Since the outbreak of violent attacks by the Boko Haram insurgents in 2009, the group’s mode of operation, style and pace have changed markedly. Whereas, in the beginning, the attacks were wider in scope and directed mainly at government installations – which included the United Nations building and Police Headquarters in Abuja – they are now restricted to the fringes of the affected three States of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, with vulnerable civilian populations, especially school children, as targets.
Military experts interpret the change to soft targets as a sign that the insurgents are retreating and that the war is about to end. However, the opposition and critics of the government claim that insofar as the casualty figures, in human and material terms, are still rising, the war against Boko Haram is far from over. Irrespective of political persuasions, Nigerians should be worried about the current security situation.
It is true that the Boko Haram operations are now restricted mainly to the three affected states. There can be no doubt that their activities have paralysed the economies in much of the North. Indeed, the negative effects of their atrocities cut across the entire country. For the national economy to thrive, there must be uninterrupted flow of investments within and from international investors. That flow is not possible in an unstable social and political environment such as the one that now exists in the affected states. Apart from the US and some European countries that have issued travel alert to their citizens against travelling to Nigeria’s northern states, foreign direct investments in the states have dropped significantly. The three states are now regarded as a pariah zone by international investors.
It is true that Nigeria had, before Boko Haram, experienced insurgency, militancy or religious fanaticism. However, none of these past experiences was as senseless as the Boko Haram insurgency. When someone tried the other day to compare Boko Haram with the Niger Delta militancy, his error was glaring: while the Niger Delta militants were identifiable youths – Tompolo, Atake Tom, Boyloaf, etc – who made clear their demands, the Boko Haram insurgents are faceless operators with an unspecified mission, except that they want to Islamize the entire nation and obliterate Western education!
The truth about Boko Haram is that those who knew how it all started would agree that it was politically motivated. Unfortunately, the terror sect has grown into a Frankenstein’s monster such that even those who created it now distance themselves from its destructive activities.
Northern leaders owe the nation the duty of helping to salvage the situation by virtue of their status as leaders of the various communities that produced the insurgents. To claim that the young men (and perhaps women too) have outgrown their communities is unacceptable. Boko Haram members, no matter their degree of indoctrination, still belong to the normal Nigerian extended families; they are under family heads, ward leaders and chiefs, and the insurgents are still subject to kinship discipline.
If the Northern leaders are looking for an example to learn from, it is readily provided by elders of the South-south zone who took charge when the unrest in the Niger Delta was at its peak. Leaders such as E.K Clark, Tony Anenih and then Vice President GoodluckEbele Jonathan, had to go into the hideouts of militants to preach the urgent need for peace in the region. Based on their efforts, the militants accepted the amnesty deal and surrendered their weapon in 2009. Northern leaders should take a cue.
Port Harcourt, Rivers state