By Obi Nwakanma
Since the movers of Boko Haram think of books as “haram,” it is most unlikely that they, being illiterate, can comprehend, and therefore are likely to read this tribute to the young woman whom they have killed, Hauwa Liman. And so, this is not directed at them.
They cannot read. In any case, one must address a community of humans, those who share human traits; who have the natural human, and healthy instinct for empathy. It takes a subhuman freak, and a deadly form of misanthropy, to take another life.
Members of the Boko Haram movement are not human. They do not feel like humans. They are beasts with bilateral capacities. That is where it all ends. They are incapable of comprehending the basic instinct for shame or regret or that basic requirement for intellect – introspection.
What is clear is that Boko Haram responds to just one instinct – to kill, and inspire fear. In both instances they have failed. Nigerians are not afraid of them. Nigerians despise them. These are cowards who target mostly unarmed women and children in schools, who they kidnap, and enslave. Their strength is in targeting vulnerable people. Young women like Leah Sharibu who has defied them. They can defile her physical body.
But the strength of her will and spirit defies them. They can violate her being but she has proved more powerful, more resilient, more inspiring and more heroic than all the commanders and sponsors of the Boko Haram put in one. And that is the power of true humanity: that it represents that thing that makes our human spirit triumph over the momentary barriers of fear and difference induced to divide and weaken our resolve to be nothing other than human. And to be human is to seek our true liberty from fear, and from the kind of fundamentalist hogwash that Boko Haram represents.
If Boko Haram ever thought that it would become a “revolutionary movement,” its conduct, its practices have rendered it false; its teachings are false – Books are not “haram.” Books inspire us. They take us on long journeys into imaginary worlds where we seek consolation, learn, and get enlightened from the imposition of the darkness of ignorance.
Books free our spirits, and provide us the power to know, and be freed of fear. Books make the fields equal between people. With books, there is no Emir, no Talakwa. There are just people. Books close the gaps of privilege.
Books let us learn the things that would salvage us from the tyranny of inherited power, from the superstitions of false religion, from the chain of mental enslavement, and the perpetuation of the darkness represented by Boko Haram. What is “haram” is the shedding of human blood; it is the propagation of falsehood, it is the massacring of the innocents who ask only of life the good fare, and to be left in peace to enjoy it.
Boko Haram is “haram” and it is the holy duty of the true believer and follower of the prophet of Islam and of Christ to find followers of this evil movement wherever they hide, and root them out, and fight them until they are no more. It is enough time that Nigerians took the fight to Boko Haram. It is no longer enough to leave it alone to a disorganized government which has proved unable to contain this growing menace.
The government seems reluctant to unleash the full tactical capacity of the Nigerian national security apparatus to deal with a mere gnat which has grown into an increasingly dangerous ant, destabilizing and terrorizing once stable communities in North Eastern Nigeria. It has kidnapped school girls in Chibok and Dapchi, and it has killed and displaced many people from their homes, many of whom now live in refugee camps in neighbouring communities like Rann.
The displacement of human communities from Boko Haram activities has prompted responses by aids agencies and voluntary organizations who have sent some brave men and women to provide needed services to these displaced people in these slippery, dangerous, and rapidly transitory places.
It was in service to the displaced that the young woman, Hauwa Liman, a trained nurse, came to Rann as an aid worker. In March of 2018, Boko Haram raided Rann and abducted three of these aid workers, Saifura Hussaini Ahmed Khurso, Hauwa Liman, and Alice Loksha, staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross and Crescent (ICRC) and UNICEF respectively. Boko Haram’s latest atrocity is the heartless and needless execution of these aid workers.
Earlier in September, Saifura, 25, a nurse with UNICEF was killed in very grisly circumstances following Boko Haram’s claim that the Federal government ignored its demands for prisoner swap. Their latest victim, Hauwa Liman, 24, was killed last week.
The third kidnap victim, Alice Loksha’s fate is still uncertain, but it is seeming predictable, given that Boko Haram’s brutality, thus far demonstrated on the body of women, is mindless. But those who have mourned Hauwa Liman mourn her as a truly magnificent spirit. Her colleagues talk about “a sociable, dynamic, enthusiastic” human, much loved by family and colleagues. Her father’s touching tribute to his daughter was pained but without regret. It was full of a pride for a much beloved child, who he remembered as a “kind and warm spirit who always wanted to help her community.”
Hauwa’s martyrdom by this evil merchant of death and fear called Boko Haram, has actually done the opposite of what Boko Haram intended: to drive fear. To prove that it can kill. To demonstrate its own steely resolve, and to break the spirit of this nation: it has rather than do this proved that it is a cowardly organization whose only show of strength is to abduct and kill women; and it has awakened the resolve of other younger women who are willing to continue her work, to learn “books” like Hauwa, and use that skill to help those in great need of help. Nigerians are indifferent to Boko Haram, and so is the universe. It has lost the capacity to shock, or awe.
Its brutality, routine now as it is, is in its character, and no one pays heed to its entity other than as a criminal organization that shall one day either be destroyed or brought to book. Hauwa’s death must however not be allowed to ride. It is no ordinary death.
It is the death of a young Nigerian woman with great promise, whose selfless act must be honored, alongside those who have become victims of Boko Haram like Leah Sharibu, Saifura Hussaini, Alice Loksha, and other women who have been abducted and violated. Boko Haram threatens to turn Leah into a slave.
They cannot. As I have said, they may kill or violate Leah all they want. She may suffer physical pain until she is no longer able. She may even be dead already. But Boko Haram cannot kill Leah, or turn her into a slave. Leah Sharibu and Hauwa Liman are now more than flesh. They have become ideas. They have become the symbols of women who defy everything Boko Haram stands for, and who are unafraid of the price they have been made to pay.
Boko Haram are made of repugnant and damaged people who were clearly not very well socialized, and who are possibly mostly haunted by and an oedipal complex. No man who has truly felt and tasted the love of woman can maltreat, talk less of kill a woman, and in the kind of way Boko Haram has targeted, enslaved and murdered young, and vulnerable women.
But people like Huawa Liman teach us that we must never give in to them. Behind the mask is straw. And this government, under the administration of Muhammadu Buhari, must retool, and recalibrate its Boko Haram strategy.
Rather than pursue Boko Haram, Buhari started with a policy of appeasement. He released Boko Haram fighters in needless swaps that earned Nigeria no mileage. It adopted a strategy of containment rather than radical degradation in its engagement with Boko Haram. Earlier in its life, this administration claimed, “we have technically defeated Boko Haram.” But what does that mean? And where is the evidence?
It means this, Buhari rested on his oars from the results of the final onslaught against Boko Haram carried out by the Jonathan administration in its final days which almost wiped out Boko Haram. Rather than sustain the momentum, Buhari went after Mr. Sambo Dasuki, the architect of that final onslaught. Rather than debrief him he locked him up.
The Federal government seems to be “arguing” with Boko Haram, and “reasoning” with it, and sharing platitudes, rather than demonstrate capacity. It seems to be engaged in a halfhearted and deliberately drawn-out fight. If the Nigerian military could organize ECOMOG once to stabilize West Africa, how come the same army cannot contain a ragtag organization called Boko Haram?
This question demands urgent answer, so that the likes of Leah Sharibu and now, Hauwa Liman, and many more like them, do not continue to be the victims of this senselessness.