...Redifining Journalism for Development

Nigeria's ongoing war with Boko Haram, by Hassan Gimba


The Arbiter

Nigeria is in a state of war but it looks as if we are taking things lightly. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines state of war as (1) a. state of actual armed hostilities regardless of a formal declaration of war and (1) b. legal state created and ended by official declaration regardless of actual armed hostilities and usually characterized by the operation of the rules of war.
We have been at war for quite a long time but it became all the more apparent with the return of the Dapchi girls. There was real ceasefire when the girls were returned, the type we see in areas that are in a state of war like Syria, Columbia with the FARC rebels and in parts of Congo and Uganda, where the Lord’s Resistance Army operates.
It is real war when a militant organisation can ‘force’ the Nigerian government to sit with it and reach an agreement brokered by international bodies under the international Law of Armed Conflict.
The president was quoted as ordering his service chiefs not to allow the abductions of girls again. A citizen, in the first place, would expect the president to tell his service chiefs not to allow the abduction of any citizen, not only schoolgirls. All citizens are citizens and want to feel equal before the law or before the eyes of their president.
Farmers and voiceless Nigerians are being abducted by those who have declared war on Nigeria but we have allowed them to play the music while we dance to the tunes.
And it is this sort of thinking by governments that make the militants strong. The ordinary citizen sees them as strong and comes to see that his government cannot protect him. It makes the ordinary citizen lose confidence in the country. Little wonder some abducted Nigerians have switched allegiance while others hail the terrorists (as happened in Dapchi) as ‘saviours’ because the people of Dapchi and elsewhere saw the kind of power that should reside with their government being exercised by enemies of the state.
What has happened to our intelligence gathering abilities, especially in front-line states like Borno and Yobe that Boko Haram would gather, strut confidently, and move in convoys, sacking military bases, villages and towns, at will?
Yet our army cannot confront them without support from the air force? The implication is that our soldiers are no match for them. God!
The way the innocent child sees its father as a super hero who will give it protection is the way the innocent citizen considers his country. Unfortunately we are being forced the hard way into realizing the hard way that in Nigeria, no matter what happens, life goes on. The people’s innocence has been deflowered but most importantly, their confidence in their country has been shot to pieces. We should fear the day when the citizen will no longer have respect for a government or society that cannot protect its own.
The terrorist is by nature a leach; give him an inch and he will take a mile. But the worst aspect of the whole thing is that it is as if the federal government is not aware that it is dealing with ruthless, very intelligent terrorist organisations that see whatever they are doing as mind games.
Read also: Boko Haram’s Resurgence And Jonathan’s Magic Wand (2), by Hassan Gimba
These terrorists know our fault lines and they know that religion can threaten to burn down this country if anything will.
That they left Leah Sharibu Nata behind, purportedly on the premise that she ‘refused’ to convert to Islam, is a ruse and a deliberate ploy to cream off more money from government. They know that the pressure that will be exerted on the government may be greater than when all the girls were in captivity.  They are just being adept at exploiting our fault lines.
This awareness about the mindset of the Nigerian is why the Boko Haram abductors refused to release Leah, and conveniently revealed their ‘reason.’ Recall that Chibok girls, police officers’ wives and many other girls and women had been released with their faiths intact; why is Leah’s different? After all to them, even a Muslim is not a Muslim except one that accepts their way of thought.
The Boko Haram, be it the Shekau or Al Barnawi or Mamman Nur faction, does not see even Muslims as Muslims except those who share the same ideology as it. Therefore, Leah’s case has less to do with faith than with hard currency. And because of the peculiar nature of Nigeria and our exterior religiosity, they may end up collecting at least twice what they collected on the returned Dapchi girls.
But the earlier we realize and accept that we are at war with an enemy that draws its strength from Nigerians who believe the system has turned them into second class citizens, and get their strategies and tactics from the veterans among the rank and file of ISIS, the safer for us.
Again, the government would do well to revisit the issue of Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and the dangers they pose to the North East and ultimately Nigeria. NGOs have swooped on Borno and Yobe and are fast spreading their purported ‘assistance to a beleaguered people’.
What the NGOs actually do is to make the people more dependent on their handouts and because they throw money left, right and centre, a lot of beneficiaries – and they are plenty and increasing – would not want them to go. And as long as there are crises, the NGOs will not fold their tents and go. Their presence will just keep increasing.
The NGOs themselves will not want the crises to abate as that would mean they will no longer access the funds that are readily available to them through donor agencies just as the donor agencies themselves will no longer get the monies made available for such by international bodies and countries in Europe and North America.
In some instances, the moral bearing of our youth is being compromised where some vices alien to our culture, tradition and upbringing are being inculcated in them.
What the federal government should look at is the Greek gift that NGOs’ interventions have become and the implications for our collective security and our future well-being.
The federal government has intervention agencies like the Presidential Committee on the North East Initiative (PCNI) which should be doing all that the NGOs claim to be doing. The federal government should empower it more and any donor agency or NGO should route its assistance through them.
Having said this, it is incumbent upon our government to, as a matter of urgency, brace up and fight this war and do all it must to cut off the terrorists’ recruitment base as well as stop giving them the opportunity to prove how strong they are.
Henceforth, citizens everywhere should be made to feel they have governments at all levels that are responsible and sincere and ready to serve them, and not the other way round.
Justice should no longer be hinged on accidents of birth, geography, and or religious beliefs just as these should not be barriers to the prospects of upward social and economic mobility.
The government must also realize that this war is now being fought on another more sophisticated turf than the brute approach of Shekau, so it needs a fresh kind of thinking and strategy, otherwise it will continue to negotiate with this ragtag group from a position of weakness, like it is doing now.
Government should read the direction and purpose of all actions and in actions of Boko Haram. Without knowing the game plan of the enemy, how on earth can you defeat it?
Boko Haram fighters have radically changed their tactics; they no longer attack civilian targets like before. They now go after those in uniform. This is because they want to court the “sympathy” of the people while at the same time demoralizing our soldiers and putting fear in them.
Our soldiers are ready to fight but their morale and capacity must be boosted for us to win this war.

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