Prologue: I had written this article before the Vanguard article broke. But, yes, it did inspire the title!
It has become as regular as the weather report: bombings in Northern Nigeria. Followed by statements by the citizenry and then the executive. Statements such as: ‘Let them kill themselves’, ‘Why are any Christians even still there, cant they leave?’, ‘Let the country just divide self!’ are rife. Depending on which end of the divide you are, you may agree with some of these sentiments or see them as mere emotional statements born out of frustration. The fact remains, however, that the scourge of bombings is reaching alarming levels with the perpetrators seeming to grow stronger and bolder with each strike.
Some have called for tougher actions. Declaring a state of emergency in Local Government Areas and military presence does not seem to deter the bombers. Arrest of their leaders only creates heroes of them and martyrs of those slain such that the next in hierarchy are further emboldened. Calls for tougher actions have come in the form of asking Christians to carry arms as well and do ‘return evil for evil’. Some have wished for an Obasanjo who would go in and crush the troublemakers like he did at Udi!
For others, it is a lack of political will on the part of the politicians. If they can find the political will, then the Boko Haram issue will be a thing of the past. In all this, most people I have met seem to spend so much time analysing the problem and blowing it up to the most sensational proportions and when asked for solutions they mutter unintelligible words and walk away like the Pharisees in Jesus day who refused to cast the first stone.
These days, Nigeria, for diplomatic reasons, has stopped referring to this sect as terrorists. But a consideration of how other countries have dealt with the issue of terrorism will go a long way to help us in finding solutions to this problem. Personally, I refuse to believe that the government is just seated back waiting for the country to implode, or as some alarmists would have us believe, or that this is a PDP plot to reduce the Northern population in a bid to create a Southern majority against 2015. What I do believe is that the ‘government’ can not win this war alone. There are actions we must take as individuals to win this war against terror.
One of my biggest problems with the citizenry of Nigeria is our innate and insatiable need to dump everything at the foot of the Federal Government. No water, no light, no roads, whatever service it is, is the fault of the Federal Government. We have refused to acknowledge that certain issues fall in what is referred to as the ‘residual list’. There are yet others in the ‘concurrent list’ before we arrive at the ‘exclusive list’. These days, the Federal Government has moved some of these issues around. So some things in the exclusive list in the 80’s may now be found in the concurrent list, like power generation for instance.
How many of us can name 10 things in the residual list?
You may be wondering what all this has got to do with the bomb attacks and the Boko Haram group. It is all about holding government at all levels accountable. There are levels of government so that government can be closer to the people, but years of military rule has caused a strong dependence on the Federal Government and even with a democratic government in place, we still want everything to come from the centre.
Just as moral decay can be traced to the failure of the family unit, security issues can be traced to problems with Local Government Administration. For example, although security is not a function of LGA’s, a factor that eventually contributes to our being secure is in the list of their functions and that is the registration of births, deaths and marriages. You would agree that having deaths and birth documented is vital to curbing the issue of insecurity. Plus, the LGA’s are expected to collaborate with the State Government in the provision of primary education. Do you doubt that a more educated population would lead to greater security? Has it not been argued again and again, that one reason why suicide bombing seems attractive is the lower level of education in the North? If we begin to insist that government at this level do what they are supposed to do, will we not be able to do away with some of the major challenges that contributes to insecurity in the land?
But of course, insisting that the Boko Haram menace is an economic one would be over simplifying the matter, even as claiming that it is all about religious domination-as if we were back in the days of Uthman Dan Fodio- would be totally unrealistic. The Boko Haram menace is a holistic problem and would require a holistic solution. There is no such thing as a quick fix or an easy way to do it. As I said before, we need to look to countries that have faced similar issues and see how they went about managing the problem. Take note that I have not said solve. As one author puts it and I agree: the only war against terrorism that ends quickly is the one the terrorists win. But then again, we are not fighting terrorists, or are we? Semantics!
One thing we can not sweep under the carpet is the religious angle to Boko Haram. Again and again, they have claimed that their fight is a religious one and the recent targeting of churches seems to back up this claim. Yet, the Muslim you meet on the street would tell you they don’t support Boko Haram and they live up to this by sometimes going out of their way to be at peace with their fellow Nigerians. I have a number of Muslim friends and I have never had cause to entertain any xenophobic thoughts towards them and they have never given me reason to. Does it not seem then that when we begin to engage in reprisal attacks against the ‘enemy’, we are letting the true enemy win?
I read somewhere that as a deterrent to suicide bombings, the US government had to prevail against the Saudi authorities to raise a Fatwa against suicide bombings. Is it not about time that the Muslim religious leaders took a firm stand against the killings in the North? Can they raise a Fatwa?
And then there is the political angle to Boko Haram. I want to believe that at the point the authorities must be very close to find the source of funding for Boko Haram. I have deliberately not said: found the people sponsoring Boko Haram. I believe finding the source of the funds is more important than finding the people. Operations like what we see Boko Haram carrying require a lot of funding. If the Boko Haram Overlords are too big a fish, then follow the money and put a stopper to it anyway you legitimately can. Most of the time, groups like this that are more political than ideological die when their source of funds wither.
A war can be won without firing a gun shot, it has been done before and it can be done again. But some wars require both firepower and psychological tactics. This is one of the latter and whether we like it or not, we all have a stake in this war. Though the weapons of our warfare can not always be physical, we can win- Yes we can!
Epilogue: Unless you are a vegetarian, u probablly like suya (barbecued meat sold predominantly by the Northerners). Suya spots are places where we meet up with friends and have fun. I know of Underground in Apapa, nice place. We should not allow xenophobic tendencies keep us away from suya.
Fellow Nigerians, let us sit down together and eat suya.