Following the successful completion of the recently revitalised Nigerian University Games (NUGA) hosted by the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) emerged as the surprise host of the next edition of the bi-annual Games, which will come up in 2016.
An elated Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof Emmanuel Kucha, rhapsodised that the Games coming to the terrorism-stricken capital of Borno State will be a befitting occasion to mark the Silver Jubilee of the institution.
No one would have raised an eyebrow if all was well with the city of Maiduguri, the epicentre of the Boko Haram Islamist terrorist insurgencies that have wracked the Nigerian northeast for over three years now. Even though the campaign of mass murder and destruction of property by the militants has been confined to more remote fringes of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States, virtually no day passes without reports of fresh attacks on innocent citizens. In fact, only a couple of months ago, the daredevil insurgents struck at military facilities and the Maiduguri International Airport, wreacking havoc and killing scores.
Even though it is reasonable to assume that our gallant military personnel conducting anti-insurgency operations on that frontier should be able to defeat the threat before 2016, we hasten to caution that the war on terror, like all the others of its type in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, Somalia and the Islamic Maghrib have proved difficult to completely stamp out. The case of Nigeria is further complicated by the fact that Boko Haram is operating on a desert, multinational theatre fringed by other poor countries with porous borders, such as Niger Republic, Chad and Cameroun.
We are against any decision that could risk the lives of the Nigerian youth, who may seen as juicy targets by bands of suicide attackers operating in isolated cells. Let another university in safer areas of the country be awarded the hosting rights of the 2016 Games until the northeast has been completely secured. We foresee a situation where the UNIMAID Games might be boycotted by universities and athletes if by 2016 there remains a shadow of doubt about security.
Alternatively, there should be a reserve host in case the coast is not clear in UNIMAID.
Everything must be done to ensure that factors that led to the collapse of the Games in the past are not allowed to present again, this time as security threats.
The post-election killing of dozens of Youth Corps members after the 2011 elections in the North, and frequent night time slaughter of innocent students by the insurgents show the extreme extent that Boko Haram is ready to go.
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Let UNIMAID wait a little more. (VANGUARD)