From the beginning of this Islamic insurgency, every embarrassing development had always been seen as a joke. When Islamic militancy started in 2009, the Nigerian government saw it as a joke, and rather than deal with the real issue of an apparently creeping Islamic fundamentalism in the North, troops of policemen were deployed to Maiduguri to summarily execute 900 Boko Haram sect members, including their leader. Video footage on Al Jazeera Television and YouTube showed that the members of the Nigeria Police were simply having fun gunning down unarmed members of the sect. In that video, the voice of the “commander” at the background could be heard saying, “target the heart, yes…the heart, that will finish him…oya…shoot…” and “gboa”, the noise of the hot iron releasing the hot lead into the heart of the “human game”. It was thus like a practical session of a police shooting event or a hunting enterprise. That was how 900 persons lost their lives. It was a joke. The fundamentals had been swept under the carpet. The monster would rise again.
And so it did. Two years after, Boko Haram came back in full force. More ferocious and determined to pull down the Nigerian government. The creation of an Islamic State was hyped as the main goal. But government went into several theatrics, notable of which was asking for dialogue with the group. Other unintelligent moves included the description of the felons as “our brothers and sons from the North”. The most ludicrous of the show was contemplation of offer of amnesty to the faceless, unknown and visibly arrogant and cantankerous group.
In the wave of horror that followed, Nigeria lost retired General Shuwa (a Civil War hero), a lot of police officers, immigration officers, a couple of prominent politicians, traditional rulers, journalists, and hundreds of regular Nigerians. Between 2011 and 2014, many churches have been attacked and Christians killed; Muslim leaders have been hacked down and mosques raided; schools razed down and pupils killed, maimed or abducted; campuses raided and scores of undergraduates murdered in cold blood; motorists and travellers waylaid and hacked down at fake checkpoints; and of course, security officers have been attacked in their barracks, offices, homes or ambushed while on patrol and hacked down; and so forth.
Since 2011 when Boko Haram attacked the Force Headquarters, United Nations and called the bluff of the government on too many occasions, there has been a declaration of war. But the authorities seem to have not taken them seriously. The business of the state has gone on ‘smoothly’ without any concern for the pillar that guarantees the continued existence of the state-sovereignty. Abubakar Shekau’s success on every venture proved too much of the inability of the Nigerian State to sustain its sovereignty. His frequent videos, since 2011, in which he brags, curses and confirms another successful attack on Nigeria underline the marked weakness of the state or demonstration of lack of capacity of the security agencies to defend the territorial integrity of the state. The false claims by the military high command on a number of occasions that Boko Haram leaders, particularly Shekau, had been killed further reinforce the theory that the state had lost its bite and might, as it either had poor intelligence, poor capacity or poor vision to understand the undercurrents; or it had resorted to cheap blackmail and propaganda, which are sometimes the weapon of the weak. Every claim Boko Haram makes is confirmed and validated with proofs; every denial he makes has never been faulted. The Defence Headquarters on the other hand, has never sounded convincing. Indeed, it contradicts itself most times and resorts to lame justification of failures.
The insurgents have been having an upper hand and have indeed questioned the sovereignty and power of the Nigerian State. Aside hurling insults repeatedly on Mr. President, the Sovereign, daring him to act and ‘catch them if he can’, Boko Haram had also attempted to take the life of General Muhammadu Buhari, a former Head of State, and could have murdered a serving Inspector General of Police. The recent but botched attempt to cross to Southern Nigeria through the Southeast city of Aba, bomb attempts on a Pentecostal church in Owerri and the Lagos airport and the explosion in Apapa that claimed five lives, surely demonstrate the continued inability of the Nigerian military and other security agencies to show capacity to defend the country. Months ago, 234 school girls were abducted by Boko Haram in Chibok, Borno State, a state under emergency rule, taken through the ‘eye of the needle’ and horded straight to Sambisa. Months after, the sovereign state has not yet been able to smash Boko Haram nor has it been able to deliver the poor souls back to their homestead.
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The most ridiculous thing in recent times was the flight of 480 soldiers from battlefront to neighbouring Cameroon. These soldiers of the Nigerian Army were overpowered by Boko Haram fighters and as such fled to Cameroon and returned only last week after having been shielded by their Cameroonian counterparts. This is the SHAME of the century on the Nigerian State. As a Nigerian, one feels beaten, battered and one’s pride has been butchered. The shame is in the fact that insurgents overpowered soldiers- a whopping 480 in number- of a great nation. The humiliation is in the fact that they fled to Cameroon, our ‘love-hate’ brother that had often felt intimidated by and jealous of the Nigerian military might. The ridicule is in the fact that days later, the Cameroonian soldiers killed 27 Boko Haram members and successfully repelled their attack on a Cameroonian town, thus pushing them back into Nigeria. We have ridiculed ourselves before Cameroon and Africa and the myth of our military superiority has just been shattered!
That’s how terribly bad it has become. The recent declaration of a sovereign state, “Caliphate Republic” within the sovereign state of Nigeria is the height of the opprobrium. That the Nigerian government is taking it as a joke yet again, may yet be another comedy of error. For those who do not know, Boko Haram attacked a Mobile Police (MOPO) training camp in Gwoza (Borno State), decimated the police trainees and trainers and abducted thirty-five of them, twenty-seven of who are still missing. Gwoza is that infamous place where scores of attacks have been carried out and all of them have been successful. Soldiers have been overpowered too many times in this town. Gwoza and the adjoining cities have thus become the ‘capital’ of Boko Haram’s “Caliphate Republic”, where the black and white flags hoisted have displaced the green and white symbol of Nigeria’s nationhood.
This is the time to act if the Nigerian State has still got any bite or action. This is not the time for the pseudo-PR personnel at the Defence Headquarters to make noise or peddle lies. We do not need no tell-tale. We must salvage Nigeria. There is no better time to act than now. The disgrace on the state is too much. Let the military put its acts together and let the high command not shortchange the boys any longer- provide the best arms and armoury, provide effective and quality leadership and motivate the military boys to fight. Boko Haram has tempted the will of the state too many times. If Abacha were head of state, would a Boko Haram have gone this far? If Obasanjo were still the president, would this have happened? If Buharai-Idiagbon were in power, could this shame befall Nigeria? Would Babangida’a army have allowed this nonsense? These are questions that should worry President Goodluck Jonathan and make him to act. History will not forgive any leader that fails to act when all that was needed was, ACT!
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