Again Nigeria is back to April 2014 when over 200 students of Federal Government Girls’ College, Chibok, Borno state, were abducted by the terrorist group, Boko Haram, with 127 still unaccounted for eight years later.
But this time it is the Abuja-Kaduna train attack a forth night ago, which has about 120 passengers still missing.
The alarming aspect of this recent attack and abduction is its brazen nature and sheer logistic details.
It is very sad that such massive operation caught all our security system napping and up till today nothing serious seems to have been done to resolve the situation in spite of assurances by the armed forces.
Another telling point in this debacle is the chilling revelation by the perpetrators that money for ramson is not their objective, unlike what we had known with previous abductions. The question on many lips is what do they want? Their allegation that the Federal government know what they want is pregnant with ominous interpretations.
Like the Chibok girls’ episode, which was not intended for ransom, it is clear that this is not the usual bandits’ action, but a bigger and more sinister incident that threatens the peace and unity of the country.
Effected in the heart of the northern region, and in its political capital, the train attack is a reminder that the terrorists have developed the capacity to strike at will anywhere in the country.
Therefore, the outrage and expression of concern by several Nigerian leaders, such as Sheilk Nuru Khalid of Apo Mosque, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, General Overseer of RCCG, Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, former president Obasanjo etc is expected, as Nigerians now despair over the worsening insecurity in the country.
Although the train attack signposts the tragedy of the nation in terms of insecurity, it is not an exception. In the South east, three police stations and two local governments have been attacked and burnt in the past two weeks. All over the country, there are daily reports of one form of violence or the other that we are becoming psychologically immune to it.
But all we get from government is the usual platitude of assurances and what has become an empty threat to deal decisively with the terrorists. Yet, nothing actually gets done to reverse this ugly trend. We agree with Obasanjo that this government led by President Buhari is patently overwhelmed by the challenges facing the nation in both economic and security aspects.
It is most disappointing that a military General and former head of state could be so roundly demystified by such rag-tag violent gangs bent on imposing their misguided religious view on the country. President Buhari was primarily elected because of this military background, and given his track record of dealing with similar situations in the past.
But what a disappointment he has turned out to be.
Obviously, there are serious conceptual challenges in tackling the problem. First, we have shied away from properly defining the fight as religious war for political reasons, which undetermines the resolve and capacity required to deal with such problems.
Truth is that this is a religious insurgency, which is usually protracted and they are never defeated militarily, and it has the capacity to devastate the economy and disrupt our politics. Without such understanding, we may not develop the right mental disposition and military strategy to combat it.
Already the economy is bleeding as over N8 trillion or $33 billion has be wasted in fighting the menace in the past seven years. Again, the war is breeding corruption in the armed forces, which would want to perpetuate the situation for group interest.
Secondly, there are saboteurs and fifth columnists in both the government and armed forces, who operate in cahoot with the insurgents at the expense of lives of their colleagues and stability of the country.
Thirdly, government’s continuing refusal to ask for and receive help from foreign groups or governments is basically a product of “foolish pride” by the military to retain its image and respect. It did not start today, and it will not do the country any good.
In 2000 the U.S. proposed the African Command, Africom, as a rapid counter insurgency centre in Africa, particularly West Africa, to be hosted by Nigeria. However, the military then, as now, threatened to overthrow the government if it dared to implement the policy.
Several northern leaders, such as Govs. Nasir el Rufai and Babagana Zulum of Kaduna and Borno states respectively, have called for the use of private defence contractors or mercenaries to supplement the efforts of the military to no avail.
It had been done before briefly under former president Jonathan; they were the people that cleared the northeast of the terrorists which made the 2015 elections possible.
From a tactical and strategic point, no national military had defeated religious insurgency in the short term, because the battle approach is asymmetric rather than conventional, on which national military is trained.
Even the super power America was defeated in such war in Vietnam. It is essentially a guerilla warfare based on attrition. Without accepting help of some kind, the war will eventually cripple the nation economically and disrupt its politics.
We believe this government no more has capacity or will to tackle this problem decisively. So, we must remain optimistic and hope that the next government will muster the courage to fight this security menace.