By Andrew Idoko
The Boko Haram Insurgency in Nigeria has had its attendant effect on our socio-political life, given the wanton destructions that have been recorded in North-East Nigeria. In July 2009, the Boko Haram uprising began in Borno state. It spread to other northern states, leaving hundreds of followers, Nigerian law enforcement officers, and civilians dead. In subsequent years, attacks in the Northeast and other parts of the country, including bombings, mass shootings, and executions began to rise.
Since then, there have been an incredible number of deaths as a result of the Boko Haram Insurgency. The trademarks of the Boko Haram insurgents are wanton destruction of lives and property with reckless abandon through bombings, abduction and slaughtering of human beings, especially in Northern Nigeria. This has created palpable fear and sense of insecurity in the polity.
The Boko Haram insurgency has pitted neighbours against themselves, cost thousands of lives, displaced millions, destroyed hundreds of schools and government buildings and devastated an already ravaged economy in the North East. We must consequently agree that before now, Nigeria was on the fringe and the military at some point seemed helpless in dealing with the threats posed by Boko Haram.
I recall that at some point, the Boko Haram group was in control of over 16 local government areas spread across states in North-East, Nigeria. And even the nation’s capital was not spared of the atrocities of the Boko Haram group.
At some point, there seemed to be no solution in sight because the then political authorities treated the issue at hand with kid gloves. They politicked with the issues and gave it religious and ethnic colorations. The situation was so pathetic that soldiers were often transported in civilian vehicles, trailers and water tankers when going to the theatres of operation. The revelations on the sorry state of things in the past, which have emanated from the investigative panel so far, points clearly to the kind of legacy bequeathed to this present administration by the past government. However this is not a time for trading blames, but a time to move forward.
The tide turned from 2016 when the Nigerian military gained ascendency over the group. Of course, this was a result of a strong commitment displayed the political authorities through ways such as the quality of heads of security agencies appointed and with a mandate to ensure that the activities of the group were curtailed to the barest minimum. This trend continued, and it eventually led to many gains recorded in the theatre of operations.
While it is sufficient to give credit to President Muhammadu Buhari for providing that leadership when it was badly needed, credit must also go to the military for their display of professionalism and commitment all the years. We must agree that, but for the gallantry of the military, it would have been a different song that would have been sung today.
I can’t but agree that the Boko Haram war in Nigeria has been a one-sided one, in the sense that the bulk of the job was left in the hands of the military alone. At the same time, some other stakeholders paid lip service. Yes, the military is mandated to address security concerns in the country. However, it must be understood that the Boko Haram insurgency is not a conventional one, but an asymmetric war that only military might cannot defeat.
This position has been canvassed in numerous forums where it was stated that there must be an understanding and a synergy amongst stakeholders in addressing the threats posed by the Boko Haram group. The question thus is: has our leaders risen to the occasion to play that invaluable role in ensuring Nigeria defeats Boko Haram squarely?
The answer is an obvious one because we are all witnesses to the position of some of our leaders, who have continued to play to the gallery, through their public statements, and actions that from all intent and purpose seems to be promoting the Boko Haram cause rather than condemning it and supporting the Nigerian military in this regard.
We must also admit that this ought to be a collective endeavor because we are all victims of the fangs of the Boko Haram group. But what have we done in our little corners towards assisting the military? What about our leaders? Have they been strategic enough? Have they exhibited an undying love for the country? Have they pondered that these soldiers in the trenches have families as well that they left behind? Are they aware that some of these soldiers have left their families and never returned?
Ironically some of us would take up news pages and television stations calling for the sack of service chiefs while in our cocoon we yet give discreet support to these terrorists to continue to wreak havoc in the country.
Our leaders have indeed failed us when we come to the politics involved in the Boko Haram insurgency. I am afraid to state that it is indeed a big business for politicians that see the festering of the insurgency as an avenue to smile to the bank. And when the military makes gains, it depletes their bank accounts. Yes, this is the starkness of the reality on the ground. And for them, the insurgency must fester so they can have a comparative advantage politically and financially.
In all of these, I am consoled that we have a president that cannot be cowed by press statements and appearances on television on the efforts of the military in the fight against Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria. Mr. President knows better because that is his constituency, and he understands war strategies and the various factors that come to play in a war situation.
However, we cannot continue in this fashion as a people and as a country because if we do, Nigeria will continue to bear the brunt of our actions. And for those that see it convenient to throw stones in the village square because they and their families are holed up in their mansions should realize that one day that same stone would bounce back and shatter the glasses of their mansions and nobody would be safe anymore.
This is indeed the time for us to retrace our steps in the fight against Boko Haram insurgency. This is not an issue to play politics with because a country at war can never experience sustainable growth and development. The scars of the civil war should be fresh in our minds and consequently guide our actions and inactions.
The shutdown of countries due to the coronavirus pandemic should also remind us that there is only one place called home and we must put things in order if we must survive. For a time would come where our survival would depend on how well we have done in making our country great. With the way things are going globally, anything can happen tomorrow, and the mansions and luxury cars would mean nothing.
The time to act is now. The Boko Haram insurgency has evolved for years not because there have not been sustained efforts from the military, but because our leaders have not come to terms with reality on the ground. There must be the sincerity of heart and purpose. All hands must be on deck. That it is happening in the north now does not mean it can’t happen elsewhere.
Those trying to make political gains out of the killings in the north must desist from such endeavors as it would only serve the purpose of disintegration. I can bet that this is not the vision of our founding fathers.
I pledge to Nigeria my country, to be faithful, loyal and honest. To serve Nigeria will all my strength, to defend her unity, uphold her honor and glory, and so help me God. What about you?
Idoko is a political affairs analyst and wrote this piece from Yola.