July 15, 2012 in Nigerian Current Affairs
The National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, has, within only a few days on the job, demonstrated a commendable concern for
tackling the Boko Haram terrorist onslaught. His first act has been visits to the states laid low by terror, quite unlike President Goodluck Jonathan who has restricted himself to uninspiring sound bites in the face of dire security threats to the nation’s existence. The trouble, however, is that the lodestone of Dasuki’s strategy is fatally flawed, resting on the patently false assumption that you can negotiate peace with terrorists.
Since he assumed office, the new NSA has been unveiling his mandate and the strategy to achieve it. He says he has the mandate to put heads together with religious and traditional leaders as well as the state governments to ensure an immediate ceasefire. According to him, the “cogent message in all the meetings he has held so far with some stakeholders is the need for leaders to reach out and prevail on Boko Haram members to cease fire so as to create room for dialogue.” This means that Dasuki has opted for dialogue instead of carrying the battle to the doorstep of Boko Haram. He has also disapproved of the declaration of state of emergency in some local government areas in the North, insisting that its effects were negative. Unfortunately, his strategy risks giving comfort to terrorists and compromising national security.
But this is not surprising. It falls in line with the clarion calls for dialogue with the terror group by a section of the political class bent on exploiting the dire situation to extract benefits for itself. The danger, however, is that the dialogue mantra will give the terrorists a stamp of official recognition, shore up their international connection and provide a respite for them to launch series of murderous strikes on the country.
Only a failed or failing state negotiates with terrorists seeking to dismember the state. Going by the published agenda of Boko Haram, it is wrong to view its brand of terrorism like the Taliban of Afghanistan, the Basque separatists of Spain or even Palestinian radical groups. These are primarily violent dissident groups seeking independence for their homelands. Not so with Boko Haram, which seeks the dismantling of the Nigerian state and the overthrow, by violence, of its Constitution. The extremist group shares a perception that Western culture has polluted Islamic values and traditions and views violence as the natural and justified by-product of a cosmic struggle between good and evil. It has, therefore, made no secret of its rejection of the authority of the state and western education, and is bent on expelling Christians and mainstream Muslims that do not subscribe to its narrow, Salafist interpretation of Islam. Boko Haram is Al Qaeda’s face in Nigeria. It neither acknowledges nor respects regional political and religious leaders and, indeed, sees them as enemies and impious Muslims.
If dialogue has been a practical option of containing international terrorism, the United States would have opened up talks with Al Qaeda. Just as that global terror organisation rejects all constituted authority, Boko Haram has adopted terror and anarchy as a way of forcing Islamic republic on Northern Nigeria. It has teamed up with Al Qaeda in the Maghreb and the Somali-based Al Shabaab to achieve its religious agenda.
Boko Haram is a terror organisation and the responsibility of the state is to deploy intelligence and skill to exterminate it. Boko Haram terrorists are believed to have killed over 2,000 people through bombings, gun attacks on civilians, churches, mosques, recreation centres and markets since 2009. The NSA cannot close his eyes to the brazenness of this group that attacks police formations, military facilities and prisons. The terror group is strengthened by lack of political will by government to unmask its sponsors and treat them in accordance with the law.
The 1999 Constitution does not authorise the president to negotiate away our sovereignty. Dasuki has apparently keyed in to the rather short-sighted efforts to prevent the US government from rightly designating Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organisation. If enlightened national interest was guiding our government, it would have lobbied to have the FTO tag slammed very quickly on Boko Haram and, by this, obtain extensive foreign assistance to modernise our military and intelligence capacity to contain terrorism and insurgency. Such good sense enables Israel, Egypt, Yemen and Kenya, among others, to receive financial aid and military assistance, strengthening their capacity to secure their states.
We cannot reverse our ranking as the 14th most failed state in the Failed States Index released last week by the Fund for Peace by capitulating to terrorism through dubious dialogue. This lily-livered policy of appeasement must stop. From Borno’s Governor Ibrahim Shettima to manufacturers and even the pro-dialogue Arewa Consultative Forum, the consensus is that terrorism has virtually collapsed the economy of the region.
What should Dasuki do? In national security, a good defence relies on an active offence, both unilateral and multilateral. Dasuki should seek close cooperation with foreign intelligence services to expand the intelligence, police, and internal security resources directed against terrorism. The NSA should strengthen the capacity of the security agencies to crush this gratuitous assault against the nation. Boko Haram members are not freedom fighters; they are religious fanatics bent on imposing their own version of utopia through violence.
They are not unemployed either, as most of those caught so far have been educated and often abandoned their jobs to wage jihad. The list of members includes a former commissioner in Borno State. The baffling question is why are Boko Haram’s sympathisers ascribing to it the demands the group is not making? The NSA should coordinate efforts to contain the threat from terrorists who have since carved an enclave in Northern Mali with massive arsenal from Libya and are bent on destabilising West Africa.
Will the proposed dialogue then accede to Boko Haram’s demand for Islamic rule in parts or the whole of Nigeria? Or will Dasuki be able to talk out the terrorist group from pursuing its considered sacred religious assignment? Or is it true that some of the sponsors are known but locals give the terror group some tacit approval? If this is the situation, then Nigeria needs a national dialogue of all its components to agree to a workable federation and not a dialogue with a faceless terror group.