By Peregrino Brimah
Niran Adedokun, a much respected writer asked in a recent article, “What is the North’s way of dealing with Boko Haram?” If I may, I will like to take a minute to respond to his very stimulating write-up. Firstly, I think there is the need to correct a wrong and dangerous premise of his article. “A Northern response.” I’ll advise others to watch an episode of Generation Voices, where the youth of Nigeria spoke brilliantly on the ways forward. In this particular episode, Ismail Ahmed of APC Youth Forum impressed on the audience the important difference between a ‘northern,’ and a ‘northerner.’ Many of the references made in Nigerian political discussions today are to ‘northerner’ and not ‘northern.’
In the present northern battle against Boko Haram being conducted by the brave Civilian JTF, we see both northerners and southerners, Muslims and Christians working together to root out and battle Boko Haram terrorists. This is the reality of a Nigeria that is not ‘yet’ divided into nations or regions. Do we refer to the action of the Civilian JTF as a ‘northern response’ or a Nigerian response?
So long as Nigeria is one nation, north is mixed as is south and these cannot be separated and reclassified on the basis of the identity of the man at the top. Today, Nigeria is not under southern rule, but only has a Southerner at the helm. And the response to Boko Haram today is Jonathan’s response and not the response of the South. We have seen the response from the south to Boko Haram in Lagos for instance.
Importantly, the reactions of several northern elders do not even represent the desires or position of the north. Whose opinion do we listen to, north or south? Do we listen to Sheikh Gumi or assassinated Sheikh Albani Zaria, who both opposed an amnesty or do we listen to the northerner elite who desired one? We must be careful when we ask what the north or south wants or define and label reactions as above Kwara and Benue or below. Such talk risks being seriously defective. This pointed out, we do have an instance of a northerner in power and how he dealt with the Boko Haram menace. This, of course, was late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua.
When this northern man was in the top office of the nation, under his apt NSA Sarki Mukhtar, we saw the answer to the question proposed by Adedokun. Yar’adua dealt firmly and swiftly with the Boko Haram menace. As soon as he was sensitized to it, the Nigerian security apparatus sent its officers to comb the camps and eliminate the threat. There was no romancing terrorists and no dillydallying with the threat to the nation’s security and prosperity.
Over 700 Boko Haram terrorists were killed by our security men in the month of July, 2009. The group leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was arrested and was reportedly killed while attempting an escape. Do we call that a ‘northern response?’ Today, under the Jonathan administration, terrorists are placated, rewards/amnesty is offered to these psycho killers. Terrorists escape being arrested without dying on their way out. Sponsors of terror are left free even though the presidency submits to knowing them. Nigerians are kept in the dark as to the true situation of terror. The army is undermined and the Civilian JTF is not offered an amnesty/support as would be expected and to the tune the terrorists were offered.
There is strong promotion of tribalism and ethnic divisionism by those in power today. We youth and suffering masses should reject pandering and dancing to this desperate tune. We must dance away from the Piper’s flute.
A quest to return to regionalism is well in order and may proffer solutions to many problems of Nigeria, however this should be obtained by responsible conversation, true sovereign conference hopefully someday and not by creating and inflaming untrue segregations of the people and ruling cabal, who are actually united.
Today the governor of Borno asks for better equipped army. The Shehu of Bama has voted no confidence in the Nigerian government as his town is sacked and raped for hours on end without military capability to respond. Do we single these people out for a problem they suffer due to a terrorist group that operates from outside the borders of Nigeria and is financed by Nigeria’s leaking, looted oil wealth?
As a Nigerian (Northern, I guess, me being from the Middle-Belt) solution, I will summarily suggest several important items. 1. Arrest all known sponsors of terror as distinguished Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka and late NSA Azazi have both underlined exist in our nations ruling party. 2. Arrest all other sponsors of terror among the elite in any party or association in Nigeria. 3. Arrest the administrators and governors of Borno’s past in the white-paper report chaired by Interior minister Abba Moro, submitted to President Jonathan, which the President claimed he had directed NSA Dasuki to act on. 3. Arm the army. 4. Arm the army, again. Give them drones, helicopters, jets and military vehicles and even adequate bullets, which they have complained in past battles to have been killed because they ran out of.
Much of the equipment still used by Nigeria’s army was purchased by the Shagari regime. If we redirect looted billions to the needs of the nation, there will be more than enough to maintain an efficient and healthy army. A lot of what is misconstrued as ‘northern’ apprehension or opposition is based on the commitment, character and sometimes blatantly inebriated track record of those who have ‘led’ this war against terror. If we translate their visible fighting technique ‘against’ corruption to terror, who they fire and who they hire as relates to corruption, would we all not be apprehensive to be in their crosshairs in their ‘war against terror?’ True action and commitment to battling terror and its economic and political foundations will be embraced by north, south, east, west and even the ‘third dimension of existence.’
Dr. Peregrino Brimah at firstname.lastname@example.org