What Jonathan administration must do to defeat Boko Haram, By Bola Tinubu

Nigeria’s current security situation jars the mind, and
troubles all those who have a touch of conscience about
the plight of their fellow man. We have been brought to
the point where we must now admit that basic security
no longer exists for a vast segment of our people. This
means too many of our people have been cast into the
no man’s land where law and order, justice, and respect
for human life and dignity do not abide.
These harmless people now live in harm’s way. Once
again, innocent people have been turned to sacrifices on
the altar of evil. The terror of Boko Haram strikes are for
nothing but wicked purposes. Through their
indiscriminate killing and destruction, they seek to
destroy the spirit of this nation and pit us against one
another. They want Christians to curse Muslims and
Muslims to curse
Christians. They want to pit Southerners against
Northerners. By the spilling of innocent blood, they hope
that we come to blame each other for what they are
doing to us. We shall never fall into this fool’s trap and,
though they may win the moment, they shall never
prevail in their vile scheme.
We stand united against this threat to our national
existence. The twin-bombings in Nyanya are a challenge
to us all. The explosion was a craven attempt to
demoralize the nation by striking an important
transportation hub in our beloved nation’s capital. The
second bombing stands as an act of evil defiance of
constituted authority. The terrorists now try to frighten
us by showing that our security forces are unable to
stop them, even in our nation’s capital. However,
whatever terrible lesson they think they teach us, we
refuse to learn. Our classroom is life, liberty and justice.
We do not take lessons in oppression, fear, hatred and
death from them or anyone else. Whatever they think
they won by this bloodletting, they have lost. They have
made implacable enemies of every man, woman and
child in Nigeria. We shall prevail. Boko Haram shall
Yet, it is not enough that they have the courage and
moral fortitude to withstand the injury they inflict on us,
it is long past time that this menace to progress and
order be subdued. While they can never claim our hearts
they have already taken too many lives. The carnage
must stop so that our walk to a better Nigeria may
continue unhindered by this weak presence.
What I say next is not to curry political advantage but
to state the obvious. No matter my political differences
with the current administration, what I am about to say
I wish were not true. Like every Nigerian, my heart
aches because of the lowly state of our security. No
matter what and no matter who is in office, our security
should never sink below to a level where widespread
death and destruction can descend on us with impunity.
Yet the Nyanya bombings and the abominable
kidnapping of over 200 girls from their hostels in Chibok
have brought to fore the weak underbelly of our security
The people neither deserve the feats of terror against
them or the defeat of the security system meant to
protect them. Unfortunately, this is our lot.
While I have no interest in partisan bickering at the
moment, I also cannot allow the mere fact of my
political affiliation to silence me on this transcendent
issue. All Nigerians have a right and responsibility to let
their voice be heard on this matter. Thus, I say what I
believe must be said. If you think I do it for political
purpose, so be it. Yet, I say it that I fulfill my civic
responsibility as a citizen whose nation and way of life
has been placed under siege by a hidden and sinister
force. In this, I believe what I will say speaks for most
progressives today.
Boko Haram is the greatest security challenge to Nigeria
since the civil war some forty years ago. We stridently
oppose Boko Haram because the Nigeria it craves is not
the place of democratic good governance and economic
opportunity we seek. Many of us have advocated a
multifaceted strategy and have petitioned government to
amend its policy accordingly. Thus far, government policy has been an unimaginative,
one dimensional military approach. Even here, the
Jonathan government implements its own policy only
half-heartedly. As a result, Boko Haram’s evil has
spread geographically but also with regard to the pace,
scope and complexity of its operations. If you weigh
success by the impact Boko Haram has gained or lost
over time, any objective observer would say government
policy has failed to contain, much less eliminate, the
terrorist scourge. Government policy needs reform in five
important ways.
First, government must admit its solely military
approach is inadequate. Boko Haram’s challenge has
economic, political and social dimensions that
government ignores at our collective national peril.
Second, to address these aspects of the crisis,
government needs to reach out to northern Nigeria,
especially those areas most blighted by terrorism. Much
of that part of the nation now suffers severe economic
depression. I believe only a small minority of people
actually support Boko Haram. The real problem is most
people in the affected areas think ill of this government.
Thus, they are indifferent to the fight between
government and Boko Haram. Despite Boko Haram’s
homicidal ways, the population does not see
government as coming to their rescue. They see
government as another layer of suffering and
oppression. Until government breaks this perception, it
will have a hard time breaking the back of Boko Haram.
The most effective way to counter this impression is via
an economic development plan for the area. Under this
plan, government will inaugurate infrastructural
development that not only creates a platform for
economic growth; it will provide employment for many
young men. Such legitimate employment will lessen the
pool of desperate youth from which Boko Haram recruits
its foot soldiers. Deplete the numbers of recruits and
you diminish the group’s ability to operate. Also, this
policy builds goodwill among the people. Ultimately, it
is the people who will defeat Boko Haram. If the people
were to see government as their ally and true guardian,
Boko Haram will have no space to operate. Right now it
operates in the space created by widespread
indifference and cynicism.
Third, government must refine its military operations.
The military’s hand has been too heavy and
indiscriminate. It has committed abuses against the
innocent in its clumsy attempt to pursue Boko Haram.
These offenses only increase the pool of disaffected
people from which Boko Haram recruits. To be seen as
the true protectors of the people, government security
forces must restrain themselves so that they do not
lash out in frustration against innocent people for the
harm Boko Haram has done. The people have already
been meant to pay a price by Boko Haram it is painful
for government forces to compound their suffering. At
this stage we can expect nothing more than terror from
the terrorists but from our own forces, we have the right
to expect so much better.
Fourth, government must improve its intelligence-
gathering capacity. This is partly a function of the
people’s disposition toward government. They distrust
government and thus are reticent to provide information.
All intelligence gathering is first local. There is a lot of
sense in the community policing in Western nations
where the police is welded to the community and
security is every citizen’s business.
In our case, I am afraid, security operatives have
alienated the locals and in that process shut the door to
the floor of useful information about the dangerous
Fifth, this challenge has a regional dimension. Elements
of terrorism are now trafficked across regional borders.
As the largest nation in West Africa and the nation most
affected by this problem, Nigeria has the standing to
convene a regional summit to discuss with our
neighbours, ways to end this problem before it becomes
a hot and pressing issue for our neighbours as well.
Not one reason will suffice for the insecurity that now
confronts us. Many people have tried to parse the issue
to determine whether the rise of Boko Haram is
attributable to political and economic conditions (what I
term “secular” factors) or attributable to extremist
sectarianism. While grist for lively debate, this parsing is
mostly counterproductive and artificial. As with most
complex situations, causation cannot be accurately
reduced solely to one factor. To do so is simplistic and
likely to blind us to things that must be part of the
solution to this problem. Many non-Muslims will see
Boko Haram as an Islamic assault. I am Muslim and
abhor Boko Haram for it mocks not honours the tenets
of my faith. There is nothing Islamic there except that it
uses the legitimacy of Islam to lure the ignorant, gullible
and hopeless into their sordid trap. Boko Haram exalts
violence, not God. It kills Muslim and Christian alike
because its faith is not Islam but mayhem and
lawlessness. Extremist thought can spring up anywhere. However, it
needs dire secular conditions to brew and attract
enough adherents to become an organization capable of
the things Boko Haram has done. Without the economic
and political injustice and hopelessness now chronic in
much of the nation, particularly in the north, Boko
Haram would not have the strength of numbers it
seems to have. Without the extreme poverty and the
great disparity between wealthy and the poor, Boko
Haram would be a small fringe movement capable of
nothing except petty crime and making periodic noise.
In other words, sectarian extremism cannot gain
sufficient momentum in the absence of poverty and a
widely-shared perception of injustice. Secular and
sectarian extremism are not independent, incompatible
factors; they feed each other. To end this trouble, both
sides of this equation must be solved.
Government policy has been ineffectual. If it maintains
this present form, government policy will continue to be
ineffectual. This means the situation will either remain
the same or deteriorate, with the latter being more
likely. Either road is impassable if the objective of our
trek is a better Nigeria.
Some now say parts of Nigeria are ungovernable. I
disagree. The issue is not that parts of the nation are
ungovernable. The real problem is that the current
administration seems incapable of governing these and
other areas. No parts of the nation are ungovernable. All
sections are amenable to good governance if only good
governance were to be had. Trouble commences where
there is bad or no governance. This government, by folly
or omission, has done too little good. It has lost
legitimacy among segments of the population. While it
may hold predominant power and money, this
government is approaching the point
where it is morally spent. This government is a
bumbling monument to barren policy and corrupt
practices. Given the obvious danger before us, may this
government regain sobriety and a sense of purpose
equal to the moment and the challenge we face.
After every terrorist attack, government tries to soothe
the public by stating it is doing all it can and soon
everything will be under control. Alternatively, the
president nonchalantly will say terrorism affects every
nation and Nigerians must grin and bear it. Clearly,
none of this expressed the sense of urgency required. I
have no doubt this administration would like to answer
this problem. Sadly, this administration seems to lack
the capacity to find that answer. Instead of doing the
hard work of governance, it gives itself to grandiose
empty statements and sloganeering.
A senior military official boasted months ago that Boko
Haram would be corralled by April. Instead of
containing the menace, Boko Haram unleashed death
this month in our nation’s very capital. Government is
no closer to ending this national ordeal. Instead of
working to make true headway, this government throws
words at serious problems, and then asks the people to
believe the job is done. When it comes to Boko Haram,
it vows that the problem is shrinking, but it is not. As
long as this government lives in the realm of fantasy
and neglects to work in the world of fact, Nigeria will
look to Abuja for answers but find none.
Since Abuja seems incapable of helping us, we must
help it. That people, especially women, have begun to
protest government’s apparent foot-dragging is
encouraging. These efforts must continue. Those of us
in positions of leadership must offer ideas to
government to help it meet this challenge because
before any of us became PDP or APC, we were all
With regard to the Chibok abductions, I ask government
to seriously consider these steps.
Lack of Contingent Planning. Sadly, this is not the
first abduction although it may be the largest. Most
major militaries around the world have developed
plans for the major challenges they shall face. It is a
terrible lapse that our security apparatus failed to
have such plans for this situation.
Response on the Ground: Some delicate questions
need to be asked. The seizure of this many children
is a major logistical operation that takes planning and
execution. How is it that Boko Haram is better at
planning and execution than our trained professional
security agencies? How could this have taken place
without detection and a rapid response?
Talk to us. The nation is in anguish yet the president
has not talked to us directly. Let him make a
broadcast to the nation at this time of hurt and pain
to assure us, in broad terms, that he has a plan to
free our daughters. He needs not give us operation
details but he needs to more actively and visibly lead
the nation at this time. Now, the nation is faced with a dilemma. With each day
that passes, the likelihood that some of the girls may be
transported across the border or suffer in their current
surroundings increases. The people rightfully demand
action to free our children but whatever action
government takes must be geared to saving these
children not to “doing something” just to avert the
political pressure. Government must act with purpose
and urgency but also with prudence and compassion for
our captured, distressed children. This will require
greater levels of coordination and planning by our
security officials than we have witnessed. With all
reasonable dispatch, we ask the government to plan
strategically and execute with precision and care.
This nation needs her children back and all of us,
regardless of political stripe, religion, region and origin,
stand behind government as long as government does
its utmost to win back the lives of our daughters. Until
then, we are reduced to peering into the sky and hoping
for the hand of Providence to redeem us; be you a
Christian or a Muslim.

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