The abduction of over a hundred school girls, by suspected members of the dreaded Boko Haram sect, at the Government Girls Technical Secondary School, Dapchi, Yobe State, was the most daring act in recent times, from a group that was proclaimed as “technically defeated” by the Buhari’s administration.
During the administration of Former President Goodluck Jonathan, they staged several attacks both against public and private institutions, in several cities, even going as far as desecrating Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city. They carted away several hostages including the famous Chibok girls, occupied territories (about 14 local government areas), and in an audacious move proclaimed a Caliphate in Gwoza, Borno State. The militants gave the military a bloody nose. However, Buhari’s election as President in 2015, changed the tide of the war. Boko Haram suffered one loss after another until Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information, boldly declared on national television that the militants had been “technically defeated”. That “technical victory” is fast becoming a pyrrhic victory with the renewed wave of attacks by the insurgents on soft targets, and the recent abduction of over a hundred school girls. Some have posited that the resurgence of the insurgents in recent times, can be attributed to the release of half of the Chibok girls, and the release of the abducted UNIMAID lecturers, where it is believed that large sums of money (several millions of dollars), and Boko Haram Commanders in Nigerian prisons, were exchanged for the freed captives. If this is true, that means the desire of the Buhari government to secure a political victory rather than a military victory over Boko Haram, possibly with an eye on the 2019 elections, coupled with pressure from the BBOG Campaign, pushed them into making a bad deal with the insurgents.
Boko Haram has killed 20,000 people and displaced 2.6 million people in a wave of attacks spanning a nine year period. Government should begin to think of long-term solutions to this menace rather than quick fixes because terrorism will not disappear from our midst overnight, as it is based on an ideology derived from a warped interpretation of religion, and there is no denying the fact that Nigerians are very gullible and susceptible when it comes to the issue of religion.
Nigeria’s North East region (comprising 6 states) which is the epicenter of the insurgency, is too large to be policed effectively by our security forces. With a landmass of 262,578 km, the North East is bigger than all the countries in West Africa with the exception of Ivory Coast. Members of the Armed Forces are not more than 250,000, all of whom are not stationed in the North East. Also, the Nigerian Police currently has 381,000 members, 80% of whom are on VIP Protection Duties. It is crystal clear that we do not have the requisite manpower to police the region and curb unfortunate incidents like the Dapchi abduction.
My solution to this shortage of security personnel is the creation of a National Guard and a Special Forces Unit in the Nigerian military. The National Guard (which some countries also refer to as the Republican Guard), will have chapters in all the states of the federation, will be federally controlled, and tasked with the responsibility of protecting the Nigerian State from external aggressors. They should be trained in counter-terrorism strategies and tactics, asymmetric warfare, and desert warfare. Also, we should create a Special Forces Unit in the military that will be skilled in Search and Rescue Operations and endowed with the ability to launch precision strikes at enemy targets whenever the need arises. The issue of funding for these proposed security agencies does not arise as neighbouring countries with smaller populations and smaller economic resources already have these institutions operational in their security apparatii. That is the reason why Boko Haram has been unable to gain a foothold in those countries or cause any significant damage unlike in Nigeria.
In the interim, we should swallow our pride and engage international help in our efforts to decapitate the Haramists. American forces mentored the the Iraqi forces that recently pushed ISIS out of Iraq. Why can’t we explore such option in Nigeria?
A key issue which President Muhammadu Buhari must seriously look into, is the issue of saboteurs within the military brass. BBC recently aired a report of how the Nigerian military was stopped from killing or capturing Sheikh Abubakar Shekau, the ruthless leader of Boko Haram, by a controversial order from “above” which delayed them for four days. Those within the ranks of the military who give controversial orders that impede efforts to crush the insurgency should be court-martialed and punished appropriately.
A military victory is what we should seek before a political victory. Boko Haram should be boxed into a corner where they will be forced to negotiate peace terms which should be devoid of exchange of cash.