Wednesday 5 March 2014

Latest Boko Haram Rampage, Massacre of School Children: Matters Arising

Probably basking on the euphoria of a new Staff of office, Nigeria's Chief of Defense Staff - reportedly exuded optimism that Boko Haram onslaught will be a thing of the past sooner than later. Rather than dampen the Sect's penchant for bloodletting, the statement seem to have galvanized them to up the ante.
Again Boko Haram is credited with the recent barbaric slaughtering of dozens of students of Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, Yobe State. Recall that in 2013, the Sect killed about 42 students of Government Secondary School, Mamudu, Potiskum. It also emerged Boko Haram once again had a free rain in Michika LGA of Adamawa State. On March 1st, two explosions occurred in a busy market in Maiduguri claiming the lives of dozens of people. At the time of penning this Piece (1700HRS GMT, 04/03/2014), news filtered in that 40 people were hacked to death at Jakana village in Bornu state. It is daunting to keep pace with the the Sect's rampageous campaign. Butchering hapless unarmed individuals especially school children negates the rules of engagement; it is unmanly and a crime against humanity.

The intriguing part of this latest attack is the allegation that Military deployment to a nearby Checkpoint in Yobe was withdrawn shortly before Boko Haram struck. It is preposterous to hear that Boko Haram had a free rein and waltz after 5 hours notwithstanding an ongoing 'State of Emergency'. We demand that this allegation be rigorously investigated and appropriate punishment meted out to those responsible.

Regrettably, it has become a norm for our leaders to swiftly reel out cacophony of condemnations spiced with crocodile tears. Chit-chat committees are subsequently assembled. The ogas-at-the-top tell Nigerians they are on top of the situation. The frenzy evaporates within some days and it is business as usual again. Life is increasingly cheapened in this clime; innocent citizens are butchered daily and geezers revel in grandiose centenary jamboree.

For one, Boko Haram is consistent. They make it patently clear they detest Western education  and that they are not interested in any form of dialogue. Interestingly their attacks follow a predictable pattern - a predilection for attacking schools, churches, mosques, military formations and other public places. Hence it is not rocket science to extrapolate their possible next target and take adequate steps to forestall it. A proactive intelligence gathering approach, inter-agency synergy and coordination will do a lot of good. If the government, Security agencies cannot guaranty the safety of students, let the schools be shut down in the interim.

We reject the insinuation that Boko Haram is better armed than our Security Forces. Having served in the Nigerian Air Force, this Writer is fairly conversant with military affairs. If the military moves in with gusto, no tree will be left standing in those places. For such close quarter combats, light weapons (AK47, M16 and prolly FN Rifle) are the ideal weapons. You don't expect the Military to serve up all the weapons in its inventory fighting ragtag faceless tertorists. Recall our military's blitzkrieg at Odi, Baga? It is worthy to point out that Boko Haram is waging a Guerilla-like (unconventional) warfare.  The greatest strength of this tactic is the fluidity, element of surprise and the loose command and control structure of such terrorist organizations. In the mix is a growing phenomenon of 'Lone Wolf Terrorism' (cells or individuals that are not necessarily sworn members of a terrorist organization but are sympathetic to the Cause that such organizations are fighting. Also, it is not out of place to see serving or dismissed Soldiers who are sympathetic to Boko Haram. Hence you seldom know who your enemy is. It could be the same guy you dine with in the day time who metamorphises to a blood-thirsty creature in the night. An analogy is a tse tse fly that perches on the scrotum, use maximum force and you risk losing your scrotum; leaving it there is not also an option. Its a Catch-22 situation which requires a lot of precision to avoid serious collateral damage or friendly fire. As extenuating as this may seem, it is not a valid excuse for nonfeasance by our Security Agencies since there are international templates, best practices they can refer to.

While we appreciate the onerous task our Security Agencies are encumbered with and the sacrifices they make, we urge them to discreetly walk the talk rather than indulge in taunting vainglory that invites Boko Haram to stamp their authority with reckless abandon. Our Soldiers will be better motivated if there is some kind of life insurance in place for those of them in the frontline and a policy of taking care of their families should they die in active service. Nigerian Army and Air Force Chiefs must not wait to be told before they be on ground in these hotbeds to closely oversee the military operation. A good General is better off commanding from the front line not ensconcing himself in the comfort of air conditioned HQ or office.

Nigerian Air Force jets must be on 247-combat alert and should randomly patrol the airspace within Yobe, Bornu, Adamawa and their borders with Cameroon, Niger etc. We believe the giant of Africa have the resources to deploy cutting-edge technologies such as "Unattended Land/Ground Sensors" and "Unmanned Aerial Vehicles" (UAV's) around our extensive and porous land borders. The billions of dollars supposedly flying around at the NNPC will comfortably sort out a dozen of those.

As evidenced in his latest media chat, there is no iota of doubt President Jonathan is desirous to see an end to this wanton killings that has marred his administration. He once again extended an olive branch to a recalcitrant Boko Haram during his latest 'media chat' even though the Sect has habitually scorned previous overtures. What is the point reciting poetry to people that do not appreciate poetry. Statements such as 'my hands are tied' emanating from the people that should instill confidence in Nigerians is unbecoming. We are concerned that such apparent passing comments bolsters Boko Haram, it cast aspersions of sheer helplessness and inconsistency. A situation where the position of the Commander-in-chief is incongruous with that of his Chief of Defense Staff creates some kind of confusion. Even where negotiation or dialogue is an option, it is dangerous, a bad precedent to negotiate from a position of weakness or desperation. If Aso Rock wishes to explore dialogue, let the Government be in a position to make these terrorist/insurgents an offer they cannot refuse. This is why Nigeria must urgently come up with a coherent terrorism/counter terrorism policy/strategy. Blowing hot and cold in the guise of a 'carrot and stick' approach is not fit for purpose.

It is not enough to win the war, the peace must be won too. Treating the symptom of the disease as against exterminating the causative agent, offers interim reprieve, a wholistic approach that encompasses tackling the remote causes of terrorism, insurgency must be vigorously pursued.

Our heart and condolence are with families that lost their innocent wards in these heinous killings. We pray that God will grant them the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss. We implore the government and Nigerians generally to support these families in any way they can. People that survived such heinous attacks are usually traumatized and they need all the counselling, support they can get. We urge Nigerians to be resilient. The forces of evil cannot break our indefatigable spirit!

Enough of fingerpointing, let's brainstorm solutions. All hands must be on deck! Stand up and be counted! When posterity beckons, don't say you did nothing because your contribution would have been infinitesimal. Let us take back humanity! Let's be our brother's keeper. Together, let us SAY NO TO INSECURITY AND TERRORISM! See it, Say it, Stop it!!! Give peace a chance.

Yours in the Service of humanity,

Don Okereke
Twitter: @DonOkereke

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