•Ross Alabo-George wrote in from Lagos
GENERAL Andrew Azazi’s speech at the just concluded South-South Economic summit was spot on. Albeit too many analysts and political masquerades have tried to deconstruct the speech into components that suit their selfish political objectives, the keynote of the NSA was clear – that political discontent engendered by the outcome of the 2011 presidential elections, created conducive nesting environment for the escalation of the Boko Haram Jihad.
The deeper meaning of his speech is the absolute response to United States’ posturing that economic alienation is the principal motor of Boko Haram. The NSA did not completely disagree with Ambassador Johnny Carson, but he delivered a didactic talk.
General Azazi questioned the logic of a party constitution that seemingly closed the door on President Goodluck Jonathan, when in fact the constitution which made him president clearly said: ‘hey man, you can run’.
He indicted disgruntled politicians in the North, who have resorted to playing dirty, for sponsoring the terrorist organization and suggested that the rhetoric of these political elements in the build up to the 2011 elections catalyzed the resurgence of the Boko Haram Jihad. Who mounted pressure on Zakari Biu – the police chief – to free the Christmas day bomber, Kabiru Sokoto? Common Nigerians need to wake up!
After my thematic audit of the speech, my conclusion is simple: It was the controversy that the PDP stirred with their overstretched debate on zoning and the eventual victory of the PDP candidate – in an election judged as fair – that engendered the momentum for disgruntled opposition politicians to abet the metamorphosis of Boko Haram.Furthermore, the careless rhetoric of some eminent citizens from within the PDP and the opposition – like those who even promised to make the nation ungovernable- that fertilized the ovary of the new Boko Haram. An ovary genetically engineered to birth in 2015, I think.
While Gen. Azazi did not rule out the poverty, economic constraints (economic alienation as US Ambassador Carson puts it) and the dearth of opportunities in the North as supplementary cause of the new Boko Haram, I interpreted his speech to mean that, the metamorphosis of Boko Haram has principally been driven by political interests. The old Boko Haram has evolved into a political Boko Haram.
What Gen. Azazi perhaps forgot is that his appointment as national security adviser has in no little way angered the same elements that have actuated the metamorphosis of Boko Haram. Perhaps, to validate the pseudo theory that only Nigerians from a particular part of the country could become NSAs as it has been from the day the position was established. General Azazi’s appointment like the 2011 election results has also in some way been seen as a deprivation of some sort.
Forget the posturing of Ambassador Carson, America knows the truth, they also understand the root. While the United States has a duty to protect its strategic oil interest in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, it also has a duty to protect the interest of the North.
The control of most of the nation’s oil wealth is directly and indirectly largely still under the big oil moguls of Northern Nigeria. Also, bearing in mind that almost all of these Northern oil moguls export their crude oil to the United States of America, and also have mostly American technical partners, it is safe to suggest that beyond Nigeria being America’s most important strategic ally in Sub-Saharan Africa, the United States has a good deal of specific interest in North.
Clearly, the United States’ posturing is that it will be politically injurious to their strategic interest in the region, if they list the terrorist sect Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) or even attempt to support the Federal Government’s military effort overtly.
The condition for the listing of a terrorist organization like Boko Haram as an FTO is mostly based on political permutations rather than its level of viciousness or the threat the organization poses to local and world peace. For instance, Hezbollah is considered as an FTO by the United States but not the United Kingdom.
Downplaying of Boko Haram threat
To justify their posturing, the US has simply downplayed Boko Haram’s threat to US strategic interest, blaming it simply on poverty and chiding the Nigerian government for economic alienation of the North. Like Nigeria, Indonesia is waging one of the world’s most determined campaigns against terrorism – and much of the credit goes to the American trained unit, Detachment 88.
Indonesia is clearly, by virtue of its size, location and status as a democracy, one of the most important countries to the United States in Asia. The country has more Muslim faithful than Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Saudi Arabia combined. The strategic sea lanes that pass through and along Indonesian territory carry one-third of the world’s sea-borne trade, and half of the world’s oil passes through the Malacca Strait.
In February, 2012, Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) the terrorist organization (with lot of similarities with Boko Haram), which seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate in Indonesia, was added to the Foreign Terrorist Organization list by the United States, following its attacks on Indonesian police, government personnel and citizens and churches.
While the audacity of the Bali bombings proved to be an epiphany for Indonesians awakening them to the home-grown terrorists in their midst and helping force a national consensus against terrorism, Nigeria still lacks the needed consensus, as Boko Haram has become an instrument in the hands of some selfish, desperate and disgruntled politicians, whose sole aim perhaps, is to embarrass their political adversaries.
Comparatively, Nigerian security agencies have busted more terrorist cells, explosive factories and training camps than Indonesia; taken out more terrorists than the Detachment 88; and thwarted more terrorist plots than Indonesian agencies.
Boko Haram has killed much more police officers than the JAT; they have bombed much more churches than the JAT (JAT has only successfully bombed one church, with no death recorded); they have killed more government officials than the JAT; they have killed more innocent citizens than the JAT; and even boast of a larger army and potential recruitment pool than JAT considering the “economic alienation” of the North as Ambassador J. Carson puts it. They have executed the most daring kinds of attacks and have a higher horror profile than the JAT with regards to foreigners killed. Yet, while the United States considers JAT good for listing as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, it doesn’t consider Boko Haram enough threat to its strategic interest.
Apprehensions about anti-US sentiments
The US is apprehensive about anti-US sentiments not just in Northern Nigeria, but also in Chad and Cameroun – countries where US protects major investments and Boko Haram poses a major potential threat. Chad Basin and Chad Republic have always been potential sources of oil.
The United States definitely has it eyes on the basin. There are currently four oil prospecting licences in the Chad basin already. Then just across the Nigerian border, in Chad Republic, an American company Chevron is pumping out over 3.5 million barrels of crude oil every month.
In 2000, Chevron became a participant in two major projects in Chad. The first was the development of the Doba oil fields in the south. The second involved the construction and operation of a pipeline to transport oil from those fields to an export terminal facility in Cameroon. Together, they represent one of the largest industrial projects in Africa.
Now, that is what they call strategic interest, so do not blame the USA. They turn their eyes the other way, stay out of the fray and let Nigeria fight her battle alone. But the US must be told the metamorphosis of Boko Haram is not yet complete. Yesterday, it was about Borno State; today it’s about national politics; the Boko Haram of tomorrow still remains a conundrum.
Security experts agree that our security agencies are beginning to slice the sect. I am confident that soon, the more organized, more sophisticated operations of Boko Haram will gradually diminish. However, security agencies must be advised never to undermine the threat of lone Boko Haram Jihadists. They must proactively lookout for fresh extremist tactics such as book bombs and letter bombs, method Indonesian terrorist cells now use. The intellectual cover Boko Haram has enjoyed in the past few months has exposed that beyond the ragtag group patronized by Ali Modu Sheriff, is a newly reformed terrorist organization working the dictates of experienced political masquerades.
Fighting terrorism in a democracy is difficult – the stakes are high. The process sometimes may seem slow because the constitution and civil liberties must be protected. Stanford professor Laura K. Donohue in her book – The Cost of Counter terrorism: Power, Politics and Liberty- warns of the risks to fundamental individual rights when democracies establish counter-terrorist regimes. She discards the logic of governments framing their initiatives in terms of a choice between security and freedom and argues that loss of liberty is not necessarily balanced by gain in safety. General Azazi’s strategy has been grounded on this principle: he has insisted that our security strategy must first protect our liberty.
On a final note, no cause justifies terrorism – not poverty, not politics. Some have terrorized because they want some nations off the surface of the earth; some have because they want Sharia imposed on nations; some have terrorized because they want power and freedom. So should Israel then apologize for her sovereignty? Should America apologize for her liberty?
Should Indonesia apologize for her secularism? Should Nigeria apologize for her constitution? Hell no.
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