Seeking peace in North-East beyond military option

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By Dada Ahmed

That Nigeria has been battling north east insurgency, other wise known as BokoHaram, for almost 10 years running may not make much of news to peace-loving Nigerians and keen watchers of the unfortunate development at the international community.

The battle has brought consumed many lives at both ends and property worth millions of naira destroyed.

The dream now is the dire need to end a monumental crisis that has cost Nigeria thousands of innocent lives of its citizens, millions,if not billions property lost with the attendant inflicted psychological trauma of Nigerians.

Increased emotion,grief and fear gripped many Nigerians, particularly those in North East, recently following the revelation of the continued attack by BokoHaram insurgents as captured by Senator Aliu Ndume in a emotional-ladden atmosphere in Maiduguri, capital of Borno, that held many spell bound.

Therefore, Ndume’s reeling out of the bitter experiences of the people of North East are forced to swallow in the hands of Boko Haram insurgents once more brings to fore,sad reminder of the cost of a war said to have consumed thousands of lives.

The fact that the war has also destroyed property worth millions of naira stresses the urgent need to find lasting solution to this hydra crisis.

Narrating the ordeal of the victims of BokoHaram, the Senator representing Borno South, disclosed how Boko Haram insurgents killed 75 members of his community in Gwoza Local Government Area of Borno state in one night alone!

Ndume made the frightening disclosure in Maiduguri in an emotion-laden presentation that set tongues wagging during a stakeholders’ meeting organised by Senate Committee on Special Duties and the North-East Development Commission (NEDC) that saw him almost moving to tears.

The former Senate leader, who is also a member of the committee, expressed concern at the gathering that the challenges faced by the people of Borno State were being underreported.

He said:“If the Senate Committee would take time during their stay to go round some of the camps and even the nearby Konduga Local Government, we would all better appreciate what the people are facing.

“Even as a serving Senator, I still cannot go to Gwoza, my home town, because it is not safe.

“Our security operatives are trying their best, and we have to give it to them. But the situation is overwhelming. People are dying every day, either from attacks or by hunger. We have lost many lives here.

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“There was a time in my home town Gwoza, that about 75 elders most of whom I know personally, were dragged by Boko Haram to the town’s abattoir and slaughtered like animals. Only two persons survived because their bodies were covered with other people’s’ blood and the assailants thought they were dead.

“In the same Gwoza, Boko Haram had in a single day lined up young men and summarily shot them dead. These were just some stand out cases, he said.

Senator Ndume also drew the attention of the world to the issue of hunger in the state, stressing that the situation would have been worse had there not been non-governmental organisations in Borno.

“We don’t know where we would have been or what would have happened to us in Borno State, had there not been the NGOs.

“People die every day here, and I can assure you that even today or this evening, someone may have died of hunger. I am not talking about children – I mean adults,”according to him.

He confessed that these and many other cases of insecurity pushed him to realise the need for the Northeast region to have a Development Commission.

“NEDC was my idea, and I pushed for its formation, not for anything else but to see how our people could be helped out of this ugly situation. And so far, we are impressed with the kind of work they are dong.

“But sadly, the amount of money at the disposal of the commission is not adequate to solve the humanitarian challenges facing Borno state alone,” he further intimated the committee.

However, daunting as the fight against BokoHaram seems, experience has shown that the Federal government has been trying its best possible to put the problem at bay through collosal funds being devoted to the military in the fight against the insurgents.

In similar vein, concerned citizens have never been short of immediate and long term solutions to the terrible security challenge facing the embattled region and Nigeria at large,the most populous black nation in the world.

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For instance, Jideofor Adibe,who shared his thoughts, entitled “BokoHaram in Nigeria: The way forward” in Focus Africa, proffered long and short term solution to the monumental security challenge posed by BokoHaram, especially in the north east.

Adobe, in his panacea toward ending BokoHaram, argued the journey to overcome the security challenge transcends military solution

He advocated among others, empowering the state governments in the north to lead the charge and be the faces of the fight against Boko Haram.

This he argued could address one of the conspiracy theories, in the north indicating that former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration was funding Boko Haram either to make Islam look bad or to depopulate the north, ahead of the 2015 elections then.

According to him, the conspiracy theories have made it more difficult to mobilize collective anger against Boko Haram.

“This establishment would be one way of winning the hearts and minds of the locals and cooling local grievances on which Boko Haram feeds,” he further urged.

The writer called on government to institute a sort of Marshall Plan for the northeast, aimed at winning the hearts and minds of the local populace, adding that the plan should also aim at providing quality education, building local capacity and providing jobs for the people.

He also suggested the concept of exploring the option of offering amnesty to the more moderate members of the sects while side-lining the hardliners and finding means to effectively neutralize them.

Adibe, who described his solutions as short term in nature, noted that “there is no quick fix to fighting terrorism anywhere in the world as the experiences in Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen and other countries have shown.”

The intellectual identified resolving the Boko Haram crisis along nation-building processes as one of long term and meaningful means of overcoming the problem.

“The long term solution for containing Boko Haram’s and Ansaru’s terrorism and for neutralizing them along with other insurgency groups in Nigeria, is to resolve the crisis in the country’s nation-building processes.

“Terrorism will end when Nigerians come to see themselves as one people and develop that sense of what Benedict Anderson calls “imagined communities.

“For Anderson, a nation is a community, socially constructed and imagined by the people who perceive themselves as part of the group. For him, a nation “is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion.”

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He expressed optimism that with the short-to-medium term strategies being pursued,coupled the long-term strategy of resolving the crisis in Nigeria’s nation-building processes,” Boko Haram’s and Ansaru’s terrorism can be contained and the groups eventually neutralized.”

As many Nigerians praised the Federal government in its efforts to end Boko Haram insurgency, they also appealed to the insurgents to see the wisdom in ceasing fire in the interest of peace and stability Nigeria to move the nation to the next level of concrete development.

Others called for the creation of a Ministry of Northern Affairs, similar to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, with a view to helping in finding lasting solutions to the numerous security challenges confronting the north east.

They argued that with effective synergy between the commission and the ministry being envisaged,there would a successful realisation of putting the northeast back on the path of peace and realistic social, econmic and political pedestrial.

They expressed optimism that if allowed to see the light of the day, such ministry should be charged with the responsibility of formulating policies and design programmes aimed at addressing the various causes of the insurgency.

When this is done and seen to be done, with the best of purpose and intention, the poverty level, unemployment, illiteracy among other challenges militating against peace and development in North East would be to the barest minimum, political analysts said.

The suggestion finds relevance in the school of thought which indicates that, besides religious radicalism identified as the major cause of the insurgency, the belief in some quarters in the country points to the fact that poverty, especially, contributed largely to the crisis rocking the north-east part of Nigeria and as such, must be done away for the much needed peace to return to the North East.

Ahmed is a media consultant and public affairs analyst.

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