In spite of all the evil that Boko Haram, its affiliates, splinters and other opportunistic groups, perpetrate, Nigeria still does not seem to be doing much to arrest the situations.
Of course, there are constant talks of procurement of military hardware and boastful accounts of military accomplishments in the prosecution of the war against insurgents and bandits, attacks by these criminals have become more virulent and daring. Hardly does any day pass without an incident or more leading to loss of lives and property somewhere in the country.
Even though more fighter jets and other equipment get purchased, insurgent activities which have escalated into mindless, full-blown terrorism as we have, do not answer to gun power alone. Attending every victory in such battles is the deployment of intellectual insights bordering on a deep understanding of the psychological and sociological factors that predicated the crisis. And this area, as critical as it is, is one of fronts where those leading the offensive are at their disgraceful worst.
Not too long ago, the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, was quoted as saying: “We have defeated insurgency, but now facing the challenge of terrorism,” whatever that means. Granted that this statement is nearer the truth than the idea of a “technical defeat” that Nigerians have been fed with for about two years now, this Buratai intervention raises important questions concerning the insurgency, (said to have been defeated) and terrorism, which his force is still battling. It also begs the question as to Nigerian Armed Forces’ definition of terrorism when the Indigenous People of Biafra, which has not killed a single civilian in its agitations, has been pronounced a terrorist organisation!
But the army chief said a bit more than that when he uttered the following words: “There is nowhere you will not find Boko Haram – even in Lagos here, there are Boko Haram (members). In Kaduna, there is Boko Haram. There are more across the North-East. Many have been arrested here in Lagos.” Such scaremongering is capable of setting a country on fire and arrest the progress of the most vibrant economy in the nation. This is clearly not the way a military leader should speak to an already traumatised citizenry.
When competent managers of the kind of warfare Nigeria has on its hands speak, they are circumspect about the quality and quantity of information they give. They are careful not to raise anxiety levels even if security isdiscretely enhanced. They plan each battle in efficient top secrecy and make boasts until the feat has been accomplished.
Now, that is a sad commentary of what Nigeria’s military has become; politicised, disorganised, lacking in discipline and structure.That the country is still embroiled in this Boko Haram war is clear evidence that political and military commands have broken down.
When the military was professional and relatively apolitical, it took Nigeria’s armed forces and the police only a short period of strategic planning to put an end to both the life of Mohammed Marwa, the renegade anti-social rebel and his movement, Maitatsine in the 1980s. His bourgeoning followers of unemployed militants known as Yan Tatsine had, by 1985, become history, effectively checked by our structured and thoroughly professional armed forces. But Nigeria has battled Boko Haram for well over 10 years now with the head of the military admitting that its insurgency has developed into full-blown terrorism for which no solution is in sight!
And this brings up the question of whether our military is indeed weak and unsavvy as the current security situation suggests or that the country is just being held to ransom by some profiteers. The latter becomes appealing when, even as a lay man, you imagine that there are time-tested methods that could have shaken this insurgent group before we arrived at this juncture where countless angry groups are taking it out on innocent citizens.
In the aftermath of the attack on Washington by Al Qaeda in 2001, the United States, in addition to increasing military operations, mounted economic and political pressures on groups suspected of supporting the terror group. This measure, aimed at cutting the source of funding for the group, also affected countries perceived to have sympathy for those accused of terrorism. This strategy was also said to have contributed to the end of Nigeria’s civil war after 30 months.
So, you want to ask: Long before Boko Haram became the albatross that it is, did the Nigerian authorities consider this strategy? It is clear that these insurgents get food supply from somewhere, they have access to money and buy weapons to fuel their satanic mission. Have we identified the sources of their finances and logistics and how to cut them off? With all the instruments of coercion available to the state, how on earth is Boko Haram able to communicate when the state has the powers and resources to intercept and impede their transactions? How is it that the group has operated with so much allowance? Truth is that Nigerian leaders allowed the Boko Harm situation to fester, and this has given confidence to so many other groups to perpetrate crime across the country. This is all avoidable and unpardonable.
Still on the point of military campaigns not being the ultimate solution to insurgencies, I remember an article published on this column in July 2015. This was at a period when those who claimed to be Fulani herdsmen and bandits troubling the North-West had not gathered the fervour for their dastard acts. In the article titled: “Why Buhari should negotiate with Boko Haram,” I had written inter alia “… by the nature of insurgencies, military confrontations are never the ultimate solution. This fact is corroborated by examples from all over the world. Most insurgencies are trigged by socio-political disaffections. And as Jonathan Powell, the British diplomat who served as chief British negotiator on Northern Ireland, argues, in a paper entitled, Security is not enough: Ten lessons for conflict resolution from Northern Ireland, “if there is a political problem at the root of a conflict, there has to be a political solution to it.” Powell quotes Hugh Orde, a former Chief Constable of Northern Ireland, as saying, “There are no examples anywhere in the world of terrorist problems being policed out. Of course, without security pressure, insurgents will find life comfortable and have no incentive to make the tough decisions necessary for peace but security pressure by itself without offering a political way out will simply cause the insurgents to fight to the last man…”
This is why it is curious that concerted efforts are not made to educate and increase the capacity of every Nigerian to access the basic things of life. To send his child to school, attend hospital, live in a humane accommodation and feed three times a day. Ignorance, poverty and frustration imposed by the failure to create a stable society light the fire of the kind of deviance Nigeria now grapples with. Per chance we get lucky to arrest the current situation, would the uneducated, untrained and maligned children of today not become the terror of tomorrow?