RE: Nigeria’s difficult path to long lasting peace with Boko Haram

Each time these guys speak we have more questions than answers e.g NNPC.. but that is not the confusion this moment.

Lai Mohammed published an OPINION piece on Aljazeera the other day, the piece seems clear, the rhetoric begs you to ask questions. I will try to comment on a few paragraphs in a moment, I wonder what the motivation was for publishing this though, I really wonder. Maybe this is a subtle hint he is passing to ALL.

In the second paragraph, he says Boko Haram (BH) occupied an area three times the size of Lebanon, I do not know if this is exaggerated, we can try to test this claim, however (ultimately citizens of Borno can call this accurately).

Lebanon is approx 10,452 (sq.Km)

3 times is 31, 356 (sq.Km)

what does this mean? For context consider some Northern Nigerian states;

Borno (second largest state, origin of BH) = 57,799 (sq.Km)

Adamawa = 36,917 (sq.Km)

Gombe = 20,265 (sq.Km)

Bauchi = 49,119 (sq.Km)

Kano = 20,131 (sq.Km)

Yobe = 45,502 (sq.Km)

Katsina = 24,192 (sq.Km)

Kebbi = 36,800 (sq.Km)

So BH controlled land sizes larger than either of Gombe, Kano, Katsina, do you believe this? And in a few years, they say they have chased BH to Sambisa forest (size ~686 sq.Km), consider the type of overt fighting that would have had to happen for BH to have lost 30, 670 (sq.Km) at least without hostages (schoolgirls and others) been killed in large numbers… I think it is an exaggerated claim – politics! Or did they metamorphose into ‘herdsmen’? At least this is one way to explain the ‘defeat’ of BH and the emergence of herdsmen.

Paragraph 9 -12;

And with these gains, the government has a chance to overturn the economic marginalisation that gave Boko Haram an audience. Only last month, the administration and a General Electric-led consortium signed an agreement to begin revamping Nigeria’s dilapidated rail network – of which Maiduguri to Port Harcourt forms one of its two main lines. This shall bring jobs and opportunity to the region, increase trade between the north and south, and ensure the bounty of the nation is shared by all. No longer shall the vulnerable be seduced by false solutions to their hardship.

At the same time, all channels remain open to end the final remnants of violence. The administration holds out its hand for negotiations with Boko Haram. Even amnesty for rebel fighters, if certain conditions are met, must remain a possibility.

Already, former insurgents who have voluntary surrendered, and deemed not a threat, have been rehabilitated and reintroduced into society. Indeed, some will be guilty of crimes. But Nigeria remains a place where a second chance is granted to those who cast out the poison of their indoctrination. The government is giving these Boko Haram members a way out. 

That this may be morally repugnant to some is understandable. Barbarism is difficult to encounter and allow to walk free. Sometimes, though, the past must kneel before the future. From the IRA in Ireland to FARC in Columbia, this is what conflict resolution around the globe has taught us. We cannot change what has happened, only what is yet to come.

9 – he implies that economic marginalization (read: bounty of the nation) is the root cause for the insurgency, isn’t the cause religious fundamentalism? If you say kidnapping and ransoming of school kids is proof, well how do you explain the killings/attacks on religious buildings and people? and random raids that do not result in financial gains? This paragraph sounds like he wants to ease us into something, so as to appeal to our emotions with the economic hardship/bounty of the nation line.

10 / 11 – Are we being eased into agreeing to offer amnesty? I do not know if we have a policy to deal with terrorist networks ( history says our policy is to negotiate and offer amnesty). We can judge for ourselves if this policy is sustainable and weigh that in addition to the results we have achieved from granting amnesty in the past and how government transition affects it. We can ask questions about this approach, we should ask.  What conditions are to be met for granting amnesty? What is the case for granting a religious fanatic amnesty?-it is not like they are asking for quite legitimate things (like Niger militants or IPOB) -and no THIS IS NOT A CASE FOR EITHER. How do you rehabilitate such a person for real? how do you integrate them into society? and in which society? How do you decide which ones should answer for crimes and which ones should go free? Will the next government carry on with this arrangement? He says they have granted amnesty to former insurgents, oh really? when? where are they now? who are they? how many? what conditions did they fulfill? What information did you get from them?

12 – The IRA and FARC were factions of civil wars… there is more to their story though, these groups would have more in common with BIAFRA. Or is the case that members of BH are freedom fighters? Sigh!

Present-day Borno state, the former heart of the insurgency, speaks to this purpose. Despite Boko Haram no longer controlling any local government areas, isolated attacks still occur. Fighters emerge from hideouts deep in the forest of Lake Chad to strike. Innocent Muslims, Christians and schoolchildren are often the targets of these acts of cowardice and desperation. Liberation of territory and degradation of the enemy is not enough. We must stop every incident.

13 – From the above, you can see how that economic marginalization argument doesn’t pass muster. At this point lets factor in the 3 times Lebanon size, what you will find is BH must have controlled over 54% of Borno state! Really? So more than half the state? Fighters from deep in the forest of lake chad – which is over 8hrs away by road (checkpoint, toll route and ferry included), to strike and then head back the same rugged 8hrs again to Chad only to return another ‘random’ time, do you buy this?

14 –  He tells us or implies that these attacks are here to stay and that only BH NOT THE GOVERNMENT can guarantee peace.

However, nowhere in the world can these types of attacks be indefinitely prevented, unless the group in question surrender. Terror can strike anywhere. Sadly, the streets of London, Paris and New York, nations whose security capacities outstrip that of my nation, bear testimony to this truth. In Nigeria, we remain vigilant to intercept and prevent these assaults. But a final guarantor of peace will be Boko Haram’s formal renunciation of violence in both speech and deed.

I do not like how he uses these false equivalences with London, Paris and New York, those cities are dealing with blowback effects of foreign policy decisions their government made, which foreign policy decision did Nigeria make to have BH existing? After all, they are Borno citizens that feel economically marginalized. SMH.

Terror attacks can happen – yes, can they be prevented? Well it depends on the type of terrorism, we can classify 3 levels;

  1. State-Sponsored ( eg Hezbollah)
  2. Splinter group (eg BH)
  3. Individual (anybody)

With 1 & 2 addressing the root cause, throttling funding (plus other actions) cripples them, the one that cannot be helped is 3, what Nigeria has is 2 (supposedly the sponsor(s) of BH is/are known) so saying we should live with such terror is just remarkable. And you are saying folks should go back to their normal life?

This Lai Mohammed’s article leaves me more confused than positively informed, I feel if you pull up all the nonfactual things you will realize that things do not add up and SOMETHING is wrong.

I will practice some optimism – maybe because he published in the opinion section we can afford to disregard his opinion.

Note: I do not know the motivation of BokoHaram or what they are asking from the government (it’s mostly unknown to regular people), I personally think there is religious fundamentalism involved, economic hardship, regional marginalization, unresolved grievance… It is a multifaceted issue.

My Point is that we receive Lai Mohammed’s piece with that necessary heavy dose of skepticism it deserves.