27 August 2014

Nigeria: Gwoza - Time for Decisive Action

Photo: VOA
People displaced by the violence and unrest caused by the insurgency (file photo).

THE declaration of an Islamic Caliphate by Abubakar Shekau's Boko Haram over the town of Gwoza in southern Borno State and other areas it is currently occupying in the North East is a clarion call for decisive action by the government and people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Even though the Defence Headquarters has rebutted the notion that Boko Haram is now in charge of Gwoza as military action for control of the areas is continuing, we are in no doubt that the challenge to the territorial integrity of our nation has become a joke taken too far.

The nearly one hour video released, ostensibly by Boko Haram on Sunday, August 24th 2014, showing the ruffians shooting sporadically and running rampant all over a town it said was Gwoza, with several flags of the Islamist insurgents flying, came as a major shock to Nigerians.

It made the front pages the following day. This is only the second time since our independence that a flag other than that of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was planted on our territorial soil, the first being the period between 1967 and 1970, when the breakaway Republic of Biafra was proclaimed by Col Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.

That secession attempt brought the nation to war, as all the constituent parts, backed by our powerful foreign allies, joined hands and successfully asserted the unity of Nigeria.

That is the kind of action the situation the North East calls for. We call on President Goodluck Jonathan to mobilise the nation and move to end the Boko Haram phenomenon. We must normalise life in the North East.

With the declaration of an Islamic Caliphate, the game has changed. We must put aside all the political considerations that had slowed our resolve to move with the might of the nation against the Boko Haram separatists.

We are convinced that the situation has gone beyond #Bring Back Our Girls. We are now faced with the national emergency and task to #Bring Back Our Nation. Nigeria is bigger than anybody or group of individuals.

The situation we face in the North East is such that unless we act swiftly and decisively, Boko Haram, with a territory under their de facto control, can begin to attract religion-inspired volunteer fighters from within and outside Nigeria. It may mire nation in a stalemated war as in Afghanistan and ultimately destabilise the North and trigger national disintegration.

Or, it could incite some elements in the armed forces to seek military intervention, using inability or unwillingness of the current democratic dispensation to tackle the menace. That was what happened in Mali some three years ago.

A stitch in time saves nine.


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