Coming on the heels of territorial sovereignty is the importance of the phrase, internal security. The latter can never be overemphasized as it is sacrosanct to nation building. A nation divided within itself cannot stand, it spells doom for same.
Unfortunately, Nigeria has for some time, being bedevilled with this plague, and the scourge has a perfect semblance to an open wound that requires proper and immediate attention (internally & externally) to avoid its spread.
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In the past 5years or more, this pestilence has become one of the greatest and negatively lasting security threat Nigeria has had to deal with and it is disheartening to note that efforts to curb this ‘disease’ have so far proved ill at best.
The term Boko Haram is culled from both Hausa and Arabic languages. ‘Boko’ from the Hausa language to mean ‘Animist, western, non-Islamic education, and the Arabic language ‘Haram’ to mean ‘sin’; literally transcribed as ‘forbidden’. Simply put, Westernization is forbidden.
The major presence and activities of the Boko haram is predominantly found in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria, with their control centre headquartered in Borno state, which harbours about 80% of Nigerian Muslims.
The group’s official name according to Wikipedia is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-jihad.
The activities of this sect has left the world wondering what its true intents are. Some speculate it is ethno-religious, others have postulated their mission is deep rooted in anti-westernization, but whatever it is, something needs to be done really fast to avoid the entity called Nigeria implode upon itself.
Prior to their recent outbursts, as far back as 2002, (which was the year of the group’s establishment in Maiduguri), the sect, with its then spiritual head, Mohammed Yusuf, was rumoured to be a religious group known to be passively active, although clamouring for the principles and teachings of Allah to be re-enforced in nation-state building.
It was gathered that the group started gathering arms, to at least establish their presence and coerce adherence to their faith.
The rumour, on reaching the Nigerian police, rounded up Mohammed and his loyalists. Mohammed unfortunately died in police custody and the remainder of his group went underground.
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The police were wrong to think this was the end to the group. It is believed that Yusuf’s death struck the match to a once passive flame.
After their re-group, Boko Haram, under its current spiritual leader, Abubakar Shekau, became even more destructive. It sought the establishment of a structured Islamic state, neglecting the heterogeneous nature of the Nigerian nation.
He has so many times emphasized this commitment to destroy anything or anyone (Muslim or Christian), who fails to abide by the orthodox doctrine of the ‘uniqueness and oneness’ of Allah, which is the very cornerstone of Islam. This statement has struck out the possible assertion that this is indeed a Muslim-Christian feud.
Studies show that Boko Haram has an army strength of 7,000-10,000.
Abubakar Shekau, having pledged allegiance to ISIL (Islamic state of Iraq & the Levant), has brought to a grinding halt commercial activities in the North; by and large, they have managed to ravage the Nigerian economy leaving a trail of wail, corpses, desecrated buildings and loss of property in trying to achieve its aim, citing that it was ‘this westernization’ that has brought about the ‘decay in Nigeria’.
Statistics show that several bombings perpetrated by this group in Nigeria (as their activities has evaporated to other neighbouring countries), has displaced 2.3 million people in the North alone since this conflict started.
250,000 Northerners have fled Nigeria to neighbouring countries like Cameroun, Chad and Niger, where it has been reported to have witnessed pockets of this violence although in a much smaller scale unlike Nigeria.
The attack has sustained adverse economic effect for Nigeria’s economy, albeit gradually. Schools and businesses in affected areas have been forced into extinction. Plateau state, the once tourist attraction site have assumed the semblance to a grave yard as people flee for their lives.
Investors have tagged Nigeria a war zone, and the very essence of Nigeria defeated. Areas that were formerly peaceful, have been turned to a bee-hive of confusion and constant looking over shoulders.
Banks and its customers are also said to be operating under difficult circumstances and have reduced business hours for fear of being attacked. Business owners have reportedly packed up and left, investors are following suit.
The ruthlessness of this group was further encapsulated in their abduction of over 200 school girls in Chibok, Borno state, in April 2014, whom have been said to have been sold at prices below a dollar, or worse still used as child brides or sex slaves.
This dastardly act elicited condemnation from the enclave of the international community and subsequent pledges were made to bring an end to this scourge.
This brought about the bring back our girls, slogan, which even the wife to the most powerful man in the world, established her solidarity. Even more callous and senseless is their condemnable act of the use of below teenage girls whom they had brainwashed to carry out their atrocities.
Bombs are strapped to these children and triggered once proximity to a crowded area has been established.
Conscious efforts have been made to crush the group but Nigerians still maintain that enough resources are not channelled to reduce this threat to a zero level.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan, in 2011, was forced to declare a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, three states where boko Haram is rife; and the immediate closure of land borders with Niger Republic and Chad, over same, pending the restoration of tranquillity. Even then, the victory was not guaranteed.
Worthy of note is the effort of his successor, President Muhammudu Buhari, towing the same line to bring about the total extermination of this radicalism despite tribal affiliations.
He strengthened the faith of Nigerians in him by adopting a more pragmatic approach.
Upon assuming office, ordered for the immediate relocation of the military’s command base and control centre from Abuja to Maiduguri, (the power house of these insurgents). He further charged his newly elected service chiefs to crush Boko Haram by mandating a 3-month deadline to expire in December, this year.
Even as commendations pour in with this singular act, the question still lingers, if this can actually bring about the end to Boko Haram.
As this wanton act of terrorism continues to hold the nation by the jugular, some key areas (which by and large have been overlooked), should be the centre point, if the much desired victory is to be achieved in the shortest possible time by this administration.
- Stopping elite youths from joining terrorists: The reality that some children of the rich(as against the speculated poor),are also parading the banner of violent jihadism further discredits the false narrative that blames poverty as the prime factor(although this should not be completely ruled out),driving youths to horrific acts of cruelty all in the name of religion. This misguided diagnosis has served to justify our government’s lack of a robust and holistic approach towards terrorism. The global community has been lulled into a state of inertia by this notion. One might be forced to ask the plausibility of this ‘absurd’ claim, but the underlying truth remains, Islam is driven by a universal ideology that seeks to supplant existing government with an Islamic caliphate, based on a narrow interpretation of sharia law enunciated and implemented by self-appointed bigots. Take for instance the incident of Farouk Lawal, a young child of an affluent banker and renowned business man, attempting to blow up a United States airline. He had everything to himself, even a degree in mechanical engineering but managed to be brain washed by these bigots. The sustaining hope is the false promise of eternal paradise for its adherents, especially those who die fighting. This is a powerful aphrodisiac for misguided youths of all classes. The duty of the Nigerian government is to rise to the occasion and devise intelligent means to stem the flow of brainwashed youths leaving home to join these terrorists. In combating this ‘disease’ in all its ramifications, including stopping the emigration of our youths, rich or poor, to terrorist camps, however, the solution must begin with the right understanding of the problem-ideology, and tackle it head-on.
- Tracking and bringing down the kingpins: It has been established that Boko Haram have garnered more armoury and it is displeasing to note that these weapons are more sophisticated than that of the Nigerian military, and all these are being sponsored by the big shots. According to a senior military officer, he explained,
‘With the resolve of the federal government to fight corruption and terrorism pari passu, which the moneybags who are the easy suspects of fuelling the crimes, are morphing and recruiting foot soldiers to criticize the ‘slow pace’ of the President in order to prevent the long arm of the law from reaching them.
The government must brace up and know that the war is hydra-headed, and unless they play their part in bringing these people to book, even with 1,000 officers appointed into government, will not solve insurgency and corruption’.
The above statement is in itself, self-explanatory, if the federal government wants to win this war against terrorism.
The onus of this task rests solely on its responsiveness, as it cannot rest on its oars, and keep parading past laurels, as theory alone cannot suffice.
These people, whoever they are, should not be spared the gravel of the law, they should be fished out and made to pay for their sins, so they can serve as scape goats to all and sundry.
- Socio-economic regeneration (especially in the North): The high level of poverty and illiteracy in the north has been one of the main reasons for a lot of sectarian violence. When the vast majority of people have no future to look forward to, then it becomes very easy to recruit foot soldiers in the guise of waging a religious war. This can be achieved by embarking on aggressive mass sensitization and educational projects. Agriculture which has hitherto, been the main stay of the Northern people, should be re-visited, and mechanized farming and agriculture introduced. Modern facilities should also be erected, this would give them a sense of belonging and would aid in employing otherwise jobless people.
- The all hands-on-deck-approach: The government cannot be everywhere, but the people are. It is time Nigerians do away with the nonchalant attitude regarding terrorism, as according to some, these attacks are carried out in the North alone, so they are not bothered. The average Nigerian needs to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity in their neighbourhood, vigilantes among communities should be encouraged. In this age of communication technology, Nigerians should optimize such opportunities and start to tweet about the negative side effects of terrorism, until the world (and majorly the Nigerian youth), is concerned about our plight and our government responds rather than remaining passive.
- Improve governance: The fall out of this conflict has been traced back to the unresponsive and calamitous nature of the Nigerian government. Poverty is rife because the government is corrupt and the government is corrupt because it is ‘modelled after the manner of western governments.’ The government needs to do this by first reducing the remuneration accrued to a political officer, making the post less alluring and more of a service to the nation rather than a money making venture. This money should then be channelled into reasonable projects that would improve the economic situation the country is muddled in. Leaders with purpose, ready to prove their substance should be replaced with irresponsible ones. Anyone caught going against the rule of law should be made an example of, if possible there should be the adoption of checks and balances principle, to dissuade any serving officer willing to engage in such.
- The ‘Gowonomics’ principle: This suggestion was adopted by former general, Yakubu Gowon(rtd), where he emphasized that prayer is the best weapon against terrorism. The founder of Nigeria prays, a non-profit organization, re-iterated the spate at which these attacks occur saying it calls for worry. He said,
‘It is sad that some people wilfully take their lives and the lives of others. This is a great concern. There is no longer respect for lives. There is no regard for human dignity.
This is worrisome. That is why I appeal to Nigerians to raise an altar of prayer for Nigeria. If God can save the biblical Saul who later became Paul, I am confident that God can touch the lives of these people, called Boko Haram.
We know they are faceless and nobody knows their agenda. That is why I believe that it is only God who can intervene in their lives and bring change.’
It is not enough to enumerate solutions, but the federal government has to take the bull by the horns and turn theories to practical concepts. Nigerians need to be assured that the government is not helpless.
Even though some have said that that terrorism is a new thing in our climate, that even the most advanced countries are still grappling with it, but what we need now is action, and the time for that action is NOW!
This war needs to be taken to the door steps of these rambunctious elements. It is time to be proactive, enough of the fire brigade approach to the issues bothering on national security.
There should be no room for negotiations, it only fuels the fire to more uprisings.
If these steps are observed to the latter, victory is most definitely sure, and a significant medal attached to this present administration.