By Bisi Lawrence
Well, how far have we really gone with the Boko Haram? As far as knowing their real purpose? We still seem to be generally stuck with the unlikely submission that it s an Islamic sect that is incensed by the acceptance of Western education in Nigeria.
In what adverse way does that affect the principles of Islam by which the group is said to be consumed in upholding?
Illogical is that would be, could an Islamic organization hold a festival like the Eid-el-Maulud so lightly as to perpetrate the inhuman acts of the Boko Haram last week-end? I have never at any time reconciled the principles of the Islamic religion with the precepts of the so-called Islamic “sect”.
Indeed, I have often wondered why the Muslim leaders in this country have not risen up and with one voice denounced them. The murderers bring disrepute to the reputation of the religion which is named for Peace. Though they may profess to be Muslims, they mindlessly shame the tenets of their faith by their criminal actions, whatever their motives are …
Do we know who their sponsors are? The operations they conduct must demand huge sums of money. Who could be so wealthy that such funds would be provided and sustained by him, or the organization to which he belongs, so consistently? Many people have indeed harped on this issue of the identity of those who are behind this murderous group.
There is a widespread feeling that the sponsors are not totally unknown, but that their identity cannot be revealed, for various reasons.
It was suggested that an exposure of their source of financial support might unveil these sponsors. In fact, that was one of the reasons why several people were wary of the establishment of the Islamic Bank, since there is hardly any easier or more secretive conduit for the transfer of funds than a bank.
This is the scarier since it is now becoming very clear that Boko Haram has very bold, definite international connections. A high military official recently linked them with organizations like Al Qeida, underlining the similarity of the trans-border militancy between the two.
As it is well known that such organizations thrive across our North-eastern borders, more efforts would be expected to be deployed into ensuring the integrity of that part of the country. But from all accounts, that may not be the case.
So, we have actually not proceeded very far from where we were at the outset. We are not sure of what their real intentions are; we do not know the source of their financial support; we cannot name their sponsors.
How far, on the other hand, has Boko Haram gone with us? Well, almost all the way and back.
Their actions cast an ominous shadow on our lives. They kill and maim apparently at ease; they cause unrest in our lives; they create panic in our hearts; they make a mockery of our security, throwing mud in our eye during the season of our festivities; and cutting down the flower of our youth remorselessly, in the light of day.
But blame it on the press; Even this cannot be too high for them to bear. Blame it on the press, the ever-ready whipping boy, as Marilyn Orgar of the SSS does. Of course, the media could never escape from excoriation for one reason or the other.
Everyone knows how well to stride out as a journalist, but the press itself knows nothing except to “exaggerate”, and “over-dramatize” and “sensationalize”. I have been doing this now for half-a-century, and I must have heard such unseemly statements a thousand times. It hardly hurts any more — not much.
But one still cannot help wincing from the unfairness of it all. Do people consider the sorrow with which a reporter has to write about the wanton killing of a young lady, full of charm and promise, like Eucharia Remmy — fresh from Nsukka — at the hands of Boko Haram in Yobe last week. The furthest thing on your mind, believe me, is sensationalism Journalists are human beings too.
We have a situation here which affects us all, maybe some more than others, though everyone’s life can hardly be same again. We have foreign governments warning their nationals as to where to lodge; we have footballers playing “under” security; we have long cues of vehicles caused by security checks; we have national parades conducted “in camera”; the President of the nation is obliged to keep away from his brother’s wedding. And so it goes on from one day to another, with accompanying kidnapping, bombing and slaughter. These are sensational times. No one has to sensationalize any report that is already sensational.
the police is your friend
It would only be natural, at this time, for some feelings to infiltrate into a reporter’s output in his coverage of the general mayhem swirling around. It would go against the grain in security quarters, on the other hand, if a reporter mounted the rostrum and, in sheer dismay, looked in the direction of those in charge of security and began to call for “heads to roll”. We have a common purpose afoot and should understand one another. Calling for the removal of the security chiefs at the moment is, of course, nothing short of myopic.
Such statements address nothing, but only express abject frustration where there should be resourcefulness. Nigeria went through a civil war — an open armed conflict with no more than the normal trappings of espionage— maybe even a pinch of “sexpionage”. But then, the war was conducted, is some regard, by way of a learning process because we had never a fought full-scale war before then. But we are now faced by a different kind of armed conflict — a type of guerrilla warfare. The men — and women — in charge may not be the best we should have, but they are the best we have got at this time. And there is the hope that they would improve as we go on. Now, if we should dismiss all of them, with whom shall we replace them?
What is required is an admission of our inadequacies matched by an urgent move to rectify them. The confrontation of Boko Haram has revealed how poorly prepared we are to tackle even routine security issues on a national scale. Our intelligence apparatus would appear to need instant updating. The operators require training in modem methods. The insincere ploy of security officials to pretend that “we are on top” of a situation to which they have no solution can only be kept up for just so long, after which the populace begins to lose their confidence in all efforts, genuine or otherwise, to combat the problems that stare us in the eye.
It must also be realized that appeals to members of the public to step forward with information can be heeded only in a climate of trust. Such has not been part of the historical circumstances of the relationship between the people and the police in our country. The necessary faith has to be built through a vigorous exercise of decent methods in police operations among the people they are supposed to protect but,· most of the time, only persecute. The fearsome image they have created for themselves before the guilty as well as the innocent, must be destroyed to the extent that the hollow ring in the slogan, “the police is your friend” may be replaced by a more genuine tone. This will manifest in the measure of attention that officialdom attaches to the demands of the people in matters concerning their safety. That is the basis of the police-public relations that we have always needed, but now more than ever before.
the iron lady
When Ribadu was going to be drummed out of office, as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the major complaint was that he had become a tool in the hands of his employers, and was being used for political reasons to persecute their foes. But his exploits were bold and enterprising, and he achieved commendable results that were unprecedented. But he was successfully pushed out to the relief of the manipulators, the tricksters and the felons in fine robes, who rejoiced in the title of “the shakers and the movers” of the society.
Another criticism, which must be admitted as valid, was the “Gestapo” style which the operatives of the EFCC adopted for their work. They slammed into their quarries’ premises and manhandled them as though they were resisting arrest from the outset. That did not make them very popular with the public, and Ribadu lost favourable points, even among his admirers ..
Then came the turn of Farida Waziri. A former top police official and like Ribadu, a qualified lawyer, she threw herself into the complexities of her onerous duty with unabashed enthusiasm. The Commission began to make its mark on the scene of economic and financial crimes in this country. Arrests were made and convictions obtained in profusion. Difficulties were flung into the path of her progress, but they were only to make manifest the steady purpose, the untainted zeal and sterling integrity of this “iron lady”— if you’ll pardon the phrase.
But she was trampling on several sore toes. She had started off with a “faux pas” by trying to tear down her predecessor in office, a mistake comparable with Ribadu’s own error in his handling of the former Inspector-General, Tafa Balogun’s case. With the resentment of Ribadu’s supporters as a burden, she still emerged almost smelling roses. She did not hesitate to confront the “movers and shakers”, she intelligently reached out for assistance to promote her purpose, and properly asked for facilities to move her work forward.
But her detractors struck back. She had asked for the introduction of special courts in order to accelerate the trials of those arrested by the commission. One of the spurious complaints about her work was that the cases took too long to decide. That, actually, was in the province of the courts.
Hers was only to present each case properly, which she has done so thoroughly that she dares any of her adversaries to cite one case, out of hundreds, just one case of the EFCC that has been thrown out of court because of improper presentation since the inception of the term of her office. Anyway, in the pursuit of excellence, she consistently advocated the introduction of special courts for the trials of the commission’s cases, until the request now seems to have been granted.
But there is no let up. Shamelessly, some people who should know better betray the trust of the people who elected them into political office, by publicly speaking in denigration of her efforts before all of us.
We are not impressed. It is so sad that such an outstanding official should be so flagrantly vilified in spite of the excellent contributions she has made to the society in the fight against crime. The “shakers and movers” shouldn’t get away with it this time around.