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Brain, not brawn, will solve Boko Haram


boko haram 23DEAR Mr. President, it was a privilege to have read your write up in the African Executive Journal titled “Nigeria on path to progress.” The extract below in my view goes ominously evocative.

“…In our efforts at combating the activities of Boko Haram, the new Government has sought and obtained the support of not only our neighbours but other international friends and partners.

“Regrettably, the blanket application of the Leahy Law by the United States on the grounds of unproven allegations of human rights violations levelled against our forces has denied us access to appropriate strategic weapons to prosecute the war against the insurgents.

“In the face of abduction of innocent school girls from their hostels, indiscriminate bombings of civilians in markets and places of worship, our forces have remained largely impotent because they do not possess the appropriate weapons and technology which they could have had, had the so-called human rights violations not been an obstacle.

“Unwittingly, and I dare say, unintentionally, the application of the Leahy law amendment by the U.S. Government has aided and abated the Boko Haram terrorist group in the prosecution of its extremist ideology and hate, the indiscriminate killings and maiming of civilians, in raping of women and girls, and in their other heinous crimes.

“I believe this is not the spirit of the Leahy Laws.

I know the American people cannot support any group engaged in these crimes.I, therefore, strongly appeal to both the Executive Arm and the U.S. Congress to examine how the U.S. Government can provide us with far more substantial counter-terrorism assistance with minimal strings.

“The longer we delay, the deadlier the Boko Haram gets. At all events, we have re-written the rules of engagement protecting the rights of combatants and in particular safeguarding civilians in theatres of conflict…”

President Muhammadu Buhari, I’m worried …that your solution to the Boko Haram carnage seems  more carnage!! And that by the time notice is taken that  guns alone don’t solve this kind of problem, too many Nigerians would have needlessly died gunned down either by insurgents or counter insurgents.

Is it your take, your Excellency that in the absence of American guns, Boko Haram is here to stay? Why would you want to think American guns or any for that matter will eliminate  Boko Haram.

Are there any examples of any terrorism anywhere eliminated by mere guns. If America with all its  guns,  has itself been unable to shake off the terrorist albatross round her own neck, what other evidence need be sought that going after American guns is wrong move; ….the harder her guns have boomed, the higher has gone the number of “terrorists”huddledin her path. Guns have achieved nothing beyond entrenched  bitterness on all sides.

Since Second World War, neither state nor non-state actors have ever won any conflict by simply throwing  bullets into the brew. And in the particular case of “terrorism” rooted as it always seems in some political discontent, very little of the phenomenon, if any, has ever lent itself to militaristic heavy handedness. Discontent and disaffection rooted in varying mix of ignorance, poverty and injustice, have always been the tectonic faultlines behind most of the problematic convulsions.

The late 80s saw me in Borno State, a visiting faculty official recruited for the then nascent medical school, the university of Maiduguri. I did six months!!  ….still one of the most memorable half years of my entire career … well ordained campus  and newly minted infrastructure
…wonderful  students, as keen as they were ambitious.

This is the conundrum that needs analyzing and the route to that analysis would not pass through Washington or the Pentagon. Pulling triggers no matter where the guns are sourced, will achieve nothing beyond a suspended animation within the insurgent biosphere only to reawaken and regroup after the guns have gone silent.

To redirect the tradewinds against the colourful  and attractive  masts of pirate insurgency,I, therefore,  suggest that for every dollar you pass to western arm merchants, spend 10, to lift up the lives of citizens in Borno State and elsewhere.  Give them something better than suicide. Make life among us so  much more attractive than the promise of any imaginary paradise after death. Unless you do this, it will always be more tempting for the hungry or needy or neglected to buy into the charmed  promise of a paradise through  martyrdom.

For every dollar extorted from you by arms merchants, can Your Excellency spend 10 building good schools, good hospitals, good community centres, well equipped sports facilities, comfortable infrastructure, water and electricity supply: anything that will outcompete the imaginary gains of martyrdom.

And can you do more to screen members of your team to be sure they are not dupes, siphoning money meant for the community into their own pockets, thereby converting the poor into the
poor-bitter, perfect purchase materials for the terror merchants and terror evangelists.

Evidently, you need some containment in the interim and so some coercive forces, but means and ends  must never be confused. Leahy law may not have been kind to your stated strategy, but may be just as well; with a Nigerian Army or Police not much better than the average American cop, who when faced with ‘difference or ‘underdog’, throws  banal passion not honed professionalism, hate not ethics, anger not analysis into the encounter.

Guns will not only be  unsafe in such hands, they may by sheer brutality, actually come to win more enemies for the state and more friends for the enemy. Your Excellency,should find a twin track: the one to push the enemy away, another to pull the marginalised back into the fold.

* Fadipe wrote from West Indies.

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