By Baba Gana Alinma
In 2009 our legendary peace in Borno was shattered with the uprising of Yussufiya group better known today as Boko Haram (BH). The group was initially non violent though with propensity towards violence, this idealistic extremists craved to create an Islamic state.
The 2009 uprising failed. Boko Haram suffered a devastating setback. However, the Nigerian state failed to translate the defeat into a victory. Two years after they came with a vengeance, as it mutated into a hydra-headed monster. The group now composed of Islamic extremists, political thugs, criminals and mercenaries. They are at best a community of criminals.
From 2011-2012, major towns in Borno lived in hell with rampant killings, robbery, bombings and kidnapping by BH. Suicide bomber attempted to kill HRH Shehu of Borno. The Emir of Gwoza was killed in an ambush while the Emirs of Askira and Uba narrowly escaped death. It seems as their sponsors wanted to demystify the powerful northerner aristocracy. The deliberate attack on worshippers in Mosques and Churches was intended to create a deep rift though it failed.
While all these atrocities against the people of Borno were going unabated, the security agencies decided to disarm the people. Even those that lawfully acquired guns were compelled to return them to the police, leaving them defenseless. BH had a field day killing their targets in broad daylight.
The abuses by the security were as bad as BH’s. There were human right abuses, killings, arbitrary arrests and home demolishing. The security uprooted people from their ancestral homes in areas like Kalari, Abbaganaram, Kawar Maila and Kumburi. Before BH made people internally displaced the security did.
Whoever wanted to squeeze the life out of Life Maiduguri has succeeded. Their was/is mass exodus of people/capital. The only “safe” road leading to Maiduguri is the Kano road. The International airport is closed for nearly a year with only Ali Sheriff enjoying the facility. I often wonder how the people of Borno will tolerate curfew on Maiduguri for over 3 years and state of emergency for 1 year. GSM services was cut for over 1 year with adverse socioeconomic consequences.
Maiduguri is a city of roadblocks. One western journalist once claimed that there are more roadblocks in Maiduguri then the whole of Afghanistan. The psychology of roadblock is telling the hostage community that there is security challenges. Meaning our lives must be disrupted. In a typically Nigerian way, the roadblocks were used to molest and degrade our humanity.
Sadly the roadblocks became tollgates where despite our predicament we are extorted. Nigerians without National Identity Cards were forced to pay N200 to security agents in all the four major entrances to Maiduguri. Since the roadblocks has not saved even the military barracks, airport and police stations from BH attack they must be dismantled. Security installations can find ways to fortify themselves. We must reclaim our lives and freedom of movement.
As the uprising moved to the phase of insurgency more troops were deployed to Maiduguri. The military got it wrong when it treated everyone as BH and thought guns will usher peace. There was false propaganda in the media that our people did not cooperate with the security agencies. BH killed over 30 traditional rulers and many others for giving useful information to security agencies.
Enter the Civilian JTF. This patriotic group of youth crossed the fear barrier and confronted the deadly BH with sticks and cutlasses. Borno people were woken up from their inertia. The civilian JTF in cooperation with the security chased BH to Sambisa. The same bravery was exhibited by our youth in most urban areas of Borno. The entire security strategy of the JTF/army proved faulty when the civilian JTF came on board.
The military initially claimed that fighting BH in the urban centres would result in collateral damage. That could be true. But why did the military refused to take the battle to BH in Sambisia, Marte, Algarno and their numerous camps? BH fighters stupidly travelled in large convoys of vehicles yet the air force allowed them a jolly ride.
The people of Borno are under the illusions that the Nigerian state will defend them and defeat the insurgency. WRONG. Hasn’t the insurgency been growing by the day? BH has sacked/occupied: Mianok, Jakana, Benishiek, Konduga, Kawuri, Bama, Banki, Gwoza, Ashigasher, Ngoshe, Limankara, Kirawa, Mafa, Marte, Dikwa, Ngala, Gamboru, Alagarno, Baga, Doron Baga, Shafa, Buratai, Damboa, Chibok, Lassa and countless villages.
Are we still under the illusions that the Nigerian state will liberate these towns? In the remote areas of Borno, BH mounts patrol, tollgates and brutalizing people in the name of sharia. Gwoza, Bama, Gamboru Ngala, Dikwa and many others are under the direct brutal administrative control of BH. Our people are executed for merely smoking cigarette. May be for tactical manoeuvre the army refused to be on the offensive against BH, they are camped at the outskirts of Maiduguri.
The north is in disarray. Our illusions that the north will come to our aid and maybe the 19 northern Governors will issue an ultimatum to the Federal Government to crush the insurgency within a timeline is far fetched. The Governors want to either be Vice President, Senators or run for second term. We are on our own!
The international community, especially the US has bemoaned Nigeria’s lackadaisical engagement of BH. The National Assembly, Traditional rulers, NGOs, ACF, opposition parties and even CAN urged the Government to be proactive in its fight against the insurgency but to no avail.
We are told that terrorism is a global phenomenon or fighting terrorism is novel to Nigerian army. BH is not rooted in the communities and is easy for the army to finish them. The narrative that BH is better armed is false as they mostly cart away the munitions of soldiers or police when they attack. From 2012-2014; trillions voted for security vanished without kits and weapons for the army. After all those interested in possessing blood money would want the war to drag on.
What is to be done? The people of Borno MUST form militias to fight the insurgency. Over 10,000 people mostly ex-servicemen, vigilante, hunters, civilian JTF marched to the Shehu’s palace recently wanting to fight BH. Why did the Government refused to recruit the Civilian JTF into the army despite the proposal by the senate and well meaning Nigerians? We MUST defend Borno. Don’t ask how do we get the weapons (this is inertia) to defend ourselves? How did BH or Niger Delta Militants got theirs?
All those who became Governors, Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, CEOs Senators, Members House of Rep, who-is-who in the name Borno state must payback now. Is time to take our destiny in our hands and say thank you to the military for their sacrifices. Remember, over 10,000 have died from the insurgency; hundreds of towns/villages are sacked and looted by mercenaries.
Baba Gana Alinma
Dept of Political Science,