You would have thought that a group that disavows every credo of Anglo-Saxon civilisation would not copycat the technology of the European kindred it lampoons. In its latest offensive, which culminated in the destruction of Bama near Maiduguri, over 200 heavily armed militants in a motorised column of vehicles and motorbikes with rocket-propelled grenades attacked police stations, military barracks and government buildings.
In previous outings it had attacked non-European targets like mosques, motor parks, Muslim traditional rulers like the revered Emir of Kano and Emir of Fika. A suicide bomber detonated himself at a mosque in Maiduguri in July 2012, after Friday prayers. His target was believed to have been the most senior Muslim leader in Borno, Abubakar Umar Garbai El-Kanemi. He narrowly escaped death, but five other worshippers were killed.
The choice of targets is a brainteaser to many who seek to unravel the true motivation of Boko Haram. Why would an authentic crusader of Sharia, nay, Muslim interests, seek to annihilate the poster boy of Islam as they sought to do with the assassination attempt on the Emir of Kano? Informed commentators and politicians in the North believe that Boko Haram’s public posturing is a ruse for other hidden objectives because the 5-star studded lifestyle of its founder Mohammed Yusuf had all the trappings and luxury paraphernalia of a superstar.
Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State, in appraising Boko Haram, said: “Mohammed Yusuf beclouded his people by living a life of deception. Imagine, their leader is about 32 years old, he rides exotic cars including expensive jeeps, has his children in choice private schools receiving sound and quality education, has private lawyers and doctors who treat and attend to him, yet he has the powers to indoctrinate people.”
It may be politically correct to dismiss the BH founder as another run-of-the-mill charlatan who operated at the lunatic fringe. But that does not explain the staying power of the organisation that has impressively waxed strong five years after Yusuf met his waterloo. Not to talk of its escalation, sophistication, local sympathies and tacit support from a segment of the northern elite.
Tonnes of verbiage have been expended on the aetiology, structure and appropriate government response to contain this BH threat. But it appears inexperience on the part of security apparatuses and policy interventions has exacerbated the problem. There seems to be divergent and contradictory narratives of official line because in one breath we are regaled with stories of ‘moles’, saboteurs and fifth columnists that have penetrated the various echelon of the administration. In another breath, salacious pieces are dished out of how a coalition of out-of-job political fixers, retired army officers and disenchanted influence peddlers who lost out in the North-South tussle over rotational presidency are transferring their aggression and piling pressure on President Jonathan.
That sounds plausible given the 2011 pre-election rant and threats made by certain northern politicians, such as ex-governor Lawal Kaita who threatened to make the country ungovernable for President Jonathan or any other Southerner who finds himself into the seat of power. Kaita further brimmed fire when he asserted: “A northerner must emerge in 2015 or Nigeria will divide.” When you add up these inflammatory statements with the provocative intervention of Farouk Aliyu, and Adamu Ciroma’s seditious Dan Fodio threat, you definitely will detect the body language of pro-insurgent sympathisers.
The upshot of all this is that President Jonathan has a piece of cake to chew. A Nigerian proverb pontificates that when a handshake gets past the knuckles, wrestling begins. And that precisely is what the Brahmins are getting at. All this talk of amnesty committee must be jettisoned, because it conveys the wrong signals. Amnesty translates to a policy of appeasement. And when deployed as an instrument of public policy, the result is an unmitigated disaster.
Recall the humiliation suffered by Neville Chamberlain, ex-British prime minister, who in 1939 went grovelling to Adolf Hitler with a spurious appeasement war-avoidance land deal with the warmongers in Berlin. Not only did the deal fall flat in his face, but he lost his job to a doughty Winston Churchill who in alliance with the allied powers fought the Germans to a halt. Back home, the late Aguiyi Ironsi travelled to an Ibadan conference in 1966 to appease certain traditional rulers across the Niger/Benue confluence. What did he get? The ‘butcher’ at Ibadan who was part of his security detail got him assassinated.
As the president and commander in chief, President Jonathan should get the nation’s security apparatuses to think outside the box and step up their game. It took France just two weeks to smoke out the Tuaregs from Mali. If we must seek regional or multinational force, then why not? In any case, those so-called elders beating the tom-tom of war are now toothless bulldogs, because the vassals they used for their dirty jobs in the past are no longer with them.
Torti is a management consultant and public policy analyst.
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