Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Boko Haram: Why Boston Isn’t Kano, By Garba Shehu


Garba Shehu

Two movie-like incidents occurred in two cities – Kano in Northern Nigeria and Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A. The two incidents marked the difference between policing in Nigeria and the policing in the U.S.A. This discussion is not about the social media landscape and the role twitter played, turning millions of Americans into police reporters.

For the first time since terrorism reared its ugly head in the mega commercial city that is Kano, the members of the public confronted two bombers who detonated their device in front of the Emir, Alhaji Ado Bayero’s palace. One of the bombers died on the spot due to severe beating he got. His body and the tricycle on which they rode were burnt to ashes by the mob. The other bomber captured alive was moved into the palace before the arrival of the security officials. It was a herculean task for palace officials to stop the mob from finishing off the second bomber. This public anger was itself justifiable. The detonation of the explosive indicated that the intention of the perpetrators was not only to create panic but to cause casualties. When the security men came, the first thing they did, a witness told the Hausa Service of the Voice of America, was to shoot the suspect on his thigh. They carried him off, presumably to their detention centre. A few hours later, the JTF announced that this second bomber, taken alive had also died. Knowing how these things are done in the country today, they may actually have executed him the moment they took the suspect away from public view.

Lamentably, this has cost the country an opportunity to determine whether the blast was carried out by angry individuals with grievances against the Emir; against the state or federal government or by an ideologically motivated group or organization of which the Jama’atul-Alil Sunna Wal-Iqamatu Wal-Jihad, better known as Boko Haram says it is one.

By the suspect’s execution, the Joint Task Force has by design or by default conveyed the message that they cannot afford the boy alive, or that they cannot afford a trial. On this, the public is entitled to its opinion. This could be interpreted to mean the interruption or silencing of the suspect’s narrative. Was anyone afraid that they would be in danger of being implicated by the suspect’s interrogation? Let us not forget that the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, told the nation that in his own government, the judiciary, the parliament and the security services, there are Boko Haram members.

The huge difference between the Nigerian and American police showed in the incident involving the two Chechnya brothers, Termelan Tsarnaev (26) and Dzhorkhar Tsarnaev (19). The police in Boston showed the world that they are accurate, focused, well-coordinated, surgical and tactical. Termelan was killed, may be by explosives he carried on himself; may be police gunshots and/or possibly by his brother overrunning him with a car in a desperate attempt to escape. The accounts vary. The important lesson is in the fact that the younger Tsarnaev is undergoing treatment in an intensive care and that no effort is being spared to bring him back to life. As Barrack Obama, the US President said, questions remained from the bombing, including whether the suspects received any help. If their policing by its orientation was geared towards elimination, the police in Boston would simply have allowed the second marathon bomber to bleed to death. In their search for this suspect, police deployed imagery from surveillance cameras, they used the internet, the intelligence agencies, the FBI, armoured cars and helicopters. To adapt the words of a blogger, Nigeria is still looking for criminals with club sticks, torchlights, Mark IV riffles, crash helmets, worn out walkie-talkie and pick-up vans. When they catch terrorism suspects, the first thing they do is to shoot his legs. The assumption is that they will escape. When they detain him, politicians intercede for the criminal to take them home on bail. When charged to court, the case fails to move because police investigation and is almost always inconclusive. From here, much delay is caused by the lawyer who seeks to scuttle trial. If the incident leading to this arrest is one that warrants a government commission to investigate, you can be sure that the report of the inquiry will be kept at a large warehouse where hundreds of other reports are kept to gather dust. No action will follow.

From experience over these few years we have dealt with terrorism, as well as lessons from other lands, it is better to kill the motivation for terrorism than kill the terrorist. Extra- judicial killings only lead to more terrorist breeding. When unskilled, jobless young men have nothing to look forward, turning them into scammers, rioters, criminals and terrorists becomes easy. The police don’t help this situation by the way they are dealing with terror suspects. Police must imbibe care in their work so as not to alienate the people. they must avoid actions that create grievances that add to the pool of the recruits.

When two very influential members of the government-appointed amnesty committee, Dr. Datti Ahmed and Shehu Sani announced their withdrawal, many people including this reporter criticized their decision, not their patriotism. These two are recognizable voices on radio advocating a peaceful resolution. From their antecedents, both Datti and Shehu Sani showed a preference for dialogue in dealing with Boko Haram and led the way by getting involved at their individual levels. Are they saying by this rejection that they cannot work with others and share glory in case of successful resolution of the crisis? At a time when businesses are crippling, industries are shutting down, unemployment at record levels, corruption still rising, infrastructure decaying, the addition of terrorism to this mix is like adding salt to injury. The work of the Amnesty Committee is a patriotic chore. You don’t have to feel comfortable doing it. If they had invited Sani to join the government as Attorney-General via radio as they do, would he not have rushed to the Senate for screening?

Of course, Datti Ahmed is right on one point. It is not enough for the government to ask Boko Haram to come out of hiding to present themselves for dialogue. Such a call bears little credibility at a time government is keeping in detention without trial, hundreds or even thousands of Boko Haram wives and children. This is a human rights issue. The rights of women, children and indeed of all non-combatants are protected by the Geneva Declaration of which the Nigerian state is a signatory. This is something the government needs to look into. In as much as the people are entitled to exercise discretion when you are dealing with a government that will take a political mileage out of any situation, situations such as we are dealing with require all persons to put the nation first.

GTBank SME MarketHub campaign