IF there is anything that should seriously be deployed in the effective management of what has turned out to be a national disaster called Boko Haram, it is the way we acquire, process and disseminate sensitive information.
The fear of this monster is the beginning of nightmare not only for our brothers and sisters in the northern part of the country but also down south because recent disclosures point to the fact that nowhere is, in the real sense of it, safe from the reach of this group.
To worse matters, our government officials appear to be portraying the whole episode as a child’s play – it is either they are saying something at a point and saying something different about the same situation at another time – just to give an impression that everything is under control and that they are on top of the situation.
The problem with this kind of posturing is that we may not be able to face the stark reality staring us in the face headlong with a view to collectively tackle our common enemy once and for all.
Just a few days ago, the nation’s Interior Minister, Comrade Abba Moro told the world that the country’s armed forces were making progress in the war against Boko Haram and glibly dismissed the recent deadly Boko Haram’s attacks as “desperate” and “isolated”.
Speaking on the British Broadcasting Corporation’s ‘Focus on Africa’ programme, the minister said “The security agencies of Nigeria have been able to push the Boko Haram sect from their major strongholds”.
It is on this premise that I think we need to make an attempt to understand the point of the minister for a better discourse. Wikipedia, an online dictionary simply defines ‘isolated’ to mean: ‘separated from others; solitary or singular’ while ‘desperate’ is a ‘condition of despair or when everything else has failed; having little hope of success’.
The import of Moro’s statement is that there is nothing to worry about despite Boko Haram’s continued hostility on our nation. Or, that it the onslaught is not startling but merely restricted, inconsequential and remote.
On the contrary, any serious-minded observer – who knows what is happening in the country or is a victim of the casualty – will agree that we are dangerously lying on a keg of gun powder.
No doubt, since 2009, Boko Haram has never hidden its interest in blindly pursuing the course of its queer kind of Islam in the country through the use of force and violence by embarking on wicked acts of unbridled terrorism and wanton destruction of lives and property.
The sect’s spokesman, Abubakar Shekau, had claimed responsibility for the recent Konduga massacre alongside those that had occurred in Malumfatori, Biu, Bama, Gamboru Ngala, Gwoza, among others.
In its latest attacks, over 100 people including about 15 soldiers were killed and that of Konduga’s resulted into a casualty in which more than 45 people were killed, as gunmen dressed in military uniform attacked worshippers.
The untold effects of the Boko Haram holocaust, as depicted by a United States government report on terrorism, ‘Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism’ (START), conducted by the University of Maryland indicated that apart from the Taliban in Afghanistan, Nigeria’s Boko Haram had the highest number of terror attacks that killed the second highest number of people in 2012 alone!
While Taliban murdered 1,842 people in 525 attacks, Boko Haram killed 1,132 people in 364 attacks. It noted that the Taliban and Boko Haram caused more casualties than Iraq’s Al-Qaeda, India’s Maoists, Somalia’s Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula on the list of global terrorist groups.
In the statistical report, of the top 10 countries with the most terrorist attacks last year, Nigeria was fifth as it ranked fourth in number of deaths from terrorist attacks, which accounted for a staggering 81.67 per cent.
STAART observes that “the average lethality of terrorist attacks in Nigeria – 2.54 deaths per attack – is more than 50 per cent higher than the global average of 1.64” while majority of highly lethal attacks – 159 in all – took place in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Nigeria and Syria, killing a total of 2,880 people.
Unfortunately, the government is busy claiming that it is on top of the matter, as we daily hear of more sophisticated and well coordinated strikes, which are often targeted at worship centres, schools, relaxation spots, and security apparatus including the police.
Boko Haram’s spokesman once claimed that “The military is lying to the world about the battle we had with them; they lied that they have killed our members, but we are the ones that have killed the soldiers … We have killed countless soldiers and we are going to kill more. Our strength and firepower has surpassed that of Nigeria. Nigeria is no longer a big deal as far as we are concerned …” (Premium Times, 12/08/2013).
Despite the amnesty offer, emergency rule and the doggedness of security forces in the north, winning war on Boko Haram is still Herculean.
The group itself has regrettably continued to hold fast to its stated mission of foisting its strange Islamic mode of governance on the country. Therefore, giving of a simplistic impression that the sect is an assemblage of frustrated and confused gangsters is misleading and tokenism.
In another breadth, it remains unconvincing why some apologists of the group would ignorantly or mischievously attribute Boko Haram’s mindless acts of terrorism to poverty, social frustration, unemployment and bad governance.
While it is worrisome that a quick remedy may not seem to be in sight through an opportunity of a dialogue, the use of legitimate force to maintain law and order should not be compromised for any reason.
A sincere, frank and objective appraisal of the scenario will go a long way in finding a lasting solution to the crisis. This will not only restore confidence in the perceived capability to put the situation under control, it will go a step further to empathize with the bereaved and victims of the attacks, which should be uppermost in the scheme of things of a sensitive, caring and focused government.
Citizens too have every right to know the policies and activities of their government. In a well-functioning democracy, a government provides accurate, sincere, reliable and timely information to the public through effective communication in all aspects of life to avoid making the citizenry uncertain about the new roles of the government and public administration.
In the process and in reaching out to large numbers of the people, governments rely heavily on the media, which analyse and filter information from the authorities to the citizens through this “intermediary role”. Certainly, the credibility of government and the acceptance of public policies depend on the extent to which it is open with the media.
Moro’s provocative use of the media within this context is unhelpful and counter-productive by insinuating that Boko Haram adherents are ‘mere the desperate antics of a group trying to show it was still relevant’.
Our many borders remain ever porous to the infiltration of suspects. This is one of the many potent ways the interior ministry could make a huge difference in this fight against terror.
For now, members of Boko Haram should sheath their sword that has proven to be unlikely to yield any desired result for them while government on the other hand should talk less, face reality of the day and desist from living in euphoria that the issue at hand can be handled with kid’s gloves.
Mr. ADEWALE KUPOLUYI wrote from federal Varsity of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State.