10 Mar 2015

Nigeria Beyond Boko Haram - by Adams Abonu

With ongoing onslaught against the Boko Haram insurgency in North- Eastern Nigeria, the light at the end of the tunnel of this imbroglio finally dawns. Combined efforts of the multinational forces contributed by neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger, with blazing power of the Nigerian military have stormed the Sambisa fortress of evil and dislodged the anarchists; this effort, too, has reclaimed areas like Munguno and Mubi in Borno and Adamawa states with the Nigerian military affirming that “…all areas seized by Boko Haram would be taken back and the insurgents defeated to a point of surrender in the coming weeks,” according to Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade, the military’s spokesman. At the last check, only Madagali in Adamawa State is still being occupied by the murderous sect.

This renewed courage in the fight against insurgency in Nigeria has also thrown up certain issues like what post-Boko Haram Nigeria would look like, the preparedness or otherwise to address the salient issues of social inequality that aided the festered malaise and how to rally Nigerians to “#NeverAgain” allow such evil creep into our national consciousness with our eyes widely open.

It is also gladdening that Nigeria’s neighbours- Cameroon, Chad and Niger- have begun to show requisite sincerity in ending an insurgency capable of eroding the mutual trust and confidence that existed between Nigeria and each of the mentioned countries. When Chadian president Idris Derby came out blazing recently that Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau should come out from his already known lair or face the dire consequence of elimination, it became more glaring that the end has come for Boko Haram.

The only puzzling angle to this surge of confidence is that thousands of lives have been lost and an entire region destabilised in the intervening period. Many have adduced political expediency to the renewed fight to a finish with Boko Haram- that the government of President Goodluck Jonathan having realised that the looming elections could be won or lost around the raging insurgency decided to act on the eleventh hour. This is a point to ponder but we must get back to the crucial issues at hand.

Regardless of who wins the March 28 presidential election being hotly contested between Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress and President Jonathan of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, the issue of how to manage the damage perpetrated by an insurgency left to fester for over six years must be clearly addressed in the overall interest of all Nigerians.

One of such issues that should occupy the mind of the next administration should be about bridging the socio-economic gap that exists among Nigerians, especially those of the northern extraction. When poverty and illiteracy are rife in the populace, the tendency to exploit such misnomer by mischievous elements within and outside becomes high and vices such as insurgency and brigandage ensue. Though the Victims Support Fund established by the Jonathan administration is well-intended, it is not an end to itself; there must be conscious efforts towards ensuring that those affected by the insurgency are well-rehabilitated and further efforts made at creating opportunities for the teeming youth population. Engaging the youths requires a well thought-out policy framework which entails harnessing the potential of the population towards individual determination and national productivity. In an article entitled, “It’s grim up North,” I had joined many Nigerians and external pundits to point to the imbalance of educational advancement that places northern Nigeria at a disadvantage.

If Nigeria is to move forward without rancour, there must be a conscious attempt at balancing such a deficit, thereby giving no room purveyors of mischief who could take undue advantage of an illiterate population.

At the root of the dying insurgency, also, is the crucial issue of responsiveness in leadership and proactive approaches to security challenges. The Jonathan administration has come under serious opprobrium for the manner of handling the challenges by the insurgents. President Jonathan himself candidly admitted that his government “underestimated” the magnitude of the challenge at the early days of the insurgency in an interview on Kaakaki, a programme of the African Independent Television. If the government had responded with the zeal currently being employed, Nigeria would have been saved the obnoxious stigma of the debauchery that Boko Haram embodies.

The precious time wasted in trading blames and seeking truce with the insurgents would have been enough to nip the terror in its bud. Hence, any government in power should be able to identify what constitutes a threat to Nigeria’s sovereignty and meet such with the needed leadership required in a crisis situation.

Nigeria beyond Boko Haram should be that country with the outlook of the true giant of Africa where monsters like Boko Haram, crude oil theft, corruption and other manifestations of social dysfunction have no place to thrive.

Many have tried to put Nigeria in the league of countries like Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan where terrorism holds the people hostage but Nigerians refused to be so misidentified.

Never again shall Nigerians be “refugees” and hostages in their own country and Africa’s “Big Brother” at the mercy of her neighbours and the international community.

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

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