…The complicity that aided the terror group
By Jide Ajani
Making recklessly unrealistic, sometimes shallow and often deliberately false assumptions about members of the Jama’atu Ahliss-Sunnah Lidda’awati Wal Jihad, also known as Boko Haram, appears to be the reason the tragedy of the terror organisation has lingered for this long.
And until the present administration disembarks from its voyage of deception, propaganda and pettiness, the much touted serial killing of Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram (who is still alive any way), and the technical or total defeat of the group (as claimed by President MuhammaduBuhari and his men) will continue to pour faeces on the faces of the C-in-C and his military commanders – this was the same mistake made by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Last week, insurgents, believed to be members of Boko Haram, stormed Government Girls Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State, where scores of girls were abducted. The immediate response typifies a totally shambolic engagement, reminiscent of what Jonathan and his men egregiously showcased. There was Buni Yadi in 2013. There was Chibok in 2014. And now Dapchi. The unfortunate question is: Which school is next and which students are next?
AS IT WAS WITH CHIBOK
From Aso Rock insiders at that time, Sunday Vanguard gathered that a meeting, on Friday, May 2, 2014, through Saturday, May 3, 2014, between then President Jonathan, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, Borno Police Commissioner Lawal Tanko, Mrs. Asabe Kwambula, the Chibok school principal; Comrade Inuwa Kubo, Education Commissioner; and the DPO for Chibok, Hezekiah, rather than shed more light on what happened in Chibok, caused more muddle. It was discovered that the four actors from Borno gave different versions of the abduction incident of Monday, April 14, 2014. A source inside the Villa disclosed that this development threw every effort from the Presidency into a kilter.
“Even Mr. President could not believe what he was hearing from the Principal, the Education Commissioner, the Police Commissioner and the DPO. Those at that briefing listened with mouths opened wide”. It was this sentiment that Jonathan re-echoed on national television during his media chat on Sunday May 4, 2014 (some 20days later) that he did not know where the abducted girls were, pleading profusely that the parents should come to his aid.
From the gesticulation of hopelessness that he displayed regarding the insecurity in the country, what was clear was a challenge of capacity on the part of Mr. President. A more sensitive C-in-C would have explored other means of ascertaining what happened in Chibok that fateful night.
In the evening of Monday, February 19, 2018, something happened at Government Girls Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State. As of the time of going to press, neither the state governor, Ibrahim Geidam, the Police Commissioner, Abdulmalik Sumonu, nor the head of the school, could give an accurate number of those who were abducted in the Boko Haram terror attack on the school. Police Commissioner Suumonu said 815 out of 926 students were physically seen in the school as of Tuesday, February 20, after the incident.
There were reports that some students were also finding their way back to school. Some villagers in some areas claimed to have seen some students in Hilux trucks looking despondent and may be possible victims of the abduction. Yet, other reports said many parents were still searching for their wards.
Till date, no one has an accurate figure. Unfortunately, just like Chibok, the first pieces of information aimed to deny the abduction; then came stories of total rescue; before a further apology about misinformation. As if operating from the Chibok book of horror, the government of Yobe behaved like Jonathan.
Why has Boko Haram suddenly gained more traction in its murderous activities? Why does it appear as though this administration is losing it?
The facts on ground speak volumes. Follow this trail!
THE COMPLICITY OF ALL
We are all guilty! Well, cruel as it may sound, comeuppance may be egregiously playing out its hand. No sphere of society can be excused in the abduction of the over 200 Chibok girls. From the media that was divided along North/South dichotomy, to the pro-Buhari or pro-Jonathan propagandists of 2010 to 2015, the needed unity of purpose against the terrorists was missing. Today, PDP, as opposition party, is also attempting to latch unto the miseries of victims in attacking Buhari’s APC as not doing enough – but the latter has done fairly better.
Whereas it is generally known that Jonathan’s approach in handling Boko Haram’s attacks in its early days was manifestly shameful, latter day attempts by that administration to forcefully confront the miscreants met with stiff opposition from the opposition leaders in the country. It was even so bad that then retired General Muhammadu Buhari was reported to have claimed that the attacks on Boko Haram was an attack on the North. Not done, some opposition leaders at that time said the Jonathan administration was engaged in genocide against the North.
This, more than anything else, allowed the terrorists the opportunity to build on and advance its existing structures and alliances across the global terror network. Western nations refused to sell arms to the Nigerian government because, as was claimed, the Nigerian military was involved in extra-judicial killings. Today, that tag still sticks. Warnings and early signs that politicians were playing a dangerous game with the politicisation of the war on terror fell on deaf ears.
On Wednesday, August 17, 2011, U.S. Army General Carter F. Ham, Commander of AFRICOM, called attention to Boko Haram’s expanding ambitions, telling the Associated Press that intelligence indicated Boko Haram had made contact with operatives from both al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, AQIM, and al Shabaab:
“What is most worrying at present is, at least, in my view, a clearly stated intent by Boko Haram and by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb to coordinate and synchronize their efforts. I’m not so sure they’re able to do that just yet, but it’s clear to me they have the desire and intent to do that.” They have since gone beyond that.
In August 2011, one week before the U.N. office bombing in Abuja, Nigerian authorities arrested two Boko Haram militants. The detainees, who were still in custody after the U.N. bombing, allegedly told Nigerian investigators that another Boko Haram member, Mamman Nur, had led the attack. Nur reportedly had links to al Qaeda and was known to frequent Somalia.
In September 2011, European Union Counterterrorism Coordinator, Gilles de Kerchove, warned of collaboration between the two groups: “There is still nothing structural. There are efforts at contacts, and small transfers of money. It seems that some members of Boko Haram and al Shabaab were trained by AQIM.”
Greater than the threat of any two of these groups collaborating would be the threat of all three collaborating together. General Ham also warned about the potential for a transnational terrorist network to develop in Africa if the rising threat potential of these three groups is left unchecked: They were left unchecked, at least, in Nigeria, especially on the strength of the then opposition that played politics with terrorism.
Worse still, on Monday, May 21, 2012, a three-page letter surfaced at the State Department in America. The content showed the hands of Boko Haram sympathizers were on their way to buying time for the terrorists. The letter was sent to then Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Received at her State Department, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, DC 20520, it read:
“Dear Secretary Clinton:
“As scholars with a special interest in Nigeria and broad expertise on African politics, we are writing to urge that you not designate Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). We are acutely aware of the horrific violence perpetrated by Boko Haram, including attacks on both Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, whether government officials or civilian targets. We share your concerns about the impact of extremist violence on Nigeria’s democratic progress and security in general.
“However an FTO designation would internationalize Boko Haram, legitimize abuses by Nigeria’s security services, limit the State Department’s latitude in shaping a long term strategy, and undermine the U.S. Government’s ability to receive effective independent analysis from the region.
“An FTO designation would internationalize Boko Haram’s standing and enhance its status among radical organizations elsewhere. Boko Haram’s recent tactics, including the use of suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices, raise questions about their foreign links.
The network’s focus has been overwhelmingly domestic, despite an August 2011 attack on the United Nations office in Abuja. Rhetorically, some of Boko Haram’s critique of northern underdevelopment and elite corruption is within the realm of mainstream political discourse. But there are clear indications that their tactics and targets have turned most Nigerians against them, including local populations in the north.
“An FTO designation would potentially shift the organization’s posture towards the US and validate the more radical factions’ analysis of outsider influence in Nigeria. It would also undermine the Nigerian government’s ability to address the problem through law enforcement and thereby improve rule of law.
“An FTO designation would give disproportionate attention to counter-terrorism in our bilateral relations, and increase the risk that the US becomes linked – whether in reality or perception – to abuses by the security services. An FTO designation would effectively endorse excessive use of force at a time when the rule of law in Nigeria hangs in the balance. There is already evidence that abuses by Nigeria’s security services have facilitated radical recruitment.
This was made unequivocally clear in 2009 following the extrajudicial murder of Mohammed Yusuf, which was broadcast across the internet. That incident was immediately followed by Boko Haram’s radicalization, splintering, and increased propensity for large scale violence. Moreover, the routine use of the military for domestic law enforcement is a cause for alarm in a country with a deep history of military rule, and where formal declarations of states of emergency have historically led to broader political instability.
“In publicizing this letter, it is also our hope that the Department of Defense and other concerned agencies will reaffirm the limitations of their roles: informing or implementing policy rather than making it. Accurately understanding and properly addressing the issue of Boko Haram will require a diplomatic, developmental, and demilitarized framework. The State Department and its civilian developmental partners must be in the lead.
“The FTO list system has its origins in Executive Order 12947 in 1995, which was designed to prohibit transactions with organizations that interfere in the Middle East peace process. Congressional legislation the following year codified a process for making such decisions under the Effective Death Penalty and Anti-Terrorism Act.
Once the State Department makes an FTO designation and that entity is added to the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list managed by the Treasury Department, it is illegal for U.S. citizens to have any interactions with that entity unless they apply for a license.
At least 1.1 million individuals and entities are also on secret lists, according to an audit by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Inspector General. Lack of information about the criteria for being listed makes it impossible to be removed and encourages selective enforcement”.
Endorsed by some 25 scholars from reputable academic institutions in the United States of America, USA, the passionate letter insisting that an FTO status for Boko Haram should never be contemplated, the time wasted while this lasted, is partly responsible for the growth, spread and audacity of the terror group.
Today, even as this administration continues to deny any monetary involvement in the release of some of the abducted Chibok girls, some people insist that funds were involved and that such funds have enabled the terror group acquire more arms and, thereby, gain more traction. In the sphere of politics, anything, just about anything is possible.
There already exists a school of thought that whereas the latest abduction has created an ambience of horror for some families, Nigerians should not be surprised if, close to election time, stories of heroic rescue of abducted Dapchi students take over the public sphere.
This becomes even more plausible when the Yobe governor, Police Commissioner and head of the Dapchi school cannot with certainty clarify the number of those abducted, just as the earlier false information was pushed out by the state government of the rescue of some of the girls. The hope is that Dapchi would not become another Chibok, which became a political tool for some people; and it also became a money spinner for dubious negotiators. Young, innocent girls’ lives are at stake; families are in agony; a nation is in pain.