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Monday, July 15, 2024

Demola Rewaju: Between Political Will And Military Might Lies Victory Over Boko Haram

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Depending on how one looks at it – it is heartwarming to hear that Uncle Sam is committing intelligence and security officers to the war against Boko Haram – long overdue in my opinion but also something to be heavily disputed when you consider America’s history of knowing how to start and fight a war but not how to end it. The more important question perhaps may be why it took President Goodluck Jonathan’s government such a long time to invite foreigners to help fight the war against insurgency apart from the patriotic (but sometimes foolish) matter of national pride. It may well be that up till now, the entire world has viewed the Boko Haram insurgency as an internal struggle in a country where no foreign aid will be given to either side. This is the case in Syria at the moment but Boko Haram crossed an internationally respected line by kidnapping those girls in Chibok and threatening to sell them. By UN international statutes, human trafficking is very illegal and even if the entire insurgency ends in a peace process in Nigeria, Shekau and his band of insurgents will have to face the International Criminal Court if he sells those girls.

While we would agree that the #BringBackOurGirls campaign has successfully blown open a matter that would have remained under the usual official cover of “we’re working on it”, we must equally assert that finding those girls is a mission subsumed under the larger goal which should be to shutdown Boko Haram and bring insurgency under heel in northern Nigeria. These efforts would require huge consensus from the citizens and courage from the leadership of the country. I did say in a Channels TV interview for a programme Channels Beam recorded last Saturday and aired on Monday (watch it here on Youtube) that the entire war on insurgency is being fought in secret and information sharing among the agencies seems to be lacking – the sign being that every agency – Military, Defence HQ, Police, DSSS etc all give bits and pieces of information to the public that sometimes the other agencies deny.

A bigger question in the war on insurgency may however be the lack of political will on the part of the government. Political will is a much touted concept which few realise actually emanates from the followership, not just the leadership. Someone once described a politician as one who waits to see where the people are going and then offers to lead them there. Politicians function by the will of the people and where this is hazy, political leaders either galvanise the people in a particular direction (wrong or right) or just waits until they are ready to move. Inspirational leaders are many – Obasanjo is one who galvanised Nigerians into a war on corruption even though it was largely his personal instrument of punishment for dissident voices. In a democracy however, inspirational leaders do not always emerge. People vote for various reasons especially in a multi-ethnic society like Nigeria where the three major electoral influences are – tribe, religion and party structure.

A leader who lacks the force of personal conviction or the ability to impose by the sheer strength of personal will onto the followers, an agenda he is thoroughly convinced upon, needs the people to rally round him or at least make their voices clear on salient issues. George W. Bush is not regarded as a fantastic leader and ‘clueless’ is one word that was often used to describe him but he managed to fight a war in Afghanistan and topple Saddam Hussein in Iraq. How? He had tremendous solidarity from the American people after the 9/11 attacks carried out by Al-Qaeda. GWB visited the Ground Zero site where the World Trade Centre once stood and told one of the mourning women “I have heard you. The world has heard you. Soon, our enemies would hear from us”. Do we speak loudly and long enough for leaders in Nigeria to hear us? Don’t we scamper after the next crisis and forget the current issue?

This is where we have missed it all along and even on this Chibok girls matter, it is only by fate that this matter managed to achieve near total solidarity in a land where matters are usually divided along the flowing and confluence lines of the Rivers Niger and Benue. This incident happened in the far north, directly affecting the northerners but because most internet ‘activists’ in the south were prepared to use it as a template to further attack the President’s image – the matter blew up fast and achieved great consensual spread all over the country and beyond.

Kidnapping those girls was the biggest undoing of Abubakar Shekau. If they had been killed – we’d have swept their corpse under the carpet, nobody would have asked him to return them to life or Government to bring them back to life but here, there is something to agitate upon and he now has the attention of the entire world.

Now that the people have spoken clearly, government has got a clear directive of what the people want – does our military have the capacity to overcome the insurgents? While one is in no doubt as to the gallantry of the brave force-men and women of the Nigerian military, I sincerely doubt that they have the weapons to combat Boko Haram. I spent most of yesterday evening on beegeagle.wordpress.com, a website run by some very knowledgeable Nigerian-born military people who identified some of the weapons carried by the insurgents in a number of Shekau videos. Their discussion on strategy is quite deep but they admit that the military may not have the quality of weapons that Boko Haram has. I cannot confirm this but I do know and as I said in this piece that where strength is low, intelligence must be increased.

I mentioned in that Channels TV interview that our intelligence on Boko Haram is very poor – I read a publication yesterday by one Dr. Ahmad Murtada on Boko Haram’s history, principles and activities in Nigeria and it was very enlightening. [DOWNLOAD HERE FROM THE SALAFIMANHAJ WEBSITE]. I said in that interview that by now, we should know the family history of Abubakar Shekau, we should know his lieutenants and aides, and other bits of information that the entire world knew about Osama bin Laden. He and his top insurgents were on the list of America’s Most Wanted; do we in Nigeria even know the Boko Haram hierarchical structure?
Goodluck Jonathan may not have wanted to go all out against a northern insurgent group because even without doing that, some goofs like Gov. Murtala Nyako are already saying he is carrying out genocide against the north. Now, Goodluck Jonathan has no option but will our military be able to do the job of bringing Boko Haram down and policing the affected areas afterwards to ensure a permanent solution to the reoccurring problem is radical religious fundamentalism in the north? This is the question we must now try to answer.

"Nigerian Army Special Forces commandos and a BTR-3 APC" (Pix courtesy beegeagle.wordpress.com)

Demola Rewaju owns Demola Rewaju Daily where this article was first published.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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