Nigeria News

NIGERIA: Confronting the North-East war

I AM wondering how former Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Nmodu Sheriff, is still strutting around the political landscape a free man. He ought to be cooling his heels somewhere for the roles he played in lighting the spark that has become a full-scale insurgency of international scope.
Rather than that, he had the gumption to return to Maiduguri a month back after more than a year in self-imposed exile. His mission on his return home was to pick a new candidate to replace his godson, His Excellency, Alhaji Kassim Shettima, the incumbent Governor of the nation’s epicenter of the Boko Haram insurgency.
It was a small spark that has grown into this huge conflagration. Rather than give the young people of his state free education at all levels and liberate the state from being the poorest and the most educationally backward, Sheriff chose to prey on the illiteracy and poverty that shackled his people by promoting negative religious politics. Eventually, the political mujaheddins he armed to intimidate his opponents started setting up an alternative society and recruiting hordes of unemployed young people to fight for a new system of Islamic rule which, in their deluded view, will cure their problem holistically and permanently.
They bought into the new-fangled ideas being promoted by Al Qaeda and other Salafist Islamic Jihadists in the Muslim world. This is a system that sees such “Western” ideas as democracy, human rights and Western-style education as the major problems hindering the emergence of the new order of their warped dreams. Boko Haram, as the group is known in popular parlance, turned against society, the state and its various supportive agencies, deploying the novel but frightful strategy of suicide bombing and coordinated attacks on everyone in sight.
With this reign of terror, most members of the political and traditional elite were cowed. Some of them were forced to send financial offerings to Boko Haram, either in open support of their “exploits” to make governance difficult for President Goodluck Jonathan or as ransom for the safety of themselves, family members and property. That was the situation until the international network of the Al Qaeda became fully involved in the training, financing and guidance of the terrorists. Today, Boko Haram has grown in leaps and bounds to become much more than a mere local challenge on our North Eastern frontier.
It has assumed an international dimension, with fighters drawn from floating, stateless individuals drifting from war-torn exclaves such as Chad, the western regions of Sudan, Mali, Somalia and recently, the northern part of the Central African Republic. They now use Chad, Cameroon and Niger as hideouts from which they stage their murderous raids on Nigerian territory and bolt back to hiding.
The fight against Boko Haram has therefore, become a challenge that must be met at the international level. All the countries sharing the theatre of this war – Nigeria, Chad, Niger Republic and Cameroon – must close ranks. But unfortunately, Cameroon is dragging its feet in fear that a decisive action against Boko Haram might result in its being targeted. That is very myopic because since Boko Haram has a foothold in Cameroon it is only a matter of time before it launches out there. Unless they are rooted out, and quickly, Boko Haram could see a cowering Cameroon as a softer and easier target and go after it. Rather than join hands to defeat this destructive vermin, Cameroon is more interested in sending its officials to corral Nigerian villages into their country in the name of boundary adjustment and implementation of the International Court of Justice verdict.
It is gratifying to note that France is now willing to partner with Nigeria in the war on terror. If they do as they have said, it will help a lot. France is still the notional overlord of its former colonial territories such as Chad, Niger Republic and Cameroon. If France reassures Cameroon it will assist against the Boko Haram threat to its security, our eastern neighbour is more likely to begin cooperating. France has a duty to get involved in the effort to decision Boko Haram once and for all, not only because Nigeria played a leading role in driving the Jihadists out of Mali, another of its vassal state in West Africa, France also still has commanding economic presence and interests in Nigeria. We have enough pressure levers we can tweak to get the Froggies jumping behind us in this war on terror.
But at the end of the day, the effort must be led from where the fire was lit. Nigerians, especially Arewa Muslim Northern Nigerians, must make up their minds that this war on terror must be won. They must stop using it like an instrument of blackmail against President Jonathan or the Federal Government. Northern Nigerians are being massacred, and the economy of Northern Nigeria is being emasculated. The shoe is pinching Nigeria but the toe on which it is pinching is a Northern toe. While the Federal Government must continue to lead the effort to defeat Boko Haram, all hands must come on deck. The North, including its noisy, grumpy Elders Forum, must play the active, leading role. There is no way that the Boko Haram terrorism can bring any political windfall for anyone, especially in 2015. Forget that. Neither can it alter Nigeria as we know it in any way. It will only lead to needless wastage of innocent lives and deprive more Nigerians of their hard-earned material goods.
The longer the war drags on the more entrenched the terrorists will become. Al Qaeda and the Taliban have been in Afghanistan and northern Pakistan for more than 20 years now with no end in sight to the conflict there. We don’t want that here. Compared to Afghanistan, Boko Haram is still a budding challenge, and we must nip it in the bud. But if sections of the Northern elite continue to blackmail the Presidency because Jonathan is the one there, this conflict might linger till long after Jonathan had left after serving his full two terms.
We don’t want that!

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