From Nyanya tragedy the lesson learnt is that there is a gross error of judgment in Nigeria about the true nature of Boko Haram insurgency. Boko Haram is simply a terrorist organization and should be approached as such. The Sect has grown in stature and complements to be accorded the same respect as Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab, Ansaru and Hezbollah. It has dug into North Eastern Nigeria and some parts of neigbouring Cameroon, Niger and Chad, but must not be allowed to settle in. The situation calls for a complete overhaul of strategy on the path of the Nigerian State.
The Nyanya (Abuja) Monday bombing tragedy sadly also shows the need for Nigerians to understand that how Al Qaeda and Al Shabaab dug into Afghanistan and Somalia, is how Boko Haram is pushing to entrench itself in Nigeria. The Sect declared itself a Jihadist Organization in 2009 and since then, has been working quite hard to actualize the agenda. It cleverly understands that plunging into a positional warfare with the Nigerian Military would be their undoing. Like a typical terrorist organization, they chose asymmetry warfare, which gives them a peculiar advantage. SEE MORE AFTER CUT>>>>
In asymmetry warfare the enemy is embedded within and cannot easily be isolated and dealt with, without hurting the citizens being protected in a friendly fire. Asymmetry warfare is not exactly Human Shield since the State force cannot even say for sure that the enemy is within until it wreaks its havoc, unlike what happens in Human Shield where the enemy shields itself with women and children who must be protected going by the rules of engagement in a conventional war.
It is important to also state that the major weapon used by any terror organization is fear and Boko Haram has made great use of it. The fear factor is exploited to the maximum by any terrorist sect by employing the Contagion Effect of the Media. Unfortunately, in an environment where mass media is driven by profit and sales figures, terrorist activities conditionally feed news outlets, for Sect’s activities to be sensationalized and play up emotions. The terror organization thus looks up to the media for the multiplier effect of its activities, which no matter how remote, are made by the media to reverberate round the country and beyond. In fact mass media and terrorism form an understandable symbiotic relationship.
Boko Haram may not have even killed more people than an organization like the OPC, going by some official figures, which at a point put that of the later at over 10,000. Yet, it is the Boko Haram that is seen as a terrorist organization and internationally recognized to be one for its mode of operations and goal. It carefully picks out its soft targets, which includes unimaginable options like military installations, military and Police Barracks/Stations, Prisons, Churches, Mosques and so on and strikes in a manner against which there appears to be no defense.
Each strike like that of Nyanya Monday bombing is made to become part of the inertia of social forces, which both exacerbates and reinforces the conflict. Many experts say Boko Haram is a local terrorist organization with international links. No one can truly say, since there is also a strong possibility that the Locales may have been swamped by the expatriate hands they may have enlisted. If the mercenaries have taken over the commands of Boko Haram, then, what Nigeria is dealing with may well be a direct annex of Al Qaeda, which has since merged with Al Shabaab.
There is indeed a reason to believe this theory. According to U.S. Army General Carter Ham, Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Boko Haram (BH) were as of June 2012 working to synchronize and coordinate their activities in terms of sharing funds, training and explosives.
Furthermore, on February 9, 2012, Mukhtar Abu al-Zubair ‘Godane’ announced in a fifteen-minute video message that Al-Shabaab would be joining the Islamist militant terrorist organization al-Qaeda, under the leadership of Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Zawahiri approved and welcomed Al-Shabaab as al-Qaeda’s
Somalia-based terrorist cell in a 15-minute video response. Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab and Boko Haram have fused in so many areas of operation and this could explain the new impetus the insurgency has shown in Nigeria of late.
Apart from the synergy the three have introduced, it is also believed Boko Haram is funded by other Islamist groups outside the Nigerian Online Community. In February 2012, some arrested Boko Haram officials revealed that while the organization initially relied on donations from members, its links with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, AQIM, opened it up to more funding from groups in Saudi Arabia and the UK. They went on to say that other sources of funding included the Al Muntada Trust Fund and the Islamic World Society. The group also extorts State Governments and big politicians for so-called “protection money”. A spokesman of Boko Haram once claimed that certain State Governors had paid them monthly.
A look at the chronicle of Boko Haram attacks will reveal well-oiled machinery, the strategic and psychological nature of its operations, well calculated to send maximum shock and restore the group where it may be losing ground.
The Sect’s first attack was the 7th September 2010, Bauchi prison break. This operation lasted for hours without the Nigerian Police offering any response. The success emboldened them to hit Abuja military Mammy Market on 31st December 2010 and since then, the group has only grown in temerity and intensity, sparing no foe, Christians and conservative Muslims alike.
On 22nd April 2011, Boko Haram freed 14 prisoners during a jailbreak in Yola, Adamawa State. Again, on the 16th of February 2012, it carried out another prison break in central Nigeria; 119 prisoners were released, one warden killed. On the 7th of May 2013, at least 55 were killed and 105 inmates freed in coordinated attacks on army barracks, a prison and police post in Bama town of Borno State.
The 10th of July 2011 bombing of the All Christian Fellowship Church in Suleja, Niger State started another phase. Apart from initially targeting churches to provoke religious conflict in the country, as Al Qaeda tried to instigate war between Pakistan and India, it had equally targeted leading Muslims. On 12th March 2011, the Sect assassinated Muslim Cleric Imam Ibrahim Ahmed Abdullahi for criticizing it. On the 12th of August 2011, another prominent Muslim Cleric Liman Bana was shot dead by Boko Haram. In the 16th June 2011, the group claimed responsibility for the 2011 Abuja police headquarters bombing. On the 26th June 2011, it bombed a beer garden in Maiduguri, leaving 25 dead and 12 injured.
On the 3rd of June 2012, 15 church-goers were killed and several injured in a church bombing in Bauchi State. Boku Haram claimed responsibility through spokesperson Abu Qaqa. On the 17th of June 2012, suicide bombers struck three churches in Kaduna State. At least 50 people were killed. On the 17th of June 2012, 130 bodies were found in Plateau State. It was presumed they were killed by Boko Haram members. On the 3rd of October 2012 around 46 people were massacred in the town of Mubi in Nigeria during a night-time raid by the Sect.
The first recorded success of the Nigerian military against the Sect, since its capture of its leader Mohammed Yusuf in 2009, was on 28th January 2012 when the Nigerian army claimed it killed 11 Boko Haram insurgents. In retaliation, on 8th of February 2012, Boko Haram claims responsibility for a suicide bombing at the army headquarters in Kaduna.
Foreign assistance sought by Nigerian government has also been feeble, underscoring the grave underestimation of the Sect’s capacity and capabilities. An example of this is: on the 8th of March 2012, a British hostage rescue attempt to free Italian engineer Franco Lamolinara and Briton Christopher McManus, abducted in 2011 by a splinter group Boko Haram woefully failed, resulting in the death of both hostages. On 31st of May, 2012, in a similar attempt of the Joint Task Force to raid a Boko Haram den, a German hostage was killed.
Its daring operations continued, spreading from North East to North West and North Central. On the 18th of March 2013, the Kano Bus bombing by the Sect claimed at least 22 and 65 injured. On the 6th of July 2013, Yobe State school shooting by the Sect claimed 42 people, mostly students, who were killed in the school and on the 29th of September 2013, a College of Agriculture in Gujba was attacked by the Sect and 40 students killed. In this pathetic case, apart from the operation lasting for hours without any challenge, it was said that the Sect came with a prepared list of the students to be executed.
On the 14th of January 2014, at least 31 were people killed, over 50 people injured by a suicide bombing by the Sect in Maiduguri and on the 16th February 2014, the Izghe massacre took place where 106 villagers are killed.
The year 2014 appears to be confirming the Boko Haram as having arrived and entrenching itself with the nation’s security agencies helplessly and haplessly watching. The 25th February 2014 Buni Yadi Students’ killing sent fresh shock waves down the spines of Nigerians and drew fury to the military from the civil populace for the 29 teenage boys killed in cold blood.
Hundreds have died since the Buni Yadi killing, thousands of houses and several villages razed. Apart from the Nyanya bombing which claimed another 100, the Sect stormed a Government School the same Monday night and drove away with 200 female students in another long convoy of trucks, with the JTF watching.
Boko Haram now moves in convoys of dozens of vehicles in and around Borno and Yobe States, with little challenge and mount operations that last for hours. More embarrassing are messages it normally sends to each new place it would strike and yet nothing is done to stop them when they keep their promise.
The way out now is simply external help. It carries its consequences but less when compared to what will happen when Boko Haram fully settles into the niche it is carving for itself in North East Nigeria.