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New Dimensions in Boko Haram Insurgency

New Dimensions in Boko Haram Insurgency

ICC Note

Nigeria’s radical Islamic group, Boko Haram, has stepped up its attacks on Christians as well as moderate Muslims. The Nigerian government must stop the radicals from leading the country into civil war.

08/10/2012 Nigeria (Nigerian Tribune)-The militant Boko Haram sect is now attacking symbols of traditional Islam in Nigeria. Regional Editor (News), Olawale Rasheed, writes on the implications.

Those who doubt the depth of Boko Haram agenda may have come to realize the seriousness of the challenge by recent targets of the islamist group. Recent attacks clearly targeted the Emirs and the Seat of the Caliphate regarded as the spiritual headquarters of muslims in the country. A protracted insurgency appears to have become a bitter reality in the country.

Just a few weeks ago, the Shehu of Borno escaped death by the whiskers, in a development that struck at the heart of century old Islamic heritage of old Bornu Empire. That was followed by recent attacks on Sokoto, a direct assault on the spiritual base of muslims in the country. Following that was the near death experience of the Emir of Fika and Chairman of the Yobe State Traditional Council of Chiefs, Alhaji Muhammdu Abali Ibn Muhammadu Idrissa. The targets are now clearly symbols of the traditional Islamic establishments in the northern part of the country.

The Nigerian Tribune had published some reports of investigations when the new National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki was appointed. It was noted then that while the security chief may succeed in tackling criminal and political Boko Haram, his challenge may be the hard core religious Boko Haram. According to one of such publications, “if there is any area identified as likely to be knotty for the new security chief, it is how to handle the hard core islamic wing of the Boko Haram. As a new phenomenon rooted in a worldwide movement, the hard core islamists defy conventional intelligence sophistry and increasingly challenge traditional governments across Africa and Asia.“

One of those publications further noted that “investigations also showed that the existing leadership structure of Islamic institutions in Nigeria is dominated by traditional islamists whom the salafi/wahabi want to dethrone, leading to Salafi‘s lack of recognition of most Islamic institutions including the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs.” Those facts pointed out earlier are now manifesting as demonstrated by the new targets of the insurgents.

“For whatever reason some people somewhere want to destabilize that peaceful nature of our state. By the grace of God they will stand disgraced,” he said calling on the entire state to “intensify prayers during this holy month of Ramadan so that together we can once again maintain the very name that we are known with—the most peaceful and peace loving state in this country”, the Governor affirmed according to news reports.

The number four citizen, Speaker of the House of Representative, Aminu Tambuwal reiterated the peaceful nature of the state. Said he:” The people of Sokoto State have been known to be peaceful in nature and we live in peace and harmony amongst ourselves and indeed all citizens and non Nigerians that reside in Sokoto State.

“We have the culture of embracing virtually each and every citizen that is residing in Sokoto State. Unfortunately, this incident has now affected that our particular record of being the most peaceful state in the country,” he stated.

Before Sokoto, Kano and Kaduna had become battle grounds with security officials even confirming that secret executions were ongoing. The attack on Sokoto was significant because this may probably mark the first time the holy city suffered such fate. What is more, attacking Sokoto is like attacking a holy city of muslims in Nigeria. That incident thus marked a dangerous escalation in the insurgency, in the opinion of many security analysts.

If attacks on Sokoto were a dreadful turning point, the trend of attacks on emirs is even more scary. If the Emirs are no longer safe, many observers believed the expected channel of communication with the insurgents may have been blocked. What is more, the latest happenings may signal a new onslaught on symbols of traditional institutions across the northern region.

Critical watchers of the new targets and modus operandi of the islamists are quick to infer that attacks on Sokoto and the Emirs are direct attacks on symbols of mainstream Islam in Nigeria. This led many observers to commence a rethinking of earlier skepticism of reported radical theological background to the insurgency. Even those holding tight to the economic angle may be gradually accepting the new reality.

If traditional leaders of Islam are now an endangered species in the ongoing conflict, there may be the need for a paradigm shift in approaches to the conflict. For one, it is obvious that conventional military approach is failing to achieve desired results. Many experienced hands in the field are also offering suggestions on the way forward.

The initiator of the Amnesty Programme, Mr Timi Alaibe recently suggested adoption of victim position as a way to commence the resolution process. Assuming the position of the insurgents, he proposed as the first step where stakeholders try to empathize and understand the motivation of the fighters. Other contingent measures include showing truly credible willingness for peace and ensuring give and take in the entire process. Above all, the nation he said must build on the experience learnt from the management of the Niger Delta crisis.

Said he: “The insurgency can be contained and grievances behind it can be resolved. It all depends on our approach, style and genuine commitment to securing peace“

“We need to gain the confidence of the grassroots in those conflict endemic states. This is very significant as security operations cannot succeed without the support of the local populations. We have to gain their confidence and this may mean reducing the level and style of operation of security forces in conflict areas“,he noted.

“We also have to increase the manpower level and training focus of our security apparatus. The intelligence machine should be scaled up in terms of number of operatives considering the vastness of Nigeria. We should not just scale up, we need to create new operational units, responding to modern security challenges“,the former minister said.

The preceding solutions also link with a related proposal by two former leaders, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and General Ibrahim Babangida. A relevant portion of their joint statement reads as follows: “While we are very much aware of the efforts various governments in the country are making to confront the escalating security challenges across the country, we believe that it is time that these efforts are scaled up to be more involving and inclusive. In this regard, whatever robust security measures are put in place to contain the situation, as is normal in such circumstances, they must be complemented with an equally intensive process of community involvement.

“We therefore urge all governments in the country, starting with all the 774 local councils to comprehensively engage their communities at the various levels including: elders, youth organisations, trade unions and associations, women bodies, the clergy and other community stakeholders. We also call on the Federal and State governments not only to encourage these grassroots engagements for peace and beneficial coexistence but should work out the framework to sustain the engagement.“,the former leaders noted.

Many analysts still believe that despite recent bellicose ultimatum from the sect, negotiated settlement remains the only viable option.

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