After years of playing the conciliator and the moderate, Senate President David Mark last week urged the Federal Government to declare war on Boko Haram. By so doing, he added his influential voice to those of many Nigerians who have come to the conclusion that Boko Haram has, indeed, become a deadly threat to the country.
The senator had hoped the group would come to its senses and be amenable to dialogue but events have shown that Boko Haram has declared war on Nigeria. It is now seizing Nigerian territories and proclaiming them its caliphate. An all-out war against the sect has become imperative to crush the terrorists, Mark told a receptive Senate audience.
We totally agree with the Senate President. Boko Haram has graduated from an affliction created by religious fanatics and trouble-makers who needed to be checked by the police, to a bloody insurrection and a jihad against the country that requires the full weight of the Nigerian military to surmount.
Since its brutal attack on Bauchi Prison, which led to a jailbreak and the escape of hundreds of prisoners on September 7, 2010, and its attacks in Abuja on May 29, 2011, a few hours after the inauguration of President Goodluck Jonathan, Boko Haram has conducted a frightening campaign of terror against Nigeria that no nation would tolerate.
In-between the bombing of Police Headquarters, Abuja, the carnage at the United Nations complex, Abuja, the slaughter of male students of the College of Agriculture in their sleep in their dormitories, the sensational kidnapping of the Chibok girls from their school, the Nyanya bombings, the Gamboru and Ngala wholesale massacres to the rape and occupation of Gwoza, more than 5,000 Nigerians have been killed.
Nearly a hundred churches have been destroyed, while scores of residential buildings, schools and markets, bus stations have been attacked. The cruelty and bloodthirstiness of Boko Haram has surpassed anything the modern world has seen, and the group is now considered the most violent in the world.
Even before David Mark spoke, it had become glaring that Boko Haram had gone beyond what could be handled with kid gloves. The sect has waged a war of assassinations against notable individuals that are critical of its activities, including Muslim clerics. It made an attempt on the life of an ex-head of state of Nigeria, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari.
Part of the difficulty of engaging Boko Haram stems from its name -Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda awati wal-Jihad – which translated from the Arabic means “People committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad.” Boko Haram thus invokes the name of Islam at every turn in its every video, in its every statement. With such deft propaganda, it nearly succeeded in dividing Nigerians along religious and regional lines, a situation which manifestly affected the military’s response and explains its seeming irresolution, pussyfooting and uncertainties.
A war with Boko Haram, declared or not, became unavoidable the moment the terrorist group became so emboldened as to move out of its usual habitats in the Mandara Mountains and the Sambisa Forests and embarked on territorial acquisition and occupation. It was, perhaps, one of its worst decisions, besides the attack on the United Nations building in Abuja and the kidnapping of the Chibok girls. Having hoisted flags in public buildings in Gwoza and elsewhere and declared its caliphate, apparently in imitation of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), it has now finally united all the doubting Thomases and forged a broader consensus against its expansionist ambitions.
Boko Haram will not go down without a struggle. Fortunately, the struggle has already begun. In the last week or two, the military has appeared determined to put its house in order and strike an appropriate pose for what lies ahead. It has demonstrated flashes of gallantry. It seems geared to fulfill its primary constitutional duty which is the protection of the territorial integrity of Nigeria.
Enough of the sorry figure Nigeria has cut since the abduction of the Chibok girls, when we became an object of pity and wrung our hands in helplessness before the international community. President Jonathan should pick up the gauntlet, do his homework, get the approval of the National Assembly and mobilise the country for an all-out military campaign against the insurgency. Boko Haram is not like the Niger Delta militants. We, however, urge the Federal Government to make one last appeal to the sponsors of this devilish gang to spare Nigeria the destruction, the waste and the retrogression that will come with the commencement of a total war.
While the Federal Government should not close the door to negotiations, it must clearly convey the country’s abhorrence of Boko Haram’s atrocities. The jihadists must be treated firmly and in accordance with the law. That way, the insurgents would have a reason to use their discretion and stop the battle against Nigeria. The truth is that the time for being nice with Boko Haram is past. It must be made to face the consequences of its actions, if Nigeria is to put an end to this insurgency.
It is also our hope that the International Criminal Court has compiled enough evidence to file charges against Boko Haram’s innumerable crimes against humanity