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[OPINION]: Boko Haram: Low politics at high cost to national security -Majeed Dahiru

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The premature declaration by the Muhammadu Buhari administration that Boko Haram insurgency has been totally defeated has been proved wrong by a devastating resurgence of the deadly terror group. Deadly incidents of suicide bombing, sacking of towns, attacks on military formations and IDP camps have resulted in the death of many Nigerians. However, before the administration’s Goebbels could downplay these deadly incidents as “antics of the totally degraded and fleeing remainants of Boko Haram insurgents who are after soft targets” (as if lives of soft targets are less important than lives of hard targets), the Dapchi incident happened.

The Dapchi incident was reminiscent of the Chibok tragedy. Long convoy of vehicles, manned by combat-ready Boko Haram insurgents, moved unhindered into Dapchi town, Yobe State, north-east Nigeria, and headed towards their target: Government Girls Technical School, Dapchi, from where over a 100 schoolgirls were abducted in Chibok style. Like happened in Chibok in 2014, this town was unprotected by the military. Similarly, the Buhari administration was thoroughly embarrassed by the Dapchi incident as much as the Chibok incident did the Goodluck Jonathan administration, and futile attempts were made by both to deny the incidents happened. While the Jonathan administration outrightly denied the Chibok attack, the Buhari administration described the girls as missing, initially refusing to admit they were abducted.

Another striking similarity between the Chibok and Dapchi incidents was the reaction of the military. Like it happened in Chibok, military sources that later turned out to be hoax claimed to have rescued the girls. And the usual blame game between the governor and the military on one hand and between the police and the military on the other hand brings back the sad memory of the 2014 Chibok abduction.

For an administration that is in a hurry to score a low political point of succeeding in the war against terror where its predecessors failed, it has unfortunately allowed the politicisation to go too far, resulting in a high cost for national security. The claim of winning the war on terror is largely premised on the fact that Boko Haram insurgency has been restricted to the North East, with their operational base in the vast savannah wastelands of Sambisa, substantially cleared by the military forces of Operation Lafiya Dole.

The Buhari administration also takes pride in the liberation by security forces of communities hitherto captured and controlled by the insurgent group. There is no doubting the fact that Boko Haram insurgency has reduced considerably in scope and magnitude. However, these positive developments have very little to do with the efforts of the Buhari administration.

There are three main doctrinal basis upon which radical Islamic theology is premised. These are the concept of caliphacy (Muslim rule under Sharia law), re-designation of people of the book (Jews and Christians) in Islam from believers to unbelievers and, lastly the equation of innovation (Bidah) to unbelief, otherwise known as the takfiri doctrine. The concept of caliphacy is one that enjoys enormous legitimacy among the Muslim community in Nigeria and beyond much more than the other two doctrines.

The aspiration for Sharia law under a Muslim ruler over the global Muslim community, with prospects of justice, godliness and guidance, is a form of utopia for many Muslims who are disillusioned with the current order. While the struggle (jihad) for a return to caliphacy is on, Muslims who believe in this concept and who are in the majority are more spiritually fulfilled to be ruled by a Muslim in a commonwealth of multi-religious geographic entity like Nigeria. In essence, where the ideal Islamic state is not yet achieved, Muslim rule suffices.

Recall that, in 1999, when Olusegun Obasanjo, a Christian, was elected President of Nigeria, the predominantly Muslim states of northern Nigeria adopted the Sharia legal code as a convenient buffer against non-Muslim rulership. Again, the Boko Haram insurgency escalated during the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian. The campaign of bombing outside the North East was launched on May 29, 2011, the day Jonathan was inaugurated as President, when several improvised explosive devices bombed different locations around the country, including Abuja and Bauchi, leaving several people dead.

Therefore, the election of Buhari, a powerful Muslim figure, whose open support for the adoption of the Sharia legal system by majority Muslim northern states in the early days of the fourth republic is well known, substantially satisfied the quest by majority of Muslims in Nigeria for a caliphacy.
 
The Buhari presidential mandate of 2015 enjoyed massive Muslim support. Leading and influential Muslim leaders pontificated on the need to vote out’ “infidel” Jonathan and elect a “believer” Buhari instead. With the successful replacement of Jonathan from power, support and solidarity for Boko Haram among this category of Muslims reduced drastically.

Post-2015, a large contingent of Boko Haram sympathisers, financiers and collaborators, who were motivated by a combination of faith and partisan politics, operating far away from the theatre of war, in government, military, media and the streets of urban centres, suddenly withdrew their active and passive support for the insurgent group.

An insurgency that was regarded as a festering sore that should never be allowed to heal on the body of Jonathan’s body politick, which was used to discredit his entire administration, is now regarded as a national security threat that must be defeated under Buhari as a credit to his administration. Obstacles faced by the Jonathan administration in its war against terror have been turned into full cooperation between members of the affected communities and the Buhari administration.

Where heavy military deployments were condemned as an army of occupation, they are now welcome and praised as an army of protection. A military operation in Baga town in 2013 to expel insurgents and liberate the town was condemned as a siege with threats of petition by Borno Elders against the then Army chief for war crimes at The Hague.

But mum was the word when Buhari’s air force mistakenly bombed desperately poor and helpless refugees at an IDP camp in Rann, Borno State. Political leaders of northern Nigeria are no longer denouncing the war on terror as genocide against the North or requesting for amnesty and presidential jet flights for Boko Haram insurgents such as was granted to Niger Delta militants. The implication of this trend is that Boko Haram is likely to heighten if and when a non-Muslim presidency happens in Nigeria.

The current insurgency is being waged by the most radical of Muslims who are apolitical but, in addition to the concept of caliphacy, subscribe absolutely to radical doctrines that re-designated people of the book from believers to unbelievers and equates innovation to disbelief.

Fortunately for Nigeria, shortly after Boko Haram pledged allegiance to ISIL in March 2015, the global Islamist jihadi group slipped into a decline in power, organisational and operational capabilities as a result of a multi-pronged assault waged on it by a coalition of Iraqi-Kurdish forces ably backed by the United States, which greatly diminished it in Iraq and a sustained military operation against it in the Levant by a coalition of Syrian and Hisbullah forces backed by Russia.

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