On the war against terrorism and insurgency in the North-Eastern Nigeria, the Buhari administration seems to be placing more emphasis on military efficacy over any other consideration. This feeling stems from the appointment of new service chiefs that will man national security and the efforts to rid the military of perceived corruption and insouciance.
In justifying the reason why the appointments of ministers would not happen till September, President Muhammadu Buhari had explained that he needed to rid the public service of unbridled corruption, instill discipline and build a new structure of good governance before Ministers with worthy character could be appointed. He then drew an inference from the fact that it took him six weeks before replacing former president Goodluck Jonathan’s service chiefs because a through appraisal of the military establishment was necessary and changes carefully made “before we can (then) take the battle to Boko Haram.”
It does seem that as a General who was once credited with the defeat of insurgency in some parts of the North during his regime as military Head of State in the 1980s, Buhari will place more premium on his combat troops in dislodging the dreaded Boko Haram sect whose deadly campaign against the Nigerian state is yet to abate two months into Buhari’s administration. He has already released about N4bn naira to the Multinational Joint Task Force leading the battle. And if negotiation will happen at all, it must be with only those that can be established as being truly representative of Boko Haram.
I commend the President’s battle-ready posture. Major General T.Y Buratai, the new Chief of Army Staff, who will apparently lead the onslaught, appears even more combat-compliant. He sure knows how to flaunt his physical fitness. We have seen him photographed doing press-ups, wearing military camouflage. Buhari’s idea of a general in the battle front is not the type struggling to hide protruding belly inside the army uniform and supporting his gait with a walking stick.
Six-pack stomach and huge biceps are the new features of the men going after Shekau and the gang and Buratai clearly exemplifies this new dandy image of our military handlers. Almost posing like our own Hercules from Bornu State, we have even seen him handle a live snake as if to demonstrate his deft understanding of life in the jungle, just in case the battle requires prolonged abode inside Sambisa forest.
Yet, if his name is evocative of a Hausa substance for an aphrodisiac, those who know Buratai well say what should be expected of the new army chief is no adrenalin enhancer, but nothing short of merciless rooting of insurgents, no matter where they may hide. With this physical credentials alone and the confidence that the President has reposed in him and the other five service chiefs, particularly Major General Babagana Mongunu (rtd), the new National Security Adviser, one may be tempted to go sleep and let the Generals roll out the tanks, believing that the days of sectarian terrorism are over.
However, the reality on ground suggests that while a combative and uncompromising military is sure needed to fight terrorism and insurgency, the battle, on the long run, requires far more than conventional ammunition. And this, precisely, is the sub-text in the advice and pledged of cooperation from the American government, arising from President Buhari’s visit there last week: military intelligence and combat will drive the war on terror substantially, but the socio-economic causative factors must also be dealt with in equal measure.
In other words, while the government should be encouraged to equip and charge the military to defend the sovereignty of the nation and protect lives and property, it must also work assiduously to make the hatred ideology being preached by the leaders of extreme sects unattractive to the masses. The reason why Boko Haram condemns western education is simply because it wants to keep the masses deceived.
A government that hopes to win the war on terror must, therefore, open up the citizenry to free and qualitative education and improve socio-economic landscape of the areas where insurgency and terror reign. Part of the reason why many Islamic scholars, especially in the Middles East are more open these days and vociferous in condemning terrorism is because they have seen the need to give proper education to their people who are hitherto being held down by erroneous ideology that feeds on hatred and terror. Among several of such voices of reason, I find the position of the Bahraini liberal author and intellectual cleric, Dhiya Al-Musawi, particularly gladdening and indicative of the type of education that the youths in the North-East Nigeria need at this point in time.
A recent Al-Musawi interview that was aired on Abu Dhabi Television and translated by the Middle East Research Institute speaks to the heart of socio-economic problems in the Arab world that seem to be breeding hatred and divisions. If one substitutes Arab world with Northern Nigeria in this cleric’s position, it will be clear why we need to “reform and reshape religious thinking” in order to free the masses from “booby trap” caused by lack of awareness.
Al-Musawi speaks of many gallows of ideology and accusations of social betrayals that the Arab world is suffering from and stresses the need to have the courage to “get rid of the backward cholesterol of ideology, accumulating in the arteries of Arab awareness and the Arab mind.” The Koran, he says, is balanced, because it talks about the fire of hell and the fruits of paradise. But because of those who simply want to “booby trap” the masses, what is constantly being preached is the horror of Judgment Day and constant terror. “Unfortunately, some young men – out of wrong interpretation of religion…the moment he becomes religious, he ceases to smile and to greet others. He accuses [some] people of heresy and others of sin. He hates music and refuses to dress neatly.
His mind is abducted into dungeons of ideology,” he says. No one could have framed the narrative against extremism any better and this is the type of message, I reckon, that should be deployed all over Northern Nigeria to free the minds of the captives. Bombs and bullets can hunt down terrorist leaders who preach against western education but are literate enough to upload hate videos on the internet and detonate bombs. But it is only an open, educated and economically-viable society and deliverance from the backward cholesterol of ideology that can free the teenage girls being recruited daily as suicide bombers.