Boko Haram: Matters arising

BY ABDULHAMID AL-GAZALI | COLUMNS, YERWA EXPRESS NEWS, JULY 27, 2017

As a publisher, it has been heart-rending to receive some news information on the simmering Boko Haram crisis from my correspondents and other informants especially that I use my own hands to publish them, sometimes knowing full well what some people will make of them. As a student of society, to which peace and conflict are special components, I have been twice as sad to publish what's obviously going to be worrisome to many particularly those who cannot go beyond the text on one hand and on the other, the level of scam or propaganda in some of them--which, has always been the feelings for me, that I have been contributing to a terrorist propaganda.

I have always carried the load of what I see as a folly and iniquity--but the kind of work drawn to my path almost necessitates that it be treated as normal, putting me in a dialectic between two extremes: my conscience and work. Take it or leave it, Boko Haram, as in every situation of war, is a publicity freak, and each news we publish about its devilish attacks, with or without the intention to make big stories out of them as selling points, adds to the force of its propaganda--and sadly, the unsuspecting public becomes more disturbed, scared and depressed, even.

I have over the course my seven years or so commentary on Boko Haram held that there's nothing less disturbing about loss of lives regardless of the number--hence, I don't subscribe to the argument that the crisis is no more a thing of concern because the casualty figures we see making the headlines today have decreased compared to what used to be the case two years ago. Yes Boko Haram Terrorists attack soft targets, throw ear-shattering bombs, ambush travelers and attack places least expected--the bottom line is: lives are lost in all cases and there must be an end to it.

In Borno, quite a large number of people have lost hope of ever enjoying peace again--because it is being dashed several times that it is the only conclusion to draw. The best way to stop a habit is to never start it--and this is even more so in cases of conflicts. Those who ignite conflicts are naturally packaged to be blind about its consequences and what it transforms into--in it, there's always the potential to aggravate and compound with time and there's never a better reason to start it because even on self-defense cases, you have mediation to try.

As a student of Middle East history and politics, I have understood that there are stages in wars and conflicts where even their originators, where they survive, cannot explain the issues that would eventually dictate their course. Resurrect a stone age man today, take him to Silicone Valley, surprised, overwhelmed with how far technology has moved since they ignited it millennia ago--he cannot explain how it happened.

The main cause for them will eventually be overtaken, yes: overthrown, and new ones take lead. Military industries and illegal arm dealers will turn it as an opportunity to make profit because this is their most effective means of earning. Incompetent political officeholders see in them opportunities to amass wealth in the name of emergencies and rapid responses and for some, campaign tools. Cultists and ritualist headhunters see the flowing blood. Superpowers fight proxy wars, demonstrate, nay, test their firepower--and there's a criminal International arrangement called 'policy of containment' in the name of balance of power. Self-styled 'humanitarian' organisations and persons, typical of them, transform the situation to profit making--while on interns--route to fame and sadly, distribution of overproduced goods, that, even at that, criminal officials steal. Security men posted to battlefields eye not the enemy, but the opportunities to strike at--and this explains why children of 'mere' sergeants (excuse my French) study in foreign universities and their wives holiday in Dubai. And now there's the case that media organisations make out grant opportunities, sponsorships and other things from them! This is why everyone has his own explanation of the situation.

The ambush attack on the oil prospecting team has caused retrospection across the society and many are beginning to bring out issues for discussion. Many have begun to go beyond the software to examine the back end. There are theories that go to put that it was all an effort to sabotage the oil prospecting in the region. As obvious as the interest groups likely to be after such 'treasurers' are, none of the arguments so far told us who was responsible.

The fact is that, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to take responsibility away from Boko Haram. If one insists on the sabotage anology, Boko Haram had maintained record as the major saboteur of Nigeria particularly the North East for close to a decade. Besides other things, these are people who chose to isolate themselves from the community and withdraw to wastelands and deserted inaccessible places not to make peace but to work against it. They have destroyed all other things that could develop the society and destroyed businesses, livelihoods and what have you. This attack may also be well part of the design.

There were some astonishments over how the terrorists knew the movement of the team. I hope it can be recalled that the prospecting has been on for some time and none of the activities of the team was concealed since they are not invisible. Like everyone else, Boko Haram knew where the work is going on; hence, can be able to determine the movement of the personnel. This is besides the fact that a convoy of ten vehicles cruising on an almost deserted road cannot be hidden especially to enemy who has evil intentions.

The second theory raised over the sad incident was that the team was targeted for abduction to play the 'Chibok girls' game on them in view of the caliber of the personnel, where they work and the assignment they are undertaking. Perhaps this could be possible but what's at stake so far is that at least two people in the team were reported dead while the situation in which the rest are is still unclear. Until they are confirmed to be alive, and get their accounts, the argument is set for the rock because of this was the intention, they could have been kept alive. No doubt the killing could follow during the 'rescue operation'. In any case, we need more information to make conclusions on this.

Aside from that, many still wonder if the alleged multimillion Naira ransom and swap of some Boko Haram commanders with Chibok girls is not already being a boost to them as ever since, attacks have been on the rise. As for me, I hold no strong opinion over the matter, including the 40 days deadline issued to the troops by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. TY Buratai to capture the leading terrorist, Shekau. On a lighter, you can really understand the helplessness of those who wondered why the government could release those it had captured if such orders could be issued less 90 days after the swap--since, it is expected that COAS and the government are working together and not individually.

Earlier, I suspected that, typical of such boasts, men of the COAS have already closed down on the leader of the group or taken him to their custody already, even though silence isn't a virtue for some. But like many felt, recent attacks have been disturbing. Only that, it better be known that his capture, much as it is a major achievement, will not result in immediate stoppage of attacks because what we have in our hands right now is, dearly so, paying for Mohammed Yusuf's capture and killing.

All the concerns raised are genuine even where available information at our disposal are sketchy and thus bar us from making conclusions. The better question is not actually about who informed Boko Haram of the movement of the oil prospecting team but about their 'existence' in the area claimed to be safe by the army!

In wars, ambushes such as this are no doubt what we call 'attacks on soft targets' and a sign of declining power. Let us continue discussing issues for the best possible solution, intensify prayers and work with relevant authorities in the area of vigilance, intelligence and etcetera.


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