By Ochereome Nnanna
NIGERIA is not just a hotbed of Islamist terrorism; it is also a very fertile ground for it. Nigeria may have to get ready to live permanently with Islamist terrorism unless our leaders, especially those at the commanding heights of political power, change their cowardly, dubious and wretched attitudes to these criminals who have slaughtered well over 15,000 Nigerians, uprooted millions from their homes and cost the nation billions of dollars that could have been invested in crucial services.
Compare and contrast the following.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan, in his naïve attempts to “please the North” and secure their support for a second term in office, once referred to Boko Haram as “our siblings”, adding: “you cannot just send the army to go and wipe out your family”! He declared “states of emergency” twice and extended them thrice, yet Boko Haram ballooned to a point when, in September 2014, they were controlling sixteen local government areas in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States, with several cities designated as parts of their malaria “Islamic caliphate”.
Northern “elders” and media gadflies intimidated the Jonathan regime with their virulent propaganda. The more Northerners he put in high positions of his government the more strident the anti-Jonathan propaganda became. By the time of the presidential campaigns, he had become a persona non-grata across the North and his supporters were not even allowed to show their faces publicly. The same people that accused him of using a “non-existent” Boko Haram to “declare war on the North” turned around to accuse him of looking the other way as the terrorists killed Northerners in an attitude of “let them kill themselves”.
By the time the true story of the Boko Haram war is told, you will understand why I said Nigeria is a fertile ground for this sort of affliction. How did our smaller, weaker, poorer neighbours deal with the same problem?
On February 17th 2015, the people of Niger Republic, which is more Islamised than Northern Nigeria, responded massively to the call of their president, Mamadou Issoufou, for a national rally against Boko Haram which he personally led. On February 28th, Cameroun citizens did the same in Yaoundé. Has anyone seen any anti-Boko Haram rally or protest in the North, apart from the highly policiticised #BringbackOurGirls rituals led by anti-Jonathan Dr. Oby Ezekwesili? Rather than staging rallies or speaking out against evil, Northern “leaders”, such as Prof. Ango Abdullahil, Dr. Junaidu Mohammaed, former IGP Ibrahim Commassie, Malam Nasir el Rufai, former CJN Mohammed Uwais, former SGF Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, former Ambassador Ibrahim Gambari and a host of others, called for “amnesty” or “negotiation” or “dialogue” with Boko Haram.
Chad was even more proactive. They banned the wearing of hijab; something you dare not even suggest in Nigeria, where hijab-clad women and disguised men have murdered thousands. Recently, Chad lined up convicted Boko Haram terrorists and publicly executed them. Chad, Niger and Cameroun have also contributed to the Multinational Joint Task Force and their soldiers have never been reported to collude with the enemies or flee from them.
But back here in Nigeria, a police officer alleged to have aided the escape of suspected terrorist, Kabiru Sokoto, was recently recalled from retirement. He was exonerated and then retired with honour. That was the third time this wonder policeman was being retired after being named in bloody anti-social activities!
Soon after he assumed power and appointed Service Chiefs, President Buhari ordered the release of 182 Boko Haram suspects from military detention. They were given a VIP reception in the Borno State Government House, Maiduguri. They were said to have been “cleared” of culpability. Just last week, another 148 people were released. Commissioner of Police for Delta State, Mr. Ikechukwu Aduba, described the process as “the height of illegality”, saying it is the Police that has the responsibility to carry out what the Army did in compliance with presidential order.
I am not against the release of people found to be innocent of their accusation as “terrorists”. Such is the price people often pay for situations of wars, violent crises and conflicts. All I am saying is, did the military authorities do a thorough, professional job? Or did they rush to please PMB who is obviously rather ardent in his desire to secure freedom for the suspects? We only seem to hear more of efforts to free Boko Haram suspects and punish erring military personnel violating “human rights” than following Chad’s example of zero tolerance for terrorists.
This is question is very pertinent, especially as we hear that Boko Haram fighters have “started surrendering”. I hope the president and the military have not forgotten the kind of enemies we are confronting. They are full of wiles and will do anything to get at their targets. The decimation of their command and control, and the plugging of their supply lines and escape routes could force them to adopt the tactics of infiltration into the populace, from where they might form cells of terror and suicide squads. The military must refrain from approaching this phase of the war with a conventional mindset, or it will spell doom for everyone.
The abduction of the Chibok girls on April 14th 2014 came in the shadow of a lull when Boko Haram sold the military a dummy of ceasefire for surrender. They rode on the back of the Chibok girls abduction to grow in stature and rating as the most murderous terror outfit in the world. Already, we are reeling from the casualties of eleven people who lost their lives in the Yola and Madagalli Internally Displaced Persons camps in Adamawa. These were victims of Boko Haram terrorists who infiltrated the refugee camps posing as IDPs.
The “surrender” of Boko Haram is the beginning of a more difficult phase of the war on terror, because we would admit them to come and live, once again, among us. We could be back to square one. I hope I will not have reason to, one day, remind us with a heavy heart: I SAID SO!