Credit: Thisday

Simon Kolawole: Home Truths About Boko Haram

Before our very eyes, we have seen Boko Haram transform from a virtually unknown neighbourhood religious gathering to a globally notorious terrorist group that kills and abducts innocent persons for fun. Last Monday’s Nyanya bombing, which terminated the lives of nearly 100 persons, is a timely reminder that the war is far from over. It jolted us from our slumber. For a long time, I had been deceiving myself that Boko Haram waAs gradually being contained, with its activities largely limited to our borders. I considered the attacks on Borno, Yobe and Adamawa to be purely opportunistic. I even theorised that as soon as we were able to get the security forces in Cameroon, Niger and Chad to co-operate with our military, Boko Haram would be crushed and we would be home and dry. What a wrong assumption. It’s time to face the stark realities.

No. 1 Home Truth: we are in for a long fight. Let’s admit it. Any Nigerian who thinks he or she knows the quick answer to the Boko Haram menace is fantasising. I’m not making any excuses for ineptitude ─ it is more of a wake-up call to President Goodluck Jonathan, the security agencies and all of us. We are dealing with full-blown terrorism, similar to what Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan have been grappling with for ages. The Boko Haram founded by Mohammed Yusuf is not the same as the Boko Haram under Abubakar Shekau. The old Boko Haram, under Yusuf, did not launch any attacks until their members were being harassed by security agencies. It was after Yusuf’s death and Shekau took over that bombings became the group’s modus operandi. They were raw, carrying machetes, but now they have AK47s.

In those days, Boko Haram’s foot soldiers out for revenge over the killing of Yusuf targeted only security formations in their bombing campaign. The militants would ride a motorbike to a police station, throw a bomb (an improvised explosive device, IED) into the compound and speed off. That was how it started. But that is now distant memory. Today, they make bombs, have suicide bombers and carry sophisticated weapons. This is no joke. Indeed, the day they acquired the knowledge to make IEDs was the day we entered a gruesome era in our nationhood, but we knew not. Anyone who can make IED can always cause big damage. He can easily go into his toilet, string things together and walk to the nearest bus stop to drop the device. This is so scary.

Some of the arms being used by Boko Haram, according to reports, were looted from the Libyan armoury after the fall of Muammar Gadhafi, the dictator who had a special love for sophisticated weapons. As his government crumbled and anarchy reigned in Libya, the militants gained access to the armoury and looted to their heart desire. They started a Southward journey thereafter. Mali and Nigeria were two of their destinations. From reports, the Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Africa representative of the multinational Al-Qaeda, is now producing and training more terror groups to further their warped agenda of planting their brand of terror in Africa. Boko Haram is clearly one of the “successful” groups they have infiltrated. Al-Shabbab is another.

Let me now put the No. 2 Home Truth more directly: the time has come for us to accept that Al-Qaeda is now in Nigeria, operating its franchise through Boko Haram. Let’s stop living in denial. They also operate in Somalia and Kenya through Al-Shabbab. I remember vividly that after the attack on police headquarters in Abuja in 2010, in which the then Inspector General of Police, Mr. Hafis Ringim, narrowly escaped death, Boko Haram issued a statement announcing that it had sent its fighters to Somalia to train as suicide bombers. We took it lightly. But we can now see the way things have turned out. The subsequent attack on the United Nations building in Abuja was an indication of the fact the new Boko Haram, under Shekau, might have been fully aligned to Al-Qaeda, and was making an international statement. That was typical of Al-Qaeda.

I am thoroughly convinced that Al-Qaeda is fully on ground here. These guys who are killing defenceless civilians, bombing motor parks at rush hour, burning schools, heartlessly killing teenagers in their sleep and abducting young girls are, in my analysis, Al-Qaeda operatives. And I dare say most of them are not Nigerians. Some of the characteristics they are exhibiting are very consistent with Al-Qaeda’s traits in the countries they operate. There are a lot of strange things happening that we just have to begin to take a second look at. We’ve been having religious riots in Nigeria since 1987 ─ but never on this scale and dimension. The new manifestations of terrorism in Northern Nigeria have Al-Qaeda imprint all over them. That is the only way I can understand the endless bloodletting in the land.

The No. 3 Home Truth is that our politicians and their supporters still do not understand the seriousness of the situation. Immediately I heard about the Nyanya bombing, I told my wife: watch out our politicians will turn this into a campaign tool for 2015. I had hardly closed my mouth when the spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisah Metuh, carelessly said the All Progressives Congress (APC) was behind the bombing, apparently to whip up sympathy for President Jonathan. And, trust APC, it was a golden opportunity to once again campaign for 2015 by holding President Jonathan’s ‘incompetence’ responsible for the attack. Our politicians and their supporters are yet to fully grasp the trouble we are in as a nation. To them, politicking is more important than a united front against this murderous common enemy.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are in trouble. The US, with all its military might, sophistication and financial resources, has not been able to extinguish the threat of Al-Qaeda. If it was as simple as ABC, Americans would have done it by now. They practically ran away from Iraq and Afghanistan. But how can we confront this monster the way we are going? At moments like this, what we need is national unity. This is not the time to be PDP or APC. This is not the time to be pro-Jonathan or anti-Jonathan. I have said it a billion times: politics cannot be everything and everything cannot be politics. We have a common enemy coming at us. Nobody is safe. Muslims, Christians, Northerners, Southerners… everybody is at risk. Boko Haram is blind.

If these politicians truly love Nigeria, this is the time to come together and work out a solution to save the country. I’m not saying politicians shouldn’t politick. That is their job. But we must choose what to politick with. Let’s politick with rebasing the economy, the “missing” $20 billion and World Bank poverty statistics. I have no problems with that. But Boko Haram? No, please. Nigeria’s sovereignty is under threat. Our safety is in jeopardy. A wise political class will secure the nation’s integrity first before thinking about 2015. That’s the home truth.

And Four Other Things…

KANO RALLY
I was almost in tears when I saw President Goodluck Jonathan at a political rally in Kano State a day after the Nyanya bombing. He was there to welcome former governor Ibrahim Shekarau into the PDP following his defection from APC. No matter what, that rally should have been cancelled. The nation was mourning its dead. Information Minister Labaran Maku would later say the rally went ahead in order to make a statement to Boko Haram that nothing would stop the wheel of government. A political rally can’t wait for another time? These guys just can’t get it. Ridiculous.

CHIBOK GIRLS

The kidnap of 129 students of Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS), Chibok, Borno State, is yet another terrible dimension in this Boko Haram onslaught. For those who care little about the tragedy that is ravaging Borno and some other states, imagine one of those girls were your daughter or niece or grandchild. As at last night, only 44 had been found, while 85 of them were yet to be accounted for. Some may end up as sex slaves. That is the horror we are dealing with. If this depressing incident does not move you, then nothing else will ever do. Heartbreaking.

RAPE RAP
A Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in Lagos has been arrested for alleged rape and threat to life, according to media reports. Two other policemen of the rank of inspector are also being investigated. A woman had reported the rape to the authorities and they seem to be taking it seriously. Rape is a very odious offence, but in this society, women have been socialised to keep quiet because of the stigma attached to it. Police officers have been known to take turns on female detainees, who they call “perks of office”. Hopefully, this case will be a landmark. Pathetic.

JOSE’S JIBE
I watched in disbelief yesterday as Sunderland pulled the most unlikely result in the English Premier League this season. Their 2-1 victory at Stanford Bridge earned Chelsea their first EPL home loss under Jose Mourinho since 2004. That was 77 matches without defeat! Mourihno was disappointed with the refereeing, obviously because of a late penalty given to his opponents. His words after the match: “[Referee] Mike Dean. His performance was unbelievable and when referees have unbelievable performances it’s fair to congratulate them. He came here with one objective, the objective to make a fantastic performance and he did that.” Mourinho!
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Article written By Simon Kolawole, and Culled from Thisday Newspaper.. Email: [email protected]

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