Wednesday 15 July 2015

Buhari And Renewed Boko Haram Offensive - by Tayo Ogunbiyi

Aside from his renowned firm anti-corruption posturing, the military background of President Muhammadu Buhari, being a retired army General, was perhaps, partly responsible for his winning the March 28 presidential election. 

Apart from the slide in the fortunes of the nation’s economy due to the dwindling price of oil, national insecurity, especially the one occasioned by the dastardly activities of the Boko Haram sect, has become a major source of concern to the corporate existence of the nation. Hence, most Nigerians, either rightly or wrongly, were convinced that with a tested army general of Buhari’s calibre at the helms of national affairs, Boko Haram insurgency would soon be comprehensively dealt with.

However, the way things have recently turned out have dashed this hope, at least for now. Rather than diminished, the devilish activities of the sect have gained unbelievable momentum in the past few weeks. A few hours after the President had referred to the group as “godless” and “mindless”, during his inauguration, the sect struck with nauseating audacity, characteristically leaving in its trail sorrow, tears and blood. 

In the past few days, the sect has launched renewed attacks on Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, perhaps to defiantly rubbish President Buhari’s directive that the military high command be relocated to Maiduguri. According to reports, the Islamists arrived in the Moronti area of the city by river but were incapable of advancing further because of wide ditches and embankments dug by soldiers around the city limits. They then began shooting sporadically at Ajillari Cross, a few kilometres from Moronti, thus throwing the area into confusion with civilians running for cover. The Islamists were later suspected of a suicide attack at a mosque in the city some days later, which killed 26 people and injured 28 others. In another development, about 150 people were reportedly killed by the sect in a fresh attack on Maiduguri.

The recent renewed offensive of the Boko Haram sect is instructive in many ways. One, it goes to actually confirm that the group is in no way a religious one and as such could, by no means, be championing, as it had erroneously been proclaiming, the promotion of Islam. The fact that the sect has particularly chosen the revered month of Ramadan, when Muslim faithful seek to maintain peace with all men and their God, to launch criminal attacks on renowned Muslim locations and adherents, is a pointer to the reality that it is, indeed, a “godless” and “mindless” sect. No sane group, purporting to promote religious cause, should take recourse to bloodletting when it is common knowledge that God abhors such a tendency.

Also, the fresh Boko Haram renewed offensive readily rubbishes an earlier ploy in some quarters to give the group a political colouration. In the thick of its dastardly attacks in the country, especially during the time of former President Goodluck Jonathan, attempts were made to politicise the activities of the group. Surprisingly and, perhaps, ridiculously, the Department of State Services allowed itself to be caught in the web of this seemingly spurious claim. The spokesperson for the group, Ms. Marilyn Ogar, once insinuated that the then opposition All Progressives Congress was responsible for the spate of bombings in the country. Speaking during an interview on Channels Television, Ogar claimed that each time the APC had an election, a spate of bombings followed. She said: “We moved to Anambra and APGA won in Anambra, there was bomb blast. We moved to Ekiti, the PDP won in Ekiti, there was bomb blast. We thank God that we were able to deploy appropriately. The results have come out and the APC has won and thank God there was no bomb blast. We should thank God that since after the Osun State election there has been no bomb blast. Glory be to God,” she added when Channels TV reporter asked her if she was insinuating that the APC was responsible for the bomb blasts across the country.

Though Ogar did not provide any evidence to back her allegation that the APC was behind the Boko Haram bombings in the country, many believed it was part of a grand ploy to paint the party and its then presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, in bad light in order to diminish their chances of winning the 2015 elections. At the height of this wild claim, Buhari was widely portrayed as one of the major sponsors of the sect. It took a dastardly attack on him somewhere in Kaduna State for many to start giving the claim a second thought. With the renewed onslaught of the sect, in-spite of a Buhari Presidency, it is now quite clear that the Boko Haram insurgency is beyond politics.

The truth of the matter is that Boko Haram is a terrorist sect. To underline its wide acclaim as a globally recognised terrorist sect, the sect was designated by the US Department of State as a terrorist organisation in 2013. In the first half of 2014, Boko Haram killed more than 2,000 innocent and hapless civilians, in about 95 attacks. In the last three years, more than 3,000 people have lost their lives as a result of its operations. A recent research claimed that Boko Haram attacks have left at least 12,000 people dead and 8,000 crippled in the last three years while hundreds of thousands have fled their homes for the fear of the insurgents.

Therefore, we need to become less petty as a people. We need to stand up together and act decisively against terror. Those who are waging war against our nation have demonstrated that they care less about mundane dividing factors such as ethnicity, religion and politics. Religion, ethnic and political affiliations simply mean nothing to these agents of death who have sworn an oath to “Ogun”, the Yoruba god that bathes with blood. All they want is blood, nothing but more blood. To them, there is no peculiarity in blood. Blood is blood.

Consequently, the various security agencies in the country need to be encouraged to do more than they are presently doing in the management of the country’s security situation. In as much as it is true that terrorism is becoming a global challenge, our security bodies need to exhibit more decisiveness and professionalism in their handling of prevailing security condition in the country. One primary duty of government, all over the world, is the protection of the citizenry. The present trend that exposes Nigerians to unhindered horrid attacks and premature deaths is, to say the least, intolerable. Consequently, the sack of the service chiefs and their immediate replacement by the President are commendable and fitting enough, even though seemingly belately.

We all have a duty to maintain peaceful co-existence in the country. We need to lay more emphasis on human capital development, especially in places with higher rate of instability.

Finally, our political leaders must eschew all tendencies that could further throw the country into a deeper crisis. God bless Nigeria!

- Tayo Ogunbiyi is a political analyst based in Ikej, Lagos 

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