In the two years since I started this blog and while living in Nigeria and shuttling in and out of the country occasionally, It would be silly for me to deny that terrorism has become part and parcel of the Nigerian discourse, reality and life. It has changed the way of life of many especially in my beloved arewa (Northern Nigeria). The entire region as defined by the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello that stretches from the middle belt states of Kwara, Niger, Benue up to the tip of Katsina and as far east as Borno and west as Sokoto is under threat. Even the federal capital is not safe it seems from the scourge of these overzealous religious bigots who seek to further entrench anarchy in the Nigerian psyche (Nigeria from as far back as I can remember is a place that typifies the working principle behind chaos theory, seemingly random mathematical systems and models which are unpredictable yet serve a function in nature), promote a climate of fear (title of a series of BBC lectures by Wole Soyinka, I m yet to finish reading) and challenge the fundamental right of every Nigerian to live life, live it freely and without encumbrance. The aim of this group of terrorists and insurgents in its essence is unclear. Their very existence in my opinion is a product of corruption, a seemingly purposeful retrogression of the masses of northern Nigeria and Nigeria as a whole, a vacuum left by a mostly bloodless independence struggle and the failure of the people to organize a popular revolution for positive change in Nigeria after over 50 years of independence. All in all, it is a continuation/culmination of the multifaceted dynamic of religious, ethnic and class struggles often underpinned by the products of colonial intrigue, neo-colonial machinations and imperialistic cravings that define the core of what it means to be Nigerian and by extrapolation African.
This group who whether we like it or not have proven themselves Nigerian perhaps not by ideology but by birth at least and citizenship has undertaken a campaign of destruction and left in its wake the blood and bodies of many Nigerians. Series of bomb blasts, gun fights and gun attacks have occurred time without number and currently it seems that every day there is an attack or an attempted attack by the group, affiliates or nameless assailants who have taken cover under the umbrella of Boko Haram. You see in a nation where security of lives and property was never fully assured, it is sometimes hard to discern the boko haram attacks from assassinations or armed robberies undertaken by gun men who attack markets and cart away money while leaving many dead. So far the scourge of the terrorists has affected the states of Yobe, Borno, Adamawa, Bauchi, Pleateau, Kano, Kaduna, Niger and Abuja. It seems the group is in cooperation with other terrorist groups in Africa, AQIM and Al-Shabbab. They share training and funding with the said groups that is in addition to funding they get from other sources.
The question that has been addressed in many a write-up is, what is government doing about it? It is essential to note that the main function of government is to ensure the security of lives and property. All other things are secondary to this primary function. In ancient societies, empires were built by conquest as well as by the consent of smaller towns and principalities that submitted to the higher military power for protection and hence became a protectorate and part of the empire. I am no expert in Weberian concepts of power and the legitimacy of power but I daresay that even today, any government that is unable to protect its own people is by implication illegitimate and does not deserve the backing of the people. Max Weber, of which I speak, once defined the state as an entity which has a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. In our nation, it would seem the use of violence has been deregulated and exposed to the forces of demand of supply at the mercy of him or her who has the capacity to unleash said violence. This makes each and every Nigerian a quasi-state unto themselves complete with their own power company, water supply agency and so on. That being said, it would seem from an outside view that the government is helpless against the group and is engaging them in a structured war when the terrorists are engaging in guerrilla warfare which calls for a very different strategy.
As to whether these strategies are already on the ground, I do not know. I am no security expert; In fact my only qualification is perhaps an above average IQ and comprehensive watching of shows and movies such as 24 starring the indestructible Jack Bauer, an American anti-terrorism agent of seemingly German heritage going by the last name who destroys terrorists with the efficiency of a German engineered automobile (Evidently, I m a big fan of German engineering go figure). With my meagre credentials in this field, I believe the best was to tackle a guerrilla insurgency is by infiltration, isolation, starvation and ultimately decimation. In the following paragraphs I will explain what I mean by these.
To tackle the insurgency and terrorism it is important that intelligence is given a priority. The government should focus on intelligence gathering, counter intelligence and smart interrogation or assassination of key members. If the security agencies haven’t done this already, I suggest a secret group of well paid undercover operatives be created. I am talking about recruiting intelligent young men and women of the muslim faith who are able to blend into the group, they should be able to speak hausa/kanuri/fulani and be conversant with some Arabic. They should undergo serious training and be willing to disappear from public limelight for a few months. They should be able to cut off contact with friends and family. No one will know where they went and no one will know they are part of the group unlike nowadays where if you go to a neighbourhood people can point out to you who is an SSS officer in the area. These people will case out known hangouts of the group and win their trust. They shall stay with them and report their information directly to the leader of the stealth group. It is their information that will be used to capture key members of the group and also gain information on the source of their funds, weapons and training. Also it is these undercover operatives that will engage in stealth assassination such as poisoning of the leaders or well executed killing. These people shall be given a license to kill. This is not farfetched in a country where killing squads and letter bombs were the tools of oppression of past military juntas.
Apart from undercover operatives, a softening of the posture of the security agencies by better public relations will help them to canvass for information from the people. Anonymous information centres shall be established and rewards shall be given for information that eventually pans out. We shall become a country of snitches to help halt terrorism. In line with gathering information from the public it is important that a huge sensitization programme be undertaken. Also there should be greater vigilance in neighbourhoods, people should return to the days of being their neighbours keeper because it would seem that as we modernize we have slowly become a nation of I pass my neighbour and mind your own business. Suspect activity should be reported. A network of citizen vigilance and intelligence should be created to help halt crime and terrorism.
Another key tactic is to isolate the group. By isolating and starving the group, I am referring to preventing their collaboration with foreign terrorist groups. To isolate the group, the Nigerian immigration will have to actually do their jobs of protecting and patrolling the nation’s border as well as making sure every resident of this country has the right to be here. This prevents the inflow of weapons and foreign personnel for the terrorist group. Also on a financial angle, the flow of money within the country as well as in and out of the country should be seriously monitored. The country should cooperate with foreign nations from which some of these funds come to freeze the accounts as well as get intelligence on the money trail. If the money trail of the terrorist is found and the trail blocked, it will be akin to a financial isolation of the group. Since Nigeria is a federation, perhaps it is time that movement of people from one state of the nation to another be properly monitored and prevent a spread of hostilities.
The concept of dialogue in my opinion is a non issue, it is my opinion these sort of people are very different from the MEND militants. These are people that see their mission as one sanctioned by God, ladies and gentlemen let me put this into perspective they believe that the maker and creator of all things has ordained for them to kill people and believe me many of them are absolutely obstinate in their convictions they won’t be swayed by money and scholarships to study abroad.
My people, what say you, how can we stop boko haram?
This entry was posted in Africa, Musings, Nigeria, Politics, Religion and tagged 24, Africa, al-shabbab, Anti-terrorism, AQIM, Arewa, Boko Haram, bomb blasts, counter-terrorism, Guerilla warfare, human-rights, insurgency, Intelligence, Jack Bauer, Nigeria, northern nigeria, Politics, religion, religious bigots, strategies, Terrorism, Wole Soyinka.