Two reports released recently have set me thinking as to whether Nigeria is really winning the war against Boko Haram or the other way round. From the evidence before us, it appears while Nigeria is gradually but steadily winning the battle, Boko Haram may actually be winning the war as some strong voices on the international scene are increasingly showing more and more sympathy for the group’s devious and murderous activities.
Prominent among Boko Haram sympathisers is Amnesty International (AI), which has become the “official defender” of the human rights of Boko Haram members while ignoring the rights of the victims of the sect’s atrocious activities. It appears AI would rather see the sect continue to carry out its mass slaughter of innocent people than the military succeed in eliminating them, and restoring order to the North-east. Its latest report with the mocking title: “Stars on Their Shoulders. Blood on Their Hands: War Crimes Committed by the Nigerian military”, chronicles the “atrocities” of the Nigerian military and conspicuously ignored the deadly killings, abductions, mass kidnappings, mass rapes, bloody massacre of entire communities, inhuman treatment and brutal executions of men, women and children in the thousands by the sect.
The second report was actually an assessment by officials of the United States Counter Terrorism – who emphatically declared that Boko Haram was “winning the war” because according to them, ‘’it still retains the ability and capacity to mount deadly lethal attacks and retreat afterwards.’’
This latest AI report draws breath from its 2014 report, only that this time, it is more damning. It speaks to the fact that the inhuman sect may have either successfully infiltrated AI or the rights watchdog is plainly naïve about the evils of this sect, and is therefore being manipulated or both – just as it has infiltrated the Nigerian security apparatus – the military establishment, intelligence agencies and various governmental bodies – a fact which even former president, Goodluck Jonathan publicly acknowledged. AI, it appears, has been conscripted by the faceless – well, not so faceless establishment forces who many believe are behind this deadly terror sect – that is more than ever before determined to humiliate Nigeria, especially all those who fought against its desire to overrun the country. Al is chest-thumping charges of war crimes against our military in furtherance of a vast and deadly conspiracy against this country in order to finally throw it to the dogs.
Unknown to many people, our country is contending with a battle between one side of the country and others – in the sense of geography and history. The Ralph Bunche Centre Director at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, was quoted to having said: “It looks like a long fight. Boko Haram seems intent on recreating the pre-colonial Islamic Emirate of Borno – pieces of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroun were all parts of that pre-colonial emirate.”
Therefore, it is necessary to ask, who really is winning the war on terror? Many people erroneously think we are all united in our desire to see the back of this evil sect, but unfortunately that is not the case.
There are people in the executive, legislature, judiciary and every stratum of society, including the media – who believe in the ideology of Boko Haram – that this nation must be overrun someday. It is disheartening to say the least that while the war is going on here, there is a formidable and organised group out there embarking on a campaign to present Nigeria as though there is genocide against a part of the country. The strategy and intention are to buy sympathy for the sect members by playing the human rights card and to discredit the military before the international community, thereby precipitating certain decisions that may damage this country irreversibly.
We have seen how America and some of its allies refused to sell arms to Nigeria in the heat of the war under the guise of human rights abuses by our military – a fallout of AI’s persistent accusations.
It is pertinent to point out here that Israel which has faced accusations of human rights abuses in its war of attrition with Hamas regularly gets restocked with massive military supplies of weapons by the same hypocritical United States, because it believes Israel is fighting an existential war with Hamas, which has sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state. But America plays the human rights card when it comes to Nigeria – a country facing an ominous prospect of being overrun.
What we are contending with begins from the realm of definition: what are we really confronting? Is it insurgency or terrorism? The two might look the same but they are not. Let me start from insurgency: insurgency involves a situation where a group or some individuals rightly or wrongly, feel that their rights have been denied and have attempted to call attention to it, to no avail. The situation persists or even degenerates further until, they eventually resort to arm struggle to get attention and redress the situation. When such is happening, there is room for negotiation.
Terrorism, on the other hand, is implacable and does not expect reconciliation as an option – it wants a total overturn of the system. And it desires to achieve this through brutality, intimidation, harassment or any method that can achieve the highest fatality that will compel total submissiveness by the people borne out of fear.
Terrorism also aims to achieve a situation where the state institutions are destroyed or discredited to the extent that the people begin to look favourably towards the terrorists and their message. Furthermore, it tries to turn the citizens against the government of the day, and the state, so that people will begin to lose faith in the ability of the system to protect them.
I think we are already at that stage where many Nigerians, especially in the North-east have lost faith in the ability of the state to guarantee their security. The first institution we threw away was the police because they couldn’t handle the situation. So we drafted in the military. As it fumbled initially, it drove Nigerians to send the Goodluck Jonathan administration packing because he was seen as lacking the will and muscle to tackle the terrorists who had overran substantial part of the North-east and even declared it, its Caliphate – leaving the military as their next target. And there appears to have been a concerted effort to achieve their evil objective – which is clearly yielding results lately – as we have been inundated with reports of highly placed individuals trying to rubbish the military, including people who have had the privilege of a military career to fulfillment level and now – the AI bombshell.
While the battle against the terrorists was going on, there have been reported cases of highly placed persons in our society and some retired senior army officers providing material support to the sect. And some elements within the fold of the northern elite had repeatedly vowed to drag the military to the International Criminal Court (ICC), when the military had scored major victories over the terror group in Baga in 2013. With the terror sect on the back foot, those threats have even grown louder from a particular part of the country, threats which have now been validated by the AI report – thereby laying the groundwork for what may happen in the future.
It is a shame that AI has committed itself to the defence of terrorists and their supporters, and at the same time, failed so spectacularly to take pictures and video of the horrific atrocities committed by the terror group as evidence of the sect’s inhumanity and war crimes. It has failed to document the mindless killings of so many innocent people whose only offence was that they were going about their normal lives – poor ordinary people savagely murdered for no cogent reason at all. It is granted that the Amnesty International will not make an impact if it accuses the terrorists of war crimes, but it will grab headlines around the world if it accuses the military of it. But must this be done at the expense of protecting the territorial integrity of Nigeria?
The truth here is that the shadowy group and its collaborators cleverly realised early that, “if you want sympathy for your cause, then you don’t call it terrorism – as that will turn off the West”. So cleverly, they labelled it “insurgency” to make the group seem as if it has a legitimate cause it is fighting for.
If you carry out checks, you will find out most of the establishment people, and even opinion moulders from a particular part of this country, avoid that word “terrorism”, instead they refer to it as “insurgency”. For the simple reason, I suspect is to carry the US and the West along and they have achieved that – to the extent that the US is now in the forefront of accusations of human rights violations against our military. Ironically, America has a poor record on human rights when dealing with terrorists who pose a major threat to its national interests. To achieve its goal of “degrading and destroying” the terrorists, America deploys Special Forces and all sorts of weapons: hi-tech weapons, massive ordinances, including hellfire missiles from drones to target and kill terrorists around the world – also killing and maiming many innocent people in the process with a great deal of property destroyed. We have seen the massive forces the United States and its Western allies deploy in the pursuit of terror groups and their affiliates; we have seen the US detain terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay for nearly 14 years without formal charges or trial, with “industrial-scale” torture of suspects in the prison. Although AI has drawn the world’s attention to the atrocities committed by America, we have never heard AI call for its military top brass responsible for those abuses/violations to be referred for trial.
In case AI is unaware of it, the US Senate Report on Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Detention and Interrogation Programme details actions by CIA officials, including torturing prisoners, providing misleading or false information about classified CIA programmes to the media, impeding government oversight and internal criticisms, and mismanagement of the programmes. It also revealed the existence of previously unknown detainees – and that more detainees were subjected to harsher treatment than was previously disclosed, and that more forms of torture were used than previously disclosed. It traced blame to the very top of the US government
However, AI is obviously impotent to confront America about these abuses. Or these are not war crimes because it is America that is involved? Although, America is not a signatory to the ICC (neither is Sudan), AI can build a groundswell of opinion and institute actions to redress human rights abuses/violations of terrorist-detainees in the US court, if it becomes difficult to prosecute them at the ICC. In contrast, Nigeria has become Amnesty’s play toy – it issues ultimatums, commands and instructions with the threat of ICC. And who will blame Al anyway? And who will say Boko Haram is not winning the war, when it has a powerful voice like AI championing and fighting for their rights?
For real, the sect is winning. As stated earlier, the police institution in Nigeria has been discredited, Jonathan lost the elections, and the Nigerian military is being rubbished. What other institutions of the state do we have left? That is the objective of terrorists and they are sadly winning. All they need now is consolidation. I won’t be surprised if the Amnesty report is their final tool to get back at those who have dared to confront them – the very soldiers who fought for us to still have our country. It must be acknowledged here that there is no way you fight a war without some abuses that are appalling, but the fact remains that AI is on a campaign to discredit our military.
If we are going to define the word “insurgency”, it is the Niger Delta situation that nearly approximates it, and clearly not the terrorists we have in the North-east. We didn’t see senseless killings or hear of whole villages burnt down – people were kidnapped quite alright and oil infrastructure was vandalised, but certainly not the kind of terror we have on our hands today. The Niger Delta militants were agitating for a larger share of the resources taken from their land, even though it also involved some elements of criminality. But the moment there was an understanding, the restiveness simmered.
Unfortunately, many do not see it this way and we are about to enter the final lap of victory for Boko Haram. If eventually, the Muhammadu Buhari presidency endorses this indictment of the military or individuals who fought the sect, will it not jeopardise the war against terror? Will it not demoralise our forces? Would our soldiers who fought and died to liberate Nigeria from the terrorists not have died in vain? Beyond that, will it not divide an already divided military?
And more than anything else, is it not a contradiction of monumental proportion for the northern establishment, especially its intelligentsia to be rooting for the prosecution of military personnel on charges of human rights abuses that they are accused of committing against Boko Haram members, while at the same time calling for amnesty for members of the very sect – that has waged war on the country, its people and committed the worst forms of atrocities ever seen in our history? Need we remind ourselves of the unquantifiable plunder and destruction of infrastructure, socio-economic crimes, mass murder of thousands, beheadings, mass kidnappings, mass rape of women, destruction of entire communities and gleefully making a show of it? Unfortunately, these are the people whose rights are now more important than the rights of the thousands they have maimed and killed.
23) Buhari: Redemption Lies Within not in America (Tuessday July 7, 2015)
The news about town is that President Muhammadu Buhari is going to America on the invitation of the President of the United States, Barack Obama, whose election as the first black president of America was as profoundly momentous as it can get. I have no idea why such an invite was extended to Buhari or why it is even necessary for him to visit America in the first place. Neither do I know what the agenda of the visit entails.
But here is what I do know: President Obama should have no reason whatsoever to invite our president to his country – America – a country that has not proved a worthy friend and partner to Nigeria in many instances; rather it has proved itself an unreliable and undependable ally in the many challenges bedevilling this country.
Severally, America’s actions towards Nigeria appear to confirm the Mid-east scholar Bernard Lewis’ definition of that country’s relation with its friends and allies around the world: “America is harmless as an enemy, (but) treacherous as a friend.” What more can one say about a country that is so obsessed with spying on even the leaders of its Western partners? It particularly feels so when we consider how so often our leaders defer to America on practically everything on the global stage, and how so very little benefits have accrued to Nigeria in return. I must state here that for a moment following Obama’s election, it looked like all black people were truly free at last! However, his presidency has turned out to be very disappointing for Africa, particularly Nigeria. The frenzied hopes invested in Candidate Obama by Nigerians in the run-up to his election have yielded next to nothing for our country, even though the symbolism of his election remains undeniably soothing to all black people everywhere they might be.
But here is the first black president of the most powerful and prosperous nation in the world, unfortunately, who for whatever reason has repeatedly snubbed Nigeria – the largest concentration of black people on planet Earth – in its moments of need. As a matter of fact, Nigeria does not feature in Obama’s radar – to the extent that he ignored Nigeria on two previous African tours. But far beyond his snub, two challenges our country has faced – one of which, it is still facing have more than anything else, revealed to Nigerians – that America is not Nigeria’s friend – and that if it was an enemy, it would have been easier to deal with than its acclaimed friendship. And the sooner our extremely naïve leaders come to terms with this reality, the better for our country.
At the height of the Ebola threat to the health of our citizenry, Obama refused the request of Nigeria for help with America’s lifesaving drug — ZMapp — an experimental drug used to treat two American missionary workers who were infected with the Ebola virus on the pretext that it was not available. However the drug was quickly made available to Spain and Britain to treat their nationals who were infected with the disease in West Africa.
America was to much later, avail Liberia — one of the theatres of the monstrous disease — that was claiming lives in the thousands, the drug to tackle the deadly virus. Luckily, Nigeria looked inward, tapping into the professionalism and competence of its medical corps around the world, and by rolling out a contact-tracing plan that was laudable, our caregivers were able to overcome the dreaded disease. That was one rare good moment in the sun for all Nigerians – as our government proved decisive in its response and won global applause.
This US behaviour towards Nigeria has followed a familiar pattern in most recent times owing to the naivety of our leaders who kowtow to it on every issue on the global arena, they are yet to see America for what it truly is. But Nigeria sadly gets rebuffed when it makes demands of the supposedly friendly relationship even when its national security is under threat.
This brings one to the US refusal to sell arms to Nigeria to fight the deadly satanic sect, Boko Haram, that has wreaked so much havoc on lives and destroyed infrastructure worth billions of dollars. America justifies its refusal to sell arms to us on the grounds of alleged human rights abuses/violations committed by our military.
It hides under the protection of “the Leahy Law” — a US human rights law that prohibits the US Department of State and Department of Defence from providing military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity. To implement this law, US embassies and the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour and the appropriate regional bureau of the US Department of State vet potential recipients of security assistance. If a unit is found to have been credibly implicated in serious abuse of human rights, assistance is denied until the host nation government takes effective steps to bring the responsible persons within the unit to justice. While the US Government does not publicly report on foreign armed force units it has cut off from receiving assistance, press reports have indicated that security force units in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Nigeria, Turkey, Indonesia and Pakistan have been denied assistance due to the “Leahy Law”. But Israel which has been accused several times of human right abuses and war crimes against the Palestinians is conspicuously missing from this list – as America still provides all its defence needs.
Only recently, the US Department of State spokesperson, Jen Paski, went on the record to justify why the US refused to sell Cobra attack helicopters, which we badly needed to turn the tide against the sect, that has recorded a string of successes in its campaign of terror to Nigeria. Paski explained that the US refused to sell the Cobra attack helicopters to the Nigerian Armed Forces early this year, “because it was concerned the military has no capacity to operate and maintain them”. Really? What a ridiculous statement! She forgot to tell the world that maintenance terms are usually worked in as part of the purchase agreement. Paski went further to add — the now familiar refrain that there were also concerns over the protection of civilians during military operations. This is the same US that pledged all forms of military assistance in the wake of the abduction of over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok.
Paski failed to state that the first battalion in the history of the Nigerian military to rebel against constituted authority was trained by America. That Special Forces unit trained to fight the terrorists has remained the most undisciplined in our military’s history – it once attacked its General Officer Commanding (GOC) in Maiduguri, Borno State. Investigations reveal that right from the day America handed them over to the military authorities, the battalion has been so rebellious, disobeying some legitimate orders and giving conditions before obeying orders. According to reports, when they were to be deployed, they said they were not going unless they were given A, B, C and D – which was clearly alien to the philosophy of the military of “obey before complaint”. It was unheard of in the military.
Let us not forget how America came here; flying several military surveillance missions or sorties over our airspace, under the guise of helping us trace and locate the over 200 Chibok schoolgirls, but ended up spying and gathering crucial intelligence on our military capability. Yet, the very objective of allowing them into our airspace was never achieved.
Shockingly, all that intelligence was passed on to our neighbours to further undermine our national security. And acting on that intelligence received, Cameroun’s Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation, Rene Emmanuel Sadi, directed all army commanders to withhold crucial information about the terrorists’ activities from Nigeria. In a circular with Decree number G/D/MINATD, titled: “Strong Message”, he made it clear to the commander of Cameroun’s Rapid Intervention Brigade – that the country did not want the grave security situation in Nigeria to spill over to his country. While the terrorists were ravaging our country, Cameroun looked the other way and was probably enjoying our misfortune. It was not until the terror group turned its attention on it – that it woke up to the reality of its own vulnerability and stupidity in thinking that it was Nigeria’s problem alone. America’s refusal to sell weapons to Nigeria to prosecute the war on terror, I dare say, may not be unconnected with its desire to see its wicked prophecy about Nigeria’s disintegration in 2015 come true.
Some people are understandably happy that Obama will be receiving Buhari in the White House. It would have made some sense if anything tangible will come out of that meeting beyond the usual courtesies and grace of a diplomatic handshake, smiles for the camera and photo oops. For those already making such a big deal out of the visit, my advice to them is to learn from history. Former President Goodluck Jonathan was accorded similar courtesy in 2010 when he honoured Obama’s invitation, and it was played up by the media as evidence of US support and backing. But what happened after? It all came to naught when it mattered most – Jonathan’s visit didn’t change America’s attitude towards our dear Nigeria. Now, we are at that moment again when we think Buhari’s visit to the White House will change our situation. It will not!
And as he did on his recent visit to the G7 summit in Germany, the president would probably have drawn up a wish list of demands – military and economic to make of Obama. I wish him luck. But I can assure him here that his wish list will remain just what it is – a wish list, because America won’t provide us the help we need to turn our situation around. It may give us very limited assistance – that will make little or no impact on the war on terror. It will come more out of pity than any committed desire to help. So let no one be deluded with expectations about this visit.
But instead of going round cap in hand begging America and its Western allies for help that won’t come, President Buhari should sit down at home and look inwards for solutions to our problems. (In case he does not know, Boko Haram has stepped up its killing spree.) All that is required is a visionary leadership to steer the ship of the state away from the brink – one who will harness the tremendous resources that abound in our land to transform our society, energise, and inspire faith in our ability to achieve anything under the sun. We really don’t need help from the US and its allies to make things work here. Our successful handling of the Ebola crisis when the US turned its back on us should be the launch pad to challenge the can-do-it-yourself spirit in us.
Nigeria needs to urgently re-evaluate its national defence architecture and strategy to be self-providing rather than help-dependent. We cannot entirely depend on purchases from other countries for our defence and protection – we must look inwards. To this end, we need to revive our Defence Industry Corporation and vigorously pursue a new military doctrine anchored on a massive reinvigoration of the military industrial complex. Nigeria can manufacture its military needs; the time to start is now. Doubtless to say achieving success will be like climbing Mt. Everest, given where we are at the moment. But we can start now.
Indeed, Nigeria as the biggest economy on the African continent and the largest black nation in the world with a population well over 170 million cannot project influence and power in global affairs if it does not have a well-equipped and powerful military to match its economic status. This is precisely why America wields enormous influence and power around the world.
But a string of bad leaders, massive corruption, ethnicity, religion and lack of vision have all conspired to stunt our rise since independence. Therefore, the much talked about change should include repositioning our country as the new frontier of power and influence in world affairs. In the words of Michael De Saintamo: “When two people meet, there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as he wants to be seen, and each man as he really is.” I agree. Increasingly, many Nigerians now see America as it really is, and also, an embodiment of Bernard Lewis’ immortal and succinct depiction: “… harmless as an enemy, (but) treacherous as a friend.” What about how Nigeria really is? It is its own worst enemy – with a docile citizenry governed by clueless, corrupt and inept leaders whom the people need to free themselves from.