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Published On: Thu, Jun 12th, 2014

Misunderstanding Boko Haram a major hindrance to solving insurgency (1)

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By Kashim Shettima

We are passing through some of the most difficult security challenges in Nigeria’s modern history. Not since the tragic events of the 1960s, which culminated in the Nigerian Civil War, has Nigeria been so challenged in its security architecture. I say this as the Governor of Borno state, which is at the epicenter of a most vicious, bloody and anarchic insurgency. The Boko Haram insurgency has drenched our society in blood and systematically, it has been responsible for a creeping destruction of the harmony of communities in huge swathes of Borno state especially, but also in other states of Northern Nigeria.

The insurgency threatens the order of human and civilized existence and the ability of the state to provide the security and the welfare which Nigeria’s Constitution says is the basis for the existence of the state. This is on the one hand. On the other hand, we have seen the systematic spoliation of several other communities in other parts of Northern Nigeria, as a result of the spike in conflicts between nomadic groups and settled agricultural communities, as have been repeatedly reported by the media, in states like Benue, Kaduna, Taraba and Plateau. In the past couple of years, new forms of banditry have emerged around BirninGwari, in Kaduna state, and in Zamfara state, whereby groups of bandits have entered communities to rustle cattle, kidnap women and lay to waste communities whose livelihoods are disrupted and have been pushed further and further to the desperate margins of social existence.

Several questions come to my mind all the time I reflect on our unfortunate situation in Northern Nigeria today. How did we arrive at this sorry pass? Why did we allow the security situation to deteriorate to the point where we now devote so much physical and intellectual energy as well as resources, to attempting to beat back the multi-pronged patterns of security challenges in our society? Were they no early warning mechanisms to have detected the portents coming to haunt our society? Did we as leaders play the ostrich or were we too busy tendering our individual comforts and so could not be bothered by the gradual approach of the monster of discord that metamorphosed into insurgency and general lawlessness? What really happened and what is the solution?

If I must be honest and you should know this, for us in Borno state, our people are far from issues of human rights, our concerns are about human existence due to the frequency and ease with which the Boko Haram elements sniff out lives out of our citizens. Boko Haram slaughters; shoot and crush innocent people, destroy communities and public establishment for the fact that citizens do no share their violent ideology of murder and destructions. To the Boko Haram, the life of a Muslim who doesn’t share the sect’s ideology is as condemned as that of a Christian or a traditionalist. This group of misdirected few amongst us has continued to unleash horror and of course, do so much harm to the integrity of religion of Islam. They have killed thousands of innocent souls in Borno and destroyed property worth tens of billions of naira.

I had blamed different forms of negligence as basis of our ordeal. There is one form of negligence that I didn’t mention, but which to me, is one of the major factors, standing in our way to ending the Boko Haram. There is a supreme negligence of understanding the Boko Haram crisis its self and this makes it stubbornly difficult to make prescriptions.Only days ago, my friend, the Minister of Information, the Chief spokesman of this country, LabaranMaku, trivialized the Boko Haram crisis by blaming it on Borno state government. Maku is the one to educate not just Nigerians but the entire world on what constitutes Boko Haram. However, the driver happens to be blind.

What would make someone really disturbed is that Maku was supervising minister of Defence for some time. No one might ever know the extent he might have inflicted his understanding of the Boko Haram, on security chiefs he had to work with. Maku spoke just days after the President, Commander In Chief, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan said after the Paris summit, held recently, that the Boko Haram attacks began in 2002. He only coroborated what we know, what has been reported. In 2002, a group of men, then nicknamed Taliban, established a territory in border village called Kanamma in Yobe state which the sect code named Kandahar.

The first attack of the sect was in that village in 2002. The group went under ground, resurfaced in 2004 and attacking Bama and Gwoza in Borno; again went underground and resurfaced in 2007 in Panshekara in Kano for attacks on police; went underground and came out again in 2009 in Borno and some parts of Bauchi in what looked like a none violent movement at that time, under the late Mohammed Yusuf. In July, 2009, the sect launched serial attacks on police formations in Bauchi and Maiduguri towns. They went underground and returned in 2010 and here we are today. In between the periods they were going underground and resurfacing one can again see negligence somewhere along the line.

Shettima, Governor of Borno State and former lecturer at University of Maiduguri, delivered this as keynote address at a two-day conference on security and human rights organised by the Centre for Historical Documentation and Research of Ahmadu Bello University which held Tuesday at the Arewa House in Kaduna.

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