May 9, 2014
By Dibo Edet Asuquo
The recent spate of abductions of school girls by Boko Haram has finally brought the chickens home to roost. All of a sudden Nigeria has become the main topic on CNN , BBC ,twitter and other social media platforms and we are wondering what hit us.
We all seem to have forgotten that as far back as 2011 several analysts as well as conspiracy theorists had accurately predicted the current sequence of events and published numerous articles on the same subject. It seems our only response has been to engage in blame games and when we tire of finger pointing we wring our hands in despair while speculating endlessly about what is going on.
For now we need to focus on the facts before us , respond vigorously to them and make adequate provisions for future challenges that shall inevitably come.
In my humble opinion, we have done enough talking and should begin to act as follows:
1 Government should set up a Boko Haram Crises Resolution Team comprised of relevant personnel from the Armed forces, Intelligence community, religious leaders, analysts and experts from academia
2 The team should be tasked to collate and study every single thing there is to be known about Boko Haram…their history, ideology , methods of operation, finances, arms, tactics, etc…and come up with a strategy for their containment and defeat
3 Particular attention should be paid to psych-ops, propaganda , assessing ,managing and directing the minds of Nigerians in the appropriate manner
4 Simultaneously, a retraining of officers of the army should begin with a simple goal…to make citizens believe that the Nigerian army is a PROTECTOR and not an OPPRESSOR. This war must start with winning the hearts and minds of the affected citizens in the war theater.
5 A Citizens Hotline /call center should be established immediately to efficiently and professionally receive and process every single phone-call or text message from citizens who see or hear anything suspicious in their neighborhoods.
6 Government should proactively prepare the South psychologically and physically for the coming onslaught. What happens if a major church is bombed or a southern traditional ruler shot by Boko Haram? What do you think the reaction will be and how do you prepare for that scenario?
7 Every town in Nigeria should have its crises response plan designed to provide aid to the wounded, security for the survivors and pin points to aid in apprehending perpetrators. This plan should unfold automatically immediately there is an incident.
8 Extrajudicial executions should cease and all captured combatants should not be kept in barracks etc. Instead Government should consider shipping them to a friendly African island …not too far off our coast where further debriefing and perhaps rehabilitation can take place at a more secure and sedentary pace.
- Government should be very careful while accepting international aid in resolving this crisis.
- They must realize that our international helpers know and have much more information about Boko Haram than they are sharing with us. That is why they issue very specific warnings about target areas and advise their citizens to avoid such areas from time to time.
- Government should realize that our helpers will only assist as long as it is in their strategic interest to do so and will not hesitate to turn around and use information and assets planted against the Government whenever there is a clash of interests
- Government should therefore set up and establish serious and rigorous protocols for interacting with our helpers. Examples must be set and heads must roll immediately breaches are noticed.
- As soon as mission goals are attained, they should be thanked and politely asked to leave. Government should not allow Chibok to be used by any foreign power as an excuse to establish permanent boots on Nigerian soil.
NORTH EASTERN NIGERIA
- The armed forces presence in the north east should be ramped up immediately. At least 30,000 troops should be deployed with adequate weapons and logistics.
- The North eastern part should then be blockaded…nothing goes in and nothing comes out except after thorough search and approval by the Army.
- The Army must then lock down the northeast and begin to SQUEEZE. Every single house , church, mosque ,hotel, motorpark, factory, uncompleted building etc MUST be searched(but strictly under the command and guidance of an officer who has undergone the earlier recommended hearts and minds /Army is your protector training)
- An early warning network should be established with independent communications and patrols providing overlapping coverage of all towns and villages.
- The civilian arm of the JTF should be better organized and funded and their main role should be INTELLIGENCE and eyes on the ground.
- State Governors should coordinate their peoples response…they should use their political skill to manage the inevitable attrition and discomfort such a massive operation will cause the general populace.
- Government should set up a Chibok hostage crises center at a large enough hotel or hostel in Maiduguri,
- They should provide adequate security and invite/ host parents and relatives of the Chibok girls till the resolution of the crises.
- The relatives should be provided with pastors ,imams and psychological counselors who should begin to deal with the trauma they are experiencing ,organize prayers etc while the intelligence team debriefs them about the identities of their children etc.
- The press should also be hosted, information properly managed and released to all parties on a daily basis.
- The President should pay a surprise visit to the Center soon after it is established and stabilized and hold a closed door meeting with the parents after which he can address a press conference.
- The narrative should change and the Girls should be treated as heroines of the Nigerian struggle.
- Efforts to locate and free the girls should be intensified and internationalized…there is no reason why those with highly sophisticated satellite and telecommunications monitoring capabilities cannot deploy same to help find the missing girls and also the location and coordinates of the main bases of Boko Haram
THE REST OF US
For the rest of us citizens we must realize :
- That Nigeria is at war
- That the war will not be restricted to the north and we shall all be affected by the bullets ,bombs and deprivations sooner than later.
- That Boko Haram have set the North back 50 years and continues to push back all the reforms and progress achieved. Through no fault of theirs, the next generation from the north will not have the education or skills to compete in the modern world and will constitute a serious burden on the Nigerian state
- That Boko Harams current leadership and ideology does not leave room for any dialogue or compromise
- That Muslims, Christians ,Traditional leaders, Government workers, Police and Military, International institutions and ordinary Nigerian citizens from North and South are targets of Boko Haram
- That as this matter escalates, foreign countries are going to get involved. Unfortunately, we are now Africas largest economy, have a large population and we have Oil and other natural resources ,so a major geopolitical confrontation between the world powers is brewing on our door steps. Welcome to our home grown version of Somalia, South Sudan and Syria…
- Given the facts enumerated above , Our role should be to
a) Report anything suspicious we see or hear to the Call Center
b) Pay particular attention to the influx of strange faces in our communities
c) Desist from making careless and inflammatory comments
d) Inform and educate our fellow citizens and especially our relatives in the rural areas about what is going on
e) Expose those in our midst who sympathize with or support Boko Haram in any way.
f) Use social media to empathize with our fellow Citizens who are victims of the Boko Haram scourge and speak out against campaigns designed to tear us further apart
g) Organize relief materials and donations for the children and families of those affected by the violence. Schools, Churches, JNI ,CAN and other social clubs should lead the way in this show of love and unity coordinated by the NEMA and the Red Cross
h) Prepare our own personal emergency response plan so that we are not confused when terror arrives at our doorstep
i) Bury all differences and rise as united people to face this cancer
j) Support and encourage our Government and Security forces at all levels ..they are facing an unprecedented challenge and this is not the time for political showboating
The time has come for Nigerians to take their destiny in their hands and Boko Haram may have unwittingly woken up the Nigerian spirit . It is for our Government to recognize this golden opportunity and use it to the Nations advantage.