Perhaps it is essential to borrow a few lines from the Hippocratic Oath to guide me in my dissection of the knotty issue of Nigeria's freelance bombers, self proclaimed liberators of the North and Apostles-in-Chief of everything I sincerely hope Islam is not about (though I remain unconvinced of the doctrinal aversion of the religion to violence). Like the Nightingale clan, I swear to apply, for the benefit of those with hyper-mental processors and not-so-keen brain decoders, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism. I also promise not to be ashamed of saying 'I know not'.
The origin of boko haram has been bantered in various quarters in recent times, albeit, I will dwell briefly on it for the sake of literary correctness and to provide a good foundation for this piece. Boko Haram (which denotes ‘western education is evil’) is an appellation of a more instructive official identity, Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad, which in Arabic means "People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad. The steady rise of this source of national migraine began in 2002, ably facilitated by now deceased Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf. It started as a place of refuge for the oppressed, poor and illiterate; it gradually grew in notoriety, subsequently culminating in the relocation of the group’s base to kanamma, Yobe State in 2004, which was suggestively named ‘Afhaganistan’.
From this point onward, the sinister motive for the establishment of the group became gradually revealed through its intermittent attacks on Police stations, Muslim clerics and politicians of northern extraction. It is almost too simplistic to imagine that the frontal confrontation that opened the current can of worms was instigated by the refusal of the group’s members to adhere to newly passed motor bike helmet law in 2009, which consequently led to the crossing of swords between members of the group and Nigerian security forces. It is on record that over 700 people were killed; this included the brutal and uncivilised extra-judicial killing of the group’s leader, Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf.
Considering the protracted virulence of the group’s attack on Nigerians and the Nigerian State since 2009, one is compelled to ask himself certain questions, which holistic answers will undoubtedly provide the necessary leverage to effectively resolve the horrendous challenge posed by this group. What is the primary cause(s) of the resilient ferocity of the group? What is the overall aim of the turban wearing self styled commandos; to purge the North of western influence, to make the nation ungovernable for the GEJ administration, or to engender the secession of the North? What role does the present political structure and its appurtenances play in this nationally prostrating menace? And the ultimate question; what is the best way to conclusively and effectively put an end to this threat?
The question of motive is critical in the quest to solve terrorism related challenges. This will help the government to understand the basis of the anarchists’ grouse and consequently what they aim at achieving. A succinct understanding of the reasons for the Niger-Delta insurgence was instructive in the subsequent relative resolution of the problem. It is however essential to state that, unlike the unambivalent cause of the south-south outburst, the rise of boko haram and the indiscriminate perpetration of its actions have defied logic. Though it is almost a consensus that boko haram is the product of the widespread injustice and inequity that has gained the status of normalcy in the nation, the ubiquitous nature of the anomalies alluded to as causes of this blight, and the occurrences that accentuate the commencement of this carnage suggests that boko haram is not essentially a response of a disillusioned sect to the lopsided and unfriendly policies of government.
This however does not imply that the above causal factors are not complicit in the fuelling of this menace; it only means that they are not the primary source from which it streams, they are only fodders to the cannon. An attempt to put the question of motivation into its right perspective will bring to the fore three inter-twined elements that are both severally and jointly responsible for the present insidious menace; malevolent indoctrination, malicious politicking and ill-directed regional aspirations. The lethal combination of these elements birthed boko haram. Linking the formation of the sect to any noble cause will be tantamount to granting it a dignified status it does not deserve. It is no secret that Mohammed Yusuf before his demise used sophisticated auto-mobiles and was ostensibly affluent despite kicking against capitalism, western education and invariably technology, it is also in the public domain that splinter groups have opted out of the ignoble alliance due to the corrupt and selfish appropriation of booties by its upper echelon.
Boko haram has done a very poor job at articulating its demands. The inconsistency and manifest ambiguity of its objectives have made it virtually impossible to rationally suggest a non-forceful solution. The Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Group and other South-South agitators in no unclear words spelt out their demands, and this in turn facilitated the implementation of the amnesty programme and other ancillary initiatives. A cursory appraisal of the trend of demands made by the group over the years reveals a highly unstable setup. The group began with the anti-west salafist orientation and having been influenced by the writings of 14th century Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyyah on Islamic fundamentalism, Mohammed trained his protégés to clamour for the islamisation of the north. Its deep aversion for the west came with a potent animosity against western education, democracy and anything patently western. The group later included the secession of the north and the subsequent declaration of a northern Islamic State to its unimpressive and unintelligent list of demands. Upon the unceremonious killing of the sect’s patriarch, Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf in 2009, justice against security agents complicit in the extra-judicial killing became a crucial component of the sect’s sordid requisitions. The group has also inadvertently paraded the unfair, corruption ridden and anti-people government of the day as reason for taking to arms, but strangely, they have never expressly or implicitly shown that solving these social and welfare anomalies will assuage their frayed sense of justice.
Peradventure it will be right to suggest that at the wake of this insurgence, the sect had a firmer grasp on its objective(s) and this was articulated by its targets and general mode of operation (MO). However, the current indiscriminate spate of attacks of the sect shows that it is completely devoid of any iota of enduring ideology in its pursuits. Considering the group’s extant MO, it seems like the only achievement the group has recorded is becoming a willing tool in the hands of disillusioned individuals who are bent on inhibiting any meaningful developmental programme the present administration could have embarked on. Michael Utasha of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) told IRIN that there are “Unconfirmed reports have it that there are disgruntled members of the political class in Nigeria who are bent on destabilizing the government of President Goodluck, giving the impression that he is a weak and indecisive leader”. Utasha’s supposition seems to be the only vestige of fathomable goal that the sect possesses.
The National Security Adviser, General Andrew Azazi made a stunning remark on the 28th of April 2012 at the South-South Economic Summit by linking the boko haram menace with the PDP take-it-all do or die style of politics. He opined that ‘a situation where a political party insists on fielding a particular candidate over another to get a massive win and that if they get a massive win, the party has arrived, is the source of the problem’. While I do not agree totally with the NSA’s submission that PDP’s lack of internal democracy birthed the boko haram insurgence, it is indubitable that it gave it an ample opportunity to blossom. Prior to the 2011 general elections, particularly during the PDP zoning principle saga, certain northern politicians threatened to rouse the storm and send down brimstones if Jonathan emerges as the party’s candidate and consequently becomes the nation’s president. Is it actually inconceivable and farfetched that the disillusioned northern elements have hijacked the sect to lend reality to their hellish pledge? One is tempted to answer the question in the affirmative considering the allegations made severally by arrested members of the sect. The President accentuated this when he dropped the bomb shell that the sect had infiltrated the nation’s security agencies the presidency. The conspiracy theory was further spiced up with the arrest Senator Alli Ndume and his consequent prosecution after he was named by a boko haram operative as a major sponsor. It is also apt to note that despite the well circulated intelligence of the neck deep involvement of several highly placed politicians in the operations of the sect, the government has placed a top secret tag on the information, presumably due to the eminent placement of this people and to forestall the likely exacerbation of an already fragile situation.
In the light of the above analysis, it is clear that boko haram neither portrays the type of insurgence experienced by Nigeria in the past nor the hyper-fanatic, highly organized mode of terrorism internationally witnessed. This connotes that none of the measures employed in combating the local threat and the global plight will suffice in resolving the boko haram quandary. It is essential that I state this clearly and unequivocally, negotiation will not solve the boko haram problem. The Nigerian State has bent backwards enough for militant organizations who at the slightest frustration take up arms against the State. Negotiation with terrorists is alien to the foreign and security policies of the United States of America; this hard stance is enough deterrence for actual and prospective anarchists. The more Nigeria readily brings negotiation to the table when groups go violent, the more disenchanted groups will consider taking up arms, knowing that there is the possibility of a soft landing irrespective of the havoc caused. Moreover, the Economic Intelligence Unit has suggested that it is not likely that the strategy of negotiation will work.
The sect has also lent credence to this informed assertion by either flagrantly rebuffing attempts to negotiate with them or stating obnoxious grounds for any peace accord. It is almost very certain, that the best that will come out of any negotiation which does not fall through in the process is a temporarily placated sect, which will have the respite to reinforce and afterwards attack more viciously in the future.
There are different strokes for different folks. The fact that the amnesty programme was relatively successful with Niger Delta militants does not mean same will solve the present challenge. The agitation of the South-South is clear, the mantra was resource control based, and arms were taken up against the State due to the dire economic injustice suffered by its people. Hence, it was rational to posit an economic solution to solve their economic challenge. Furthermore, the leadership structure and individuals on the vanguard of the crusade were known, this made it easier to negotiate with the various groups. We should not also ignore the fact that asides the Independence Day bombing, the attacks of the Niger Delta militants were targeted at oil producing installations within the region, making the basis of their grouse very clear. Same cannot be said of boko haram, it does not only lack a well articulated, consistent or reasonable basis of insurrection, its leadership is also faceless and its indiscriminate attacks on people of all class and creed make it clear that its objectives are far from noble and miles away from the faintest speck of reason. Hence, my suggestion for the departure of the government from the carrot and stick strategy it has hitherto deployed and the need for the Nigerian State to strategically, conscientiously and sincerely employ the koboko solution.
Koboko is a colloquial Hausa word meaning a long flexible whip with a firm handle, such whip often has multiple lashes at the tip. Analogically, the most viable and effective solution to the present security blight is a firm government that is ready to wield the big stick. The multi lashes that will be tactically and concertedly churned out include a carefully planned, professionally orchestrated and intelligence based major military campaign against the very core of the sect. A trite tried and tested combat principle that has received biblically endorsement is ‘strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter’. Admittedly, security agencies have done a yeoman’s job in smoking out pockets of hideouts and have arrested some key players, the continuous attacks on key installations and consequent loss of lives even after the arrest of this seeming major players show that the sect’s backbone is still intact. There is no doubt that this suggested campaign might lead to some collateral losses in civilian lives, but a strategically planned campaign will no doubt reduce this possibility to the barest minimum.
Unquestionably, the above approach by itself will fail to conclusively stamp out this scourge if not jointly explored with re-industrialisation of the north and more particularly, the welfare and education of the Hausa youth must be prioritised (construction of almajiri schools by the Federal Government is a step in the right direction but no doubt absolutely insufficient) and their main stream of indoctrination must be meticulously monitored. This will entail selfless futuristic economic and socio-political planning and a highly savvy and expansive intelligence operation. Furthermore, it is high time the Nation paid rapt attention to border security. If there is any single factor that has made Nigeria’s security challenges defiant to solution, it is the porosity of the nation’s borders.
Nigeria is literally hemmed in between several African States; it shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in the north, Nigeria officially has 84 border posts which serve as legal point of entrance to these border Countries, it however has more illegal entry points. The Minister of Interior, Abba Moro opined that; “We do not have any border protection in Nigeria. Our borders are literarily open if you compare the Nigerian border with that of the USA.
In those places they have border control, border plazas and border post. They have sufficient personnel and they have border protection agency that is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that only legitimate persons cross into the USA territory. The system is technology-driven”.
The massive role played by foreign elements both in the terms of funding and manpower makes it highly essential that the nation prioritises the fortification of its borders irrespective of the diplomatic implication. To address border mismanagement in Nigeria, the nation has no choice than to retrain and refit border based security agencies and deploy border technologies at the nation’s border.
It is also important that relevant agencies identify and effectively manage other unknown borders through which criminal elements traverse the Country. The nation needs to re-visit the protocol on free movement within the West African sub-region, and procedures for gaining access into the country must be made more thorough and comprehensive.
I am not as idealistic as other thought leaders on the feasibility of exposing politicians, industrialists and individuals complicit in the growth of boko haram, this is due to the probable explosive aftermath such radical measure might have on the nation on a grander scale. Albeit, the government might need to make certain shrewd decisions in handling them, one way of doing this is by forcing them out of reckoning by compiling evidences against them. More importantly, a close tab must be put on them in form of astute yet discreet surveillance. Our flawed security structure has been disgracefully exposed, thanks to the daredevils.
It now behoves the government to seize this opportunity to revamp our security mechanism and consciously stir it towards complying with modern demands. It is therefore expedient that security agencies in their day-to-day quest to resolve Nigeria’s increasingly complicated insecurity, make proper use of security related technologies like; Emergency Communication Systems, GPS-enabled devices, Social Networking Tools, Emergency Operation Centres (EOCs), Intelligent Monitoring systems, Data Mining and Database Tracking and Information Sharing Systems. It is also suggested that Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras are strategically deployed in public places. This will help in real time monitoring of volatile areas.
A comprehensive and continually updated computer database detailing basic pieces of information about people in Nigeria and human threats to national security must be maintained by security agencies. Furthermore, as an inclusive solutions pathway, satellite technology maybe found extremely important for the purposes of intelligence gathering, particularly, the remote sensing satellite, which will be a significant tool for the purposes of reconnaissance and imagery intelligence.
In the 1980s, the maitatsine sect held the nation to ransom on the platform of their doctrinal leaning, though the military emphatically dealt with the challenge, the ghost has awakened in the form of boko haram. Assuming without conceding that the sect is the direct product of the injustice our nation has been branded with, will the people’s anguish be assuaged by taking up arms against the commonwealth? The victims of the mandalla bombing, the Kano massacre, the UN building bombing, The SUN Abuja attack and other boko haram master minded strikes, have made it evident that this is a battle more against Nigerians and Nigeria than the Nigerian government. There are unique therapies for every ailment. It is settled that the South-South uprising was a product of economic injustice, hence logic dictates that it can only be resolved economically, also, the boko haram insurgence is a threat to the very essence of our existence as a people, and the principle of self defence in Law allows an equal and even recompense. Break their spine through a frontal attack; ensure border security to forestall foreign reinforcement; address economical, educational and socio-political concerns of the north to curb a re-emergence of the scourge, condemn complicit politicians to perpetual sojourn in the political wilderness and overhaul the nation’s security mechanism to effectively preserve the sovereignty of the Nigerian State over any individual or group...This is the Koboko Solution!!!
Jimmy Alara and Associates.