With the avalanche of bombings by Boko Haram across Northern Nigeria and right on the doorstep of Abuja, it is time for every level headed Nigerian to start thinking... Unless we get our act together, Boko Haram just might become the nightmare we all feared.
By Henry Chukwuemeka Onyema, Nigeria
The Nigerian government took the group for granted as far back as 2004. Prior to its attacks in July 2009, the warnings of Muslim leaders and officials about the group were ignored.
Boko Haram has come a long way since its birth in 2002 and it is time to tackle the problem head on. It is steeped in a perverted religious ideology which sees anything Western as a sin. It negates everything Nigeria aspires to. That is why negotiating with them may be unrealistic; non-Muslims and even some segments of Nigerian Muslims cannot abide by their religious beliefs.
I do not expect President Good luck Jonathan to announce the measures, if any, he is taking to defeat the insurgency. This article’s purpose is to suggest some ideas for countermeasures.
Our security services must improve their intelligence capabilities. The State Security Service, the National Intelligence Agency and the Defence Intelligence Agency are Nigeria's primary intelligence agencies. Why are they incapable of anticipating outbreaks? It screams of their incompetence if they expect traumatised citizens to come forward with information when the average Nigerian has a justifiably unfriendly mindset about our security services.
Are our operatives ignorant of the fine art of espionage? Look at this scenario: Boko Haram is dominated by mostly young male Muslims from the Northwestern and Northeastern parts of Nigeria and countries like Chad and Niger. Most have been given some rudimentary form of education. Now while this profile might not be cast in stone, can’t our operatives make use of information from captured members to develop mechanisms for infiltrating the group? Do our agencies have ‘back-room boys’ who can analyse the movements of terrorist operations? If they exist they would have pinned down Boko Haram’s modus operandi, to an extent.
Crime busters of 21st c
Our security chiefs should think like crime busters of the 21st century. Bomb-making technology is easy to acquire; the internet has sites that dispense such information. Weapons can be slipped into the most ingenious hiding places. The likes of Boko Haram are not frightened by generals touring divisions - they are not your typical Nigerian impressed by a show of force.
Like every other apparatus of the Nigerian government, corruption, bureaucratic inertia and loyalty clashes can be found in our security services. These must be addressed. Nigerians remember the egoistic struggle for control between the State Security Service and the Police in the wake of the October 1st bombings in 2010. Such rivalry exists even in the USA between the CIA and FBI. But what sets them apart is the development of a mechanism for unified operations. Whether our agencies know how to come up with such a mechanism without going for each other’s throats is beyond this scope of this article. They would be wise to ask the UK how its Joint Intelligence Committee and security services work.
There is the dark possibility that Boko Haram is a cover for sinister anti-government activities by a disgruntled political elite. Nigeria currently has a lot of them and their dissatisfaction goes back to the days when the late President Yar’adua’s health spiraled downwards. Our agencies should have discreet surveillance measures for such individuals and groups. Our army and police should also have trained units who engage in covert operations to ‘take out’ terrorist threats.
Finally, our leaders should do their job. Nigerians elected them to provide a better life for us but they only serve their own interests. The volatile nature of religious politics in Northern Nigeria should be monitored. It is time for the younger and enlightened generation of Northerners to take charge of their area’s development. Only then will Boko Haram lose its appeal.