By Kolawole Abe
There is no gainsaying that Nigeria just like some other parts of West Africa today is ravaged by insurgency. This insurgency fuelled mainly by the ouster of Muhammad Ghaddafi of Libya in October 2011 by imperialism backed local forces and the subsequent civil war that broke out in that desert country led to the rise of many Islamic terrorist groups with huge weapons that are being sold all over the region fuelling terrorism.
Apart from the proliferation of arms, many of these local terrorists are also trained by elements of al-Qaeda on guerrilla warfare in order to establish Islamic states in whatever country their devilish act in thriving.
Boko haram is the local branch of ISWAP which is a variant of ISIS that once held some Asian countries by the jugular just like their local variants are scheming to do here. Since the defeat of ISIS along the border of Syria and Iraq, the searchlight of those elements has to be the west African region leading to the formation of ISWAP meaning the Islamic State of West African province.
Boko Haram was founded in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf as an Islamic sect in Maiduguri. It subsequently grew in leaps and bound within the state and became a darling of politicians who incessantly rode on her popularity to power. The group started having problems with those politicians as a result of failed promises and unmet expectations. By 2009, it started a violent cause out of discontentment against the dishonesty of politicians and their main targets then were public properties and officials.
This inadvertently led to the arrest and incarceration of her founding leader. The leadership lot later fell on Abubakar shekau who is the present leader who in turn introduced a more radical ideology that sought to carve out an Islamic state through violent means. This led the group not to target just public buildings and officials alone but others that they consider infidels for not subscribing to the Islamic religion. This of course was met by resistance from the state.
That, of course, angered the insurgent and their targets extended to even their kinsmen who they consider infidels for not being at home with their cause. The activities of this daredevil organisation festered so much so that they had a strong presence in the whole of the North and rumour were rife that they already had plans to extend their network especially to the southwestern part of the country.
The whole of the North plays regular host to their activities unfettered and its attendant loss of lives and properties. It got so bad that even the Louis edet police House in Abuja wasn’t spared, the inspector General of police then escaped death by a whisker while some of his officers weren’t so lucky. The United Nations office, this day dome, nyanya motor park, a Catholic Church were some of the building that played host to their activities (to mention a few) in the nation’s capital. States like kano, Kaduna, Jigawa in the northwest, while Kogi, Niger, plateau were also hotbeds apart from the northeast that happened to be their base as at then.
By the time the Buhari government emerged. It has gotten so bad that part of the reason why the GEJ government lost reelection was her seeming lacklustre approach to ending the activities of the insurgent. Subsequent probing of the office of the national security adviser was later to reveal that his government (Jonathan) saw the war more as a cash cow than a cause which must be defeated.
The enormous goodwill the Buhari government had while coming in on the back of his military background meant that the task though herculean is one that can’t be approached with kid glove. Especially when the plank of his policy was hung on the tripod of security, economy and infrastructure. The Buhari government swooped into action immediately through the directive of the president in his inaugural speech that the theatre of command is moved from Abuja to Maiduguri which was the hotbed then. That was followed by his visits to other west African States affected by the activities of the insurgent to galvanise a region-wide collaboration in order to tackle the insurgency. In the course of the meeting, the president made a pledge of 100 million dollars to the region wide effort and ordered an immediate release of 19million out of it to kick-start the military activities that will rout out the insurgency out of the region. What followed was the sack of the National security adviser and the service chiefs and their subsequent replacement.
The resultant effect of the president’s Proactive approach to the festering activities of the insurgent was their pushback from another region in the country to the North East within a space of six months. States like kano, Kaduna and Abuja who were a regular host of the insurgent began to heave a sigh of relief because the insurgent was completely routed out from there. It was in the process of the heated military activities that it was discovered that the insurgent was already building a sleeper cell in Kogi from where it planned to annex another part of the country mainly the southwest states.
Today through the single-minded and Proactive approach of the president, Bokoharam/ISWAP activities have been aggressively decimated. It has been debased from hoisting its flag in about 27 local govt in Yobe, Maiduguri and Adamawa to just operating from the Lake Chad, and also from targeting buildings and large gatherings to the pocket of bombings aimed at soft targets. Just yesterday, they were described by the president as a horde of scavengers who loot for food and other groceries out of desperation. We may not have achieved the president’s promise of completely routing them out of the country but even Northern states like Adamawa, Gombe, Yobe etc now go to bed with their two eyes closed because Boko Haram isn’t as potent as it was before Buhari emerged. There is definitely more to be done, but that must not in any way displace the amount of effort that has been put into completely routing the insurgency from our country.
Abe is a human rights activist and former PRO, NANS