Reading the Nigerian State through a Good Lens: #BringBackOurGirls ,By Jibrin Ibrahim

Jibrin resizedIt is becoming increasingly clear that the #BringBackOurGirls Movement is an effective lens for accurately reading the state of the Nigerian State and the depth of the crisis it is facing. Even more important, the Movement has been pointing out the path that needs to be taken to save the State. Had we not been totally committed and persistent in making our demands and drawing national and international opinion to the fact that so many young girls had been abducted and taken into bondage, the government and its armed forces would have continued to pretend that nothing happened and nothing was happening. Indeed the day after the abduction, the military had already announced that they had been found and that was supposed to have been the end of the story. Our persistence forced the Government to admit that the Chibok girls were still in bondage and that it had challenges rescuing them. Gradually they had to confess they needed external help and they needed arms and equipment, which they were very well ready to hide from Nigerians even if it carried the risk of the possibility of any rag tag force walking over and occupying the country.
As we explained in our press release last Thursday, marking the 150th day since the abduction of the Chibok girls, our advocacy has always been for a singular purpose, that our Government and security agencies act to save the girls and all other Nigerians in distress. The response from them has not yielded the result that most Nigerians want. The reality on the ground today is that the terrorists are well armed, they are motivated and they seem to have a game plan for carving out their vision of an Islamic Caliphate from Nigeria and its neighbours. This must never happen. Over and above the Chibok girls, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Nigerians are in danger of falling into organised bondage, torture and death at the hands of the terrorists.
Our advocacy has been a journey towards a discovery that we would rather not have, but alas, it’s our current reality. Our armed forces are not sufficiently armed or motivated to fight the terrorists. The result is that the rampaging insurgents are conquering more and more of Nigerian territory. With over three million Nigerians displaced from their homes by the terrorists, no sane person can question the capability challenges that our armed forces have. It is clear today that our call for action was not heeded because the capacity to act had been significantly diminished over the past few years. For most Nigerians, there is a strong conviction and hope that we cannot continue to go down the path of the dismemberment of the country. We must reconquer and reclaim lost territories as well as re-establish sovereignty over the nation and security for our people. The President must show leadership in this process or else we will fall into the dangers associated with alternative action that could lead to chaos or further loss of our sovereignty.
Over the weekend, during our sit out at the Unity Fountain, one participant who was just returning from Banki, one of the towns under occupation, raised fears about allowing Boko Haram into settling down and ruling captured Nigerian territory. He said many of the people who ran away during the assault on the town were going back. Boko Haram he said has changed its tactics into one of winning hearts and minds. They are marrying the locals, they are appointing local people into positions of authority and they are proselytising. In essence, they are making the case that they are there for the long haul. If this is true, it is very worrying for our future. Dislodging them later would become extremely difficult. We must stop their advance and flush them out of the places they have occupied.
The second danger is that If Government does not act quickly and effectively, people fearing their communities would fall under the control of Boko Haram would arm themselves for the purpose of self-defence. Already in Maiduguri, the buzz in the streets is that people are preparing to defend their city if the military cannot. This trend could be counter productive as it’s easy to arm a militia to carry out a specific task but as soon as they are armed they can change the objective and carry out atrocities of their own. As I have argued previously, our best option is to revert to what the Constitution says that the government has a responsibility to provide for the welfare and security of Nigerians and it should do that. We must rebuild the capability and confidence of our armed forces. At the same time, we as citizens need to play our role in creating the conditions for recovery.
At the beginning of our movement, we went on twitter to crowd source citizen’s solutions to the growing insurgency. I summarise below the analysis and recommendations that came out of the process. As Nigeria is confronting asymmetrical warfare, we need to develop a more concerted and comprehensive approach to defeat terrorism. The State and its security agencies must cultivate the civilian population to become allies in the struggle. Intelligence is a key factor in ensuring success and sourcing timely intelligence requires close collaboration with communities. It is clear to all that the Nigerian security apparatus is at its weakest strength and capability at this historical point when we need them most. Rebuilding the strength and capability of our security agencies is a national commitment that government and citizens must support. Nonetheless, the Nigerian public is concerned that the resources allocated to our security apparatus (N922 billion in 2012, N1 trillion in 2013 & N845 billion in 2014) do not seem to correspond with the results delivered by those at the frontline that are prosecuting the war against terror. While it is understandable that security operations are mostly classified, citizens believe that some degree of transparency, accountability and disclosure is essential to gaining public confidence and achieving optimal results. Even more important, if there is a generalised system of corruption and leakages in administering security budgets, just throwing money at the problem will not produce the desired results.
Nigeria needs to develop a new approach to security governance. Developing local agency in security provisioning must be central to this new approach. One element of the new approach is getting security agencies to collaborate closely with local communities. We need to significantly expand and institutionalise community policing in the country. A pact, a bond must be developed between security agencies and the people in executing the war against terror. The second element is that communities should be encouraged to set up Community Safety Groups / Neighbourhood Watch Groups to help promote the fight on terror. Community members know their communities better than the security agencies. They need to take an interest and connect with security organisations. There needs to be support and protection for the communities that are supporting the security agencies. Most importantly, the source of information emanating from communities must be protected to ensure that there are no reprisal attacks against such communities.
The insurgency that is challenging our society today has arisen because we as a society have allowed extremist ideas to develop, grow and fester. All of us; governments, religious institutions, the private sector, communities and families as well as civil society groups have a collective responsibility to ensure that extremist ideas are contested and delegitimized. Our religious leaders in particular have the onerous responsibility of ensuring that radical interpretations are countered. We must all invest more resources – theological, ideological, philosophical, communications, financial and institutional in promoting peace education. Peace education will help to redress the culture of violence and aggression that has developed in our society. We need to continuously inculcate the value of peaceful coexistence and non-violent orientation on every Nigerian citizen.
Twitter @Jibrinibrahim17, [email protected]

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