Boko Haram: Thinking Next Steps

Boko Haram: Thinking Next Steps

By: Uche John Madu

The various stakeholders in the fight against Boko Haram’s terrorism have tried their best in one way or the other, but there is more they have to do given the new round of information about what now drives the group. The dynamics threatening to keep the insurgence in place even after the group’s fighters have been sacked from Camp Zero in Sambisa Forest cannot be easily ignored.
The President Muhammadu Buhari led federal government did much, first in the appointment of committed military chiefs to lead the onslaught and secondly for giving these chiefs the political support needed to succeed. It aided them in the best way possible when of became obvious that international help may not be forthcoming because some of the countries that should have pitched in with some assistant did not share our view of giving the world one more country free of terrorism.
In the north east, the axis most ravaged by the insurgency, Borno state  government under Governor Shettima proven he is committed to seeing the last of the terrorist. The governor has proven to be a rallying force for stakeholders in the state as successfully created a fusion of political, traditional, religious and civil society leadership to wear down the influence the insurgents have built for themselves under their doctrine of fear.
Most important is the Nigerian military, notably the Army, which has taken the fight to Boko Haram not just in towns and villages where they had oppressed local populations but even right inside Sambisa Forest from where the extremists were sacked in what is today regarded as the actual final site of the terror group. The Army achieved the feat in the face of multiple odds, which would have caught the terrorists off guard as they had failed to reckon with troops’ gallantry that was the result of purposeful leadership.
The terrorists, whatever is left of them, are refusing to accept the reality of defeat. They have continued to attempt attacks that are meant to pass as spectacular or disconcerting enough to create the impression that they are still relevant in the scheme of things. While most of these attacks are usually thwarted owing to improved intelligence gathering and vigilant troops and other security operatives, the few instances where explosives borne by children are detonated have dampened the readiness of displaced persons to return back to their homes. If they are not returning home then they are stuck in camps where they become valuable propaganda bits for those that are propping the insurgency in place in addition to being sitting targets for drug addled-brainwashed bomb bearers.
It is the incentive driving these Boko Haram beneficiaries that the federal government, Borno with other state government in the region and of course the military should interrogate. An understanding of the impetus for these merchant of death would prove useful in developing the next phase of response that would remove the last vestige of the Boko Haram abomination from our midst. In this several scenarios are possible.
First, the political equation of the areas ravaged by Boko Haram activities has been reconfigured in a way that new power blocs emerged – either the result of depopulation as people fled their ancestral homes or from population distortion  that now make the displaced persons’ camps into attractive constituencies. Those that had benefitted from this migration and are currently in one office or the other will not want the insurgency to end it at least not before the next elections. Authorities must therefore look into this occurrence to see how this incentive for supporting Boko Haram can be taken away and any culprit treated as prescribed by law.
Similarly, there is money to be made. Until recently when the army declared some alleged  Boko Haram collaborators wanted and subsequently questioned them some milestones were not recorded in the counter terrorism war. These people had posed as negotiators who could bring the insurgents for talks but it turned out they were mostly about the money to be made. There are others getting monetary benefits for each day the insurgency is reckoned as officially active. There have even been instances of stealing or diverting funds and items meant for victims and displaced persons. People had arranged actors to pose as repentant fighters. To the extent that these frauds are possible only when Boko Haram is on rampage then some people will continue to finance the group and consider it investment that would yield returns. It is up to the government and the military to ensure that prison terms are the only returns on this kind of investment.
Thirdly, as sick as this will sound, there possibly is a twisted logic to some folks believing in their right to subjugate others. It does not matter whether they use religion in its perverted form or terrorism without a thought for the resulting casualty. What matters to these set of people is that unnecessary capacity to see themselves as higher authority to the larger population. They have that megalomaniac tendency to simply want others to live in dread so  deploy their clout – religious, economic and political – to ensuring there is no peace within their sphere of influence.
Not to be left out are those who think it is too late for them to stop sponsoring Boko Haram since they have already signed against the country and humanity. They belong to the category that must equally be stopped because their past time has become an addiction that does not seek logic to continue replicating evil.
These and many more possibilities are what the government and military must get behavioral experts to interrogate and research on their behalf. Even more efforts must be deployed to fashioning responses to each identified aberration. The military and indeed Nigerians have sacrificed too much in human cost and blood for a few sick minds to keep us away from ridding this country of Boko Haram.

Uche writes from the Badagry Leadership Centre, Lagos.