(By George Olalekan Jimoh)
“The Nigerian people desire a safe, secure and peaceful environment. The present democracy needs to move in to strengthen and sustain this expectation as Nigeria cannot be left in the hands of this “sect”. The question that then arises is ‘Can these violent attacks be stopped, how do you find a common ground in resolving the issues to roll back the violence and stop the mayhem?“
AFTER the Nigerian Independence of October 1, 1960, the country has found itself enmeshed in clashes like the Biafran war. During this national hostility of our time which occurred between 1967 and 1970, the country nearly split into two. If that had happened it would have marked a new beginning for the eastern part of the country. It would have created a new chapter in their lives –“independence” to become a nation of their own, supported then by western countries which believed in their cause.
The Biafran war created a colossal loss of lives and properties from which the nation has not fully recovered. That war claimed about one million civilians who died from famine, hunger and starvation. Women and children were the hardest hit.
At present, Nigerians are entangled in all manner of violence such as armed robbery, kidnapping, militancy and assassinations. The most vicious is the campaign by the dreadful sect “Boko Haram’. This group is unleashing terror and mayhem in the North especially in the northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. We are regaled with tales of mounting violence and insecurity on a daily basis splashed across newspaper headlines and on television as well as radio stations, depicting a society under siege. The frequency and scale of this violence is growing at an alarming rate and urgent attention should be given to this national devastation to find lasting solution to it before the violent attacks degenerate into war and become permanent fixtures of our lives.
Boko Haram started as a movement to enforce the Islamic law known as Sharia in the northern part of the country. It metamorphosed afterwards into this dreadful terrorist group with its own professed mission to overthrow the Nigerian State and replace it with an Islamic State. In furtherance of this, it is unleashing mayhem all over the North with the battle cry to kill all Christians and liberal Muslims who are dismissed as unbelievers and traitors. No classes of people are spared in their campaign– children, women, men, soldiers, police, distinguished personalities and all. They destroy properties, burn markets and create shadows of towns and villages in their trail.
Boko Haram in Hausa language means “Western Education is sinful”. This was not their original name as of the time they started out; they referred to themselves in Arabic as –“Jama-atu Ahis Sunna Lidda-awati Wal jihad” which means – “the Sunni organisation for the Prophet’s teaching and jihad.” Boko Haram insurgents are opposed to Western education and are ready to attack the very core of its foundation in the North. Already schools are known to have been burnt and school children killed gruesomely in their sleep. The rate of bombings, rape, kidnapping, assassination and other violent crimes has made Boko Haram sect Nigeria’s present and real danger that may be part of our everyday life if moves are not made to combat it firmly and expeditiously. We have come under severe scrutiny globally and our image internationally has been greatly dented, with doubts about the continued corporate existence of the country, come 2015, being openly expressed, especially as it is widely believed that the sect has strong links with the global terrorist movements like Al-Qaeda.
Some believe that the government has created panic and escalated issues by giving the sect more power and recognition than they deserve. Yet others say Boko Haram is the child of a group of disgruntled northern politicians who wanted more than the present administration could offer them. Upon failure to get what they wanted they decided to create tension and conflict in their zones in fulfillment of the vow of their leading lights to “make Nigeria ungovernable” should Dr. Jonathan become President. However, along the line, matters took a new shape and Boko Haram reared its ugly head and evil was born. The police and security agents are not left out in the allegation that they pin crimes not committed by the sect on them, even despite substantial evidence to the contrary. They have been accused by apologists of the terrorists of wielding their own power over the masses, thereby bringing undue pain and suffering in the guise of performing their duties.
Boko Haram terrorists claimed responsibility for the attack on the UN headquarters in Abuja, on August 26, 2011 and have been orchestrating series of violent and isolated attacks in the northeastern states especially Borno. Most recently, they killed about 59 students in Yobe and subsequently launched an attack on Michika among several other attacks which have claimed the lives of many in Adamawa State. These frequent and coordinated attacks, especially on unsuspecting members of the public, and on peaceful and law abiding citizens of the north, show sophistication and intelligence at work. The losses have simply filled many of our compatriots with utter disgust. The number of casualties in these attacks continues climbing.
The Nigerian people desire a safe, secure and peaceful environment. The present democracy needs to move in to strengthen and sustain this expectation as Nigeria cannot be left in the hands of this “sect”. The question that then arises is ‘Can these violent attacks be stopped, how do you find a common ground in resolving the issues to roll back the violence and stop the mayhem? While some of these clashes are borne out of religious and cultural differences, others are borne out of political power struggle. Some arose over the control of natural resources.
According to a poll conducted by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 2012 sampling opinions and reactions on whether a common ground can be found to resolve the issues, in Nigeria, 51 per cent said YES the matters could be resolved while 37 per cent believed that war was inevitable arguing that the issues were too fundamental to be resolved. Yet the average Nigerians are not ready for war, neither are they equipped for it. Nevertheless the reality remains that the break-up of the amalgamation is staring us in the face
An attempt to go into the issues by activist Mallam Shehu Sanni was made in 2011 but the talks broke down because it was claimed that the Federal Government declined to give in or even consider some of the requests of the Sect. I do believe it is time for the government both at the federal and state levels to give it another trial because time is of the essence. They should reach out to their contacts again and invite them to a round table to resolve issues. It should have been realised by now that the use of force alone does not always address all issues.
The joint task force (JTF) created by the Federal Government, has been accused of causing about half the deaths attributed to atrocities of the Boko Haram since 2009. The force has also been accused of unwarranted arrest and detention of innocent people and their subsequent torture, and even death in prison. These should be seen as the collateral accompaniment of war containment and we should be wary of embellishments. The Federal Government should move to strengthen, restructure and carry out reforms that may be necessary in all security agencies so they can work at their optimum capacity. It should also invite and partner with the international community to gather intelligence and for collaborative manpower utilisation.
The Nigerian Customs Service should, as a matter of urgency, work round the clock to ensure that our porous borders are protected to effectively eliminate any coordination between this sect and international terrorist organisations and to prevent influx of arms and ammunition into the country.
Politicians should be enjoined to desist from creating private militias for elections and dumping them afterwards, after training them to handle guns and ammunition. They can easily be recruited by miscreants and terrorist groups that would take laws into their hands in rebellion when they fall out with their principals, the politicians who may have promised them heaven and earth but renege on the promises as soon as the elections are over.
The citizens must co-operate with the security agencies and supply useful information on likely hide-outs of miscreants, hoodlums and suspicious persons. They should also give adequate information on security breaches and suspicious movements; these will help facilitate fishing out the miscreants.
Peace is achievable by anyone and everyone, all that is needed is the resolve for peace. Our leaders should take concrete steps to ensure peace and stability by recognising all ethnic groups, religions and whatever faiths people may profess as equals.
• Jimoh is executive director, Passion for Peace Initiative, Ilorin, Kwara State.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”