In the midst of the unsavoury debate over the rightfulness of a six month’s extension of emergency rule on Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States, I hope the government is listening to Governor Ibrahim Geidam’s mantra for curbing the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East.
Nigerians of various hue, including parliamentarians who gave a go-ahead for the extension of the emergency rule have been asking the question over and over again if this rule had provided the answer for violence. We are daily witnessing acts of violence involving robbery, decoitry, kidnapping, and murder everywhere. In the North and other parts of the country, people are amassing illicit arms and ammunition. The forces of hate and violence are becoming more and more entrenched, almost becoming impenetrable to the security force. With the deadly onslaught of Boko Haram particularly in Borno and Yobe, Nigerians have every reason to be skeptical about the strategies in place for curbing insurgency and crime.
Until it chose a nationalistic approach to the problem, the administration at the centre had dismissed suggestions of security lapses out of hand, and pushed conspiracy theories against political opponents in the North. Things have now eased up a great deal. The government no longer jumped the gun with name-calling before it became clear who is to blame for incidents of terror. May be they have begun to put national interest first.
News Agency of Nigeria quoted a member of the House of Representatives, Honourable Goni Haruna, (APC, Yobe) decrying the six months extension, saying “100 percent of the state, including myself and the Governor (Ibrahim Geidam), say no to the extension of emergency rule in the state”.
He said since the emergency rule was declared, the people of the state had come under severe attacks by the Boko Haram group.
He further stated that the state had been unable to provide the dividends of democracy to its people because much of the resources available to the government was being spent providing security.
The Governor in his reaction asserted that it was not the extension of emergency rule that would end insurgency but a full-throttled army push to quell the Boko Haram. To do other than this, he said, would amount to “motion without movement”.
In the opinion of the Governor, members of the insurgent group were in possession of superior weapons than the army. He then advised that “the Federal Government must provide high caliber arms and weapons to succeed in the fight against terrorism. Until the country’s security outfit is fully equipped with more superior arms, equipment and reinforced manpower, we may have slim chances of winning the fight against terrorism.”
This is a new and dramatic turn in the entire debate. It brings to the fore, the issue of the responsibility of leaders to the armed personnel they send to fight for the country. In this war against insurgency, what is often forgotten is the thousands of men (and women) who gave up, and are still giving up their lives to see Nigeria is united and safe. It is to this issue that Gov. Geidam spoke. His was a clever speech that resonated will with many in the region.
Politics in Nigeria can get tweaked and twisted and this happens all the time. But no right-thinking government can risk a situation in which its army is the under-dog in this kind of war. Army’s reputation for their ability to restore law and order whenever the police fails continues to take a big hit in, not only the North-East but in North Central States of Plateau and Benue. No national army wants to be the under-dog in this kind of situation and our leaders must act to reverse this.
Having noted this, it is important that the engagement with the insurgents is not reduced to the level of bullets and guns alone, as many have repeatedly said. Even after making much hue and cry about human rights violations, civil society groups and most of the citizens do appreciate the good work of the security agencies. There is no known method yet, by which heavily-armed insurgents can be contained without a resort to arms even in situations of self-defence. But beyond this, government policies should begin with honest intentions to aim at changing the lives of the poor inhabitants of these strife-torn areas. As everyone agrees, poverty lies at the heart of all the violence. In addition to the creation of job opportunities, education and socio-economic empowerment, government should start taking the right messages to the people.
Do poor Muslims want to fight poor Christians or fight poverty? Do poor Beroms want to fight poor Fulanis or fight poverty? With civic education using radio, classrooms, churches and mosques, political and other social gatherings, poor Nigerians will come to know that the battle we have to fight is to become richer, not to shoot at or slit one another’s throat.