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Op-Ed: Strange Bedfellows Merge To Fight Insurgency In Nigeria

Channels Television  
Updated June 3, 2014

Mere connection with what is known as a superior race will not permanently carry an individual forward unless he has individual worth- Booker T Washington.

Nigeria’s political history is replete with failed alliances and mergers. While the first and second republics had their own share of unsuccessful mergers, the return to democracy in 1999 saw the Alliance for Democracy (AD), which had swept the South-west in earlier polls, align with the All Peoples Party, APP, that dominated elections in the North with the intention of beating PDP at the presidential poll. It gave the PDP a good fight but failed to win the election.

Similarly in 2007, about 15 parties came together and formed the Action Congress, AC, but the party made little or no impact in the presidential election.

Before the 2011 elections, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) attempted to join forces in order to field a joint presidential candidate to challenge President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP. The move fell like a pack of badly arranged cards when the parties could not reach an agreement on who to field.

After the 2011 elections, leaders of the merging parties kick-started another move and set up various committees. The highlight of the move was the formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

However, recent goings on in the country has led to another ‘merger’, this time around in the security apparatchik of the country to capture and return peace to Nigeria. The formation of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to protect borders of Niger, Chad and Nigeria from the growing influence of Boko Haram insurgents was the first step taken in that direction. How that has fared is left for you to ponder upon.

Despite this effort, insurgents have burnt schools, killed students and attacked military formations numerous times without been confronted by either the Nigerian Army or MNJTF when they fled Nigeria to seek safety in neighbouring countries. That is not to say they have never been repelled by the forces, they have, just not as much as they have been successful in carrying out their attacks.

The last straw that drew global attention was the abduction of over 200 girls from a secondary school in the north eastern town of Chibok in Borno state. This incident gave birth to another merger, with due respect to all parties involved, bound to fail, unless the modus operandi is changed.

Following the #BringBackOurGirls protests in and outside Nigeria, world powers- United States, United Kingdom, France, China and Israel- offered to ‘merge’ with Nigerian military officers and combine efforts in fighting Boko Haram and rescuing the abducted girls, whose number now stands at 219, from their abductors.

It is imperative to state that weeks into this ‘merger’ no head way has been made, rather high hopes dashed by the day as officers release conflicting situation reports.

First, it was alleged that satellite images failed to show movement of such a number (274) of people moving out of Nigeria, alleging that if indeed it happened, local material must have been used to cover the girls, making it impossible for modern technology to detect the movement.

Then there was the claim that a deal to swap the girls with detained suspected Boko Haram members was called off at the eleventh hour and the most bizarre and conflicting report on the location of the girls by the Nigerian and United States security officials.

Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshall Alex Badeh had told some protesters at the Defence Headquarters in Abuja, that the military has information on the location of the girls but would tread softly to get the students out by not using force to rescue them.

“We know what we are doing; we can’t go and kill our girls in the name of trying to get them back.

“If we are fighting an external war, they would have been begging us to withdraw”, he said, adding that the Nigerian Military has shown its abilities in civil war situations, making reference to its role in restoring democracy in Liberia and Sierra-Leone.

The CDS refused to give details of his statement that the military would not use force in its efforts to secure the release of the abducted girls but gave assurances that the war on terror would be won by the Nigerian military. “The President has empowered us to do the work”, he said.

However in a swift reaction, the United States said it does not have information that would support Nigeria’s claim that it knows the whereabouts of the kidnapped schoolgirls.

“We don’t have independent information from the United States to support that statement”, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

“We, as a matter of policy and for the girls’ safety and well-being, would not discuss publicly this sort of information regardless.” She added.

Some Europeans also noted that as far as they knew, technical intelligence systems had not produced precise or credible information establishing the girls’ location.

The officials said that if the Nigerians had obtained such information from informants on the ground, it has not been shared with U.S. and allied agencies.

Badeh’s action reminds one of the struggle by merging political parties to outwit the others in the fight for the control and soul of the party they have merged to form. That might have worked out for political parties, but for the rescue effort, it is a fatal blow that will be celebrated in the enemy camp. It will give them more confidence to orchestrate more attacks as the (security) house is not in order.

Worthy of note is the fact that since world powers offered to help Nigeria in its fight against terror and the quest to rescue abducted school girls from the clutches of Boko Haram, there is no structure put in place (only if they have not made it public) by Nigeria, China, U.S, UK, France and Israel on how to go about engaging the insurgents.

Simply put, a five-pronged attack was launched against the insurgents without proper coordination amongst the attackers and a proper channel of sharing intel gathered.

This means the countries involved report to their countries and not to the established (if one exists) chain of command, just to outwit one another to claim the ultimate glory of who would find and successfully rescue the girls.

All parties involved must note that this is a very important mission that has drawn global attention and personal interests must be put aside to fight the common enemy, bring them to justice and rescue the abducted school girls

But most importantly, parties involved in this mission must display individual and collective worth or else their alliance will not move them out of the security quagmire they are fighting at the moment and could liken the situation to that of strange bedfellows coming together to retrieve what has been taken away by the identified opposition.

Despite the foregoing, I must thank the President of the United States of America, President Barack Obama and other national governments like United Kingdom, France, China, Israel, among others, currently assisting Nigeria to #BringBackOurGirls.

Victor Mathias writes from Lagos and tweets @victor_mbidi