By Musa Ladan
The occasional attempts by Boko Haram insurgents to make statements with poorly thought out but nonetheless daring attacks, for me, is a thing of concern. I am concerned not because I think the group can resurge to the sick height it got to in its depravity but because factors and persons outside of the group would want it to and seem to be doing all they can to return the country into the nightmare scenario.
This concern is neither misplaced nor exaggerated. For instance, I have constantly asked myself what it is that the people of the North-East, particularly Borno want. To the best of my knowledge and based on new reports, Boko Haram has been largely degraded while several pledges have been made toward rebuilding the area – there is even a Northeast Development Commission in the offing with the enabling Act in the making before the National Assembly. What is however missing is the buy-in and support of those that parade as leaders in Borno State.
Their contributions, if they can be so called, have been mostly petty politics, bickering and self-interest that have only served to distract the anti-terror fight. In some instances, these attitudes transcend the scope of distraction to look like deliberate acts of sabotaging efforts at bringing peace back to the place.
I consider the case of the Senator representing Borno Central, Baba Kaka Grabai, who as recently as February this year claimed that the terror group controlled half of the state when the reverse was the case. He made this allegation at a time when the insurgents barely controlled one local government area or have been largely funnelled into Sambisa forest where troops are still cleaning out remnants of the terror group. Other politicians in the state that are of the same bend. They act to boost the morale of insurgents and they cannot claim this was being done unwittingly.
The Chibok Girl’s Parents Association has been no less disruptive. Its chairman, Mr. Yakubu Nkeki, was more interested in the place of ancestry of a rescued girl than in the hope offered by another child escaping slavery and deprivation. The probability of intelligence she could offer and assist with the rescue of scores of the children still in the grips of terrorists was insignificant so long as she was not abducted in Chibok or not on a list that the military had compiled of the abducted girls. The association through its utterances after the rescues suggested Chibok is a distinct state of the federation or even an independent republic that had no business with the rest of the country.
I am equally challenging the Borno Elders Forum to prove they have done enough and that they have not been used or being used by embedded interests in their ranks. They have taken positions in the past that left me wondering whether as elders they truly want the crisis to end and life returning to normal.
No less deserving of my dissatisfaction is the National Security Adviser (NSA), Brig-Gen. Babagana Munguno (rtd), who incidentally hails from that state. Layman thinking would project that he would pitch in his best to use his office to restore peace to the state but nothing – body language, utterances and actions, has shown that he has any interest in ending the insurgency even now that Boko Haram has been battered to its weakest. He should, in my expectations, be on the case of the Ministry of Defence and military services to deliver the last surviving Boko Haram terrorist to him for trial. Such request would follow only after properly empowering them of course. I don’t think any right thinking person would have accused him of being partial or sectional because the northeast is deserving of all the national attention it can get now.
And there are the other assorted collection of groups and caucuses that are used as fronts by the vicious politicians from the state and at federal level, who possibly want terrorism to be sustained because they have turned it into an industry; there is money to be made from federal government funding and international organisations’ intervention. If the group that necessitated the interventions gets wiped out, then the cash runs dry so for them this is not a desirable outcome. So they cook up the most outrageous of stories to float so that troops can be distracted and the federal government left in confusion. Among their ranks are the collaborators that validate bogus claims of questionable NGOs that attempt to cripple troop’s ability to fight.
Not to be outdone are the so-called activists from other states and the FCT that have somehow discovered that there is money to be made from disaster. The continued existence of Boko Haram guarantees their meal tickets since each atrocity the group commits provides another item to use for blackmailing the government.
I advise the Presidency that whatever progress is being made in the fight against Boko Haram must be weighed against the true intention of the leaders in Borno State. Do they want terrorism to be defeated or are they kin on retaining it as an industry? How much has the collective attitude and influence of the all the groups identified above contributed to our not having finished the fight? Who else among the state’s population are working to continue giving the incentives to terrorists? What roles have these various groups played at the various stages of the conflict?
I strongly think it would be damaging if President Buhari in his May 2017 speech has to again refer to the Boko Haram fight in the present continuous tense simply because the very people of the state are frustrating the war to end the insurgency. In case they have not noticed, the war is costing anything in the region of a fourth of our (real) national expenditure in addition to costing the lives of other Nigerians from other states. There is another security concern brewing up in the South-south for which the military is needed. So we cannot be fixated on Borno state forever. Those sustaining terrorism in the state – actively, through inaction or just sabotage – should know that the fundamentals of the crisis are not inelastic; something will give soon.