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Boko Haram: Responding With New Language And Action By Ola Onikoyi, Jr.

The serious security threats posed by Boko Haram cannot be unravelled through the convention of ad-hoc committees and convocation of state of emergencies at every moment of crisis as has become the modus operandi of the Nigerian state.

The recent bombings and abduction of innocent school girls in Abuja and the North-Eastern part of Nigeria by the Boko Haram have sought new meaning against previous assumptions and strategy of counter terrorism by state and its wider apparatus.

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The new meaning begs for objective reality and at the same time asks for a new language that goes beyond current rhetorical modes and metaphors.

The new meaning requires political and social consensus and far more than the use of force and propaganda. It requires the deconstruction of old narratives and dominant strategy - while simultaneously seeking rigorous examination and scrutiny of state power.

Unchecked, the lies, actions and inactions of state has contributed to the rise of the group and to the proliferation of the on-going threats posed by it and its accomplices.

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Previous assumptions about the motivation of the Boko Haram, has been that it detests western education and seeks to create a sharia state. Other narratives locate the revulsion of the group for peace as rooted within the North, South-South political debate.

From the way it operates, Boko Haram simply wants to undermine the efficiency of state security and promote anarchy to gain legitimacy towards its own end as a criminal cum political movement.

Deeply embedded in its continuous rise has been the alarming weakness of state institutions that seeks to protect public peace. The Nigerian army as a case in point is not fit for purpose or, better put, is out-dated and inefficient.

Men of the army are poorly trained, and lack motivation and resources to win the war. Yet, it is surprising why in spite of budgets worth billions of dollars every year, combatants still fight to get basic pay.

Still, no heads have rolled.

Part of the new language as Andrew Noakes recently writes must be nothing short of a revolution in strategic capabilities.

The United States offer to intervene in the crisis should be welcome as part of the new counter terrorism strategy, but Nigeria must set boundary for its allies no matter who. Strong alliances must be built with neighbouring states, particularly Cameroon and Niger in terms of border security and defence.

I propose a Joint West African Terrorism Commission led by Nigeria - with Cameroon, Niger and Chad included as priority members. The task force will operate under the scope of gathering intelligence and frustrating inter-border terrorist activities and movement across the northern and the ECOWAS border hemisphere. It will operate with a special military brigade that is fully trained to respond to inter-border threats in every form.

We would see that in the past 2-3 years, the Boko Haram has built cross border ties along the northern hemisphere and sources its manpower from across the border. With this increasing cross border network, the group is international in the make and is a potential threat to Africa’s future security.

Back in Nigeria, the military must be totally reformed.

Its capabilities cannot win the war of the 21st century. It is alarming that since the emergence of Boko Haram threat and crisis, there has been no aerial bombardment known to the public, no visibility of unmanned drones and no serious counter terror initiation by the Nigerian air force. On the civilian side, there has barely been any court conviction, implicit counter terrorism strategy document, intelligence report or signs of serious inter-agency cooperation amongst existing security establishments.

The existing joint task force operating in the north under the banner of “war on Boko Haram” is ill equipped and misconceived. I propose the establishment of a new agency that will not only oversee the terror threats in the north, but will respond to terror emergencies in Nigeria no matter where.

Such an agency should not be simply mandated as an outfit that responds to threats as the joint civilian task force; its mandate should enable it to act across the length and breadth of terrorism management which would include predicting, managing, responding, preventing and taking care of victims of terrorism.

The serious security threats posed by Boko Haram cannot be unravelled through the convention of ad-hoc committees and convocation of state of emergencies at every moment of crisis as has become the modus operandi of the Nigerian state. These modes of response are overly reactionary and cause setback for the local and national economy.

Unravelling the Boko Haram threat requires the institution of a proactive agency that is Au fait with the workings of terrorism and the tactics of boko haram and their sponsors. And if the establishment of such institution must come into fruition, it must be independent of existing military forces and other state security institutions but must maintain close ties and strategic relationship.

The United Nations and the European Union along other transnational organisations like NATO has many fine experts with international experience in counter terrorism, these experts can be called upon to lead the establishment of a new anti-terror outfit and the state can use their fresh ideas and experience of counter-terrorism in other places to solve own problems.

Home grown security and military experts including the so called generals are either too complacent, ill- experienced or under-motivated to lead an effective anti-terror organisation of the nature proposed.

Beyond strategic capability, the new language must build consensus with the civil society while at the same time emphasize a bipartisan approach to solving the crisis as a matter of urgency. 

Partisanship is allowed in strengthening the ties of democracy, but important at this point is the call of nationalism which is the father of all political movements, these calls for a bi-partisan alliance.

As a method that has proven successful in other climes, all national political parties and civil society groups should unite to establish a bi-partisan action group on national security that will involve policy making and common co-operation in strategic actions and decisions. This will be both healthy for solving the current crisis effectively while at the same time building a strong democratic future.

If the state reneges on its duty to convoke or support the idea of a bi-partisanship arrangement towards better security, opposition parties must lay bare their blue print for solving the crisis in the public glare. In fact, the failure of state should be used as a means of scoring political points and that is how democracy works. But of more concern to the public is the effectiveness of action and solution provided towards finding solution to the on-going threat by any party.

President Jonathan owned up in a recent media chat about the state’s need for outside support. This new language must be matched with resources and actions beyond rhetoric.

As part of the new language, he must listen to voices of opposition and civil society by playing the non-tendentious game.

Beyond all, the state must not fail to cater for the victims of recent incessant attacks. They are simply victims of state’s politics and their welfare must be prioritised.

At present, whatever form of help that exist is in disarray. That is why a modern, well-conceived and proactive anti-terrorism agency is needed to predict, prevent and manage terrorism in all forms, before, during and after any given attack.

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The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

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