Saturday, September 13, 2014 12:42 pm
By Ademola Adegbamigbe
In war, the first casually is truth. This statement, attributed to US Senator Hiram Johnson in 1918, applies to Nigeria’s war with Boko Haram. Here, real facts have been savagely murdered, such that the Defence Headquarters and prominent individuals have been singing discordant tunes.
Boko Haram recently carried its effrontery to a higher level by taking over villages in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. Like Attila the Hun, Abubakar Shekau led his marauding bands to seize Bara and Gulani, two communities in Toro Local Government Area of Bauchi State last week.
Late last month, the insurgents took over Gwoza town and hoisted their flags in Ashigashiya ward of Gwoza Local Government Area of Borno. They marched on and maintained their suzerainty over Damboa, Buni Yadi, Gamboru and Dikwa Emirate. Worse still, they invaded many villages in Madagali Local Government Area of Adamawa, just as Bama, Borno State’s second largest city, also fell to them. Nigerian Air Force strafed the insurgents’ hide-out in the city and, as The Nation quoted a top military source, “the capture of Bama was a temporary setback.” The source added: “The (Nigerian) troops tried to repel the insurgents but they were just too many. I think they had a base in some villages nearby where they launched their reprisals.”
As at last Tuesday, however, the Borno State deputy governor, Zannah Umar Mustapha, claimed that Bama did not fall to Boko Haram. However, Senator Ahmed Zannah, who represents Borno Central, came out smoking, insisting that Bama actually fell to the rebels. “As I am speaking to you,” he told ThisDay, “Bama has been captured and the insurgents are on the prowl for any male, killing at will.” He challenged the military authorities and the Borno State Government to take journalists to Bama to “verify their claims”.
Before this, Stephen Davis, an Australian clergyman and negotiator with Boko Haram had, with interviews he granted Arise, Saharareporters and The Cable, kicked awake a rabid dog. He accused an unnamed Central Bank of Nigeria top notcher, and another man resident in Cairo, Egypt of having much to do with making funds available to Boko Haram.
Apart from former Borno State governor, Ali-Modu Sheriff, Davis fingered General Azubuike Ihejirika, a past chief of army staff, as sponsor of the insurgents. These run counter to a recent accusation that the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, was behind the fanatics.
My worry is deep, very deep. Innocent Nigerians are being cut down and the territorial integrity of the country is being violated by a group of brigands, yet the Nigerian government, the military high command, prominent individuals and even the opposition are busy hauling verbal missiles at one another – rather than really firing cannons at the rebels!
In war, I know that propaganda is employed by the two opposing sides. Ask Goebbels, Anthony Enahoro and Uche Chukwumerije. Enemies on the two sides of the barricades try to attract the sympathy of the international community by painting the other side bad.
However, Nigeria’s case beats my imagination. While the enemies on the other side, Boko Haram fighters, are marching in tandem, busy making mincemeat of our people, the Nigerian side, which ought to act as one, is working at cross purposes.
Let me cite the African parable of the snake here. It is because the snake crawls alone in the bush that makes it fall prey to the hunter’s machete. Imagine a situation where snakes move in groups. Let the rattlesnake be at the rear, with King Cobra, the boa constrictor, python and anaconda leading the pack. A hunter may think twice before confronting this reptilian company.
This, to me, explains our situation. Or are we not convinced yet that Boko Haram’s offensive has gone beyond guerrilla to full-scale war? Behold, Boko Haram now has its own “nation state”, the caliphate in the North-East, thus fulfilling the political scientists’ four factors: territory, population, sovereignty and government. Boko Haram does not need to import people. It simply took over the children and the women that escaped their swords so that they can continue to procreate a unique hot blood, a modern day law of prima nocta. The insurgents now have a territory they have called the Islamic Caliphate, comprising parts of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states. Of course, it proclaims its own sovereignty and has a government, installing its own emirs in captured towns.
We must face the reality now. Nigeria is fully at war. For this reason, I advise that we put our differences aside to face Boko Haram, our common enemy. It will not be a bad idea if President Goodluck Jonathan convenes a meeting of all political parties, pressure groups, religious organisations, and other stakeholders to come up with ways to end this insurgency.
Just as our fathers contributed palm kernels to finance the British war in Burma and other far-flung places in South-East Asia, I suggest that every Nigerian can donate money for the anti-Boko Haram campaign to provide more weapons and welfare for the soldiers. These poor guys who are husbands of many wives, fathers of many kids and scions of other parents, are being killed like flies. They need to be motivated and well equipped. A non-governmental organisation can take charge of the fund raising.
If we fail to act now, we are all in danger. Boko Haram is salivating over Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. A worst-case scenario is this: If Boko Haram captures Yobe, Adamawa, then which state is next?
This apprehension was also expressed last week by Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the United States Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, when she spoke at the opening session of the US-Nigeria Bi-National Commission Regional Security Working Group meeting, held in Abuja, the Nigerian capital.
In her words: “We are very troubled by the apparent capture of Bama and the prospects for an attack on and in Maiduguri, which would impose a tremendous toll on the civilian population.” She advised Nigeria to pocket its pride and do away with denials and come to terms with the threats posed by the deadly sect. “This is a sober reality check for all of us. We are past time for denial and pride,” she said.
All hands must therefore be on deck because a house divided against itself cannot stand.