By Jide Ajani
Is Iran funding the Jamaatu Ahlil Sunna Lidawati wal Jihad, otherwise known as Boko Haram; or is there any form of foreign funding for the sect, the Under Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ambassador Johnny Carson, was asked during a congressional hearing on the possibility of designating the group a Foreign Terror Organisation, FTO? He did not believe so, he said. This was some time in the middle of the year.
But during investigations into the bombing that rocked the military cantonment of the Command and Staff College, Jaji, something frightening was discovered: An explosive that was not the usual Improvised Explosive Device, IED, was believed to have been used. There was also the hint that it was imported.
So, the question is: Where did the explosive come from? Let us leave that for now and turn to the issue of ambivalence.
In the affairs of men, ambivalence plays the role of a spoiler.
It becomes worse when it is seen as the directive principle of governance.
Presidential Adviser on Media had said there were back door channels being explored in dialoguing with members of Boko Haram.
But his boss hinted of a possibility of not doing any of such; and, therefore, penultimate Friday, news hit town that the Federal Government of Nigeria had placed a bounty on leaders of the group promising about a quarter of a billion naira.
72hours later, the group struck and bombed a church in a prestigious military barracks.
Another 24hours after that, they attacked a police station and released some detainees in the process.
So, what next?
The security nightmare that a flip-flopping Commander-in-Chief creates for heads of security agencies and the endangerment of operatives can be enormous.
If the security chiefs understand what they are dealing with, signs coming from the presidency suggest a disconnection between that knowledge and presidential directives. That is what the naked eyes can see. We may never really know what is going on.
For instance, when “Ambassador Anthony Holmes, Deputy to the Commander for Civil Military Activities (DCMA) of United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), revealed that members of Boko Haram are being trained by Al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and that they are also believed to have ties to the Somalian militant group al Shabaab”, was it not to be expected that this cooperation, combined with the increased sophistication of attacks executed by Boko Haram, should lead to concerns about the sect’s intent and capability? This was part of a report of the American congress on Boko Haram.
Again, when in early April, the American and British governments issued a terror alert, the response from the Federal Government of Nigeria could at best have been described as lame. That was not the first time such a response would be made. The government, through its Information and Communication Minister, Labaran Maku, said such alerts coming from America and Britain would only serve to further instill fear in the citizenry; that such do not in any way help to bring calm. But if calm was what the Federal Government was expecting, Boko Haram had its own grand design.
Officials of government had boasted that the activities of Boko Haram would be terminated by June, 2012. The group quickly came out, via a Youtube video, to scoff at government’s boastfulness. It then warned that it did not like the way media houses were misrepresenting its side of the story and that it would strike.
Therefore, by mid April, the peace of the land was shattered via the bombings in Jos (where some sports lovers had gone to watch a live football match); Kaduna (where an explosion killed three, injured eight outside ThisDay office); Kano (where a bomb factory was discovered at Haye, a suburb of Hotoro Arewa quarters of Nasarawa Local Government Area); and Abuja (where ThisDay office was bombed). The group sent a clear message to those in government that it is more coordinated than government officials think, or would want Nigerians to believe.
One thing, however, that can not be denied – even by those in government – is that the group is far more sophisticated and entrenched than most people would want to admit.
Even the attempt at dialoguing with members of the sect, a move that created a controversial life of its own, was reportedly bungled by the same government.
Perhaps vindicating the earlier position of the Boko Haram members that it did not trust government’s move, it was Alhaji Datti Ahmed, the once proposed middle-man for the dialogue in April, who suggested that government sold him out. In an attempt to interview Alhaji Ahmed in April, Sunday Vanguard was made to understand that the time for an interview was not then. The elder statesman politely turned down the request, insisting: “I do not want to talk about it, please”.
The refrain of President Goodluck Jonathan has always been classic and standard: “We shall deal with these people”, “Boko Haram would soon be a thing of the past” – these are statements that President Jonathan has been making since last year.
No doubt, there have been successes recorded against members and leaders of the group with arrests and preemptive strikes which create the impression that the group is being weakened by the day. Just lastFriday, the authorities bursted a bomb-making factory in Kaduna
However, coordinated attacks by the group, as was the case last Sunday and Monday, are clear unequivocal statements that it is not about to go away.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s approach to the Odi crisis may not have been the best under the circumstance but confirmation of such by another president sends a signal
Some Others Do Have Them
Nigeria is not the first and only country to be confronting insurgency. You have The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army (Spanish: Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC, in Columbia-that is on the verge of total surrender, after decades of resistance; the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, PLO, is adopting a more moderate stance on the issue of nationhood as against HAMAS’ hard line position; the Irish Republican Army, IRA, after many decades of bombing campaigns and insurgency against the British government in Northern Ireland, came to the table to negotiate; the BASQUE separatist movement has not called off its demand for separation but is softening its approach. People’s Liberation Army, United National Liberation Front, People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak; Naga insurgent group like NSCN-K and ULFA (anti-talk faction) and NDFB, are operating from North East Myanmar. As you have insurgency groups in Indonesia, so do you have them in the Philippines, but the approach adopted by governments of those countries has never been one of ‘either , or’ but one of resolute confidence in the power of the state to deal decisively – which does not necessarily mean cruel engagement or needless excessive force. It is about approach.
Whereas Barack Obama of America is trying to break the Republicans’ position on tax cuts and the looming fiscal cliff by appealing to members of the public to hold Congress accountable, a move which seeks to turn the public against hard line Republican legislators, not minding the so-called pledge to Grover Norquist’s Americans For Tax Reforms, the question should be asked of President Goodluck Jonathan: To whom is he appealing, with a view to stemming the tide in the viciousness of Boko Haram’s campaign of violence against his government?
The bigger danger is that the economy of the entire North, specifically the north-eastern flank, is becoming non-existent. The people continue to suffer. The question has often been asked, why is President Jonathan refusing to visit states in that part of the country that have been the brunt of the insurgency? Yet, some of the leaders of those areas, too, including former state governors and serving senators, speak in tongues, and tongue-in-cheek when describing the activities of Boko Haram. And they do so out of fear. Still it is their people who suffer.
It was Democrat President Harry Truman who, in frustration, declared: “I sit here (in the Oval Office of the White House) all day trying to persuade people to do the things they ought to have the sense enough to do without my persuading them”.
Is it not time the Federal Government of Nigeria and the leaders of the North- East and, by extension, the entire North have the good sense to do what is necessary to stop this carnage without being persuaded?
This is all about being decisive and resolute, not speaking from both sides of the mouth. Read: Jaji bombing: Fear grips residents…