CHIBOK GIRLS: FOREIGN ASSISTANCE AND NEED FOR CAUTION
The tragic abduction of over 200 girls from a secondary school in Chibok by the notoriously ruthless Boko Haram sect should send shivers down the spine of anyone with even an ounce of humanity in them. It is therefore understandable that the whole world is standing with Nigeria to condemn the act, especially with the matter having gone so viral on social media.
The support the world is offering does not just stop at the '#Bring back our girls' campaign which has had over a million hits so far. Right now, countries like the United States of America, United Kingdom, China, France, Canada, and Isreal, most of them world super powers, have began to send their teams of counter-terrorism officials and other specialists to Abuja to help save those unfortunate girls.
It is true that we cannot refuse help at a time like this, especially with emotions running high and everyone anxious for the girls to return as soon as possible. Yet we have to be mindful of the kind of support we receive.
This is not a helpless country. Nigeria has a great track record in peace-keeping operations all over the world, and our Army has acquitted itself well. Nigerian soldiers have a reputation for bravery, operational efficiency, discipline and patriotism. No one should give the impression that we don't have capabilities here. In fact, didn't we just catch the people involved in the latest Nyanya bombings, and if I may add, without foreign support. My point is that we must be careful whose support we take and how much.
Despite the best of intentions, it is usually better to control the extent to which you allow foreign troops to enter your country or use invasive techniques to ferret out information about your troops, their capability, their operational procedure and their morale.
There should be a limit to the freedom we give foreign governments to interfere in this matter because some day they will come for their pound of flesh. Besides, terrorism is not stamped out by the use of superior fire power to mow down men and that is one lesson we have learnt from the US efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan has been careful not to accept all the offers for foreign support in the fight against Boko Haram in the past. And it has taken this latest atrocity, the kidnap of the Chibok girls, and the attendant pressure from world leaders to convince him to accept external help. He accepted the help because he has promised to do everything possible to bring back our girls.
However, no matter the pain we feel today, caution should be our watch word; as nothing is greater than the sovereignty of Nigeria, our great nation. It will not do to allow foreigners just walk through the place like some superheroes coming to rescue a Third World country from itself.
As callous as the Boko Haram sect has been, as heinous and unconscionable the act of abducting those girls from their school, we may yet discover that they were easier to deal with than the foreigners we have called in to fight them.
Most worrisome is the fact that the presence of foreign support from so many countries can easily turn Nigeria into another battle ground and a multilateral force with contending interests will only complicate, if not compromise, our security.
If the lessons of history are anything to go by, one cannot say for sure that the coming of these foreign terrorism specialists would be the end of Boko Haram. There are simply no guarantees. And one must have it at the back of his or her mind that even in their home country the fight against terror is still a major challenge, one that has still not been won. Specifically, Afghanistan has been fighting terrorism for over a decade and despite the US support, there is still no end to it.
In addition, it is easier to call them in; the real problem is getting them out. And in the case of Nigeria, it is surely bound to be even much more difficult especially with the abundant resources (oil and gas among others) that mother earth has deposited here. We must therefore be careful about signing off on their terms so that we are not enslaved economically.
Another disturbing aspect we need to work out is the impact of these foreign experts on our soldiers so that their presence does not dampen the morale of our military. For instance, according to a US official, the United States military, which is being despatched by The Pentagon to assist in the search and rescue of the Chibok girls, will screen Nigerian soldiers with whom they will operate. Unless the procedure is handled properly, it can become unpleasant for members of our armed forces.
One very important reason for caution is the position that Nigeria occupies in Africa as the largest black nation. As one of the most influential African nations, if we put ourselves in the hands of these super powers, it simply means that we are putting the continent in their hands. It will therefore not be farfetched to say that their eagerness in collaborating to fight Boko Haram is pursuant to their desire to establish military bases in Nigeria. They have tried it in the past with little success; one cannot help but pray that they do not succeed this time around.
If there is truly no ulterior motive to the assistance they are offering, then the best way to go about it is by sharing intelligence with us, by giving us some of those sophisticated gadgets that will assist in locating the camps of the terrorists, by training our security operatives in counter-terrorism and by giving us the arms we need to improve our capacity to fight the threat. And to clearly show that the collaboration is only necessitated by the need to free the Chibok girls, the super powers should leave as soon as the girls are found; for anything other than this will amount to an intrusion.
One basic lesson from Mario Puzo's Godfather, is that one should be wary of those who are quick to offer help. In fact, he advised that one should always pause and ask himself what he has done to deserve such hospitality. And if the answer is 'nothing', then something is fishy. Therefore, as Nigerians, we should ponder if this deluge of military support from all over is really necessary.
Written By Musa Yakubu