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Published On: Wed, Mar 26th, 2014

Boko Haram: Different language, same challenge

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Boko Haram attack in MaiduguriBy Joy Baba

Presently, the whole of the country is clouded by fear of terrorists, championed by the Boko Haram sect and while the common masses being hunted look to the Federal Government for a way out, the Presidency and his security advisers are singing a discordant tune.

President Goodluck Jonathan seems not to be on the same page with his security advisers, as their recent statements in public seems contradictory. The National Security Adviser (NSA), Mohammed Sambo Dasuki recently unveiled plans by his office and other security agencies to use the soft approach in tackling insurgency since the fire-brand approach seems not to be getting the desired result going by the resurgence of attacks by the terrorists using various tactics.

Dasuki said established facts have shown that push factors, conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism such as poverty, joblessness, prolonged unresolved conflict, social injustice, a growing youth bulge can lead to such radicalization.

He said his office is also concerned with push factors, which are often personal and frequently rest on pull factors such as unfulfilled desire for self-actualization, wanting to belong, individual grieviances or an identity deficit, one that confuses and creates a situation of conflict of identities based on religion, tribe or region.

He further said it is this identity of conflict that fuels the narrative of the Jama’atu ahlul Sunnah lidda’awati wal jihad, otherwise known as Boko Haram, and has proven so attractive to some of our youth, adding that poverty in itself is not an automatic ticket to radicalisation so as not to justify any form of radicalism.

In highlighting the soft approach to fighting this menace, the NSA said his office has developed a Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Program that is both vertical involving three tiers of government, federal, state and local and horizontal involving civil society, academics, traditional, religious and community leaders.

The first soft approach stream according to the NSA is the DE radicalization of convicted terrorists, suspects awaiting trial and those who might be released through court orders or such other government decision arising from the ongoing engagement and dialogue with repentant suspects.

“The second step is to believe that we can win the war against terror by mobilizing our family, cultural, religious and national values. Through fear and violence, extremist groups are bent on changing the way we see and relate with each other and the only way to defeat this is to remain united and confront the threat as one nation under God. The counter radicalization stream seeks to build community engagement and resilience through building trust, creating awareness and resilience”.

The third and final stream he said is to build our capacity to communicate our national values better and institutionalizing this capability through strategic communication for the military and law enforcement, and public diplomacy for the civilian institutions.

He said the above is necessary “because at the heart of terrorism is a deadly communication plan that furthers the aims of the terrorists. Unfortunately terrorist groups have over time been clearer in communicating what they stand for than government has”.

Barely two days after this declaration by the NSA, President Jonathan, in Windhoek, Namibia, said that the Federal Government would no longer treat the terror groups in Nigeria with kid gloves.

According to the president, “Federal Government had decided to be more forceful in curtailing the activities of the Boko Haram group that was unleashing terror in the some states of the North-East region.

“The issue of global terror is worrisome and in Nigeria, we believe that a terror attack anywhere in the world is a terror attack on everyone. It may be more in one country compared to the other; for instance, in the North-Eastern parts of Nigeria, three states out of 36 states, we are having incidence of terror.

“Initially, we handled it with kid gloves, but now we have decided to be a little more forceful because we must thrash out these terror groups. We must not allow it to continue to slow down economic growth in that part of the country. With the terror attacks in that part of the country, the rest of the country feel it because Nigerians live everywhere. In these other parts, there is always the fear that if you do not tackle it, it will infiltrate in these other parts. We will work together to ensure that terror attack is stamped out globally and in Nigeria; we are committed”, he stated.

President Goodluck Jonathan had earlier on, before the NSA soft approach declaration, set up a committee to dialogue with the Boko Haram, in a bid to bring an end to bloodshed caused by the group in the north- east of the country.

The 7-member committee, chaired by Minister for Special Duties, Alhaji Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, aims to negotiate with the group to drop their arms, and accept an amnesty package if they agreed to a ceasefire. The chairman said the committee would work in secret but didn’t mention the other members of the committee.

However, while the President’s setting up a committee is indicative that he is in tune with the soft approach like the NSA, in less than two weeks, he was talking about adopting a forceful approach outside the shores of the country.

The question on the lips of many Nigerian observers therefore, is: How come the NSA is preaching ‘soft approach’ and the President is singing ‘a little more forceful approach’? Which approach do they want Nigerians to tilt towards, since they are speaking hot and cold at the same time? Does it mean that they do not go into private consultation before addressing the public, hence their discordant tunes?

This lack of coordination exhibited by those at the hem of affairs could be the reason this insurgency is still persisting and many observers are of the opinion that until they start singing with one voice, this malaise may continue.

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