Security reports emanating from the North-eastern part of the country indicate that that part of Nigeria, the much-vaunted giant of Africa, is on the brink of completely falling into the hands of Boko Haram insurgents. The terrorists are threatening the nation’s geopolitical and demographic unity, more than anything else in recent history. Since 2009 when the disaffected Islamists began shooting at security agents, burning local villages and attacking Christians and burning churches, the governments at various levels paid scant attention to the group.
Now, Boko Haram menace has festered and is pecking debilitatingly at sinews that hold the country together. Apart from venting its spleen on citizens and major government infrastructure in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States, Boko Haram has graduated to a fearsome animal snarling at the corporate existence of Nigeria as an entity. In the past couple of weeks, the fundamentalists have been annexing Nigerian towns, one after another.
Already, the militants have Chibok, Gwoza on the plate, with Sambisa forest as their main refuge base. Last week, they took Bama in Borno State, Gulak the headquarters of the Madagali Local council, Adamawa State as well as other towns in Borno and Yobe. Maiduguri, according to report, is the next town the terrorists want to capture.
Though reports say Bama has been recaptured by Nigerian troops, the territorial conquests by the terrorists really calls for concern. Unfortunately, Nigerian authorities are still living in denial about the capacity and impact of this deadly group. Every day, Nigerians are told about efforts to rid the northeast of Boko Haram. Yet, the reports that come out of that zone leave everyone disheartened and frightened about the potential repercussion, if Boko Haram eventually invades Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.
It is time to wake up to the reality on the ground. The most effective approach to combat the blood-thirsty jihadists, we believe, is to have a joint-international military operation. Just as we had the African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM in Somalia to tackle al-Shabab or the multi-national Operation Lightning Thunder to find Joseph Kone, the dreaded leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a similar operation will be an ideal antidote to confront Boko Haram that appears to have overwhelmed Nigeria’s armed forces.
Chad, Cameroun, Niger, Nigeria and perhaps Ghana should come together to ensure that this challenge is overcome. Cameroun already is doing a good job dealing with the insurgents at the border with Nigeria. We believe they can do a better job as a multi-national operation adopting multi-pronged strategies against Boko Haram.
We acknowledge that even when this kind of force is put in place, the problem of weapons and funding may still arise. This is where Nigeria must put her pride aside and ask for support from the international community. The country needs superior weapons and perhaps tactical planning and operation. We must not shy away from asking for help from our allies and if possible, NATO-styled operations to flush out the blood-sucking fundamentalists from our territory. One of the direct objectives of state policy is to protect lives and property of the citizens. It doesn’t matter how this is achieved, especially if it is legitimate.
As a nation, we need to re-engineer the armed forces by making sure that officers with the requisite intelligence and infantry knowledge are deployed to the affected places. Retired military officers with knowledge of the area should be invited to help the serving officers with strategic planning. This is a war all Nigerians must fight and anyone who knows a bit about how it can be won should be brought on board.
Unrelenting motivation of the armed forces and steady deployment of the military to those three states must remain a top priority. This must be done with utmost commitment because the current trivialising and politicisation of Boko Haram will only spell doom for the nation. We must note that if Maiduguri falls, then we may have earnestly begun the journey to disintegration, as was prognosticated sometime ago by a foreign agency.