t is now very clear that Nigeria has changed for the worst and joined the countries where Islamic terrorist groups are active and determined to have their way by violence. She has other insurgent groups unleashing mayhem on the country to drive home their quest for an independent state. Girls are abducted from their school and car bombs explode in the streets and the president reacts by setting up a committee to look into the problem. The government is enmeshed in corruption, the presidency in intra party conflict and the country moves like a rudderless ship. Many ethnic groups are honestly thinking beyond Nigeria and Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen are continuing their ethnic cleansing of other groups, and Christians from North, particularly in Benue and plateau states. These are the facts which the government would like to dismiss, but which will not go away, unless it finds appropriate solutions to them. Under the circumstance, a good government would put the whole of Nigeria on a war footing. This is because the war against Boko Haram is war against retrogressive forces and the threat its extreme religious and ethnic ideology present to the existence of Nigeria as a secular democracy is real. Islamic terrorists want to get their hands on more Nigerian oil to finance its terror and islamic state.
Now that the army is responding to the threat of Boko Haram, it is time for the government to think of ways to use the current war against terror to unite the country, strengthen our civil society and enable the people to work with the government in partnership. This is because no government has ever defeated an insurgent group without having the people on its side. Sending the army against a terrorist group is not enough. It is not even enough for the army to have superior weapons. What is most important is that the army and government should get their military tactics and strategies right and have the people behind them.
For an army fighting an internal terrorist group, the casualty of the Nigerian soldiers and civilian victims are mounting and it is clear evidence that the military strategy is wrong and needs to be reviewed. It is surprising that after studying the experience of America in Iraq and Afghanistan, the best the Nigeria army can do is simply to repeat the mistakes of America and Britain in their war against terror. No country can fight an unseen enemy and win, while it makes its self-visible.
Unfortunately it would appear that the government opted for a solitary military response and political horse trading, which so far have not yielded the desired result. The same tactics has failed in Iraq, Afghanistan and every other place it was attempted. I continue to wonder why a plan that has failed wherever it has been tried will suddenly succeed in Nigeria because our government is corrupt, ignores due process and consumed with greed. The situation in Nigeria cries for effective honest and bold leadership, which has clarity of thought and honesty of purpose on what is best for Nigeria.
At this time in our history, we need a leader who will ensure that every Nigerian is trained in guerrilla warfare, equipped and prepare to fight a life time war against the forces of ignorance, intolerance and Islamic extremism that will attempt to take over Nigeria and many West African countries for the next thirty to fifty years. Nigeria has entered the darkest period of her history and the people must be prepared to fight for their freedom. Otherwise, in the near future everybody in Nigeria will be speaking Arabic, all men will be required to grow beardsí and all women cover themselves with black cloths. This is the future that awaits Nigerians, unless the current leadership rises to the challenge or allows the leadership that has what it takes to respond to this threat to emerge. Nigerians cannot continue to pray to God, while armed terrorist kill them one at a time and abduct our daughters at will and sell them into servitude. We need to accept that prophets that do not bear arms come to ruin. God does not intervene, when a people are too stupid to do what they must do to survive. Our world is simply the survival of the armed. If the people of Benue and Plateau states, and the rest of Nigeria refuse to arm, Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen will do to them what Sudan did to Darfur.
The government has not demonstrated by the way it is addressing the present threat that it understands the nature, mind set and modus operandi of terrorist groups like Boko Haram, and their long term objectives. The evidence would suggest that Boko Haram is not the ordinary terrorist group. It is an ethno-religious terrorist group with expansionist agenda, which has the backing of some ethnic politicians, whose aim is to use them to achieve far reaching political ends. They wish to provoke ethnic and religious unrest and render the country ungovernable giving those politicians leverage to negotiate with the government. So far they seem to have succeeded, the government has succumbed to the pressure to replace the NSA with a northerner; and who could be better than Fulani Prince. The government expected the activities of the group to naturally decrease with the Boko Haram sponsors achieving one of their objectives. Unfortunately, Boko Haram is no longer a simple organisation, it is connected to an international Islamic terrorist group that provides it with training and arms for its jihad. It has connection with the group that is destabilising Mali, Somalia, and Sudan.
One of the most distinguished British politicians and leader was Sir Winston Churchill. Long before the Second World War, he warned that Britain should prepare for a long war. This was long before he was asked by her majesty the Queen to form a government and lead Britain during the war. For a long time, he was a lone voice against the government policy towards Germany aggression. He was particularly scathing about Prime Minister Neville Chamberlainís Appeasement policy towards Germany in the late 1930s. Churchill warned that the policy of appeasement would fail and that evil of the monstrosity of Nazism should be defeated and not appeased, but the power that be paid no attention, until Hitler invaded countries he had promised Chamberlain he would not invade. Then Hitler, directly threatened Britain. Britain learned a valuable lesson from this time which people who believe that one can negotiate with extremist are yet to learn. By nature, extremists do not understand compromise and tolerance. In their minds, these two constructs on which peaceful co-existence rest means only one thing, weakness. Extremists believe that they are right especially when the difference is on religious issues. They often believe that God is on their side and that because of this, their atrocities are justified. They are people with delusional disorders of religious beliefs which are usually resistant to treatment. When a man declares war against another, the moral thing is to stay alive.
Extremists do whatever they can to prevail. One must be prepared to defeat or contain them, until they regain their rightful minds. Great countries do not first negotiate with those who attack her unprovoked. They respond to the threat they pose to restore the peace the aggressor breached, and then, offer them the freedom of the country which they seek to destroy; if they lay down their arms. They are not granted their wishes. They are made to see why their wishes are not in the overall interest of the majority of the people and future of the country. The Nigerian governmentís response to Boko Haram, unwarranted and unjustifiable attacks of Fulani herdsmen on the people of Benue and Plateau region and the threat Islamic extremists pose to the future of Nigeria reminds me too much of Britain in the late 1930s. President Goodluck Jonathan should wake up. People by nature try what worked in the past. Something brewed by very ethnically blind northern political elites is threatening the rest of Nigeria, and he needs to do more than appointing a Sokoto prince as his National Security Adviser and swearing that he does not give a dam. Why would a wise man prefer to entrust his security to a man who has links with the source of his woes, instead of another who will share the same fate with him in time of danger?
To address the current threat and take Nigeria forward:
- The police and military have to change their current tactics. It has never worked anywhere. They have to take cognisant of the fact that they are fighting an insurgent group and not a conventional war. Therefore conventional tactics will not suffice. They should dismantle all manned check points in the country and in entrances to strategic building and install remote controlled barriers and security camera which would require the drivers and occupants of vehicles to come out and open their boot for inspection. This would be the first line of defence.
- The police and army should stop wearing uniforms in public. It makes them easy targets, a kind of sitting docks. When fighting an invisible enemy, the first thing is to also make oneself invisible. Americans and British refused to learn this lesson in Iraq and Afghanistan and have paid heavily for it.
- The army and police should form small groups of well trained and armed units whose members mingle with the people and collect information and with right to search any suspicious looking places or and individuals.
- The government should ensure that arrested terrorist suspects are not summarily executed, but offered justice. There should be no justification for killing suspects who could be arrested and soldiers and police men who engage in summary execution of suspects should be prosecuted. This is the rule of law. Summary execution of criminals and terrorists only makes them to be more atrocious and wicked in their attacks of defenceless civilians. The government has to demonstrate that it has better values than those it is fighting.
- The government should start a nation-wide education of the people on security matter so that the people will become the eyes of the security agencies. This will be difficult at the beginning because of the lack of trust of Nigerians on the police and armed forces and the complicity of police with criminals. It will take a lot of hard work and real change in the current policing culture in Nigeria for the average Nigeria to trust the police. To the transporter, the policeman is the extortioner who demands twenty Naira at road blocks.
- Every responsible Nigerian should now be armed. It is lunacy for law abiding citizens to remain unarmed in a war in which the terrorists are well armed and can attack without warning. The army will not be able to protect all the people because it is not a conventional war. Only the people can defend themselves and the government has a duty to help the people to defend themselves. Every healthy adult in Nigeria from the age of 17 to 55 years should get military training particularly in weapon handling and self-defence. Nigeria is already at war and the majority of the people do not seem to know it. If the people in Jos are armed many of people killed recently will still be alive today. The Nigeria army cannot protect the people from Boko Haram or Fulani herdsmen. Only the people can defend and protect themselves. All Nigerians should now arm themselves, if the government refuses to arm them in an ordered manner so that they can get the weapons back when the war is over.
- The government should stop the posting of NYSC to public and private sector and change it to a national military service where the youth will be given one full year military training and then serve in a national military service for another year. It would be discriminatory to stop posting NYSC members to some northern Nigerian state even though there is good reason not to do so. Changing it to military service until things return to normal in Nigeria will be an intelligent solution. At least no youth cooper would be required to go to any state at all. With the development in North Africa, Nigeria should prepare for a long war and offering graduates military training will provide it a pool of people to recruit from, when the need arises. This will ensure that the posting of graduates to volatile northern state will stop so that graduates are not put in harmís way. It is wrong for the government to continue to post youth coopers to northern state considering the level of instability and discriminatory to post them to the south. This programme will stimulate the job marked as employers who have been using youth coopers as cheap labour would be forced to employ graduates, thereby easing the unemployment pressure. Offering military service to youth will also sow the seed of patriotism and unity in the country and secure the future of the country in the hands of youths who believe in it.
- The government should stop the payment of oil subsides to petroleum product marketers and invest the money in provision of quality accessible education for all and social security payments. The oil subsidy is one of the most open robberies taking place in Nigeria. There is no other oil producing country in this world which pays petroleum marketing companies to sale petroleum products to the people. Whatever is the reason and logic behind it, it simply does not make sense. It is a fraud that should now be stopped. The government should reorganise the petroleum industry so the companies can pay tax to the government and restore the environment they have destroyed and provide amenities for the communities that have borne the brunt of reckless oil extraction that has gone on for years. This is how it is done elsewhere, and if President Jonathan cannot do these things, Nigeria has no future and we should all be learning new national anthems.
These suggestions will unravel the terrorist group, bring about citizen participation in a type of government people partnership for security and stimulate the economy by creating jobs. Moreover, Boko Haram, will be denied police check points and an element of unpredictability will be introduced in government response and paranoia sowed in their minds. The reason why America failed in Iraq and Afghanistan is because of their tactics. They believe in shock and awe and depended on fortified military check points. They did not realise that it would not be a deterrent to a man that has conducted his funeral, but rather a good target. This plan will deny the suicide bomber high profile targets and free the police to gain experience in intelligent policing. By applying the principle of invisible policing they would be taking the first step in addressing this problem.
I suppose it is time for Nigerians government to realise that one does not need to be a doctor to be a health minister, lawyer to be a justice Minister and a soldier to be a defence Minister. To be a minister, one only needs to demonstrate that he has average intelligent, can think on his feet, ready to learn and pleased to allow evidence to inform his or her decisions. It would be desirable if the minister is wildly read and versatile. I hope Nigeria survives; we can do with some dose of strategic and empirical thinking, instead of traditional thinking and prayer. Our problems require more that fasting and praying. May we use the knowledge God has already given to help ourselves. Time is running out, the future depends on what we do today.