Boko Haram: Low Politics At High Cost To National Security, By Majeed Dahiru
With ISIL substantially diminished and struggling to survive, it is unable to provide much support in terms of finance, logistics, training and expertise for its Nigerian affiliate, Boko Haram. The roll back on the activities of Boko Haram is like an object in a free fall in space and it will amount to arrogance of ignorance for anyone to take credit for its acceleration other than natural forces of gravity.
The premature declaration by the Muhammadu Buhari administration that the Boko Haram insurgency had been totally defeated has now been proved wrong by a devastating resurgence of the deadly terror group. Deadly incidences of suicide bombings, the sacking of towns, attacks on military formations and IDP camps have resulted in the death of many Nigerians. However, before the administration’s Goebbels could down play these deadly incidences as “antics of the totally degraded and fleeing remainants of Boko Haram insurgents who are after soft targets” (as if the lives of soft targets are less important than those of hard targets), the Dapchi incidence happened.
The Dapchi incidence is reminiscent of the Chibok tragedy. Long convoy of vehicles, manned by combat ready Boko Haram insurgents moved unhindered into Dapchi town, Yobe State, North-East Nigeria and headed towards their target – the Dapchi government school, from where over a hundred school girls were abducted in Chibok style. Like it happened in Chibok in 2014, this town was unprotected by the military. Similarly, the Buhari administration has been thoroughly embarrassed by Dapchi incidence, as much as the Chibok incidence did the Goodluck Jonathan administration, and futile attempts have been initially made by both governments to deny that the incidences happened. While the Goodluck Jonathan administration outrightly denied the Chibok incidence, the Muhammadu Buhari administration described the girls as missing, earlier on refusing to admit that they were abducted. Another striking similarity between the Chibok and Dapchi incidences is in the reaction of the military. Like it happened in Chibok, military sources, later turning out to be hoaxes, claimed to have rescued the girls. And the usual blame game between the State governor and the military on one hand and between the police and the military on the other hand, brings back the sad memory of the 2014 Chibok abduction.
An administration that is in a hurry to score a low political point of succeeding in the war against terror where its predecessors failed, has unfortunately allowed the politicisation to go too far, resulting into a high cost for national security. The claim of winning the war on terror is largely premised on the fact that the Boko Haram insurgency has been restricted to the North-East, with the operational base in the vast savannah wastelands of Sambisa substantially cleared by the military forces of Operation Lafiya Dole. The Buhari administration also takes pride in the liberation, by the security forces, of communities hitherto captured and controlled by the insurgent groups. There is no doubting the fact that the Boko Haram insurgency has considerably reduced in scope and magnitude. However, these positive developments have very little to do with efforts of the Buhari administration.
Post-2015, a large contingent of Boko haram sympathisers, financiers and collaborators, who are motivated by a combination of faith and partisan politics, operating far away from the theatre of war, in government, military, media and the streets of urban centres, suddenly withdrew their active and passive support for the insurgent group.
There are three main doctrinal basis upon which radical Islamic theology is premised. These are the concept of caliphacy (Muslim rule under the Sharia law), the re-designation of people of the book (Jews and Christians) in Islam from believers to unbelievers and lastly, the equation of innovation (Bidah) with unbelief, otherwise known as the takfiri doctrine. The concept of caliphacy is one that enjoys enormous legitimacy among the Muslim community in Nigeria and beyond, much more than the other two doctrines. The aspiration for Sharia law under a Muslim ruler over the global Muslim community, with the prospects of justice, Godliness and guidance, is a form utopia for many Muslims who are disillusioned with the current order. While the struggle (Jihad) for a return to Caliphacy is on, Muslims who believe in this concept and who are in the majority feel more spiritually fulfilled to be ruled by a Muslim, in a commonwealth of multi-religious geographic entity like Nigeria. In essence, for them, where the ideal Islamic state is not yet achieved, Muslim rule suffices. Recall that in 1999, when Olusegun Obasanjo, a Christian, was elected president of Nigeria, the predominantly Muslim states of northern Nigeria adopted the Sharia legal code as a convenient buffer against a non-Muslim rulership. Again, the Boko Haram insurgency escalated during the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian. The campaign of bombing outside the North-East was launched on May 29, 2011, the day Goodluck Jonathan was inaugurated as president, when several improvised explosive devices, bombed different locations around the country, including Abuja and Bauchi, leaving several people dead.
Therefore, the election of Muhammadu Buhari, a powerful Muslim figure whose open support for the adoption of the Sharia legal system by the majority Muslim northern states in the early days of the Fourth Republic is well known, substantially satisfied the quest by majority of Muslims in Nigeria for a caliphacy. The Buhari presidential mandate of 2015 enjoyed massive Muslim support. Leading and influential Muslim leaders pontificated on the need to vote out the “infidel” Jonathan and elect a “believer”, Buhari, instead. With the successful replacement of Goodluck Jonathan in power, support and solidarity for Boko Haram among this category of Muslims reduced drastically. Post-2015, a large contingent of Boko haram sympathisers, financiers and collaborators, who are motivated by a combination of faith and partisan politics, operating far away from the theatre of war, in government, military, media and the streets of urban centres, suddenly withdrew their active and passive support for the insurgent group.
An insurgency that was regarded as a festering sore that should never be allowed to heal on the body of Jonathan’s body politick, which was used to discredit his entire administration is now regarded as a national security threat that must be defeated under Buhari as a credit to his administration. Obstacles faced by the Goodluck administration in its war against terror have been turned into full cooperation between members of the affected communities and the Buhari administration. Where heavy military deployments were condemned as an army of occupation, it is now being welcomed and praised as an army of protection. A military operation in Baga town in 2013 to expel insurgents and liberate the town was condemned as a siege, with threats of petition by Borno elders against the then Army chief, for war crimes at The Hague. But mum was the word when Buhari’s air force mistakenly bombed desperately poor and helpless refugees at an IDP camp in Rann, Borno state. Political leaders of northern Nigeria are no longer denouncing the war on terror as a genocide against the north or requesting for amnesty and presidential jet flights for Boko Haram insurgents, such as was granted to Niger Delta militants. The implication of this trend is that Boko Haram is likely to heighten if and when a non-Muslim presidency happens in Nigeria.
Any Muslim who believes in the concept of caliphacy is a Boko Haram member; also any Muslim who believes people of the book (Jews and Christians) are unbelievers is equally a Boko Haram; as well as any Muslim who regards a fellow Muslim as non-believer on accounts of commission of Bidah. Let this self-realisation begin.
The current insurgency is being waged by the most radical of Muslims who are apolitical, but in addition to the concept of caliphacy, they subscribe absolutely to radical doctrines that re-designate people of the book from believers to unbelievers and equates innovation with disbelief. Fortunately for Nigeria, shortly after Boko Haram pledged allegiance to ISIL in March 2015, the global Islamist jihadi group slipped into a decline in power, organisational and operational capabilities, as a result of a multi-pronged assault waged on it by a coalition of Iraqi-Kurdish forces ably backed by the United states, which greatly diminished it in Iraq and held a sustained military operation against it in the Levant, through a coalition of Syrian and Hisbullah forces backed by Russia. With ISIL substantially diminished and struggling to survive, it is unable to provide much support in terms of finance, logistics, training and expertise for its Nigerian affiliate, Boko Haram. The roll back on the activities of Boko Haram is like an object in a free fall in space and it will amount to arrogance of ignorance for anyone to take credit for its acceleration other than natural forces of gravity.
Despite these setbacks for Boko Haram insurgents, they remain very lethal with the potency to engage security forces, wreak havoc, abduct people, sack villages and commit mass murder. The Dapchi abduction incidence happened because the government lied to Nigerians, and unfortunately believed its own lie. Boko Haram cannot be declared defeated until the ideology behind its existence remains undefeated. For every one insurgent killed by security forces, there are a dozen more that are willing recruits into the ranks of the jihadi group. The steady stream of radical Muslims flowing into the ranks of the Boko Haram terror group is sustained by grounds of northern Nigeria made fertile by a preponderance of radical theology firmly hinged on the legacies of earlier reformist movements of the preceding centuries. Seeds of radicalisation planted in these fertile grounds are continuously watered to fruition by mainstream Muslim authorities. The responsibility to combat Boko Haram ideologically is that of Nigeria’s Muslim community, with the government providing the necessary educational, legal and administrative instruments as enablers. The military can only contain the violent expression of the radical ideology. While many Muslims are quick to denounce Boko Haram as non-Muslims, they fail to recognise the Boko Haram in them. Any Muslim who believes in the concept of caliphacy is a Boko Haram member; also any Muslim who believes people of the book (Jews and Christians) are unbelievers is equally a Boko Haram; as well as any Muslim who regards a fellow Muslim as non-believer on accounts of commission of Bidah. Let this self-realisation begin.