BOKO HARAM AND THE RIGHT TO SELF-DEFENSE By: Dennis Alemu
The ruthless, mass slaughtering of Nigerians, especially Christians with southern roots in parts of the north, by the egregious terror machine called Boko Haram provides an eloquent testimony to the evolution, over time, of large-scale criminal organizations in the entire geo-political space of Nigeria.
Some of these large-scale criminal organizations which enjoy high political patronage and support, like the Boko Haram, have started to unleash a deadly campaign of terror on the nation. This prospect is what some of us foresaw and warned the nation of, some years back with prophetic prescience but such warnings were never taken seriously by the political Establishment.
By all intents and purposes, the recent press release by the self-pronounced, nondescript spokesperson of the Islamist sect, Abdul Qaqa, to the effect that their bloody campaign is directed against Christians and that their objective is an implacable one to turn Nigeria into an Islamic state, is nothing short of a formal declaration of war against the Nigerian state and their primary targets - the Christian community and all that the latter stood for in Nigeria.
This declaration of war, as it were, resonates with the tenor of late Muammar Gaddafi's strong view that Nigeria should be split into two different countries, along the lines of Christianity and Islam.
Interestingly, the former Libyan leader was labelled 'an enemy of the state' as he then had a bad press for his putatively unbecoming statement.
But have we proved Gaddafi wrong?
The success story of Boko Haram in consummating this satanic mission to Islamize Nigeria, a secularized country with a high ethnic density, has given me cause to question the efficacy of the Nigerian Police and the other intelligence services. In fact, the level of insecurity in Nigeria today is an open indictment of the security services. I am constrained to believe that this prevailing climate of insecurity that has enveloped the nation is a telling indication that Nigeria can't combat terrorism through effective intelligence-gathering which is a pivotal tool for proactively checkmating terrorist activities. For example, it is reported that the volume of arms and ammunition being illegally imported into Nigeria in a year is valued at over N15billion. Just a few days back, a Nigera-bound heavily loaded truck with arms was intercepted in Ghana. Only God knows the number that comes in safely without being detected or bribes their way through the very stronghold of corruption that is Nigeria.
There is no gainsaying that the Boko Haram, since its advent in Nigeria, has sent hundreds to their untimely graves. The statistics are simply mind-boggling. Members of the dreaded sect had been trained by al-Qaeda.
Some of them are still being groomed elsewhere in the Maghreb and they are believed to have strong ties with the Somali Islamic militia, al-Shabab, which is reputed as one of the most deadly terrorist outfits in the world.
This is why not a few believe that the sect is actually here to stay and that Nigerians are in for more bloody bomb attacks as it proselytizes Islam on the platform of violence - an unholy jihad being waged with guerrilla tactics, as witnessed in Borno, Yobe, Plateau, Bauchi, Niger and even the FCT. As is well-known, guerrilla warfare is about the most difficult kind of belligerence to contain militarily, especially when the enemy is amorphous. The best weapon against it is effective intelligence gathering, tracking and taking appropriate actions.
But as I did point out earlier, the Nigerian intelligence services seem bereft of the tactical competence and sophistication being deployed elsewhere in combating terrorism and organized crime. One is persuaded that the parlous state of Nigeria's intelligence services is a true reflection of the virus of corruption which had left most vital organs of the Nigerian state comatose with the concomitant far-reaching consequences.
It is with this understanding that government must see the unassailable monster of corruption as one of the biggest challenges on its path to create a secure nation. Sadly, the present administration has not practically demonstrated a strong, irrevocable commitment to fight corruption, even as it openly consorts and flirts with those convicted for corruption in public office.
Now that bombs are freely thrown into worship centres and other crowded public places with criminal impunity, resulting in callous decimation of lives, what should law-abiding citizens do? A prominent member of the Nigerian Christian community, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, had advised Christians to defend themselves when attacked.
The advice, as good as it seems, is anything but a lasting panacea for the problem. Be that as it may, we can't accuse Oritsejafor of inciting violence, because even God Himself recognizes man's right to life, as we find in many passages of the Bible where the Israelites under God's guidance fought their enemies. More so, nobody or group of persons has a monopoly of the weapon of violence, as thinking so would amount to reinforcing a dangerous orthodoxy in an already religiously polarized nation.
Deductively, the highly combustible flames of violence that have convulsed the nation in recent times point to an inevitable civil war situation if enough care is not taken. No sect or section of Nigeria can succeed in forcibly imposing its faith on the rest of the country; even if this had worked out in the past in countries like Egypt, Libya, etc., it can't succeed in Nigeria.
The first responsibility of any government is to secure its citizens. The Federal Government should therefore have to put aside sentiment and go headlong to crush the Boko Haram sect, to assure all Nigerians that the country's indivisibility and unity is sacrosanct and intact.
While Christians have demonstrated a lot of stoicism in the face of provocation, occasioned by senseless killing and maiming, it is quite instructive that if it were Christians said to be killing Muslim faithful in the south, Nigeria would have since gone up in flames. The Federal Government has no choice but to crush this rebellious sect before everyone becomes a victim of this intractable violence Boko Haram has been orchestrating.
*Mr. Dennis, a media consultant, writes from Yenagoa.