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Elusive hunt for Boko Haram sponsors

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PHOTO: BBC

A declaration the other day by the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) that the array of the country’s intelligence agencies including the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the Department of State Services (DSS) had launched a manhunt for the sponsors of Boko Haram and Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP) in a bid to end insurgency in the north-east zone is baffling and curiously confusing. In the same breath, the military authority underlined the point that it was not its responsibility to uncover the sponsors of terrorist groups. They claimed that theirs is to fight and defeat insurgency.

Without a doubt, it is generally believed that the sustaining logic of the insurgency inheres in the flow of financial and logistic support from yet to be identified sponsors of the group. This is an affront to the national psyche and it speaks volumes about the decline in the governance of our institutions in this country that a decade after, the heavily funded security forces have yet to uncover the sponsors of the Boko Haram. The briefing in certain aspects betrays knowledge of the organic nature of the defence complex and is indicative of the mendacity on the part of the military. The intelligence community is part of the superstructure of defence. The battlefield becomes a booby trap without actionable intelligence. And without veracity, the battle is lost.  It is therefore embarrassing for the military to assert that they don’t know the sponsors of Boko Haram, while in another breath they claim otherwise. Such vacillation suggests something more sinister about the insurgency complex in the country.

Perhaps the battlefield situation is impelling a coming to terms with reality, forcing the military high command to look critically in the cooking pot and seek out the sponsors of Boko Haram. After a lull brought about by the blistering Chadian offensive, Boko Haram seems to be on the offensive. Recently, it attacked a convoy of Special Forces on the Maiduguri-Damboa Road with casualties on the part of the military. Also, it attacked a UN Humanitarian Air Service helicopter, in a seeming demonstration of battlefield confidence. These have not gone unnoticed, and may have nudged the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan’s recent declaration that Boko Haram has stopped being a religious sect and has become a merchandised big industry. This is instructive but unfortunate. That declaration underscores why the conflict is enduring as it seems to observers that there are beneficiaries on both sides profiting from the national misfortune. Even this submission is indicative of the direction to look. Earlier in the crisis, there was a controversial statement credited to the Late National Security Advisers, General Owoye Andrew Azazi to the effect that the sponsors of Boko Haram were within the then governing party. Also, suspects were once found in the country home of some serving senators. Besides, it is known that the Railway Headquarters of the slain leader of Boko Haram, Sheikh Mohammed Yusuf used to play host to eminent politicians, especially from the North East. Boko Haram sponsors and adherents exist and the government knows them. It is perhaps a web of deceit to claim to be searching for them at this time.

But the critical questions need to be posed here: On the Boko Haram sponsors, does the army have the authority to dialogue with them? Two, we recall that some governors once accused some traditional rulers of collusion with them as well as with bandits: what happened to the claim and clue? Three, under the Jonathan administration, the president even claimed there were Boko Haram people in his government. Why was there no follow-up in those instances? Was anyone pinned down or investigated?

We make bold to say that Boko Haram insurgency and other heinous acts of criminality thrive because lack of political will to take them on. This is the root of poor intelligence gathering, inferior equipment for the military facing superior Boko-haram firepower, delayed payments, and lack of even safe drinking water for men serving in the danger zones. Only President Buhari can say why somewhere in his land, human blood is spilled every day and he cannot be bothered except commiserate with bereaved communities. And we are compelled to ask again, what is leadership supposed to be about? And what is the very ‘raison d’être’ of governance?

As for the military, targeting Boko Haram sponsors is not a novel strategy. They should be careful of targeting the wrong people with the prevailing poor intelligence network. Excellence on the battlefield is one of the keys to winning the war and peace. We saw the exploit, even though short-lived, of the 72 Mobile Strike Force (MSF) before the 2015 general election. The military has an unfinished business. It should look for Boko Haram targets, free the remaining 112 Chibok girls held since 2014 and the only remaining Dapchi Christian school girl, Leah Sharibu.

We concur with the school of thought that much is wrong with the prosecution of the war against the insurgents to the extent that the war has become a conduit pipe, a guzzler of a large chunk of our national budget. As a consequence, education and even health sectors have been suffering here because of the spate of insecurity, which has spread from North East in 2009 to all regions in the country at the moment. The commander-in-chief should note that he has spent more than five years in office without abatement. This is curious! It is therefore time to get serious about action not rhetoric, again.


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