OPINION | Insurgency: Need to Heed Governor Zulum’s Clarion Call, By M. B. Sabo

August 28, 2020
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Baga is a gold fish. It is highly valued by Boko Haram (BH).  That was why they applied maximum violence to occupy it.  Sources said 180 to 2000 people were killed in the massacres of 2013, 2015 and 2018.

Baga is significant to ISWAP/BH for its resources and also being strategic gateway to Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Central Africa. Their main sources of revenue are taxes from fish, grains and cattle to finance their terrorists’ activities.

The saying that gold fish has no hiding place is quite true.  The Nigerian army is now accused of participating/controlling the lucrative trade in fish and cattle in Baga.  Nigerian are at lost that a military waging a war is engaged in trade.  Visit Baga Motor Park in Maiduguri aggrieved fish traders will reel out their displacement by the military. Could that be the reasonwhy the people of Baga were not allowed to returnto their homes/trade?

Who then are the losers? The people of Borno! Millions of our people are denied livelihood and trade in fish, grains and cattle.  Baga is cosmopolitan; as such thousands of Nigerians, especially north westerners (welcome home Gov Atiku) are engaged in legitimate businesses there.  The people of Borno must support GovZulum to secure Baga and the area I call the axis of riches, from Baga, Damasak up to Yawu ( inAbadamLG).  The irrigation plants (for rice, vegetables) in Yawuand Damasak dates back to the 60s/70s.  In an article “Baga: My Childhood memories,” (Daily Trust 12/05/2013) I discussed missed opportunities by past governments to turn the axis into agricultural/industrial hub with ready international market.

There is also the much-touted international dimension to the Lake Chad general areain which France and Chad are accused of having interest in its hydrocarbon depositshence the support for insurgency to create instability.

Gov Zulum’s commitment to ending the war and restoring peace is unprecedented. His administration fed and clothed the IDPs at very high cost, eager to see semblance of government at the Local level and the return of Internally displaced persons to their communities. Besides his constitutional role as the Chief Security Officer of the state, Zulum has shown an unparalleled love, care and compassion to the millions displaced persons by BH conflict.

Unlike his predecessors he is bravely interrogating the way the war is being executed.  Yes he has to; it affects his people and eleven years of suffering. The people of Borno must hurriedly rise to the clarion call of GovZulum to prepare and liberate the state from BH/ISWAP.  Unlike the scourge of bandits/militants in other parts of the country, BH/ISWAP questioned the fundamental existence of the Nigerian state and the Federalauthorities should key intomobilize the civil population to fight terrorism.  This will provide the critical mass (at least 20, 000 – 50, 000 volunteers) required to defeat the insurgency. After victory is achieved (In Shaa Allah) these brave volunteers can be demobilized in to useful trades.  After all even Boko Haram members are de-radicalized and returned to our communities.

Nigerian security forces are overstretched.  This was confirmed by both the military and police high command.  Their hands are already full in Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Kaduna, Niger Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Benue, Plateau, Kogi, Nasarawa, Taraba , piracy in the high seas, etc. So the suggestion by Gov Zulum to mobilize volunteers to fight BH/ISWAP is most welcome, after all we have able-bodied men in IDP camps.  We already have our brave Civilian JTF and hunters fighting along with the military.

Many security experts and retired military personnel have said the military is incapable of winning the waragainst BH/ISWAP. The unwillingness and commitment to fight is mentioned among the reasons.  The former National Security Advisor even called the military fighting BH “cowards”.  The Chief Army Staff has severally urged his men to take the battle to BH.

Having been in the theatre of war in Borno for elevenyears, the people of Borno know the Nigerian armed forces is not a fighting force.  When they see one they know: the Chadian army.  The Chadians fight with professionalism, commitment and high morale. This underscores the desirability for Gov Zulum to plead with President Buhari to invite the Chadians backas a matter of urgency and no matter the cost.

From my findings there are not less than 5000 military personnel in Monguno, Cross, Mile 4, Baga, Damask and Abadam besides other security personnel, yet Baga, Cross, Mile 4, Kukawa, Gudunbari, Kareto are not inhabited for years.  For those who know these areas well they might be within 200 kilometers radius. One will wonder why these towns are not liberated for years and its inhabitants are in IDP camps. Gov Zulum was right when he said it is no longer sustainable to keep our people in camps to be fed by Government and NGOs. They must return to secured and productive life in their ancestral homes.

Gov Zulum was also right when he said if insurgency is to be defeated “fear” must be defeated.  The people must organize not agonize. The involvement of civil population in fighting and defeating terrorism is possible as in the cases of Iraq and Syria.  Armed Kurdish women militia groups are seen defending their land and farmlands from ISIS terrorists in northern Iraq.  I call upon the people of Borno to take the clarion call by GovZulum with absolute seriousness.

I humbly and respectfully implore the Borno Elders forum, professional /cultural organizations, NUBOSS, NURTW, Traders Associations, Labour Unions, Nigerian Legion and all interest groups that want peace in the state to pay a solidarity visit to Gov Zulum and the Shehu of Borno. Nigerians must be told that we stand unequivocally behind Gov Zulum.  Our leaders must demand from Abuja a radical shift in how terrorism is being fought in Borno. Nigerians are told BH/ISWAP has been defeated, degraded and the military now atclearance stage.  This is obviously not the case.  We are now seeing a resurging and more deadly BH/ISWAP.

The recent statement credited to Idris Deby, the President of Chad that the insurgency will last for years to come should worry the people of Borno State.  We must say not allow any low intensity war in our state.  That is why we must stand and support Gov Zulum in finding peace in Borno.

The other track to resolve the BH/ISWAP conflict is to try its peaceful resolution.  With array of contacts and influence both at home and internationally, His Excellency, Gov Zulum can also explore this option.  It can be difficult and frustrating, but please give it a shoot.

Finally we salute our military for the heroic struggle to secure the fatherland and God bless the souls of our fallen Heroes. May Allah hasten the end of the suffering of the people of Borno.

*bukarmustaphasabo@yahoo.com

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