By: Mary Ogwiji
Several persons had posited that it was premature to have declared that Boko Haram or terrorism has been defeated. Each one of such critics backed up their assertion with explanations, which gave a fair sense of where they were coming from. A few of them spoke based on their understanding, which is largely comprised of what they gleaned from agenda-driven media reports and in a few instances from sources that would not go on record. Other critics’ position could at best be described as guided by mischief or majorly the product of conjectures.
In making such analyses, whether in good faith like genuine critics or with mischievous intent as in the case of those with hidden motives, the story is often told from the perspective of the tourist, strangers, whom even if they hailed from the north east originally, have since transplanted elsewhere and often no longer able to see things as dramatis personae in the horror that Boko Haram terrorists visited on the north east and mostly Borno.
This was one of the reasons given by two groups, the National Coalition Against Terrorism (NCAT) and the Kathoum Peace Foundation, when they brought people together at the famous Ramat Stadium this February. The gathering tagged the North East Mega Rally for Peace was celebrating the return of peace to the region, which the organizers said was as a proof of the current administration’s efforts at bringing the activities of Boko Haram to a stop within the shortest period of time.
The massive turn out of the people of the north east, from all the states in the region – particularly Borno, can be attributed to diverse reasons, ranging from Borno being the birthplace of the Boko Haram Terror group and also being the one place that recorded the worst of the maniacs’ atrocities.
The zeal with which they turned out to associate themselves with this laudable initiative leaves no doubt that the efforts of the Nigerian Army led by Lieutenant General TY Buratai to decimate this once dreaded terror group is appreciated. The gathering, which some media reported to have more than one hundred thousand people in attendance, has largely proven that the people appreciate what government has done and are ready to give peace a chance to reign in the state.
For the two groups involved, they said the rally was also a bold move to discuss recent developments in the north east from the viewpoint of those that live there, people with first hand experience of the degree of horrors that they endured in the past before a government and military leadership that is willing to combat terrorism came on board.
To those who turned up for the event, the sporadic attacks that remnant of the terror group pull off once in a while are relatively not as bad as when they faced the prospect of spending the remainder of their natural lives, which wasn’t much in terms of life expectancy, under the terror of fanatical extremists. What critics daily dismiss as inconsequential turn of events, like the capture of Boko Haram’s Camp Zero in Sambisa Forest, are landmarks for them as each military exploit marks a rebirth for the residents of the area.
From the speeches and comments that accompanied the rally, these people want peace and they are not under any delusion that something that would happen overnight since the decent into chaos was also not sudden but crept upon the region in daily increments. They are on a course to grow the newfound peace in daily increments as well if only to be certain that the foundation for mutual consideration is well grounded now that the insurgents have been defeated and put to flight.
They are also not under any illusion that the government and the military are the only answers to the challenge at hand. They are urging themselves to be each other’s keepers. If this call is heeded by all, the initial conspiracy of silence driven by ethno-religious, economic and political considerations would be a thing of the past. Their request from each other is that everyone would waive whatever relationship they have with any suspected Boko Haram member or sympathizer so that information about such persons can be passed on to the military. Their expectation is that in exchange, any Boko Haram suspect so apprehended would be processed for re-orientation and future re-absorption into the society.
From the society, they expect that people will show more understanding and seek out facts before making assertions that can hurt the fragile environment and jeopardize the intense efforts that people are making to rebuild their lives. Even where people want to base their positions on reports from international NGOs or media, they should be circumspect to realize that there are entrenched interests that power some of such submissions and reports. It would be a disservice for an analysis or intervention that a writer innocently penned turn out to hurt the interest of the region more than it helped it.
Such forward looking disposition to life in spite of what they have faced couldn’t have been possibly without the purposeful leadership of the Borno state governor, Kashim Shettima, who is making frantic efforts in every direction to make the best out of the post military intervention era in order to fully ground the resulting peace and to ensure that the terrorists do not return back to haunt the people. There are proofs that the state in particular has set up internal mechanisms in collaboration with its stakeholders to make sure that fleeing terrorists surrender to Nigerian troops and are given amnesty to ensure there lasting peace returns to the region in line with the wish of the people.
It is therefore not out of place to urge the people and government of neighbouring states not only take a cue from what is happening in Borno but to also support it. They should give strong considerations to jointly working on youth empowerment initiative, which is key to ensuring there are no idle hands to turn into the devil’s tools. In the same vein, the education of the young population can not be left to chance and must be integrated with decisions about rebuilding like the one by the Borno State Governor to prioritize schools in rebuilding communities that were destroyed during the insurgency. The other governors in the north would do well to borrow a leaf from their colleague to make sure that as peace returns to Borno their domains also benefit and are not left out.
When these initiatives begin to yield fruits, the analysts and critics of today, would have no option but to use their platforms to acknowledge that is possible when a people refuse to accept defeat.
Ogwiji writes from the Nigerian Law School, Abuja.