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Published On: Thu, Nov 13th, 2014

The festering Boko Haram war

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boko-haram-groupBy Dele Agekameh

The first sign of Boko Haram’s expansionist tendency came in August this year, with the capture and occupation of Gwoza, a hilly town in Borno State, now rechristened “DarulHikma” or “House of Wisdom” by the terrorists. There, they swiftly hoisted their flag and immediately converted the town to their operational headquarters. Since then, they have continued to dig in and propagate their own version of Islam. A major military offensive at the onset of the emergency rule in May 2013, had appeared to put the terrorists on the defensive by flushing them out of their strongholds, but the military seemed to have failed to sustain the momentum and allowed the relentless hoodlums to retake some of the areas they had initially abandoned. The matter was made worse by widespread refusal of troops deployed to confront the terrorists to engage them because of lack of adequate firepower. This has led to the institution of various army court marshals to try the allegedly mutinous troops.

With Boko Haram’s unprecedented gains in recent weeks, the group appears to be inching closer to achieving its goal of carving out a strict Islamic state across northern Nigeria. They have killed no fewer than 13,000 innocent people, displaced several others and destroyed hundreds of schools and churches in a wave of terror aimed at carving out an Islamic state in Nigeria. It is quite unfortunate that these terrorists seem to be waxing stronger in this war. This is attributable to lack of seriousness and commitment on the part of our leaders – the politicians and the military top brass. Apart from this, the endemic corruption in the country has taken a toll on the government’s ability to effectively prosecute the war. The reality is that, rather than throw everything into the fray, our defence planners appear to be engaged in cutting corners for pecuniary gains. It has been insinuated that some of the armoured vehicles recently brought into the country and branded as new ones, have constantly developed problems of overheating, while no fewer than 20 of them, may have been captured by Boko Haram.

Perhaps, the most nauseating aspect is the inability of our military leaders to accept that things are not really going the way they should be in the ongoing war. Rather, the military has been consistent in defending the indefensible. Soon after Boko Haram terrorists overran Gwoza and made a huge capital out of it, Chris Olukolade, the first Major-General to be produced by the Public Relations Corps of the Army and Director, Defence Information, DDI, had this to say: “The claim is empty. The sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Nigerian state is still intact. Any group of terrorists laying claim to any portion of the country will not be allowed to get away with the expression of delusion and crime…” The DDI’s braggadocio has since paled into insignificance as the terrorists have remained undeterred in trying to realize their badly-craved Islamic Caliphate.

As the terrorists conquer one village and town after another, so also do they increase their war arsenal as they move on. The conquest of Gwoza fetched them at least 200 AK 47 assault rifles belonging to the police which they allegedly carted away following their attack on the Police Academy in the town. Those arms are certainly part of what Boko Haram is now using to wreak havoc all over the place. Similarly, the attack on Mubi not only boosted the armoury of the group, but it also enriched its stock of food items and overall war chest. Report has it that food items, money and weapons seized by the terrorists in the town, will be enough to sustain their activities for a year. The resources seized so far, the reports say, are exclusive of contributions to the terrorists from like-minded jihadist groups and their non-combatant members who are wealthy business moguls.

The truth is that five years after the emergence of Boko Haram, Nigeria does not seem to have an effective strategy for dealing with these misguided elements and their deep commitment to waging war against the country and its people. It is a shame that almost two years after a state of emergency was declared in the three Northeast states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, the government and the military, have not been able to contain the menace of these terrorists. Nothing illustrates this obvious helplessness than the inability to rescue the Chibok school girls who were violently removed from their school premises in the Chibok community, Borno State, on the night of April 14, 2014. Since then, except for various permutations and apocalyptic guesswork, no efforts have been made to secure their release. They have, therefore, remained marooned in a strange environment where they are constantly tortured, abused and dehumanised.

Rather than confront them headlong militarily, the government is shamelessly willing to dialogue at all costs even though it is clear that nothing from what Boko Haram wants to achieve is Islamic. So trying to dialogue with them is a waste of time as they would only agree to do so if they were losing the war. For now, they don’t seem to be. Hence, they have turned down requests for dialogue and even amnesty. Certainly, the solution is in the battlefield. Therefore, Nigerians should be security conscious and give useful information to the security agencies. To win this war, the security agencies need the cooperation of all.

If there is to be any silver lining in the horizon any time soon in the country’s so-far disastrous handling of Boko Haram, it must start with the re-awakening of our security apparatuses and perhaps, even the President himself, to the need for a profound rethinking of our strategy to contain and combat this scourge. The alternative is to accept the victory of genocidal, murdering religious extremists, over a vast territory that they intend to use to propagate their jaundiced version of Islam. The most important aspect about any purported Islamic State in such an atmosphere as Boko Haram rules over is that it is easily a vector for attracting training and funding from terrorists all over the world. Surely, Nigeria needs a new analysis, a new language and new strategies that relate to defeating a viral system that spreads across national boundaries.

Sad enough, the politicians aren’t giving a damn. The only thing that matters to Nigerian politicians right now is the 2015 elections through which they hope to continue to perpetuate themselves in power willy-nilly, to the detriment of the peace, progress and development of the country. At the rate we are going, if care is not taken, we might wake up one day and discover that Nigeria is no more. A stitch in time saves nine!

Dele Agekameh via linkedIn

 

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