Fruitless Hunt for Boko Haram

It’s about time we admitted that we’ve lost the Boko Haram war. The battle that started eight years ago is ending in victory for the terrorists. Has Nigeria not become a failed state?

The massacre and kidnap of oil finders last Tuesday in Borno State and the federal government’s suspension of the project in the Chad Basin should convince doubters that Boko Haram has won the war. Instead of prolonging the conflict and wasting more precious lives, the authorities should consider granting the “freedom fighters” independence in their “caliphate”, the north-east region.

Recognising the six geopolitical zones as Nigeria’s federating units is a major ingredient of the restructuring agenda many of us have been clamouring for. The politicians in the National Assembly – and their friends in state houses and Aso Villa – are proving to be stumbling blocks, forgetting what JF Kennedy once said: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” A strong regional government in the north-east might decide to surrender power to Boko Haram or call its sons-turned-militants to order.

For how much longer will Nigeria survive without restructuring? Not for long. The clouds have gathered and there’s nothing to expect but a storm. Let the ruling APC keep denying that it promised to restructure Nigeria, even though the pledge appears clearly in its constitution. And before the panel the party has constituted to find out what “restructuring” means submits its report, here is a tip: it means the very slogan of the APC — “Change”.

Had Nigeria been “changed” since the APC came to power, Boko Haram would have fizzled out long before now. But because our leaders keep pretending that all’s well – and keep feeding us with giant lies – more and more innocent Nigerians have been sacrificed. Today 40 terrorists are arrested; tomorrow they are released or considered for amnesty. Today Boko Haram has been technically defeated; tomorrow fighter jets are mistakenly dropping bombs on IDP camps. Today Shekau is killed; tomorrow the army is launching a manhunt for Shekau.

Many women are being widowed unnecessarily. Or does anyone know the number of soldiers that have gone missing in Sambisa Forest? Eighteen of them were killed last week along with five university dons, members of the Civilian JTF, and engineers from the NNPC. Altogether 48 bodies are lying in the morgue of the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital now. Even the news agencies have lost count of the number of casualties of the Boko Haram war so far. They quote between 22, 000 and 25, 000 but the actual figure must be much higher when the mass deaths in IDP camps are factored in.

What must have caused the latest tragedy is army chief Buratai’s directive that terror kingpin Abubakar Shekau should be delivered to him dead or alive within 40 days. When I heard that order, I predicted that a calamity would follow. How did I know? Below are extracts from my column of July 3, 2011, entitled “The hunt for Boko Haram”:

“The last time police boss Hafiz Ringim threatened to wipe out Boko Haram, we knew what followed: more than 20 people dead, more than 70 cars destroyed, panic throughout the nation. Now army chief General Azubuike Ihejirika has courted a similar disaster by calling them cowards. If the militants decided to prove him wrong, innocent people would be the victims again. Should these people not be warned to mind their language?

“Generals can always speak from the safety of their armoured tanks. Presidents, state governors and their henchmen can afford to keep their mouths busy with assurances of safety of life and property. But the rest of us appear helpless… So any ‘bloody civilian’ visiting the army headquarters or attending a function with generals ought to be more security-conscious.

“Boko Haram has finally proved that, indeed, Nigeria is a failed state… All the information the police had been dishing out about the suicide bomber was inaccurate; Boko Haram had better intelligence. It may be necessary to scrap the police and replace them with Boko Haram. And I mean it. We would feel safer. Or consider the reactions of the security agencies to the threat of militants. The Federal Capital Territory Abuja has been under siege. A hemp-smoking colonel must have directed some hungry-looking soldiers to unleash much suffering on the poor masses with roadblocks everywhere… Yet, the hunters have not caught even a fly – I don’t think they can recognise a bomb when they see one. That’s why spare tyres, laptops and rags scare them during the search. Indeed, those who sent them to terrorise motorists did not intend to prevent any bomb from entering Abuja: any bomber can enter with ease, just as many motorists have learnt to beat the checkpoints.

“While we were still lamenting the soldiers’ wickedness, the authorities in the FCT imposed a curfew on Abuja. Some contract-inflating, money-embezzling bureaucrats ordered that all night clubs, beer parlours and drinking joints should close. By so doing they intended to kill tens of thousands of jobs at a time the unemployment rate is near 80 per cent. What kind of country is this?

“It is such wickedness in high places that Boko Haram is against. Many may not agree with their methods, but many Nigerians regard its members not as terrorists but as militants. Boko Haram is against injustice. It stands against government corruption that has killed jobs and rendered academic qualifications useless. Yes, boko is haram – the kind of western education we receive here is really bad. Were it not so, why would a graduate governor or professor embezzle N190 billion belonging to his fellow compatriots? Why would a ‘learned judge’ deliver injustice as judgement? Why should a suspected chicken thief remain in jail for 10 years without trial while a mass murderer (who stole billions and thus killed thousands) is celebrated and given national awards? Every unemployed graduate in Nigeria today is a potential Boko Haram member. So are all the poor and starving. And those that have brought this misery on the majority should not expect peace in this rich country of poor people.

“The army and the police we have should confess that they are incompetent to fight terror. They are not trained. They are ill-equipped. Their intelligence information is suspect. My guess is that Boko Haram has members in the police, the armed forces and in the legislature. It’s likely that whenever some people want more funds, they generate a crisis so that the powers that be can release the cheques. The amnesty programme in the Niger Delta has shown that terror is the best instrument of getting the government’s ear. Niger Deltans that never engaged in kidnapping or assassinations or robbery have been ignored; it’s the ‘militants’ that are being paid N60, 000 monthly for doing no work.”

End of quote. So, I saw the future six years early. And I warned: “They [soldiers] don’t have the capacity and competence to find the members of Boko Haram. More innocent people should not die for no just cause.”


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