The kidnapping of over 270 schoolgirls in Chibok, which took place over three months ago, is in the news again. This is primarily due to girls’ rights activist Malala Yousafzai’s visit to Nigeria and President Goodluck Jonathan finally agreeing to meet with the abducted schoolgirls’ parents. However, despite this new attention, unfortunately the Nigerian Government is no closer to finding these girls than when they were first taken by the terrorist organization Boko Haram.
While many have complained of the incompetency of the Nigerian government and our President’s slow and lacklustre response, these complaints have not brought results. The federal executive branch of the Nigerian government seems to have gotten nowhere in rescuing the girls, negotiating their release, or punishing their kidnappers. Meanwhile, Boko Haram continues to act with impunity, as evidenced by various car bombings, and attacks carried out by the group in four of the country’s six political regions since the kidnapping, resulting in the deaths of over 1,000 people.
We need a new approach to defeating Boko Haram. First, there should be political co-operation across the numerous aisles of Nigeria’s political divides. Politicians must unite in order to collaborate on comprehensive and concerted strategies. Regardless of region or religion, we all need to work with the central government as Boko Haram is waging a war against the entire country.
We need to properly fund and resource our security services so they can successfully defeat the terrorists. President Jonathan stated that the Nigerian security services are doing all that they can and that our servicemen and women will not stop looking until the girls are found. What he fails to understand or admit is that the Nigerian military lacks the resources needed to protect our citizens from this terrorist scourge. This is perhaps due to budgetary outlays, for example, the government spends nearly twice as much on aviation as it does on military and police. The Government only recently made a request to the Senate to approve borrowing of $1billion dollars to further equip the military in the fight. But fighting Boko Haram is not just about increasing military funding it’s also about the efficient utilization of Federal Government funds, and the Nigerian Government serving its people in a new and better way
The military alone cannot fight Boko Haram; we also need strong, innovative, committed and honest leaders. The government initially denied that the kidnappings happened at the time of the incident. For the President to say, when he met the girls’ parents this week, that he has had to “remain quiet” because it could hamper the work of the intelligence services is unacceptable. Investigations as such are carried out worldwide and leaders are still able to reassure the public by providing meaningful information. This should also happen in Nigeria.
The global community also plays a key role. Although international support is being accepted now, it should have been requested immediately following the kidnappings. Just as Nigeria takes part in peacekeeping missions across Africa, assistance from nations and international institutions is necessary and should be entirely welcomed in order to end this violent insurgency.
Finally, we need to recognize that terrorism is alive and thriving in the northern regions of Nigeria. This can be partially attributed to the fact that the environment has worsened and economic opportunities have lessened in this region. As was recently reported, about 35% of the land that was arable in northern Nigeria fifty years ago can no longer be cultivated. We must look into policies that address this issue if we wish to stem the tide of newly recruited terrorists.
Today, defeating Boko Haram starts with President Jonathan. Where we are as a country is not the Nigeria of our dreams and surely not the one we want to pass onto future generations. Whether from the north or south, Christian or Muslim, in the ruling party or the opposition party like myself, we want President Jonathan to succeed in this fight. Unfortunately he doesn’t see that and if he does, he hasn’t started to tap into all the human resources at his disposal to assist him. Instead many feel like accusers rather than part of the Team Nigeria in the war against terrorism.
However, I and others unreservedly believe that defeating Boko Haram is possible. Though this will only happen when our military men and women are given the necessary resources and support that they need; when the political community unites to fight this war for the entire country; when we effectively utilize international support; when we work with the local communities in the north to foster cooperation, economic opportunity and environmental sustainability; and when our leaders rise to the occasion and make the end of domestic terrorism a top priority.