By Ignatius Arinze
The negative consequences for Nigeria of the exploits of the Boko Haram terrorists rankled many a Nigerian, no less President Muhammadu Buhari.
For this reason, during the campaign that brought him to office, Buhari or PMB as he has come to be known prioritized national security and the fight against terrorism i.e., the Boko Haram and other manifestations of terrorism in the country. The President’s abhorrence for terrorism and the insecurity that comes with it, is borne out of the realization that peace and security is necessary for development and no nation or community can make any progress if there is violence within its borders.
A few days ago, President Buhari visited Aqaba, in the Kingdom of Jordan to attend an anti- terrorism summit. The summit enabled the attending Heads of State to rub mind with each other and their host, King Abdullah of Jordan on the challenges posed by terrorism in all its ramifications and how States threatened by this menace can go about dealing with it. It also provided opportunity for creating inter-regional awareness and cooperation to combat terrorism as well as provide a platform for some of the leaders to review their bilateral relations.
In the case of Nigeria, the summit at Aqaba underscored the extent to which many countries including the Kingdom of Jordan appreciate Nigeria and are willing to identify with the country in its areas of need as well as be a partner to Nigeria in solving pressing international problems.
Before the summit, Jordan has shown its sympathy to Nigeria for the devastation and distraction which terrorism constitute to the well- being of the country when it donated armoured tanks and ammunition to assist the hard- fighting Nigeria Army to deal with the menace of the Boko Haram. It did not come as a surprise that Jordan elected to do this. Though a small country, Jordanians have for many decades worked hard on a foreign policy which delicately ensured that the country enjoyed peace and prosperity in a region that is known for violence. Thus it can be said that President Buhari was in good company when sharing views and experience with the King of Jordan on this modern day menace. President Buhari would also have been delighted to learn of how the Jordanians were able to escape from the menace that was the now defeated Islamic State that wreaked havoc in Syria and Iraq.
The Nigerian Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan- Ali has also visited Jordan twice before the summit while his Jordanian counterpart has reciprocated with a visit to Nigeria. In all this, one can figure out that a credible and well- planned military cooperation is developing between Nigeria and a key country in the Middle East. This is good for Nigeria and its armed forces.
It should be noted that in the fight against terrorism, President Buhari as an astute military officer knows that it is not a battle that any one country can fight alone and win. Thus, the Nigerian leaders who promised the Nigerian people that he would rout the Boko Haram insurgency that had ravaged most parts of the North east of the country disrupting civil administration in most areas identified coalition building as an effective strategy to combat the menace that is terrorism.
It will be recalled that on coming to power in May, 2015, a few weeks in office, President Buhari embarked on a visit and consultation of countries sharing borders with Nigeria to the North. He also hosted the leaders of these countries in Abuja where the agenda of the meetings were how, and the ways and means of combatting terrorism and violence perpetrated by the Boko Haram in Nigeria and neighboring countries to Nigeria. It should be noted that in its violence and unprovoked war against Nigeria and its neighbors, the Boko Haram was not alone. The group overtime, extended its alliance to the Islamic State in the Levant and the notorious Al- Shabab terrorist group in Somalia. It is believed that with the routing and near- total defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the days of when Boko Haram held sway or constituted a nuisance to Nigeria would soon be over.
In fairness to President Buhari and the Nigerian Army, Boko Haram had substantially been defeated and reduced as a potent fighting force in the North east of Nigeria long before the annihilation of the Islamic State in the Levant. The issue is that pockets of the Boko Haram in their death throes are still a nuisance to the commencement of rehabilitation, reconstruction and total returning of normal life in the troubled North east of Nigeria.
The situation today requires more astute intelligence operation by the army and re-jigging of the anti- terrorism coalition built by PMB’a astute diplomacy and commitment to good neighborliness. The coalition building strategy of President Buhari gave form and renewed impetus to the Multi- national Joint Task Force (MNJTF) comprising the armies of Chad, Niger, Benin, Cameroun and Nigeria.
The role played by the MNJTF and the Nigeria Army in checking the free reign of the Boko Haram cannot be over-emphasised. By cooperating with one another, by sharing intelligence and strategy and with broad and far- reaching international support garnered by Buhari’s coalition building, the MNJTF was able to contain the insurgents by reducing the swathes of land available to them as sanctuary whenever they engage in their nefarious violence and killings in each of the Lake Chad nations.
President Buhari’s coalition building is an international endeavor. It has attracted attention and military and financial assistance from several countries like the US, UK, Turkey, Russia, Israel as well as African Union and ECOWAS States, all of whom have pledged commitment to combat terrorism and inter- state violence by non- state actors like the Boko Haram and Al- Shabab. Even the United Nations have come in good measure. Global awareness has been raised and in many parts of the World, States are taking seriously the issue of coalition building to combat terrorism.
At the Aqaba Retreat on terrorism, Nigeria was a co- host of the event with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. It was attended by about 48 countries and international organizations and groups. Being a co- host further underscores the importance of Nigeria in the global effort to combat terrorism giving the routing of the Boko Haram by the Nigeria Army under the able command of President Buhari and his lieutenants led by Lt- General Tukur Buratai.
Considering the commendable progress made by the administration of PMB in combating terrorism and the dislocation to orderly life and destruction of lives and property caused by herdsmen across the country, there is need for PMB to put his searchlight on the problem caused by herdsmen across the country and how they make miserable the lives of farmers causing food shortages in many areas.
This writer is confident that if PMB puts his mind to dealing with this herdsmen problem, in no time the problem would also be overcome to the relief of all Nigerians. As a patriot, PMB owes it as a duty to all Nigerians and the international anti- terrorism coalition of which he is a leader in view of the naming of these herdsmen as the fourth greatest menace to peace and development by the international community.
Ignatius Arinze is a Public Affairs Analyst based in Abuja.