The irony of the senseless killings in the North-east of Nigeria, especially the Borno-Yobe axis, came full circle when on November 02, as reports have it, gunmen shot dead General Mohammed Shuwa, a 79-year- old authentic civil war hero, dead, along with his guests in his Gwange, Maiduguri home. It was, indeed, a tragic end to a man, who, even in the heat of war, protected lives and did everything to avoid needless deaths.
I was eleven years old when the civil war broke out but I recall with such vividness its experiences and lessons. Being branded a saboteur in the heat of that war was a summary death sentence, which was instantly carried out. My hometown, Ikom, was a war zone and my father, who was caught up in Biafra, had taken part in the peace talks on the Biafran side. When Ikom fell to Federal troops, the rest of the family became an endangered specie. All that was needed was someone to simply brand you a traitor and what further validation would be required beyond the role my father was playing on the enemy side.
This was to happen sooner than later and, of course, two of my uncles were whisked off to meet their certain fatal fate. Then providence intervened. One of my said uncles had recently met then Major Shuwa, a war commander, struck a friendship with him and had invited him to lunch in our village on the day they were whisked off. Major Shuwa arrived to meet wailing and commotion and he inquired what the matter was.
When he was told he promptly proceeded to seek them out, which he did just as the executioners were awaiting final orders for their dispatch to history and eternity. Both uncles lived to old age with one of them, seeing me through school and becoming the chairman of my State’s Traditional Rulers Council and a successful businessman.
Till this date, my family remembers him very fondly and with gratitude, especially when we got to know that his meeting my uncle was not accidental after all. We got to know much later that he knew my father, knew his circumstances and the situation his family was likely to be in and that he needed to do everything to help. I was to meet him for the last time, as it has now turned out, during my National Service in Bauchi in 1979 when he came on official visit as Federal Commissioner for Trade. He promptly picked me out and inquired after my family.
His death is tragic moreso the manner of it. For a General, who fought and risked his life in the Nigerian civil war to keep the country one, surviving bullets, mortars and the elements, to be summarily dispatched by a band of hoodlums in old age and in the security of his home is a tragic irony. It was like surviving a war to die of dog bite. General Shuwa certainly deserved more respect and a better fate in our mortal understanding but who can question the will of the Almighty ? More than ever before, the Northern elite must do some soul-searching and introspection on the implications of the current security challenge in the North, especially the North-east.
The wanton killings are gravely depleting its best resource, human beings. In the certain event of an economic turnaround, the region will be handicapped in taking full benefits of any positive economic change in the region if this trend continues. The rest of the country will be missing the point if it sees the sad phenomenon in the North as a Northern problem. It certainly is not. The rest of the country can only move as fast as that region moves.
It is, therefore, in our best interest as a nation to get this challenge resolved as quickly as possible. The unfortunate killing of General Shuwa brings a new dimension to the situation. General Shuwa, and many more like him, represent, in these confounding times, forces of moderation. Targeting forces of moderation at a time when what is needed most is reasonableness, introspection and circumspection can only escalate extremism.
It makes the death of General Shuwa even more sad. As we reflect on the tragic end of this fine officer and gentleman, an epitome of rectitude and humility in public life, a true senior citizen, patriot and hero, we pray that the Almighty forgives him his sins and admits his soul to His kingdom and that his death will bring healing to our fractured spirits and broken land . •Victor Ndoma-Egba, Senate Majority Leader, represents Cross River Central Senatorial District