By Anthony Kolawole
We cannot refrain from analyzing the counter-insurgency campaigns in Nigeria in the last two years under President Muhammadu Buhari. We cannot cast away a conscience overshadowed by the irrepressible inner voice which echoes a quenched, but gradually resurrecting tempo of Boko Haram terrorism only in some parts of Borno State.
It is a plaque yet to completely desert Borno in Nigeria’s Northeast and it is quite worrisome, to say the least. Unfortunately, some Nigerians have failed to properly equip themselves to discern the recurrent suicide bomb blasts in just parts of Borno state. This mindset is probably and sadly informed by partisanship and malice; the natural cynicism in us as a people to accept when others have done well.
Only very few Nigerians have devoted time to dig deep to comprehend the subsisting images of insurgency in Borno. But one does not need to scratch too far to understand and appreciate the reality of why only Borno has remained in the grip of suicide bomb attacks and abductions in today’s Nigeria. This is particularly in contrast with the quietness about Boko Haram Terrorism (BHT) in virtually every other locality the incensed devils held captive in the country but have been liberated in the last two years.
Nonetheless, I wish to state the often repeated and perceptible tradition of the present wave of insurgency in that part of the country. Anytime a bomb explosion or abduction occurs, it is easier to blame it on the factional leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, the insurgency kingpin known to us. But many of us are unwilling to scratch beyond the veneer to unearth the reasons Boko Haram insurgency has refused to loosen its hold on the state.
When we make such confused or blind conclusions, those who are masterminding the latest incidents of suicide bomb blasts are convinced of their veiled protection and ennobled to sponsor the perpetration of more atrocities. They take an undue advantage of a society lost in its own peculiarly relaxed tendencies over what affects it.
But I am sufficiently prodded to say those who detonate bombs now in Borno are not necessarily members of the dreaded Islamic Boko Haram sect. The real and dreaded Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria have been defeated by the Nigerian military. There is no doubt about this and no one can take us back to Egypt anymore.
The Nigerian people and members of the international community must be bemused and deems it incredible when they hear preachments about the non-defeat of Boko Haram terrorism from the same group of perilous Nigerians who are promoting snippets of terrorism in Borno state. But even the frequency, inactive and lifelessness manner of the operations of the suicide bombers in that state now indicates a remarkable difference. It is quite different from what was tenable before May 2015.
We should ask ourselves critical questions, as poetically reflected by Senegalese Poet, David Diop about “Time Then and Time Now.” Before President Muhammadu Buhari ascended the throne as leader of Nigeria, Boko Haram insurgents assailed most parts of Nigeria. No one can pinpoint to such evidence at the moment.
For me, much like others, I dare say, that the Nigerian military battled insurgency to a standstill, decimated and defeated Boko Haram terrorism by the collapse of Sambisa forest is stale news. Terrorism was everywhere in Nigeria.
It seized the three states of Adamawa, Yobe and Borno in Nigeria’s Northeast. It was in Bauchi, Gombe, Plateau, Kogi, Kano, Kaduna and begun to stray into Southern Nigeria in places like Lagos and Osun states. The compendium of cities in Nigeria under the yoke of Boko Haram also included Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) which witnessed daily bomb blasts.
Some of us are privileged living witnesses of the public anxiety or phobia of insecurity, which palpably gripped Nigerians everywhere. It aggravated to the extent some Nigerians living and working in Abuja asked for official transfers from their offices in Abuja and relocated to states they considered safer because of the fear of what others comically referred to as “the fear of Uncle Boko,” meaning Boko Haram insurgents.
The military have been able to extinguish the force of BHTs and even in the three most affected states in the Northeast, respite came and normalcy returned, including a bustling nightlife in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital. Unfortunately, there are attempt to revise the gains that the Nigerian troops made in the counter-insurgency war by a few disgruntled elements better to be regarded as Borno Haram. And people are unprepared to trace why, how and who is responsible?
Meanwhile, the biggest unanswered question is why has terrorism refused to free Borno from its jaws? Can Nigerians find out why terrorism has been railroaded into oblivion and bombs have stopped blasting elsewhere, including Abuja and even in Yobe State, Borno’s neighbour? If these other parts of Nigeria have been rescued from terrorism, Borno has no reason to be trapped in the claws of insurgency.
The state has received the greatest attention from the Federal Government and its troops. There is an intimidating presence of soldiers on streets and communities in Borno. The Nigerian Military is building public amenities, infrastructures and establishing its institutions in the state, like the first Army University in Nigeria located in Biu local government. The Theatre Command Headquarters is in Borno and it has several battalions scattered everywhere under its watch.
Therefore, I do not share the porous view that all these efforts by the Nigerian military has not tamed Boko Haram insurgency in the state and Shekau’s foot soldiers are still tormenting the people, as deceptively projected. It is certainly untrue.
I am more at home with the hypothesis that some corrupt elite and politicians in Borno state are those who have allegedly invented another version of terrorism as manifest in the splashes of bomb blasts in the state. It is business for both the sponsors and the attackers used for the game.
The suspected sponsors, who are some dubious personalities in the corridors of power in Borno state want terrorism to keep thriving in order to find justification to access and pilfer local government funds in the guise of security spendings. Fingers are pointing at the Chairman of Magumeri Local Government Chairman, Abdulkarim Bukar as one who pays ransoms and insurance fee to Boko Haram to carry out their atrocious activities. This is because they hate a semblance of the end of terrorism because insecurity provides the fertile excuse of executing no capital projects, while both monthly federal allocations and IGR develop wings into private pockets, without anyone raising an eyebrow.
Part of the looted funds is also used to sumptuously fund the foot soldiers who have continued to abduct, plant and blast bombs in parts of the state to create the impression of the festering of Boko Haram Terrorism. This clan of dubious persons in the corridors of power tutor their errand “boys” on where and who to attack with the explosives. My visit to Kwajafa in the wake of Boko Haram atrocities after it was recovered by the military shows that Boko Haram has eyes as a few houses were destroyed and some left untouched.
But an axiom says, whatever has a beginning surely has an end. We least expected that the rest of Nigeria will enjoy peace and respite from terrorism. But the Nigerian military in the counter-insurgency war have restored both to us on a platter of gold.
The dubious elements hiding under the shadows of terrorism to loot us and claim it is Abubakar Shekau would soon have no place to hide anymore, as they would be unmasked and exposed. Be it known that the splashes of bomb blasts are signs of Boko Haram terrorism, but the masterminds are not of the Boko Haram stuff. It is akin to the Biblical narrative of the Esau and Jacob, the sons of Isaac. We feel the hand of Esau but the voice certainly is Jacob’s.
The arrest of Shekau is near and the recent activities of his group to intimidate the new leadership of Operation Lafiya Dole under the leadership of General Attahiru is better understood as a desperate panic measure by a man whose end is near. And this is feasible. And once Shekau is hooked, I ponder who else the dubious politicians would blame or use as cover for the bomb blasts they are sponsoring to explode in Borno, just because they scheme to find a convincing excuse to continue to exploit and loot the people. It is a matter of days for us to know who is Boko or Borno Haram.
Kolawole PhD, a University lecturer writes from Keffi, Nasarawa State.