The insurgency challenge (Revisited)

It would be grievously unfair not to acknowledge the efforts of the Buhari administration and the security forces in their determination to contain the murderous menace of Boko Haram and possibly make it history. The frequency and the intensity of attacks and killings by the insurgents in the north-east have considerably abated, thank goodness. It points to the possible triumph of the Nigerian state over its most embarrassing security challenge. This encouraged the government about a year ago to crow about its victory. It crowed too soon.

Boko Haram has not become history. It remains a challenge to the Nigerian state now as it did in 2009. The Chibok school girls are still missing. As of this writing, they have spent 1,179 days in captivity. We do not know their fate. The most realistic guess is that their captors have forcibly converted them to Islam. And they have become comfort wives and mothers of the children of these men who exercise power with the barrel of the gun.

This scenario tends to suggest that there is just no hope by the security forces to free the Chibok girls and reunite them with their grieving families. Is the Nigerian state this helpless in the face of this considerable challenge to its present and the future of its children, the leaders of tomorrow? I hope not.

But I am afraid it is getting even worse. Boko Haram has turned its guns on another set of our innocent children – students of the University of Maiduguri. The Daily Trust of July 2 gave grim statistics of the insurgent attacks on the institution since January this year. According to the newspaper, there were six cases of attacks involving 13 suicide bombers. Seven people were killed and 19 were injured.

This is an unsettling indication that the backbone of the insurgents is not yet broken. Its capacity to pick and choose where to strike and when must still be baffling to our security forces. There is always rhyme and unreason to the activities of terrorists. Their primary objective is to terrorise and create palpable fear among the populace. Their capture of the Chibok girls some 1,179 days ago and their repeated attacks on the University of Maiduguri point to their warped reasoning that the best way to make the Nigerian state look helpless is to attack children, the most vulnerable group of persons in every society. By killing the children, they are also killing the future of our country. It makes their challenge to the Nigerian state a lot more worrisome than we might have thought. If our children are not safe in our educational institutions, it robs their parents of what all parents struggle and even die for – a better future for their children.

The Nigerian state cannot allow Boko Haram to dim the light on that future for which it is giving its all to secure or allow the insurgents to make it look small or incompetent. In the classical understanding of insurgency, insurgents fight for an objective. Quite often this boils down to their ambition to own a piece of the country or to have a share of the national political pie. Boko Haram has articulated no such woolly-minded, even if unattainable, objective. It is, therefore, not really confronting the Nigerian state to bend its will in the context of its objective because it has no defined objective or objectives known to the Nigerian state. Its insurgency is without a cause; its killing spree does not add up; they make no sense.

Their war has shifted to a psychological intimidation of Nigerians in their primary theatre of unremitting violence. They have attacked the camps set up for those the insurgents displaced from their homes. They are not pursuing the displaced persons; they are telling the Nigerian state that they determine which areas in our country are safe for its law-abiding citizens. They must not be allowed to do this. A psychological warfare is perhaps the worst form of mental and emotional torture known to mankind.

In my column of April 9, I noted: “The Buhari administration inherited this very critical national security challenge. It must not let another inherit it from it. Eight years is long enough and time enough for the state to rescue itself and the people from Boko Haram and put an end to its murdering, stealing and kidnapping spree. We must find the will.

“Insurgents have been defeated elsewhere before. The records of other countries in this regard should encourage the government, the intelligence and the security forces to work harder and dictate the pace and the nature of this battle and defeat Boko Haram. Our country and its people have been held hostage by these murderous criminals for too long. The thought that the people living in the border villages in Borno and Adamawa states live in constant fear of attacks is truly and unarguably horrendous. Our security and intelligence agencies need more than good luck in their onerous task. They need our total and full support. Let us not withhold these from them.”I do not need to add anything more to those points I raised more than three months ago.

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Boko Haram
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