Paris and the rest of us By Babatunde Aribido

hollande

Friday, November 13, 2015: French Prime Minister Francois Hollande and perhaps some friends, family members and aides are seated enjoying a game of football between Germany and France, in a stadium in Paris. First explosion went off. And then a second one. And everyone begins to run helter-skelter. The President had to be rushed out of the stadium by security men. He survived it. He made it home in one whole piece; unscathed. He’s the President. Nothing must happen to him.

At the Batclan Concert Hall, young people are having fun, drinking and enjoying heavy metal music by a rock band, when the shooting began. Some were fortunate to escape with their life intact. Others were gunned down by the assailants, who shouted “Allahu Akbar”, as they shoot randomly into the crowd of fun seekers. Religion is now being used to commit evil. How sad!

Paris was attacked and this is not the first time. Remember the Charlie Hebdo episode? By the time this recent massacre came to an end and a head count was carried out, about a 153 people have left the world without saying a decent goodbye to their friends and loved ones; their attackers didn’t think they should. How wicked and evil can a man be to his fellow man?

They attacked six other locations within the beautiful city of Paris, leaving people writhing in pain and many others in fear that can be seen, touched and felt with bare hands. As I write this, ISIS has put up a hashtag to “celebrate this miracle” and they’ve been linked to this act of terror against innocent people.

Hollande didn’t issue any tepid press statement to commiserate with the people of Paris and condemn the attack, with a promise to bring the perpetrators to book, like it’s done in some parts of the world. He came on state television to reassure Parisians of their safety and security and to let the perpetrators know that his country would be “ruthless” in its response. You can’t blame him. Responsible leaders don’t sit on the fence and prevaricate in time of crisis. Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta did something similar and commendable during the attack in a university in Garissa; beyond personally signing and dispatching a condolence letter to all the families of those who lost their loved ones in that attack, he came out bold, courageous, reassuring and forthright in his statement to the terrorists. He actually said he’d not forgive them! But, how that is playing out now, I really can’t tell. But, citizens must always be assured of their safety and security at all times. That actually is the first and most important responsibility of a responsible leader.

Come to think of it, what’s the essence of employment, good roads, foreign direct investments, good water supply, excellent power supply, when the security and safety of lives cannot be guaranteed? No sane person will think of investing in a place where he can be killed at any time and nothing will happen.

But, what does the Paris terror attack portend for us in Nigeria, specifically in Lagos? What’s our role as individuals and as a group of people? Truth is, terrorists don’t just strike; they think, they plan, they strategise, they come into our neighbourhoods, they talk to us, get all the relevant information they need and then they launch an attack. This tells me that we all have a responsibility to protect ourselves and not rely solely on government alone, in this battle against terrorists.

I’m not a fatalist but, anytime I hear of Boko Haram or ISIS attack, my heart skips a beat and I fear for Lagos, because this city is porous and open to any and everybody. People stroll in and out of Lagos every day. I know, because I live along the Lagos- Ibadan Expressway. We can’t stop them but, we can put certain measures in place to check people with evil intentions.

I live in a “gated” estate where random folk simply park their cars off the main road and walk away. People have parked their cars right in front my gate and the security men we employ to watch over the neighbourhood didn’t even ask them questions or compel them to move their cars away. God forbid, do you think if anybody drives a bomb-laden car and parks it on the Third Mainland Bridge at 5:30am on a Monday morning, he’ll be accosted? You think if a terrorist parks his bomb-laden car in front of The Redemption Camp, someone will try to stop him? Can we even identify a terrorist when we see one?

We have some key locations in Lagos that can easily be attacked and we all have a responsibility to pay attention to these places- the Third Mainland Bridge, Ikeja under bridge, Lekki toll gate, Marina car park, Eko Hotel (during events), Apapa, Eko-Idumota market and all those other prayer centres along the busy Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. I know we’re a praying lot in this part of the world and we “reject things in Jesus name” and declare that they are not “our portion in Jesus name”, and I have nothing against any of these statements of faith. We’re good at mouthing inanities and feel good statements but, we’re deficient in using our God given wisdom and intelligence to protect our lives and properties.

I have decided to highlight some of these areas that are prone to attack (and there are many more of them. And don’t forget also that some folk have been arrested because they were planning to attack Lagos), not because I want to create fear and panic but, for us to have meaningful conversations around it so that we won’t be caught napping.

But, here are my two cents to this, given the recent Paris terror attack. One, we must give reconnaissance and intelligence gathering a priority, and this is not the responsibility of the police alone. You and I have a duty and responsibility to take a stroll within our community, ask questions, pay attention to movements and report people that you see manifesting strange ways to the police. Thankfully, we have the Lagos State emergency lines and the Commissioner of Police in Lagos has given out his phone numbers to residents of Lagos a lot of times. And we have community associations, too.

Two, LASTMA, Federal Road Safety Corps, police and other traffic control officials should up their stake in traffic management. And motorists and other road users should cooperate with them to ensure a free flow of traffic. We must address this selfish and wicked attitude of obstructing the free flow of vehicular movement when your car is hit by another driver. Consider other road users and don’t use your arrogance and selfishness to obstruct the movement of cars on our roads.

Three, our worships centres should come up with methods of crowd control during their camp meetings. Interestingly, some of those meetings can be viewed on television or on the website but, we still have people who want to “feel the anointing physically”, if you ask me, that’s a bit risky and please, don’t tell me God is the one who protects, I agree but, Solomon in one of his proverbs says, “a wise man sees danger ahead and avoids it”, terrorists target places that are usually crowded. So, our General Overseers should cooperate with security agencies to address the challenges posed by human and vehicular presence at these places.

Finally, we must be our brothers’ keepers. Cain died many years ago; let’s bury that “Am I my brother’s keeper” mentality with him. We cannot continue to look the other way and shrug our shoulders when the life of another man is in danger. It is our responsibility to protect one another.

It is Paris today, you never can tell where the next terrorist attack will take place, yes, I know it’s not your portion in Jesus name, neither is it mine.

PUNCH