THE BOKO HARAM RIDDLE
Of all the recent developments in the polity, one major issue stands out as seriously deserving of attention. It is the Boko Haram riddle. This is a problem that is claiming so many lives and property yet, no matter how hard Nigerians wish the problem of the violent religious fundamentalist sect which believes education is a sin would go away, it becomes more serious by day.
Hardly any day passes without reports of bombs being detonated in one part of the North or the other. When Nigerians thought that the bomb explosion at the Nigeria Police Headquarters, Abuja, on June 16 was the climax of the saga that would force a prompt resolution of the problem by the authorities, the bombings have continued unabated.
The most recent of the dastardly bombings occurred last Sunday with the bombing of drinking joints in the Boko Haram stronghold, Maiduguri, killing about 25 people. As usual, the incident left in its trail blood and tears, and questions on when the government will eventually get around the problem of the sect that has become a threat to peace and security of the country.
The Boko Haram menace has become a conundrum that Nigeria's security agencies need to quickly unravel. It is, indeed, worrisome that some elements in the society will set themselves up as a government and ride roughshod over the people, killing and maiming at will with government only responding with promises to get to the root the problem.
Unfortunately, it has become glaring to even the most devoted supporters of the government that the authorities are at their wits end on this riddle. It is clear that the pronouncements of government and the threats of tackling the problem with superior ammunition will not solve the problem. The Boko Haram left no one in doubt about this with the daring bombing within the premises of the Police Headquarters. This is clearly because it is not always easy to fight a guerilla war such as Boko Haram has declared on the authorities with use of firearms only.
The more important thing to do on this issue is to deploy superior intelligence to detect the security threats where they are and pre-empt their attacks.
In addition, the impunity with which the sect has been killing since it launched its first attack around 2009 is another incentive to more of such attacks.
It is not only on Boko Haram that government is guilty on this. Over the years, mindless killing of people in different parts of the country have gone unpunished, thereby creating the impression that government lacks the wherewithal to tackle such problems.
In Plateau State, religious cum political riots have turned the once beautiful Plateau that we all grew up to know as a tourist attraction into a no go area for many Nigerians.
In other parts of the country, people are killed at will. There are so many unresolved high profile murders. A former chief law officer of the nation, Chief Bola Ige, was murdered with no one punished for it. So many other politicians and businessmen have been butchered with no serious effort seen made to bring their murderers to book.
The lesson from such dastardly acts is that people are free to take the law into their hands and engage in jungle justice. When such crimes are not punished, other people are emboldened to carry out similar acts.
The diary of killings by Boko Haram reflects this. Records show that since the group unleashed one of its earliest attacks on Dutsen-Tanshi police station in Bauchi on July 26, 2009, its attacks have been increasing at an alarming proportion.
While the group clashed with the police four times in July 2009, leading to the death of some policemen, a soldier and a fire service officer, the group attacked about three times in 2010.
In the September 7, 2010 attack, 700 of its detained members were set free. Since the beginning of this year alone, 24 attacks have been attributed to the group, with many policemen and civilians dead. This situation has become such that all Nigerians, and not only security agents are worried on the implications of such brazen attacks for the peace of the country.
With incessant bombings and killings, and the insistence of Boko Haram on issuing commands to the Federal Government on implementation of Sharia law and the people they do not want as state governors, Nigerians need to sit up to ensure that the prediction by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that Nigeria may disintegrate in 2015 does not come to pass.
The outcome of the recent presidential election and the violence that trailed it are worrisome signposts that future elections in the country may provoke such mayhem as may threaten the peaceful existence of the country. Already, the sect is insisting on its demand for declaration of 12 core Northern States as Islamic States.
What all these point to is that government should be proactive and decisive in tackling the challenge of the fundamentalists. The way to go about it is not through violence. If government cannot masterfully declare its sovereignty over the Boko Haram elements, it should engage them with a view to ending their reign of violence.
That is not, however, to say that they should be paid through an amnesty package. Indeed, they have not demanded such payment. The government should rather get to the root of their grievances and find a way to arrive at a solution that offers the best hope for a peaceful resolution of the problem.
The government will do well to determine the underpinnings of the sect, including their backers and sponsors, to arrive at this solution. If this riddle is not resolved carefully and expeditiously, it will lead to more crises. The search for a solution must be inclusive and not something that one government official arrives at unilaterally. In that wise, the plan by the government to build 100 schools for almajiris, to take them off the streets and stem restiveness, though good, is coming rather late in the day. It cannot address the present problem of Boko Haram but will come in useful for the near future.
One of the reasons why the Boko Haram challenge has to be tackled expeditiously is its capacity to encourage similar problems in other parts of the country. Already, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) led by Barrister Ralph Uwazuruike has threatened to resort to violence to get the ears of the government. Let the problem be handled in the way that it will not generate more problems for the country.
Although the Federal Government has been reported to have invited foreign intelligence agencies to help resolve the Bokom Haram imbroglio, the government itself must do more, internally, to address the problem. The Boko Haram riddle is partly a fallout of the failure of Nigerian leaders to provide for good education and decent living for the youths. The twin problem of poverty and unemployment is a fuel boosting development of anti-social and violent tendencies among disenfranchised Nigerian youths.
A nation that cares for its youths and provides opportunities for good education, gainful employment and self actualisation is not likely to wake up one day and find Boko Haram problem on its doorsteps. What Nigeria has on her hands is what happens when youths become angry with the government and they become easy prey in the hands of those who have grouses with the authorities.
The involvement of foreigners in the attacks, as confirmed by the group, has worsened the problem and unless tackled quickly, could lead to more serious developments.
To resolve the problem, serious engagement of religious and political leaders in the North and strict adherence to rule of law in handling those found guilty of criminal offences during any mayhem will go a long way. Islamic religious leaders and institutions have a major role to play in resolving the Boko Haram conundrum. President Jonathan and the security agencies should give them pride of place in the quest for restoration of peace in the Northern part of the country while security and intelligence agencies should do more to bring the problem under control.