By Ochereomen Nnanna
AFTER many months of costly hesitancy and apparent confusion, the Federal Government has deployed the military forces against the Boko Haram insurgents troubling the nation’s north eastern frontier. The expedition, codenamed Operation Restore Order, ORO, being conducted by the usual Joint Task Force, JTF, has swung into action in Maiduguri, and Army sources have promised to quickly crush the Islamic terrorists.
I am equally optimistic that a full-scale military sweep is the only way to curtail this infectious disease imported from foreign lands by enemies of Nigeria, possibly as a form of reprisal for the failure of their political parties or candidates to win the recently concluded general elections, especially the Presidency. I made it clear in no uncertain terms that the “stick-and-carrot” strategy at first mulled by some government officials – negotiating with Boko Haram Islamic sect, failing which the military option would be considered – could never solve the problem.
The simple reason was that Boko Haram, which is linked to Jihadist Al Qaeda, is coming with a strange and alien ideology and mission of overthrowing the social order in the North and imposing an Islamic style of government that would outlaw Western education. It is a revolutionary insurgency conducted through guerrilla tactics to seize a part of the Federal Republic of Nigeria extra-constitutionally.
This is contrary to Part I section 1(2) of our 1999 Constitution, which declares: “The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any person or group of persons take control of the Government of Nigeria or any part thereof, exception in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution”.
In a pathetic moment of procrastination, the Federal Government had started buckling in to the barefaced blackmail and propaganda of Boko Haram apologists, especially in the media. These individuals whose real intentions were not made very clear, insisted that the outlaws who have been killing Nigerians (especially military and other uniformed personnel), bombing, looting and sacking police and military facilities in Borno, Bauchi and Gombe states, should be offered amnesty! They received their inspiration from the amnesty granted the ex-militants of the Niger Delta, conveniently forgetting the peculiar circumstances of that other event.
There is no doubt that the ex-militants killed, maimed, kidnapped, stole our oil and mounted a reign of terror. Shortly after the militants of the Niger Delta were granted amnesty, kidnapping and violent crimes made an upsurge in neighbouring states like Delta, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Anambra and Imo states. The bandits were composed mainly of a rump of the Niger Delta ex-militants who were not accommodated in the post-amnesty programme, jobless youth and copycat criminals who had discovered the apparent easy millions to be made overnight through kidnapping. They went into the “business” in full force.
Just as we have been advocating for decisive military action to bring the Boko Haram anarchists to heel, we also shouted ourselves hoarse for the state to move in with the army in the Niger Delta and South East. We made it clear on this forum that the “amnesty” offered the Niger Delta militants by the President Umaru Yar’ Adua regime, was actually an ultimatum and a prelude to a full-scale act of war to reclaim the sovereignty of Nigeria from the militants. We also vehemently disagreed with Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State when he offered the kidnappers of Aba “amnesty and rehabilitation”.
In both cases, while the state hesitated, the militants and criminals became more emboldened. They issued attack alerts in advance, proceeded to strike, and then claimed responsibility. The leader of the kidnappers’ network in Aba and environs (the late Osisikankwu) had the temerity to intercept a Vanguard correspondent and grant an interview, making a number of political statements and demands before he would lay down his arms. These demands, if met, would have established this common criminal as a strong political factor both now and in the future.
Funny enough, while we on this column vigorously opposed dialogue with criminals of the Niger Delta and Abia State we were described in some quarters as “an enemy” of Ijaw people and Ngwa people. We were, therefore, not surprised to be called “a hater” of the North and Islam when we called for a similar drastic action against Boko Haram. The only surprise was that it came from people who, ordinarily, should know better.
I have no doubt in my mind that, just as we succeeded in obliterating the threats in the South, we will also excel in the use of force to burn off Boko Haram. Sadly, when the military gets involved in any campaign to restore order, there will always be civilian, bystander and collateral casualties. That is the style of the military all over the world. When the army comes into a situation it cannot be a tea party.
The lesson for all Nigerians is that when things begin to go wrong we must not allow it to deteriorate to the point where the army is called in. When criminals and anarchists begin to threaten members of the public, cowing them into silence in order to operate with impunity, it is time to start thinking of the impending bloody consequences of a possible military solution.
The Boko Haram menace went beyond the limit when they bombed our Police headquarters and forced former and serving governors, Isa Yuguda (Bauchi), Danjuma Goje (Gombe) and Nmodu Sheriff ( Borno) to issue public “apologies” to them. Northern leaders were intimidated into silence, and the few that talked about Boko Haram either appealed to them or offered apologies or justifications for their actions.
We urge the JTF to exercise as much restraint as possible under the circumstances in handling civilians without compromising the mission at hand. They have the full support of all well-meaning Nigerians. We pray the mission will be short and decisive to enable normal life to resume in the Nigerian North East.