By Farooq Kperogi
Three days after offering a 3-million-naira bounty on Boko Haram factional leader Abubakar Shekau (whom Nigerian military authorities had claimed to have killed several times!), the BBC reported today that when our valiant troops came close to capturing him alive, they were told by higher-ups to back off. And so Shekau escaped! This is at least the second time this has happened since Buhari has been in power. The Daily Trust reported a similar incident some months back.
Meanwhile, the group just attacked Government Girls Secondary School in Dapchi, Yobe State and, so far, according to Daily Trust, 94 students are missing. Another Chibok-like scenario is unfolding. As the father of three daughters myself, I can’t imagine what the parents of these girls, like the parents of the Chibok girls, are going through now. I hope the girls are found, but this is a poignant reminder that prematurely proclaiming that the group has been “technically defeated” (while asking for $1 billion to fight it!) and promoting a false sense of security among citizens for propaganda purposes is both unhelpful and immoral.
Sadly, the people who live with the agony of this tragedy can’t complain publicly. If they do, they risk social ostracism. Only depraved loudmouths with a twisted understanding of “taqiyya” (which they understand as telling lies in defense of people who share the same religion as them, which is a wrong understanding of the concept) come to social media to say that since “god” Buhari mounted the throne of the Nigerian presidency all problems in the northeast have magically disappeared and the region is now heaven on earth. All contrary evidence, however credible, is “fake news”— Trump-style.
But what exactly is going on? I know the insecurity that Boko Haram’s insurgency has occasioned in the northeast is big business for several merchants of death in the military and in certain political circles. Is it these military and political merchants of death who restrain our troops from capturing Shekau?
Or is it Buhari himself? First, he is on record as being a defender of Boko Haram and condemning the onslaught on them by the military as an “injustice” against the “north.” He said this in 2013. Does he still share that sentiment? Or has he changed his opinion after he was attacked by the group? Second, his administration has paid the group hundreds of millions of naira in exchange for the release of hostages, which I’m, frankly, hesitant to condemn because it has helped bring joy to families of people whose fathers, daughters, and relatives have been released, although it’s also true that the ransoms have helped equip the group to inflict pain on other families.
Whatever it is, it’s obvious that there is way more to the Boko Haram insurgency than meets the eye. Let’s see how it unravels.