By Obi Nwakanma
A specter hangs above Nigeria. It is the specter of war and violence. The election year 2015 draws very close, and closer still rises this spectre that will mark the coming year as Nigeria’s second annus horriblis. Since the election of the current President, Nigeria has been inundated by serial acts of extreme violence and subversion, coming mostly from the North.
The impression that was given very early in the life of the Jonathan administration was that powerful interests from the North of Nigeria, used to having the full run of power, felt isolated, alienated and disempowered, and vowed to make Nigeria ungovernable for this minority Southern president whom they regard as nothing more than a usurper.
These masked interests set about organizing and unleashing low grade acts of insurgency in defiance of Nigerian laws and with the intention of making the Jonathan led Federal government appear weak and incapable of holding the nation together.
This low grade insurgency has since grown into a full scale war prompting the Jonathan administration to, first, reorganize its National security administration, and second, deploy an arsenal of the National Defense Forces to the North Eastern sector, the hottest grounds of the insurgency.
The insurgency itself we have been told is led by a group that calls itself “Boko Haram.” The April 14 bombing of the Nyanya public transport hub in the Abuja suburbs, and the kidnapping of 186 students from a Government Girls Secondary School, a girls boarding school in Borno State on the same day, also presumably by Boko Haram fighters, once again raises very fundamental and unanswered question about this insurgency.
First, Boko Haram has not made any public claims towards ownership of the dastardly act in Abuja; secondly, the government and the media simply, on very slippery grounds of presumption, has lumped these acts as “Boko Haram.” Its signature is in the action, we simply tell ourselves. But what is Boko Haram? How is it organized?
To this day, the Federal Government of Nigeria has been unable to tell Nigerians specifically what this group is all about; the faces and the hands behind it, its demands, and its full modus operandi. The federal government seemed basically to have embarked on a firefight with a masked, contemporary Scarlet Pimpernel, and the effect is quite clear: the government has no solution or grounds to contain this attempt at subverting the Federal Government of Nigeria and the national integrity of the federation.
The federation of course has been shaky from the start, and tilts now even further towards the same fate as Humpty-Dumpty. That is, if nothing is done urgently, to recalibrate Nigeria’s national security strategies that would allow the Federal Government take the initiative, and place it in the proper stead of an active counter action against an increasingly bold and powerful enemy – unseen, fierce, and mocking in its strikes against the state.
But let me piggy-back a bit to my opening statement: the bombing of Nyanya this past week is a bold act of war brought finally, and closely to the doorsteps of the Federal government. For many years, Nigerians thought that Abuja, the Federal capital is impenetrable and safe from acts of terrorism. It is the seat of the Federal Government and it has all the forces of the state arrayed at its doorsteps and at all its corners, protecting it.
Whoever dared to come to Abuja was dead meat, Nigerians assured themselves. That illusion was first shattered by the Independence Day bombing in Abuja in October 2011 by MEND. It was followed by many others that have done nothing but paint a disturbing picture for Nigerians, of the vulnerability of the Federal capital and the seat of the government of the nation.
Three weeks ago, in a bold escape move, members of the Boko Haram seized the offices of the Department of State Security (DSS), holding two officers hostage, and forcing the escape bid of some of the members held by the Security Services.
The escapees were never captured; there was no inquiry into the methods by which these escapees took hold of the State Security Headquarters very close to the office of the President. All Nigerians were told by Rueben Abati, Presidential spokesman was “No cause for alarm, the president is safe.” The point one makes is, that this president by no means is safe.
The nation itself is at a full emergency. Right now, it seems that everybody is confused. The Federal government is confused. The parties contesting for power are confused about the real situation. They have just resorted at going for each other’s throat while Nigeria is disintegrating right before everybody’s eyes.
The PDP National spokesman, Mr. Olisa Metuh in fact, for the very first time, directly accused General Muhammadu Buhari, former Military Head of State and potential presidential candidate for the opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) of being a key sponsor of the Boko Haram Insurgency.
The General shot back asking for proof or a withdrawal of the allegation and an apology. He has threatened legal action against the PDP for soiling his good name. Last week, the President summoned a national emergency meeting with the governors of the federation. But the opposition APC governors refused to meet with the president.
Two things are rather clear: the president has not told Nigerians everything he knows about Boko Haram, and if he hasn’t, it is either he does not know much himself; his security briefs are far too thin, and therefore his security advisers are either without the full picture or are withholding strategic national security information from the president, or the President knows more than he is willing to tell Nigerians about this strange insurgency.
Secondly, it is clear today that Boko Haram is not a mere Islamic movement targeting Christians. It is an equal opportunity terrorist group, targeting everybody including Muslim children as well as Christians. The abduction of the young girls from their boarding school should tell all the tale: this people are primitive, and are intent on nothing other than blood. Their mission is anchored on a warped ideal.
The Federal government led by President Jonathan has enormous power, and his critics are quite right that he has failed thus far to use Presidential power to its limits in containing this movement. It is about time, Mr. President, to reorganize your National Security Strategies. Mr. Sambo Dasuki has tried his best, and it is now time to find a new National Security Adviser, to design new national security protocols to deal with the asymmetrical nature of this insurgency. You cannot fight the mosquito sting attack method of the Boko Haram with a full military attack only.
It is time to bring out the iron claws, the equally dark and shadowy operators, a well-trained Black-Ops group to go after this dark brood of vipers called Boko Haram. It is also time to look closely at the local and international dimension of this insurgency because, quite clearly, Boko Haram has an international piece to its puzzle. Somebody provides the funds; the training, and the logistical support: we must follow the money.