By Henry Umoru
ABUJA — FORMER Military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (retd), yesterday, lamented the resurgence in the murderous activities of the Boko Haram sect in the last four weeks of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, saying that it has struck fear in the hearts of most Nigerians.
Since May 29, Boko Haram has unleashed an avalanche of suicide bombings and attacks on religious houses, markets and public places in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Plateau and Kaduna states among other places, destroying about 700 lives and property worth billions of Naira.
Disturbed by the increasing wave of the attacks, Babangida, who expressed confidence in the ability of Buhari to nail Boko Haram’s coffin and that Nigeria can truly assume her greatness in the comity of nations, nevertheless, urged the President to hammer out new and effective ways of tackling the insurgency.
He also pleaded with Nigerians to unite against the terrorists and asked the media to shun sensational headlines and celebration of the sect’s killings.
The former president shared his thoughts via a Sallah message he titled: “Let us be strong and unite against insurgency.”
Within the last four weeks, according to him, the country has witnessed the worst of human follies in the conduct of these avoidable carnage and bloodletting by unscrupulous persons that operate under the guise of religion and wreaking havoc on Nigeria and Nigerians’ sense of nationality.
In the Sallah message, Babangida also called on President Buhari to ensure that the welfare of military personnel waging the anti-terror war are adequately taken care of to encourage soldiers, who would be assigned such responsibilities subsequently.
According to the former president, if President Buhari must overcome the insurgency, it has become imperative to device new ways of confronting members of Boko Haram without making public such new methods.
Noting that the Islamic religion he was born into 74 years ago preaches peace and encourages everyone to cooperate with one another, he prayed that God should touch the hearts of the insurgents to end the bloodletting.
Babangida, who noted that if Nigeria was serious about the management of information on security issues, the story of taking some Boko Haram suspects and prisoners to Anambra State would not have been public knowledge, advised that headlines and lead stories that promote activities of the insurgents should be stopped.
The statement reads: “Let me convey my warm wishes to all Muslims home and abroad for the successful completion of the Ramadan exercise. As much as one would have appreciated our efforts as devout Muslims who have observed the obligatory month of Ramadan, the incessant killings and bloodletting by members of the Boko Haram leave a sour taste in my mouth. For want of no discernible ideology, they have continued to portray Islam in very bad light, making members of other religions to perceive us with scorn. Islam, which I was born into, some 74 years ago, is a very peaceful religion that preaches brotherliness and togetherness. It is a religion that encourages love, affection and respect for our neighbours and mankind. It is one religion that has an abiding influence on its adherents to cooperate with one another and promote peace in their respective communities. May God touch the hearts of these insurgents so that the untoward act of bloodletting will permanently cease. Happy Eid-el-Fitri to all.
“Events in the last four weeks have continued to raise our adrenaline, in a season of apprehension and utter suspicion, about our security engagements and the sum total of our collective sufferance as a nation. The heightened tension is occasioned by renewed hostilities and mindless bombings predominantly by suicide bombers who have decidedly chosen the option of death to life. We have seen the worst of human follies in the conduct of these avoidable carnage and bloodletting by unscrupulous persons under the guise of religion, doing havoc to our sense of nationality.
New ways to tackle insurgency
“At this stage of our national history, especially with the insecurity we presently experience, it is appropriate for us to device new ways and means of confronting this hydra-headed insurgency, without making such initiatives public knowledge. Media intelligence is required in helping to assemble information and distilling such information in a manner that would benefit the fight against terrorism. Going by the news and information we get everyday, I feel very strongly that the media has a greater role to play in the management of information. The type of headlines and lead stories that are promoted in favour of the insurgents could only help to motivate members of Boko Haram rather than demotivate them. I expect, with a deep sense of patriotism, to see a greater deal of positive news promoted in support of military efforts at confronting this menace than a celebration of Boko Haram carnage, day in and day out.
“Strategic efforts and initiatives of the military targeted at curtailing the spread of the Boko Haram should remain most often top secret within military hierarchy and the presidency. Collaborative efforts should also follow similar pattern so that little or limited information is let loose for the consumption of members of the sect. Coordinated efforts by the security agencies should be strengthened and refocused to gain new dimensions towards combating the unwholesome activities of this sect, and when such dimensions are sought and cultivated, they should remain the exclusive preserve of top military brass. Information management is very key to confronting an unconventional warfare such as the one under reference, which is further complicated by the unfashionable method of suicide bombings.
“It is a strange dimension to this whole exercise of insurgency and has further compounded our earlier strategies in helping to nip this monster in the bud. The media, it must be emphasized, has a greater role to play in this information management system where a well defined synergy is encouraged between members of the media and the military hierarchy. On a good day, as is often said, the idea of taking some Boko Haram suspects and prisoners to Anambra State, should not be public knowledge, if we are truly serious about information management.
“Each time we celebrate the dastardly acts of Boko Haram on the front pages of our newspapers and electronic platforms, it is a score for Boko Haram. We must weigh such information against our collective national interest. Do we subscribe to Boko Haram or to the Nigerian nation? Since we are of good consciences and subscribe to the Nigerian nation, military efforts and achievements in the fight against insurgency should be given primacy than what a suicide bomber has just done.
“We must make it a duty to encourage and motivate our military personnel; those who have died in the course of this struggle and those who are still there on the battle field trying to make the Nigerian society safe for all of us. The families of those who have lost their gallant fighters and bread winners must be catered for beyond the present tokenism. This initiative will serve as incentive to others who are still in the trenches battling to keep us safe.
“The President, General Muhammadu Buhari, as a military officer, understands the import of these altruistic suggestions and I trust that he will take steps to apply some of them that fit into the mainstream strategies already in place. The approach has to be a holistic one, well coordinated with full onslaught launched by the day and night to rout these insurgents to surrender.
“Let me join millions of Nigerians home and abroad in condoling with the families of those who lost their beloved ones during this carnage. Let me also commend the efforts of the Federal Government in helping to address the plights of the Internally Displaced Persons across different locations in the country.
“The renewed interest of the international community in helping out with superior military hardware towards combating this menace is a welcome development. Our Islamic clerics should do more in their daily sermons to prevent new converts and recruits into this deadly group. Both religions preach the virtues of good and pious life tempered with the fear of God or Allah. We must continuously preach sermons that deliver the right messages to our people without ambiguity.
“I have implicit confidence in my mind that President Muhammadu Buhari, will put the final nail on the coffin of Boko Haram so that Nigeria can truly assume her greatness in the comity of nations.”