By: Bala Usman
By now it should be clear to us that our neighbours to the north-east may not necessarily be our brothers so should worry less about them playing the role of our keepers at least where the Boko Haram insurgency is concerned. Save for the existence of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF)- a combined multinational formation made up of the military and other security components from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria – these neighbouring countries might have as well pulled the trigger on us.
One would expect that regional affiliation under the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), to which Nigeria and these countries with the exception of Chad belong. These brother-nations would have given a second thought to stabbing Nigeria in the back. In the absence of ECOWAS, membership of the African Union (AU), which embodies the oneness of the continent should have been an incentive for these countries to march in unison and agree that terrorism would have no place in Nigeria.
But it is now apparent that such expectation is misplaced. Nigeria’s immediate neighbours, all Francophone, would rather harken to the dictates of their former colonial master, France, which has now been proven to still consider itself a current overlord nation to French speaking countries in Africa. It dictates the decisions of its former colonies even when it is glaring that such choices are not in the interest of the affected nation. Their former colonial master is therefore a poisoned chalice they would have done well to avoid at any known cost as opposed to snuggling up to Paris when the hems of their garments are practically on fire.
For instance, there are indications that Boko Haram, which has lost hundreds of fighters to the Nigerian Army in recent operations to wipe out its insurgency is now replenishing its ranks with nationals of the countries bordering Nigeria to the north-east. Because ethnic configurations do not change drastically as indicated on human drawn political maps, persons from the border communities easily pass as Nigerians since the ethnic and physical makeup do not vary too much. This perhaps explains why Boko Haram keeps getting recruits when Nigerian communities have done their best to dissuade their relations from taking to terrorism. It is also confirmed by the inability of some captured fighters to name villages of their ancestry within Nigeria because they were never from Nigeria in the first instance.
As francophones, it becomes impractical to have Nigerian Boko Haram commanders train these aspiring terrorists from the other countries. This is where French speaking terrorists trainers come in and there we have the explanation for the Frenchman that was captured when the Nigerian Army captured Boko Haram’s Camp Zero in Sambisa Forest. If one trainer was foolhardy enough to stay back and be captured one wonders how many of his like had taken flight when the fall of the camp became evident. One must also wonder how many Frenchmen of African descent were never discovered to be working to empower terrorists.
The French helicopters that have been reported in several instances and by different persons as dropping weapons for Boko Haram fighters is another smoking gun. Curiously, these are report that France has never considered weighty enough. That attitude can only come from knowing that the French speaking countries it used for its drop offs will never cooperate with Nigerian authorities to furnish official radar logs that placed these aircrafts at the reported locations at the reported times.
In retrospect, Nigeria must begin to question the arrangement that resulted in only French nationals being captured in former French colonies and inveitably leading to ransom being paid by the government or corporations that are linked to the government. Something ties in neatly into the policy of France to negotiate with terrorists and pay ransom when their coalition partners like the United States and the United Kingdom have strict policies of not indulging terrorists.
Not to be overlooked is the countless times that terrorists had carried out attacks in Nigeria only to flee over the border into the safety of our francophone neighbours. Of course – there are the occasional show of commitment to the anti-terror fight in which the forces of these countries kill some Boko Haram fighters and mostly only when they have been attacked.
These are realities that should define the next step Nigerian leaders take in furtherance of efforts to rid our country of this French made plague called Boko Haram. We must as a country immediately approach the United Nations to call France to order since we now know that our neighbours would continue to cooperate with the oppressor instead of safeguarding our collective interests as Africans.
Like Britain did with Brexit when it became clear that terrorists can hitch easy rides into their country from France, Nigeria must rethink and reconsider the manner in which our borders are kept opened for sponsored terrorists to pour in from neighbouring countries in the name of regional and continental protocols. We must reclassify how we share security information during staged conferences by France and its proxies.
Above all, the United Nations should save Nigeria from this gang-up. We cannot be fighting terrorists and sovereign states are giving them training, funding and weapons and the world would think there could be peace.
Usman writes from Maiduguri, Borno State.