power in military ceremonial garbs with the Field Marshal’s epaulette sitting on his big shoulders and a blaze of medals bedecking his broad chest, the wise president, in 2012, was content to limit his heroics to the closet at Aso Villa. Besides, as Boko Haram blasted Maiduguri, Nigeria’s terrorism capital, and sent murderous ripples through most of the North East states of Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Bauchi and Adamawa, the president stayed away from this vortex of trouble. This self-imposed ban and the dash from Eagle Square into Aso Rock closet on ceremonial days, are the making of His Excellency as a presidential refugee! But that was only the high end of the refugee crisis. At the low end, when the masses, sore, confused and angry at the abject failure of the state to protect them, the fleeing has been more abject, more confusing and more desperate – with many even fleeing to neighbouring countries. Between November 30 and December 5, according to a report in The Punch, which quoted a NAN report which itself quoted a UN newsletter,

By Olakunle Abimbola

the Nigerian Red Cross said some 1, 042 refugees, made up of 520 children and 306 women, had arrived at the Diffa region of Niger Republic, fleeing from Boko Haram violence in Nigeria. The refugees reportedly settled in the villages Guessere and Massa, 25 kilometres away from the Nigerian town of Diffa. Year 2012 ended as it started. In January, Boko Haram launched heavy bombs and gun attacks on Kano, with the police headquarters at its target. That attack claimed 150 lives. On Christmas Eve 2012, gunmen suspected to be Islamists attacked two churches during Christmas Eve services: First Baptist Church, Maiduguri, Borno State and another unnamed church in Firi village, near Potiskum, Yobe State, claiming 12 lives, including that of a pastor and a deacon, according to a report in The Nation of December 26. This attack echoed the one that presaged the horrible harvesting of death and limbs that 2012 would be; and the humongous refugee crises to result from those attacks: the horrendous Christmas Day 2011 bombings at Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madala, Niger State, which instantly transformed happy celebrants of Christmas mass into horrific body bags, that would make many Christmases to come anniversaries of grief, instead of the universal gaiety that Yuletide symbolises. No less than 29 worshippers perished in that attack. Boko Haram attacks on Christian shrines and worshippers came to a mad climax in June. Here is the tragic report, in the words of Human Rights Watch in its 96-page document, Spiralling Violence: Boko Haram Attacks and Security Force Abuses in Nigeria: “On three successive Sundays in June 2012, for example, suicide

bombers detonated explosives at church services in Bauchi, Bauchi State; Jos, Plateau State; and Zaira and Kaduna, Kaduna State – all locations of past episodes of intercommunal violence. The June 17 attacks on two churches in Zaria and two churches in Kaduna killed at least 21 people and set off several days of reprisal and counter-reprisal killings between Christians and Muslims, resulting in some 80 more deaths.” Aside from churches, university campuses were not left out of the orgy of violence. The Mubi, Adamawa State tragedy, in which gunmen massacred no less than 26 students of The Federal Polytechnic, Mubi, the Adamawa State University and the Adamawa School of Health Technology, all in the Wuro Fatuje off-campus hostels. The massacre reportedly started at around 10 pm on October 3, with Nigeria still celebrating its 52 nd

The Nation December 30, 2012  

The Nation December 30, 2012

The Nation December 30, 2012  

The Nation December 30, 2012

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