We thought we were too far away to worry about events in North Africa and the Middle East. Even Boko Haram, which is closer in neighbouring Nigeria, did not, at least we thought, pose any threat to our national security until news started filtering in that the dreaded Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) has set up a recruitment camp in Ghana.
As usual, the subject was trivialised, politicised and even bastardised in some quarters, depending on who was discussing it. But the truth is; the information that ISIS is recruiting our youth for training and operations outside our shores should not be seen as an isolated case.
It falls within a global pattern which if not given the necessary serious attention and checked at its embryonic stage could spell doom for the country.
It was unfortunate the media networks which claimed access to the information first did not act in the overall national interest.
Some of us were expecting that such a delicate information would be passed on to national intelligence to do its underground work and if possible arrest those that are the brains behind the recruitment instead of going public about even the meeting place of the syndicate.
For now, we can take consolation in the assurance by the national security apparatus that they are on top of events and that there should be no cause for alarm.
A statement attributed to the National Security Coordinator that since the movement is outward, we should not panic as a nation, if true, is, however, unfortunate.
We know that when soldiers train and go to war, they always return home not with calm demeanours, but with savage mentality which they could unleash on their compatriots. It is, therefore, not strange that countries that have experienced civil wars and other violent upheavals also become fertile grounds for violent criminals such as armed robbers.
What is ISIS?
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) came to world attention in June last year, after the declaration of its Islamic Caliphate by taking over large parts of Syria and Iraq. Since then, the group has been able to recruit thousands of fighters from various countries to join its ranks.
Western-led efforts to suppress the group have so far yielded little positive results and ISIS continues to grow in strength by the day just as its ruthlessness against its enemies and those converts who want to retreat.
According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, ISIS has over the past year executed over 1,841 civilians, including women and children, by shooting, beheading, stoning and burning for crimes such as sorcery, sodomy, adultery, banditry and co-perating with rival rebel groups and the US-led coalition fighting it.
The report also said the group had executed 182 of its own members who had been captured trying to flee back to their countries.
How it started
When the United States (US) and its European allies invaded Iraq in 2003, they made the world to believe that they were after a monster called Saddam Hussein who was planning to destroy the world with weapons of mass destruction.
Even after the invaders could not provide any proof of the storage of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Western propaganda made the world to believe that the death of Saddam was a good riddance of an evil nut which would make the world safer.
Years after the death of Saddam, Iraq remains one of the most unsafe places in the world. The West went further to instigate the overthrow of the regime of Muammar Gaddafi of Libya in 2011 and is still making attempts to remove Bashar-al Assad of Syria from power by arming a lot of rebel groups against him since 2011, under the guise of establishing democracy and defending human rights.
The collapse of the relatively stable regimes in Iraq, Libya and Yemen, adding to the problem in Afghanistan and rebel activities in Syria, all through the covert and overt operations of the West , prepared fertile grounds for Islamic militants to intensify their activities in North Africa and the Middle East, leading to the emergence of the ISIS.
Today, the US and its European allies are trying to do damage control. But the more they pour in armour and personnel, the more the rebel groups also expand their operations, and in amoeba-like fashion, multiply under different names in various countries but with a common objective – to kill, maim, destroy and cause fear and panic.
Today the world is not safe, including for those of us who think we are very far away from the theatre of war. The idea that the recruitment wing of ISIS is on our soil means we are getting closer, and Boko Haram, which is nearer, may be even closer than we thought.
The media should stop running commentaries on such issues and rather provide valuable information to our intelligence organisations which should also put their ears on the ground. It is said that a stitch in time saves nine and to be forewarned is to be forearmed.