July 9, 2011

How to stop Boko Haram – Prof Ijomah

Prof Benedict Ijomah

By EMMA AMAIZE, Regional Editor, S-SOUTH

PROFESSOR Benedict Ijomah, an erudite scholar and politician, is one of the opinion leaders in the South-South geo-political zone. He spoke to Saturday Vanguard on the security implications of the recent attack on the Police Headquarters, Abuja by the Northern insurgent group, Boko Haram, contending that in a civilized crime, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, ought to have resigned for the bizarre assualt on the heart of Nigeria.

He, however, proffers a solution to the problem, saying, among other things, that the police should stop weeping and border patrols to cut off external arms supply to the Boko Haram, while the leaders of the country should make sacrifice and revive nationalism to save the nation from imminent disintegration. Excerpts:

Prof Benedict Ijomah

How do you see the recent attack on the Police Headquarters, Abuja, by Boko Haram?

I went to Abuja immediately after the bomb blast and I am shocked to see that Boko Haram had actually gone into the heart of our security system to explode their bombs. Another disturbing feature of the attack is that it is suicide bombing. We are not used to suicide bombing in Nigeria, which is an innovation and from the statements, there is also the feeling that Boko Haram may be getting help from Somalia, that is very disturbing. America had gone into Somalia and couldn’t tame them, they pulled out.


that means their own form of insurgency and guerilla warfare is beyond America’s capacity and if they coming to help Boko Haram in Nigeria, then we have a problem. Apart from that, this is not the first time Northerners have been killing Southerners. iF you recall in 1945, Southerners were slaughtered in Jos. The question is not about Boko Haram attacking Southerners, it is an attack on the Nigeria Police Headquarters in Abuja

Boko Haram is attacking the North, attacking the system, attacking the Southerners. And every time they do so, we say let there be peace, let there be peace. That was why in 1945 as I was saying earlier, they slaughtered Southerners in Jos, even when the population in Jos was 63 per cent Igbos, they call it strangers’ town, it is a Northern town. But the Igbos have 63 per cent of the population. In 1963, because of the booing of the Northerners by the Yoruba members of the Legislative Council, the Northerners planned to secede and the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo offered to go to the North to speak to a panel. He was told not to come, and when he got there, for four days, they started killing Yorubas, then descended on Igbos who had property they could vandalize. Then, in1965, they killed Southerners again and as if that was not enough, the progrom of 1966, which Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu declared to be the final push, showed that this country is not yet a nation. Now, the Congress for Political Change, CPC, promised to give President Goodluck Jonathan a restless time and we are seeing among other things the bombing of the Police Headquarters.

Look, there is a question that Jonathan has to answer. It is how does he want to rule this country? Because if you want to rule Nigeria, it cannot be with kid gloves. You must show that you have the capacity to ensure internal security. In the eighties, we had the uprising of the Maitatsines, but it was easily curtailed because we had a military regime in place. Now, we have a civilian regime and in the bombing of the Police Headquarters, the police were powerless. They kill policemen on the streets at will. The Nigerian security system has had no solution. When are we going to have solution? My feeling is that this country has to decide whether it wants to remain one united country.

How would Boko Haram be stopped?

The name Boko Haram means condemnation of western education. They resist western education, it is ideological. If Boko Haram was operating in an autonomous region, government would know how to fish them out and they attract muslim fundamentalists. But if they are getting help from Somalia, then we have a problem in Nigeria. Nigeria has to cut them off from any supply entering Nigeria. The Fulanis and Tivs have just had skirmishes and you discover that the Fulani mercenaries have very sophisticated weapons better than the Tivs. Where did they get these arms. The police arrested some foreign mercenaries fighting for the Fulanis, handed them over to the police in Makurdi. That means that some people in Nigeria have external contacts. If Boko Haram has external contact that can invade Nigeria at will and Nigeria does not have internal mechanism to protect its borders, then, security is our weakness. So, the police should stop complaining. They should intensify border patrol, but you see, Boko Haram could not have penetrated Police Headquarters, Abuja, if they don’t have inside informants. So, the security must be overhauled. If you are going to Warri, nobody follows you, anyting can happen to you. The only time you see policemen on the road is when they are collecting their normal toll. They stop you. If you are a big man, they say, ‘ah oga, your boys are hungry’, but if you are somebody they view can part with some naira, they will harass you and in the process, people carrying arms will pass them. How did the man carrying bomb pass all the way to Abuja from Borno, their operational headquarters, and move into the Police Headquarters with bombs strapped on the two sides of the suicide bomber? What are the policemen on the roads doing? With all the gadgets which they use, I hope they are working. Some of them don’t have batteries, you know, the suicide bomber still penetrated the heart of Nigeria. This shows that our security system is very weak.

The bombing of Police Headquarters, Abuja is the beginning of Al Queada infiltration of Nigeria because Boko Haram is supported by Al Qeada and Al Qeada moved into Afghanistan in a systematic way and today, they are giving the government a headache. Americans have gone there, but they have not been able to dislodge them. America is trying to pull out. Al Qeada is still in Iraq, disturbing Iraqis and if they come to Nigeria, where we have no security, only God can save us.

What does that say of our security system?

Government is still investigating the incident and we never see the results of these investigations. They killed Chief Bola Ige. The police are still investigating. They killed Kudirat Abiola, they are still investigating. The country has to decide whether it has the capacity to protect the life and property of Nigerians and a nation that cannot protect life and property of its citizens cannot be called a nation. Are we going to get Ghanians to come and defend us? Indeed, the Inspector General of Police ought to have resigned. If this thing happened in America, the man in-charge of security would have resigned. You said there are internal informants. Have you been able to identify them? If you cannot identify your police informants, is it B.I. C Ijomah that will come and identify them?

How to bring back Nigerian nationalism

We have a problem and the problem is because there is disagreement at the top. If the top ( political leaders) can be united, the bottom will follow. They must come together and form a national caucus. Regardless of their political parties in the interest of the nation, they should join forces and sacrifice personal interests to lay the groundwork for the emergence or re-emergence of Nigerian nationalism. It is not the man in the trench that will bring peace. Let us take Aburi for instance. There should be a forum where the leaders would say they have agreed, then when you come back, each persons begins to implement the agreement. I told you that Zik made this suggestion in 1964, 1965 that if they had decided to destroy our national unity, let them call a roundtable conference so that we can decide how to share our national assets. He said it and unless the leaders agree to redefine what the new Nigeria will look like, the people in the trenches will be fighting.

Are you saying Nigeria should go back to the Aburi accord

Aburi accord whittled down the power at the centre and once the power at the centre is weakened…. Everyday, you see governors running to Abuja, whether they are sharing money or not. You should not go to Abuja. They should stay here and run their states.