At the root of the Boko Haram menace is the continued failure of the intelligence community to understand the role of the average family and how it works.
When President Jonathan announced the state of emergency in three States hardest hit by Boko Haram in May 2013, some of us knew he would be making a difference without distinction. Our position is not far fetched, given that troops were deployed in a half-hearted measure to the states with enhanced powers, unclear measures, success parameters and specific instructions.
Lest we forget, Boko Haram was bred by an interplay of historical, geo-political, economic, religious disaffection with the Nigerian state. A child of dissatisfaction and ignorance. Is it reasonable to expect a swarm of people bred under economic alienation, layered by religious extremism, to be loyal to the system that has hurt them? A country that abandons its youth cannot be taken seriously. Evidence supports the theory that countries with good governance are increasingly more successful in fighting terrorism. Nigeria is a fertile ground for terrorism because the government has done more to enable and protect thieves than in ensuring good governance among its constituent parts. Now that we have our own home-grown terror group, the government is investing in knee jerk reactions and misapplied military deployment; leaving leprosy to cure ringworm.
Terrorists do not recruit happy people; they find company among the melancholic and the disillusioned. They are able to recruit young men who harbour legitimate grievances against our amoral leaders and a country that has mortgaged their future and sold them short.
After four months, the balance score card for emergency arrangement is unimpressive. The military expedition is becoming a graduated failure. Militaristic interventions cannot purge this country of Boko Haram. We must drain the Nigerian swamp and get new waters to spring forth. The Commander in-Chief and the Nigerian military must acknowledge the asymmetrical nature of this exercise. We must reckon with the willingness of terrorists to suffer collateral damage and even to pursue tactics specifically designed to cause the deaths of their own people. The war on terror cannot be won by military putsch. It can only be won with education; education is the only defence for civil liberties. A humanist education innoculates the mind with cultural self-formation. A mind in live culture aspires to a higher life of self-critique and a humane mindset as opposed to a life of conflict based on geography, religion or honour. That is why they have assumed a layered disdain for education.
Boko Haram is not obeying the Shariah when the Prophet Mohammed again said: “Seek knowledge from here unto China”. Unfortunately, Northern Muslim children spent too much time on religious education while children in the South, where Western education is taken seriously, pulls ahead in terms of development. The North and lovers of Nigeria as a united entity must rise up and save us from eventual ruin. This monster must be destroyed before it consumes all of us. They must embrace a determined change in mentality, morality and leadership. Our leaders cannot continue with self-interest alone. We must build our society on justice, equity and equality; and not self-interest. A new Nigeria must be constructed where all ethnic groups are treated as equals. Northern leaders must wake up and do the right thing for once. They must fashion a way out of Almajirci, educate their people and spend less time teaching religion and more time teaching science.
In addition to education, intelligence gathering and interpretation of threats will help contain terror. At the root of the Boko Haram menace is the continued failure of the intelligence community to understand the role of the average family and how it works. In Nigeria, there are very specific cultural and ethnic differences across our geographic space making the gathering and interpretation of intelligence difficult. Boko Haram foot soldiers understand these structures and know how to mobilise, motivate and use them to their advantage. To get out of our security nightmare, our government must have a clear agenda in fighting terrorism. We must know that good governance is central to the effective administration of the nation’s resources, the rule of law, a vibrant private sector and a strong civil society. If we do not put these in place, there can be no successful anti terrorist program. We have seen how the response to an attack has become more damaging than the attack because the civil service has been infiltrated by cronyism and rank nepotism. Our armed forces and security services battle readiness and crisis mitigation is usually uncoordinated and ineffective.
Boko Haram is what you get for the economic, social and security consequences of poor governance. Despite trillions of dollars spent on security, we are yet to have an effective band of first responders skilled in basic security procedures with the necessary command, control, management skills and the tactical knowledge to be in a position to counter a terrorist threat at the operational and tactical level. The battered communities distrust our soldiers because they are not trained to respond to terrorist attacks in a measured manner and our security services have no real training on intelligence gathering and interpretation. In the fight against terrorism, the dynamics of the situation in the North must be carefully studied with a view to reigning it in.
For Nigeria to be safe again, there must be the political will to confront terror. Again, I fear our leaders are not ready to stop doing stupid things. If my fear is well founded, Boko Haram and its many variants will be with us for some time to come. We live in perilous times. Nothing is black and white anymore. We must go back to the drawing board and do the heavy lifting. We must right the wrongs to purge Boko Haram and live peaceable lives.
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