5 March 2018

Nigeria: Dapchi On My Mind

opinion

We are back to the boulevard of helplessness, exactly where we were on the night of 14-15 April 2014, when 276 female students were snatched from their beds by Boko Haram terrorists in Chibok, Borno State. In my wildest daydream, I never imagined that we could be so rudely shocked again.

Apparently, nothing was learnt from the last abduction. Contrary to the chest-beating and self-congratulation of all those whose duty it is to keep the country safe, Boko Haram is alive and well - and could strike chosen targets at will despite the billions of Naira we have thrown at the problem.

The Chibok abduction happened under the watch of Civilian Jonathan. Government took two weeks to react. Now Soldier Buhari has his own Dapchi albatross to contend with and coordinated response took 48 hours in coming. Apparently, it's not just about who is in charge but whether we have fundamentally changed the system to ensure ruthless competence rather than eye service and political correctness.

When the EFCC unearthed the insane looting perpetrated by former service chiefs under the former administration, it was clear that corruption had civilianised our military bigwigs. The billions that were meant to prosecute the war were diverted to buying houses for underaged children of generals and pampering mistresses, while ill-equipped soldiers were court-marshalled for refusing to lay down their lives in a war in which they were so comprehensively outgunned.

What has changed?

While there seems to be a lot of motion and competition among the various security forces to give us the impression of a radical shift in tactics, commitment and strategy, the Dapchi abduction has shown us that it is all motion without movement.

It was all so easy. Terrorists wearing army uniforms shot their way into the Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State, claiming to be soldiers sent to protect them. They came with trucks. Some of the girls heeded the advice of their principal and voted with their feet, especially as they noted the inscriptions of "Allahu akbar" on the vehicles and the knickerbocker-type trousers of the supposed soldiers (tell-tale giveaways of Boko Haram fighters). But Boko Haram still made a handsome haul: 110 captives; a great day in the office for the terrorists.

It turned out that the military had ben withdrawn from Dapchi shortly before the attack. The army first claimed that it handed over to the police before withdrawing, but that claim has been punctured by the police commissioner who insisted that, "There was no time that the military informed the Police of their withdrawal ... ."

So, who ordered the withdrawal of the army from Dapchi before the abduction? Why have the recommendations of the committee that probed the earlier Chibok abductions not been implemented? What does government hope to achieve by instituting another 'fact-finding' committee to probe the series of unprofessional decisions that aided the abductions?

With the billions allegedly spent so far to pay ransom for the release of earlier captives, could the latest incident be seen as contrived to shake down the government? Has an industry developed around Boko Haram kidnap-for-ransom? Are there Boko Haram informants/sympathisers within the security forces?

My heart goes out to the helpless parents of the hapless girls.

The Jama'atu Nasril Islam (JNI) is as puzzled as we all are and is seeking answers to the following pertinent questions: "Is this abduction not a near confirmation of the rumour making the rounds that security operatives do not want the war on Boko Haram to end because of the pecuniary benefits they derive therefrom? Again, why did the Dapchi girls' abduction happen months before the 2019 general election, just like the Chibok girls' abduction of 2014? Are there orchestrated plans somewhere to make a case for more security votes?

"How did the perpetrators gain access to the school? How come they were not prevented or intercepted? Does it mean that when they were coming no security or informants provided any hint? Aren't the security operatives conversant with Sun Tzu's Five Types of Spies in his The Art of War: Local, Inside, Double, Doomed and Surviving?"

Nigerians are not impressed by government's explanations so far. Boko Haram abduction is not a volcanic eruption, nor a hurricane, nor a tsunami, nor any other natural disaster, but a predictable act of terror. Instead of being prepared to forestall the terrorists' calculations, we have been busy claiming victory in successive battles.

Boko Haram is several steps ahead because we have refused to OUT-THINK them. When you chase the terrorists out of Sambisa Forest, do you think they would vaporise? Don't you know they'll invade other communities?

We should all be ashamed. Boko Haram is not a country; it does not have a National Assembly nor a budget of trillions of Naira. It does not have a proper army, navy or air force; no DSS, NIA, NSCDC, Police or Special Forces; no jets and no drones, no ministry of defence. To have such a rag-tag terror machine rub Nigeria's nose in the dust now and again is a bleeding shame!

I do not for one minute gloss over the gallant efforts of our military, especially the Nigerian Air Force, in many of their confrontations with the terrorists. But something is still very wrong. We need to dredge the marshes of our security apparatus. Heads have to roll!

Nigeria

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