On Chibok Girls Kidnap, Terrorism And Boko Haram Crises, President Jonathan Should Launch 'Operation Iron Fist', Not This Committee
USAfrica, Houston: On May 2, 2014, Nigeria's President and Commander-in-Chief Goodluck Jonathan and his security team held an extended meeting focused, largely, on the kidnapping of the Chibok girls and the bomb blast near Abuja (the later left 20 dead, last week). According to Information Minister Labaran Maku, President Jonathan is promising Nigerians that 'wherever the girls are in the world, we will get them back, apprehend and punish the culprits.' Also, in terms of policy execution and response, Maku added that 'the President has set up a fact-finding committee.' Seriously?
The fact is the President means well, but can do better.
First, I think that rather than respond with a committee on the Chibok Girls, terrorism and Boko Haram crises, President Jonathan should launch an Operation Iron Fist! The Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria's armed forces should, discreetly and decisively, defang the Boko Haram gang!
Second, I think that President Jonathan's fertile promise to get the Chibok Girls back is reassuring when juxtaposed against the reality of the present circumstances of the distraught parents of at least 276 teenagers. I also know that the warped psychology, satanist ideology, brigandage and lethal impunity of Boko Haram does not require the announcement of a presidential 'committee' for the verification of the enrollment list at Chibok school in Borno State. No. Not at this time. The Chibok Girls were forcibly taken by armed members of the radical, violent Islamic, pro al-Qaeda sect known as Boko Haram on April 15, 2014.
Third, countries which have successfully confronted and defeated (not clinically eliminated) terrorism such as the U.S and Israel do not announce committees when a bomb or hijack or kidnap occurs! You deal decisively with the beast; period. Little wonder that such expectations are common especially for those Nigerians in the diaspora who are familiar with the more swift responses to such incidents. Nigerians abroad and at home point harshly to the announcement that on the Chibok Girls abduction, their 'President has set up a fact-finding committee.' Those thoughts are across the social media.
Fourth, Boko Haram, the group of Islamic radicals and terrorists which President Jonathan in 2013 dismissed as 'ghosts' seem more violent than mechanized brigades of some standing armies. Somehow, they have made parts of Nigeria, materially, unsafe and worse, ungovernable.
Fifth, at this time, Nigerians need much more than committees and bureaucratic meetings - especially after 4 bloody years of wanton violence by Boko Haram in parts of the north eastern Nigeria and around Abuja.
Mr. President, if Boko and its financiers are not defeated before the 'ember months 2014, Boko effect will impact the 2015 elections, negatively!
Sixth, at this time of transformative and violent dynamics in Nigeria's history, we don't need a committee to count the exact number of the kidnapped, violated Chibok Girls.
Seven, at this time of the brutal, unrelenting actions of Boko Haram, without mincing words, we don't need a committee to count the exact number of the kidnapped who escape. Simply, Nigerians want All of the Chibok Girls home!
Eight, at this time, amidst the cries of mothers everywhere asking #BringOurGirlsBack, those mothers and their families need the unwavering, definably Strong shoulder of the President of Nigeria; not the impersonality of a tabulating committee.
Let's go back for some vital, historical context.
USAfrica News Index on Nigeria show that on March 5, 2013 in Kaduna, the Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Sa'ad Abubakar III, a former soldier, asked President Goodluck Jonathan to immediately grant amnesty to all members of the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, as a path to ending the violence unleashed on millions of Nigerians and foreigners by Boko Haram and its spin-offs. Permit me to note I was acquainted with the Sultan from 1987-1988 while he was at the 32nd Armoured Brigade of the Nigerian Army and I was on national service at the Nigerian Army School of Education (NASE).
On September 29, 2013, in obvious exasperation Jonathan expressed his frustration with Boko Haram during a church service at the National Christian centre to commemorate the 53rd Independence anniversary in 2013 that 'Today you will agree with me that if you are in my shoes you will lack the words to say anything. We had this programme in mind and when we went to bed last night and agreed that we will all gather here to thank God for what he has done for this country. Only few minutes after midnight about twenty one students were murdered by a group that called themselves Boko Haram. If you were wearing my shoes what comment will you have to tell Nigerians what message will you tell the parents of these young people, our future leaders who were killed at the College of Agriculture?
Can you say that the killing of these students is political? Those students belong to which political parties? Will you say it was ethnic cleansing? Those students belong to which ethnic group in Nigeria? Was it religious? Those students were they Christians or Muslims or what? This is what we see on a daily basis. It is quite depressing.'
The USAfrica News Index on this issue and period (November 2011 to March 2013) show that Nigeria's President initially, it seemed, strongly disagreed with the calls for amnesty for Boko Haram. On March 5, 2013, he insisted that 'You cannot declare amnesty for ghosts.' He made those comments in the northern Yobe state capital Damaturu.
The embattled President argued, in contrast, that those who argue he should extend to Boko Haram a similar amnesty of financial and peace deals (his government has continued with militants from his home state and region) should note that: 'In the Niger Delta, if you call them [the militants], they come and they will tell you their grievances; but Boko Haram, I don't see anybody who says they are Boko Haram.'
Of course, the reality of Boko Haram exists around Abuja and the crises torn north east of Nigeria where the Islamic radicals use as their haven to fight 'western education' and values.
The captors of the Chibok Girls reportedly came in military uniforms - a familiar tactic of the Boko Haram gunmen. USAfricaonline.com reported on October 21, 2013 that the growing concerns over security and the brazen attacks by the radical group Boko were highlighted when Boko Haram gunmen dressed in military uniform on Sunday (October 20, 2013) killed 19 people near the town of Logumani, close to the Nigerian northeastern border with Cameroon.
A senior national security adviser to Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan indicated to USAfrica and USAfricaonline.com from Abuja on Monday October 21, 2013 that the Logumani killings and previous attacks reignited the ongoing disagreements and debates within the Nigerian presidency between those who say that Boko Haram has been minimized and those who argue for an iron-fist, sweeping approach. The latter have contended against key leaders of Nigeria from the core, old northern Nigeria.
Those who argue for accommodation and gradualist approach insist that Boko Haram is an inconvenience Nigerians will have to live with (as argued by President Jonathan). Within the presidency, those who agree with the President make the additional argument, according to the USAfrica sources, that 'a renewed aggressive engagement might push some of the populace to some level of sympathy' towards the side of Boko Haram.
The hardliners insist that the strong assault on the enclaves of Boko Haram the past summer of 2013 will only continue 'to push them to the margins.' One of those whose influential voices demanded for a mediated coexistence with Boko Haram is the Sultan of Sokoto.
Abubakar, who is also the President-General of Ja'matu Nasril Islam, JNI, said in 2012 that he preferred amnesty, arguing 'That problem can never be solved by drafting soldiers into cities where there is [a] problem - and in the process innocent lives were lost.'
IF the Jonathan presidency choses to minimize the raw, violent exertions of Boko Haram on Nigeria's national security - especially as it affects business, investments and tourism, it may continue this awkward, bloody dance with the serially violent 'ghosts' of Boko Haram. What manner of ghosts?
On balance, on the Chibok Girls, terrorism and Boko Haram crises, President Jonathan should launch an Operation Iron Fist! The Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria's armed forces should, discreetly and decisively, defang the Boko Haram gang! There can be only one Commander-in-Chief, putative and practical. Until then, #BringOurGirlsBack.
Dr. Chido Nwangwu, author of the forthcoming book Mandela: Immortal Icon, moderator of the Achebe Colloquium (Governance, Security, and Peace in Africa 2012) at Brown University in Rhode Island and former adviser on Africa business/issues to the Mayor of Houston, is the Founder & Publisher of Houston-based USAfrica multimedia networks since 1992, first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com. He has been profiled by the CNN International for his pioneering works on multimedia/news/public policy projects for Africans and Americans. http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/international/2010/07/29/mpa.african.media.bk.a.cnn Follow him at Twitter.com/Chido247