Much Ado About A Defeated Boko Haram and the Agonies of #DapchiGirls

Nigeria is a conundrum. A complicated entity with competing interests. A country in which its constituent parts have differing agendas steeped in mutual suspicious of one another. Bogged down by the resource curse, the quest for power and dominance is bloodthirsty. The attempt to control the state apparatus puts ethnic nationalities at each others throat. This results in deep-seethed ethnocentrism that has birthed ethnic bigots and supremacists with the Fulani oligarchs having gained advantage because of the dynamics of power sharing by the British, which handed the entity called Nigeria to our founding fathers. The major religions, Christianity and Islam perpetuates a deep gorge such that one half of the country seem very different from the other. Religious sentiments and religious motivated issues pervade the polity. On this background, the stagnated socio-economic development some postulate fuelled insurgency and terrorism in recent times. Others argue that terrorism was employed by a certain region to seize political power. As plausible as these hypotheses might seem, the emergency of Boko Haram, one of world’s deadliest terrorism group coincided with the rise of ISIS and the quest by Islamic fundamentalists to establish pure Islamic States. However, the deadly operations of Boko Haram peaked during the reign of a Christian president, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.

For the love of Nigeria, for the fact that we don’t have any other country to call our own, for the sake of an already subdued citizenry, terrorism is an exacerbation of the travails of the common man. The school of thought that believes that terrorism is a function of years of neglect and underdevelopment and failure of the ruling class, leaves one to ponder if terrorism is the solution to the problems of poor citizens. Is it the rational and optimal path; or do the proletariat and bourgeoisie exploit the commoners in order to achieve their selfish and predatory goals? Even the poor have to be wise enough not to complicate their own problems. This is why I believe terrorism in the north is more political than socio-cultural/socio-economical. One doesn’t become a suicide bomber because they are poor and are shortchanged by politicians. It’s a combination of religious fundamentalism and extremism, which the poor are susceptible to, infused with regional political interests that can fuel such widespread terrorism that has enveloped northeastern Nigeria.

Let’s examine the case study of the kidnap of 110 #DapchiGirls, a second version of the #ChibokGirls kidnapping carried out by the dreaded Boko Haram. On assumption of office of President Buhari, some of us postulated that Boko Haram would subside gradually. But splinter groups, which have emerged from the hydra-headed monster, will need to be neutralized over time. It is my belief that some of the members of the group given what we know about Islam and Muslim behavior in Nigeria, might not know that Boko Haram has a political angle and would continue their deadly activities but those in the know will retreat and change tactics. Over time, that has happened. Alongside the effort of the army, the terrorist group knowing that a pious and devoted Muslim is in charge has toned down their activities. This allowed the government to claim victory over the insurgents but one has to take the claims of the government with a pinch of salt. The manner in which Boko Haram kidnapped the Dapchi girls smirks of complicity of several agents of the Nigerian State and debunks the claims of victory of the government. It’s on record that on the day of the kidnapping, security forces were withdraw from Dapchi and taken to the Nigeria-Niger border for urgent assignments as the country was informed. Yobe state, a state in the epi-centre of the terrorism operations for many years was left too porous without checkpoints and security operatives. The terrorists had the luxury of cramming 110 girls in a convoy of about 9 cars (of which five have been reported dead due to congestion) as reported and went away casually. After the deadly assault, the nature of the kidnap still unexplained, as the country was grieving, on the 22nd March 2018, we all woke up to a dramatic and fascinating Black Panther movie-like return of the girls by Boko Haram insurgents in a convoy, just like they were abducted. For inquisitive minds, many conflicting and nagging questions began to arise. First, if the government has defeated Boko Haram as they claimed, how could the insurgents which we believe don’t have the capacity to organize themselves any longer move in convoys in a militarized region without resistance? How was it possible to move into Yobe State, which has been one of the major states affected by the terrorism, and carry out well-organized incursion and escape scot-free? Second, was there any cease-fire agreement with the government before the attack to give Boko Haram a free passage so the government could claim victory of securing the girls later? Is this the political Boko Haram in operation? These and many questions begging for answers

Lets us for a moment, agree that part of the negotiation to return the girls was for the insurgents to return them without being confronted so lives won’t be lost, videos of Boko Haram entering Dapchi triumphantly debunks the claims of any victory against the terrorists by the government as they appear very formidable and not in any way defeated. First the government has to admit its failures to defeat the insurgents and to protect the citizens. For a government that campaigned with security as one of its major election promise, it has failed abysmally. It has lost grounds on which to ask the Nigerian people to vote for it come 2019.

Lastly, every Nigerian that loves this country should be worried. If Boko Haram could orchestrate the kidnap of Chibok girls and repeat the same ignoble act in Dapchi, it shows that they have the capacity to plan more kidnappings. The government has come out to state that no ransom was paid and that its an unconditional release and we ask, if Boko Haram can be this magnanimous to free Dapchi girls unconditionally, why not extend that olive branch to the state and stop the insurgency. The terrorism carried out by them has not contributed to the advancement of the socio-economic, cultural and political development of Nigeria, instead, it has left millions of IDPs suffering diseases, homelessness, hunger and starvation and even the funds meant for them are looted; they should stop attacking the Nigerian state and reintegrate into society. However, it’s obvious, there’s a lot of ordinary Nigerians especially those from the south that do not know the real nature of this asymmetric warfare. Anyone who thinks the return of these girls is a show of leadership from Buhari should re-examine their heads and ask critical questions. This kidnapping and the return of the girls smirks of criminal conspiracy by the authorities. Even Amnesty International has come out to state that the army ignored early warnings signals to prevent the kidnapping. The army denies but has not given us justifiable reasons why they withdrew from Dapchi to allow the girls to be taken. In conclusion, the kidnap of the Dapchi girls and their return leaves more questions to be answered and the government has to come clean on the state of play in the war against terrorism and Boko Haram. It’s a breach of public trust to misinform the public because such information puts many lives at risk and retards progress.

Team Member, Core Programmers at Union Bank of Nigeria.