The metamorphosis and enlargement of Boko Haram terrorism into various interests is by no means surprising. The infusion of political, commercial and economic interests, aside from its initial facade of religion, has made Boko Haram terrorism a bigtime monster in Nigeria. And each of the piebald interests is driven by a different motive and ideology.
The COAS and helmsman of the counter-insurgency operations, Lt. Gen. TY Buratai declared after his recent parley with President Muhammadu Buhari in the Presidential Villa that 90% of terrorists and armed bandits terrorizing and tormenting the country are Nigerians. That’s an amazing figure. But it is nothing, but the painfully naked truth.
And this enervating and earthshaking figure is ennobled by the infusion of the disparate interests into Boko Haram which was formerly, a small assemblage of religious extremists and criminals. But now, Boko Haram has unimaginable veiled patrons, agents, sympathizers, investors and propagandists in the country. The nest is very wide and really unimaginable. It hints of the extent some Nigerians are not only unpatriotic, but sadists deeply excited with crimes against their own compatriots.
But that’s just a small fraction of the kernel of the problems of terrorism in Nigeria. One of the foremost actions embarked upon by Gen. Buratai in 2015 when he sauntered on the war theatre to lead the combats of anti-terrorism and other evils was to adopt measures to curb the recruitment of idle youths into the sect’s fold. Some of these youths exuded innocence because they were either charmed or hypnotized into initiation by the sect to embark on the destructive mission of heinous crimes against humanity.
Gen. Buratai’s foresighted action of blocking Boko Haram’s recruitment of Nigerian youths as foot soldiers worked perfectly. It was evident in the drastic decline in numbers and depopulation in the ranks of Boko Haramists. And coupled with the frequent casualties the sect suffered in the hands of the Nigerian Army, the surrender of top commanders of the sect and hundreds of already initiated foot soldiers, without replacements, the impact of the war was tremendous.
Nonetheless, by the beginning of 2018, the narrative changed. The political, commercial/business and economic interests of Boko Haram re-sprouted and increased its numerical strength. While it sounds incredulous that a parent could secretly and willingly give out his child for initiation by Boko Haram for a paltry fee or the offer of protection by the criminals, it is sadly, very true. It explains the monstrous resurgence of terrorism because the penetration is too wide and its shadows very difficult to trace.
Therefore, when Gen. Buratai proclaimed that 90% of terrorists and armed bandits are Nigerians, it’s easy to discern. And Nigerians must know, what has manifested as armed banditry is derived from an enfeebled Boko Haram in the Northeast. Insurgents who had a tough time operating in the Northeast like in the past, since Gen. Buratai took over the battle, relocated to the Northwest and resurrected the rested armed banditry and cattle rustling.
These criminals use the same sophisticated weapons. The modus operandi of armed bandits with Boko Haram is the same. There is also a blend of the heartlessness of the perpetrators in committing atrocious acts. Violence, killings, arson, abductions and looting of targeted areas also blend with Boko Haram in every exactitude. That’s why the majority of insurgents’ victims are their brothers either in biological or religious links. Earlier in the year, President Muhammadu Buhari confessed that 90 % of Boko Haram victims are Muslims. It is the gospel truth.
It is natural that most Nigerians can hardly interpret their milieu or trend of events around them. An obsession with the hype of half-truths or absolute falsehood blinds them to reality infinitely. Therefore, Gen. Buratai’s assertion that 90% of terrorists and armed bandits operating in Nigeria are Nigerians may sound strange to some ears. But the Army Chief is not alone in this thought or realization of this truth.
Incumbent Katsina state Governor, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari is also on the same page with Gen. Buratai. A few days ago, Gov. Masari, a politician of enduring years of partisanship and former Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives accused enemies or opponents of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as responsible for the renewed attacks by bandits and Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria. It’s an insightful clue.
And when one recalls the timing of the resurgence of terrorism and banditry in the country at the commencement of partisan campaigns for the 2019 general elections, the excitement shall only be complete by crowning Gov. Masari with a medal for his rare insights. But how many Nigerians have the patience to explore these angles as reeled out by Gen. Buratai and Gov. Masari? Very few.
Almost all the times you encounter some Nigerians, there is the glaring attempt to interrogate the renewed insecurities in Nigeria on the periphery. There is usually, an unfounded excitement of propagating lies and everything that serves to destroy Nigeria’s interests, in alliance with external allies.
It is also undeniably the trademark of opposition. It’s in their culture to celebrate any odd news against Nigeria, but somewhat feel some internal pains to applaud positive news about the country. It is inexplicable, but that’s what is happening to Nigeria. So, no one is concerned to assist security agents to unearth the masked faces behind the acts of renewed terrorism assailing the country; rather, the majority protect and shield the sponsors and perpetrators. What people!
But security agents are not magicians or voodoo merchants. And Nigerians must know the peculiarity of Nigeria. This country has no absolute control over its communication apparatus and the reach is limited. And that’s why the human effort is crucial in adding security agents to fish out terrorists and bandits.
Disappointingly, while Nigerians renege on this moral responsibility, the easiest thing to do is to mouth how President Buhari is incompetent or the Service Chiefs have overstayed their tenures and should resign or be sacked. That’s outright claptrap! And those who complain loudest about “inaction” of government are the same suspected Nigerians who raise hideous planks for the progression of terrorism and survival of terrorists.
All hope not lost, in spite of the dicey situation! Nigerians have a chance to get back on track by retracing their faulty steps and making the necessary adjustments to act appropriately. Nowhere in the whole wide world is the issue of security abandoned to the leaders or Security Chiefs alone. There must be a synergy between the government and the people to overcome threats of insecurities. Citizenship patriotic roles are very important in surmounting insecurity challenges. The consistent neglect of it by Nigerians is to their peril.
Therefore, and like Gen. Buratai, the fearless and the ever-undistracted soldier counselled, the Nigerian Army will continue to do its very best to secure Nigerians and their properties. But when the yoke of terrorism and armed banditry would pass away is strictly the decision of Nigerians. So, it is foolhardy to keep blaming Mr President or security chiefs, while the citizens withdraw vital support; but rather massively embolden acts of terrorism.
Further interrogating the statement by Gen. Buratai, a brave soldier and goal-getter in counter-terrorism by all standards, one would see the sincerity of a good leader who is not ready to deceive his country with mere propaganda.
The Army boss hides nothing in the service of Nigeria. He is one leader who says it as it is and typical of the life of soldiers who do not dread to tell the truth. Buratai is always blunt. His statement that the overwhelming majority of the bandits and terrorists are Nigerians is one bold solution to the problem bedevilling the country. This is the gospel truth that Nigerians have been waiting for a courageous person to voice it.
Therefore, Gen. Buratai and Gov. Masari have let the cat out of the bag. Now that the terrorists are known; the bandits are known and the criminals tormenting the country have been revealed, it is high time Nigerians begin to identify ways which can proceed to the second stage of solving the problem of terrorism. Massive exposure of the suspected culprits. It is the English people who say in an adage that a problem known is partly solved.
There is every need now for all Nigerians to expend more energy by unanimously calling on all those who know the veiled forces tormenting the country to stop it now or expose them to security agents for apprehension. It’s the only potent way citizens can demonstrate patriotic participation for the success of the stiff war Government has mounted against terrorism and armed banditry.
And Nigerians must also necessarily remember that a few days ago, the Defence Headquarters (DHTs) disclosed something crucial in a public statement. Defence spokesman, Gen. John Enenche said, the task of exposing sponsors or agents or sympathizers of Boko Haram/ISWAP or armed bandits is outside the briefs of the Military.
It is a job for the intelligence arms of Nigeria’s security agencies. Therefore, the Nigerian public should be guided accordingly. Nigerians must begin to rise up in our communities to expose the bandits and their sponsors, the terrorists and their promoters and just everything possible to support our military. Sane Nigerians are not interested in their evil ways and therefore, the crimes against Nigerians and the country must cease now unconditionally.
Agibi is a public affairs analyst based in Abuja.