By: ABUBAKAR ABUBAKAR
There is a moment that is gathering momentum that I totally subscribe to wholesale. It is the concept of winning the peace in Nigeria’s northeast following the sacking of Boko Haram terrorists from Sambisa Forest. The terrorists’ half a decade of madness left behind devastation beyond what those living in the areas have ever witnessed in their living memory.
In the wake of the Nigerian Army capturing Sambisa Forest, the last stand of the terror sect, which is effectively winning the anti-terror war, people begin to talk about winning the peace in that region and by extension the country.
There are also those that are talking about how it is impossible to defeat terrorists. When given the chance to further articulate their assertion, it turns out that they are fixated on dealing with terrorism using models that have been tried without success elsewhere. These groups of people fail to reckon with the unique approach adopted by the Nigerian Army, under Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai as Chief of Army Staff (COAS).
Whatever the arguments that these sets of people want to come up with, it is better to be innovative in dealing with the challenges of terrorism, which has its peculiarities in Nigeria. If the Army captures or kills the last of the terrorists and we decide to remain in mental shackles then terrorism would remain a problem. This is what makes it imperative that we begin to think as stakeholders about how to come in and make impact now that the Army has done the larger part of the work.
This is what makes the idea of winning the peace an attractive one that we must pursue to a logical conclusion if the ravages of Boko Haram terrorism must be put behind us especially for the younger ones, who must face the rest of their lives without carrying around too much of the scars of what they have been through.
The task of winning the peace and stamping out the last vestige of Boko Haram lies on the people and their leaders in the region, particularly in Borno state where the terrorists’ scourge is worst. They must consequently acknowledge that the task ahead for them is to win the peace if only for their people.
A good starting point is for northeast political stakeholders to prevail on the factional Boko Haram leaders, Abubakar Shekau and Abu Musab al-Barnawi as well as their fleeing commanders and fighters to surrender now. The additional leverage offered by the intensified global onslaught on their major franchises in the middle east should be brought to bear since security experts have predicted that it is weakening – so Shekau and al-Barnawi should be made to realize that no help would come to their decimated numbers from the previous sources.
A second approach is to cut off all uncanny support for those connected to Boko Haram in any capacity – fighters, strategists, financiers, pursers, propagandists, recruiters, sympathizers and just anyone whose association with the terror sect helped to make it deadly. What recent events revealed is that people unwittingly keep Boko Haram in place because of filial considerations that means people protect the group’s members whom they first see as being family before being terrorists. But cutting off support for such errant family or clan members may help them see the folly of their association while depriving the terrorists the resources needed for regrouping.
Once people can talk their relations into jettisoning the terrorists’ ideology it should help isolate Shekau and al-Barnawi and further pressure them into giving up on any thoughts of regrouping. That should heighten the likelihood of them either submitting for processing and reintegration or they will look for other places to ply their evil wares but definitely not in Nigeria.
Winning the peace further entails dispensing of the less than desirable behavior and sentiments that provided the fertile soil for terrorism to take root. Stakeholders in that geopolitical zone must accept the reality that any gain from exploiting Boko Haram as a tool for any purpose would be short term while the backlash would be even more devastating now that the terrorists have had the taste of defeat.
Those in position of trust have roles to play. At the height of the insurgency, poverty was widely blamed for providing Boko Haram with tens of thousands impoverished youths as a pool to recruit from. The pressure on the economy from several factors has making poverty a more pressing issue than ever. The political class must therefore for once apply funds for what they are meant for so that by tackling poverty they starve terrorists of recruits.
We must also dispense of the culture of political correctness that makes it possible for people to preach extremist views without fear of repercussion. Clerics that teach hate should be sanctioned and that works only when “powerful people” in government are not providing cover for such Boko Haram recruiters.
Even coming up with fresh ideas on how to finish off the remnant of Boko Haram will contribute to winning the peace. It is something that stakeholders in the northeast cannot afford to leave for others to do for them. Boko Haram was a national plague but the horrors of its destructive days were felt most in that particular region for which the stakeholders were blamed either for not doing enough when it mattered or for being part of the problem for petty reasons. This is what makes it imperative that stakeholders drive the process of winning the peace while repudiating any form of backing to Boko Haram and other Nigerians will pitch in their support.
It is therefore inimical to the collective interest to seek political, religious or even economic capital by supporting Boko Haram to regroup. That would not be winning the peace. If the capture of Sambisa Forest can be likened to cutting off the head of the serpent now is the time to incinerate its carcass just to be doubly sure it will not play any hydra trick on all of us.
ABUBAKAR is Chairman, Planning Committee of North EAST Mega Rally for Peace and sent it this article from Damaturu.