Thursday, September 1, 2016 8:07 pm
By Andrew Aroloye
When the Nigerian civil war started in 1967, Col. Usman Katsina told some reporters who interviewed him not to worry that everything would be over in 24 hours. The 24 hours lasted 30 month’s i.e. two and a half years. Those of us in Lagos were made to cover our windows with thick black curtains so that light would not be seen by the night bombers of the Biafran army. The Casino cinema area droppings of the remains of pieces of human flesh and parts of the jet that was torn apart in mid-air by the better air fire of the Nigerian Air force then shook us to our bones. It made Lagosians to really have a feel of the war.
Hitherto, Lagosians have been going about their duty as if nothing was happening. To them, the war was far away. Then there was one fight then referred to as “O leku-ija-Ore (the tough fight at Ore) which made people in this area of Nigeria then know that, war is not what should be taken lightly. It destroys, and destroys; it does not know tribe or colour or even race. The best thing really is not having civil or military disturbance.
That is why I would like to comment on the statement of Chief of Air staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar that he wouldn’t know if the Nigerian Chibok girls are in Sambisa forest or not. We were to ask the Nigerian military (Army, Air force, Navy-even if they were to fight from Lake Chad and the Nigerian Police) if the entire Sambisa forest is within the territory known as Nigeria. If so, we could as well ask, if the forest is larger, or wider in size than the entire Eastern Region, Nigeria that Col. Usman Katsina had promised to conquer in 24 hours which eventually took the military 30 months to accomplish. Nigerians have been in this Chibok girls problem for close to that.
To us, the concentration of humans in the then area then called Biafra that Nigeria disliked and wanted to conquer at all costs, definitely cannot be taken to be the same as in the Sambisa forest. The Civil war was bad and it took with it millions of innocent civil and military souls. The army there then produced their own military hard ware to supplement those supplied to them by their supporters. It was a war where prisoners of war were caught and exchanged when it was so decided. This Chibok girls problem seems quite a different type of war.
The Boko Haram war sounds like what people call guerrilla-war, a bit difficult to fight. But all the same, it is a war and has to be fought to its logical conclusion. Hence, when Marshal Sadique Abubakar said he and his men would not believe the video showing the Chibok girls presumed killed by his men, we tend too, to believe him. Human life is precious. The Nigeria Air force and the Army, from what we have seen so far, have fought this Boko Haram war with the keenness effort to reduce the loss of human life especially in the so called enclave called Sambisa forest.
But then,the Chad-Basin-Army group are assisting us. If the entire enclave has been fully surrounded, how come the Boko Haram people still get their supplies to continue the war till now? We cannot rule out the role of saboteurs in a war like this. The non-sense Air Marshal said that, what was shown in the video could not have been something that happened after an air strike. His belief is that these guys are just trying to whip up sentiment because they know that every Nigerian is concerned about the girls. He went further to state that there could be no military operation without collateral damage; that the air force was doing everything possible to determine legitimate targets. We believe him, but words of mouth won’t fight the war for us.
However, if as the Air Chief further said that Sambisa forest is about 60,000 square kilometres (quite less than the whole old Eastern Region that the military conquered) and with a difficult terrain, we believe the same military fought under same problem in 1967-1970. His advice is that by the dry season, it will be easier for the land forces to move in there. Is the Air Marshall telling Nigerians to wait another six months to get the girls out of the forest? There comes the issue of swapping the girls with the releases of Boko Haram detainees.
A leading expert on terrorism in the United Kingdom, Dr.Afzal Ashraf, recently advised the Federal Government to critically examine issues of detainees exchange for the girls before taking decision on the prisoner swap offer by Boko Haram. He noted that the Federal Government would have to balance principle against pragmatic gains to make difficult decision. Prof. Ibrahim Gambari even suggested the carrot and cane offer.
After all, for the girls involved and their families, any price is worth paying to deliver them from the hell of the barbaric Boko Haram. But when asked if the Federal Government should accept the offer of prisoner swap by Boko Haram, Ashraf said, “This is a difficult question. Some governments will not deal with terrorists.” But the release of the girls is very important whatever the cost.
President Buhari at an interview he granted in Nairobi Kenya recently said his administration is ready to negotiate with authentic leaders of the Boko Haram sect that could convince the government that they were the ones holding the girls and they knew the girls whereabouts. He affirmed, “The government which I preside over is prepared to talk to bonafide leaders of Boko Haram.” The ball is now in the court of this deadly sect, to come up with how they want the negotiations started. After-all, the Avengers opened up lately too, on how they will stop their destructive activities in the Niger Delta. There now seems to be a ray of light behind the tunnel in solving these two worrisome problems in the history of this nation.
Another leeway we need to explore in getting the girls released, is co-operation between the government, the Bring-Back-Our-Girls Group and those erroneously recently declared wanted by the security agencies. One of them in particular ‘Mama Boko Haram’, Aisha Wakil. She is a forty-eight year old lady married to a High Court Judge in Borno state (incidentally too she is a lawyer) seems to have knowledge of how and what to do in getting our girls back. In an interview she granted to a reporter of Premium Times recently, she noted how long ago she has been dealing with the sect. They call her Yanjunmai meaning ‘loved mother’ because she has been close to them. There was a time, according to her, she rarely got 50% of the girls released to her, but the information leaked and the sect got annoyed and drove the girls further far into the forest. That interview was quite revealing and I believe, government should seek further for her assistance instead of treating her like someone concealing information from the security forces. Quite honestly, the woman (a lawyer) has information that needs to be tapped.
Nigerians cannot wait any longer; let us use every means at our disposal to get the girls released. Negotiation with legitimate group will be an idea. But, how do we know, which is the legitimate group like what happens now in the South-South. One group today tells us, they are ready for talks with the government the next day; another group will refute such a statement. Issues like this do make it difficult for the government to take firm decisions on the negotiation option than the military one which is straight forward, win or lose; then rehabilitation! The girls’ are dear to their parents and all Nigerians.
Even though the possibility of getting all of them back is very remote, it is still possible to get “near all” back. Let us involve other friendly nations that have gone through this sort of problem before in the negotiations. Nations like America and Israel come into focus under this suggestion. We want our girls back. Let them be back before the dry season.
Andrew Aroloye: wrote from: [email protected]