Going through the news streaming from various media on the activities of the Boko Haram sect, one is hit by a deja vu feeling, of history repeating itself and our hopelessness in the midst of glaring options. We are once again faced with the multiple ‘IF’ questions.
If we had handled the Boko Haram differently, if we had dealt more decisively with them at inception, if we had been more careful with the happenings in our surroundings, if we had connected more with the grassroots, if we had not seen it as a purely Christian problem initially, if we had not seen it as a Muslim problem, if we had not politicised it, if we had not seen it as a northern problem, if we had properly monitored the almajiris, if we had placed proper surveillance on our Mullahs and itinerant preachers, if we had truly allowed everyone to practice his/her own religion in all parts of the country without discrimination, if the government had maintained true secularity in matters of religion, if the people of the ravaged areas had collectively agreed to take the bull by the horn, if the communities had been more active and proactive to security issues – so many ifs.
The reality of the whole situation is that; there is no way that we can contain this Boko Haram scourge without Nigerians determination to expunge it, not America, not France, Britain or indeed any foreign power but us- Nigerians. It is not the military sophistication or discipline of our troops that will bring the fight to an end because it is not conventional warfare. Everywhere the Americans have gone, they have not succeeded in terminating terrorism, in some cases they only helped to escalate the situation like in Iraq, Libya, Syria and their supposed help under the Jonathan administration.
We have heard rumours of foreign mercenaries getting involved with the Boko Haram fight again – although the government refuted the allegation – but the same thing happened under Jonathan and was equally denied by that administration. No foreign country risks its troop in another country without something that will be of benefit to them. The solution to the Boko Haram insurgency resides in us, we failed to act when it was right to do so, we did not see it as a collective responsibility. If you keep quiet when a wrong is being done to another, you are setting up a future date with the same destiny. There was a conspiracy of silence amongst the leadership of the north when the insurgency started; they bombed churches, moved on to destroy public institutions and schools, no reactions from those who should. Now, they have started bombing Mosques. It is not a matter of Muslim – Christians again, not a fight to remove a southern Christian President again, it has now manifested beyond extreme religious/political interests to a monstrous Frankenstein, a universal scourge that must be determinedly resisted by all.
What is to be done? The Boko Haram activities are mainly concentrated in the north eastern part of Nigeria, there is this traditional saying that, it is only a bastard child that will bring his father or family domain to destruction. We have so many people in the north claiming to be Nigerians that are not true Nigerians. In the name of religious brotherhood and the like, they are brought in.
These ones are the destroyers as they have nothing at stake. Every northern community must begin to identify its children, it is no more a Jonathan government but a government headed by a Hausa- Fulani, their favourite son. There is no reason why there should still be killings by Boko Haram. This argument is further reinforced by President Buhari in his recent address to victims of the Boko Haram bombings.
The statement was credited to NANS (news agency of Nigeria) but published in the leadership online edition of October 25, 2015 under the caption; ” Buhari urges communities to play active roles in security”. The report says “The president appealed to the people concerned to share in the responsibility of securing their communities. He advised communities in the country to revert to old practices by which new arrivals in their neighbourhood were taken note of by local Chiefs and security agencies”.
That is the way to go about it and all communities in Nigeria must begin to practice this, set up local intelligence lines whereby infiltrants are promptly fished out and taken out of the community. Proactive security is the only way out of this. Every Emir, Oba, Obi and community leader must add intelligence gathering to their core functions. They are already emigrating to the south, in the name of being herdsmen, okada riders, cart pushers, maiguards and other odd professions. They are the foot soldiers or potentials for Boko Haram and every community must begin to look out for them.
Majority of them are not Nigerians, that is the most painful part of the whole process. You cannot ask somebody to come and eat with you only to find yourself not only deprived of your livelihood but your life as well. That is unacceptable, we must begin to rethink our position now. Our security is in our hands, everywhere the people have taken their security for granted, they leave room for bad men to hold sway. Taking a pacifist stand or sitting on the fence does not yield results these days. The Kurds of Iraq and Turkey are already doing this, the Christian Syrians have chosen to take a stand for their people and for their unborn generations.
That is the burden present leaders of – ethnic, religious, state, nation et al – owe the people. All political leaders, religious leaders, traditional leaders, youth and ethnic associations must agree that it must be stopped and therefore, must be ready to share information.
By Sunny Ikhioya, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Lagos.