This Day (Lagos)

4 June 2014

Nigeria: Chibok Girls and the Hunters Spectacle

editorial

The military needs all the support to prosecute the war against Boko Haram

The recent offer by hunters in Borno State to assist in the efforts to find and bring back the missing Chibok girls is a stinging indictment of sorts. Offered perhaps in good faith, the development inadvertently portrayed Nigeria (the biggest economy in Africa) as an anachronistic contraption in a fast-changing world. It also fed the racist stereotype that Africa is still a dark continent of wide-eyed natives on trees. And were it not that we are in dire straits as a nation the hunters' scenario would have easily clinched the joke of the year award.

The photograph itself which made headlines in major international newspapers provided more comedy than any answers to the intractable crisis of the missing children. Depicting armed men, looking ferocious and with that unmistakable mien of overzealous but ill-informed locals, the photograph suddenly gave life to the general suspicion that the nation's security agencies may have capitulated before the more organised Boko Haram insurgents. Yet clearly the harried looking hunters had underestimated the dangers and the dimension of the foe they wanted to confront. But the offer could be interpreted as an expression of courage and patriotism or a rebuke of what many now see as the lethargic approach to dealing with the insurgency.

Whatever it was, the spectacle of the hunters was one of the episodes that have brought Nigeria more international embarrassment than even the abduction itself. As the pictures went viral, the question on many a lip was: how can a nation boasting the largest economy on the continent depend on a ragtag militia for the protection of its territorial integrity?

However, it is not true that the nation's armed forces are not capable of dealing a death-blow on the insurgents or of protecting Nigeria. The fact remains that our service men are among some of the finest in the world as their overseas engagements have revealed. The history of peace-making accounts across the globe can't be complete without a mention of the gallantry of Nigerian soldiers. And although counter-terrorism is a new area in its collective experience, the nation's armed forces could have easily mastered the art. Apart from the viability of its training institutions, the nation's military has had some of the best commanders around. The problem therefore basically remains that of funding and motivation.

On that score, we note with dismay the recent spat between the Ministry of Finance and the military high command over budgetary provisions for the welfare and remuneration of the armed forces. Yet for us, the acrimonious debate is not necessary at this critical time as common sense should prevail in the matter. And because our collective aspirations as we have always known them are in clear and present danger, it would not be asking for too much to demand that budgetary bottlenecks and protocols be waved away for the military as we tackle a monster in our backyards.

As we have repeatedly highlighted, the atmosphere of insecurity currently inflicted on the nation by the Boko Haram crises points to poor use of pre-emptive intelligence and a coherent strategy in the management of the security issues arising therefrom. The group has existed for years, quietly and with known preferences in belief and social practices. Then something happened and institutions associated with state power became the target of its structured hostility and attacks. Today the nation quivers under threats of unknown coloration, with sundry mischief makers prancing forward to contribute whatever they can for reasons of their own.

This is the 21st century and technology has since been made to work for the rest of the world in dealing with security issues. So the idea that Nigeria would be relying on some hunters is just not on. We must give our military all the support they need in the bid to root out terrorism from our land.

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