THE MURDERERS IN OUR MIDST
The time to act is now. We cannot remain at the mercy of some ideology that reduces the country to fear and insecurity. The murderous rage of Boko Haram has now permeated too deep into the fabrics of Nigeria, and I fear that our country is on the brink of a divide. The government may try and use words to soothe nerves, but they will remain hypertensive especially when concrete action is a long way off.
The sword of Damocles hangs over our country and our leaders are powerless in the face of several adversities. My heart goes out to President Goodluck Jonathan because he is faced with challenges unprecedented in the history of Nigeria and there appears to be no direction or effective coordination in managing and resolving the numerous obstacles that plague our dear country. The signs are ominous and are signs not of a failing state but of a failed state.
President Barack Obama attempts at grappling with the economic situation in America is failing and the people rightly blame their president for his inability to resolve this problem. The implication is that Obama is saddled with the very possibility of not being re-elected into the White House next year. Our anger and annoyance so rightly falls on Jonathan’s door steps – he is my president, he is our president.
The major problem with Somalia today is security. The Somalian government has tried and failed. The US government came to the rescue, they too tried and failed. Kenya is trying but they will fail. Islamist fundamentalists have taken control of Somalia and its resources, and have effectively used piracy as their pivotal weapon with the international community powerless in trying to resolve this. Boko Haram has suddenly taken over the hearts and minds of Nigerians and our security forces have failed in targeting the sect. The longer it takes for our security forces to nip this menace in a bud, the longer it takes for Boko Haram to penetrate further, recruit more members, attract more alliances, get more funding, create more terror cells and then it will be a daily bombardment of people and assets. Game over.
When 9/11 happened in America, a new threat never envisaged destroyed the American psyche and the decision was to find these terrorist wherever they may be. It was a more difficult battle for the American government because these terrorists were not based in America. Yet, their security operation spanned Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen etc and even though the threat remains, gains have been made. When 7/7 happened in London, the British Government was astounded and supported greatly the resolve of the Americans to hunt the terrorists down. The British government had a greater problem because many Islamic fundamentalists and radicals resided in Britain, and that meant there were home grown threats as well. The security intelligence has so far succeeded in avoiding a repeat of the train blast in London. Effective intelligence has been the mainstay of this strategy to root out terrorism.
Now Boko Haram – the murders are among us. Despite our security apparatus not being as robust as the British and Americans, I know firmly within my heart that our security agencies know the ring leaders and those sponsoring these terrorist activities but for political considerations. And political considerations have immensely contributed to the present state of decay in all sectors of the economy. The Governor of Niger state during the Northern Governors’ forum hit the nail on the head when he said, “We cannot drag our feet any longer. We can't continue to double-speak in our handling of the issues, saying one thing in the open and acting differently in private”.
The Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, Lt. Gen. Jeremiah Useni (rtd) publicly accused a former Borno state Governor of using private thugs to do his election bidding and those thugs are the fulcrum of Boko Haram today. There were accusations, counter-accusations and denials on the pages of newspapers. There were meetings in Aso rock with some of the stakeholders in the affected Northern states but nothing has progressed. There was a rallying call by the Northern governors that all governors harbouring such private armies should disband them. I am not accusing the governors of sponsoring terrorism, but they hired the people who did their election bidding and now there are severe consequences of that decision. Even though these murderers have metamorphosed into a monster bigger than what the said governors envisaged, these people are known. But no Governor will dare fight or attempt to fight this malaise because they will become target. Only recently, Isa Yuguda of Bauchi state and former Governor of Gombe state, Danjuma Goje publicly apologised to the Boko Haram sect. In apt description during the eulogy given by Soyinka at the death of Bola Ige, he said “There are the unwitting collaborators whose blind politics brought this moment to be, whose primitive notions of contestation offered up this land of sacrificial platter.”
Remember when Sharia law was introduced in Zamfara state and some states in the North. That was an introduction the fundamentalists desperately required and they won. This became a tool to radicalise many people and impose their own brand of religion. Now they sing a tune of “Western education is sacrilege” and are of course pushing for Islamic banking as well. Not that I have anything against Islamic banking, not at all, but all appears to be a script to push an agenda that is inimical to one Nigeria.
Intelligence is simply information gathering. The common man in the streets in the states Boko Haram remain supreme know the members of this sect. Go to Borno, Yobe, Gombe and Bauchi states and the evidence will stare you in the face. The security agencies have been there and they remain there. They have some of their evidence and they have arrested several members of this sect, and they have confessional statements. But the security situation has become alarmingly scary. The government even considered amnesty for the sect members (political considerations). The state of insecurity in the country at the moment and the level of fear in the minds of all Nigerians points to the fact that justice must be brought to Boko Haram.
This is what George Bush had to say on terrorism, “We have learned that terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength; they are invited by the perception of weakness. And the surest way to avoid attacks on our own people is to engage the enemy where he lives and plans.” The government has to stand up firmly against these people. They have to be hunted down. They cannot be allowed to continue to inflict untold hardship. Even the Commissioner of Police in Yobe State as quoted by Associated Press confirms our worst fears, “Our men who live in the midst of the Boko Haram are not safe”. If the police that are meant to ensure safety of lives and property is not safe, what hope for the common man? This statement epitomises the state of anarchy at the moment. On London bombing, Tony Blair said, “The greatest danger is that we fail to face up to the nature of the threat we are dealing with..... Neither is it true that they have no demands. They do. It is just that no sane person would negotiate on them”.
The Special Adviser to the President on Security Matters lost his job as a consequence of the bombing of the UN building in Abuja. I don’t know the facts nor know the reasoning behind this but what I know is that if I was President, the Inspector General of Police and the head of the State Security Services will join him in the casualty ward. They are the two people responsible for maintaining and ensuring security of lives and property in the country. They have handicaps undoubtedly, but as there was a casualty list, they had to top it.
Most of the developed countries have long issued travel warnings to Nigeria. Do you know how much foreign directs investments are affected by such warnings? Image in everything and such warnings never do any country favours especially when the security agencies are weak in tackling this. Many Nigerians never believe when the police or SSS parade people in front of the media as being suspects of terrorism, murder and kidnapping. What a reputation to have. The obvious reasoning is that innocent people have been rounded up severally and paraded as suspects just to satisfy Nigerians that they take their jobs seriously. Terrorism activities in the Niger-Delta came with travel warnings, kidnapping in several states of the country came with travel warnings and Boko Haram activities in the North came with its own warning. This is a dangerous precedent. The US Embassy has now issued a warning to its citizens in Nigeria to avoid some luxury hotels in Abuja as being possible terrorist targets. Now, hotels, what next? We are not safe.
The game will be over if Boko Haram takes its terrorism to the western and eastern part of the country. Whether we like it or not, there is still deep seated sectionalism in our dear country. In an attempt to get inspiration for a movie script, I recently read Wole Soyinka’s The Man Died, and I tell you, some of the dastardly acts that happened then are happening now. The same emotion that ran in the minds of the victims of the pre and post war still runs now. That was the period of the civil war. Boko Haram comes with an Islamic agenda (albeit wrongly) to halt western education but they are not targeting schools – Ironic.
The security apparatus of the country must be overhauled. A sense of responsibility must be instilled. The infrastructure to support the work of security agencies must be granted. Our borders must be secure because Customs and Immigration have slept while arms, ammunitions and bombs have sneaked into our country. A sense of direction and leadership in solving the unending problems of the Nigerian state must be seen. I see the benefits of a Sovereign National Conference. This is a conference we cannot avoid, whether now or in a few years. The East continues to complain of marginalisation. The South West now sings the same song in the present dispensation and only the North appears satisfied. Yet, the North is faced with unprecedented insecurity. The Niger-Delta is still a war front, where the soldiers are only on break. Revenue allocation formula continues to be a regular battle, who gains and who loses.
I have lived my life as an optimistic but as far as security is concerned, there is nothing to celebrate. Our country is in a state of anarchy, a state of emergency in security must be called. These murderers in our midst must be stopped.
Written by Efosa Agho. Email: [email protected]