Baga Massacre And Our Insecurity Story

03 June 2013

By Abdul-Warith Solanke

When the story of the massacre in Baga came to me live, I was scared and thrown off balance.  My mind went into history and I recall that our present political and military leaders are taking another gamble in the direction of what led to the civil war in this country.  What all of us must not forget is that we are a nation where primordial sentiments easily gain ground and are equally easily used to analyse events around us.

When the Five Majors planned their coup in 1966, they had the intention to correct the brewing ills of the society, at least according to their own accounts and no one can tell the story better.  When the coup miscarried we are all witnesses to the monumental setback it brought to Nigeria and whoever has read details of what happened from the night of the coup to the end of the civil war and how those happenings continue to modulate events and rule the minds of some people till today, would ensure we do not degenerate into the same level again.

The story of the Baga Massacre is bizarre and government response may unfortunately deepen the growing sentiment that government is not interested in solving the insecurity problem in the country now.  All happenings are pointing in that direction.  I have watched with keen interest the level of insecurity in the nation, the regular news, the response of security agents and government reactions.  Each time, I am compelled to feel that government itself planned the present level of insecurity and people in government are the beneficiaries.

It is now clear that the group now referred to as Boko Haram had existed in the North, especially the North East for quite a long time without any incident of insecurity occasioned by their activities.  Politicians across the regional divides worked with them and they never attacked government or private interest.  At a certain stage government felt their activities were inimical to peace and progress of the nation and therefore ordered an attack on the group.

I will like to emphasize here that when Mr. President eventually deemed it wise to visit the North East, the elders of the region did not mince words in telling him and his entourage that there was peace in the land before the police action that resulted in the death of some members of the group.  It is also now known to all that despite that attack, the group did not fight back,  It rather sought to bury its members that were killed by the police action.  To confirm government planned action to provoke the group, it was again attacked while going to bury its members.

When injustice is allowed to prevail unchallenged and when idle young hands are allowed to lose hope in the system and when they become witnesses to injustice unaddressed, the tendency is that they seek means of protecting themselves.  Nothing binds more than shared desperation and feeling of the inability to seek redress through the available legal means.  The youths therefore charged and launched their attacks.  What I find difficult to understand is the plan by the security forces before the attacks.  Were they expecting that the group would just disperse and disband!

What were the security men thinking before attacking the sleeping dog? Why pull the whiskers of a wide awake lion without securing it in a cage?  Now, when the boys became radicalised, attacked police stations and seized ammunitions and consequently killed some police officers, why was there no immediate counter-attack to curtail the spread and eventually drive to the background the group that eventually seized the whole North East and eventually kept the President, Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces imprisoned in Aso Rock during some major national events.

Let us take our mind back to the Niger Delta, the sore spot before Boko Haram Group took the centre stage.  Despite the amnesty programme, MEND is still very active, threatening government and Nigerians and killing security men to prove its potency.  Their piracy activities, allegedly aided by many in high places, have not abated.  The government has no answer to all their atrocities and the threat of resuming hostility full scale stares us all in the face.

A recent report showed that after the Camerounians took over Bakassi Peninsula from Nigeria, they have organised an effective administrative system in that complex peninsula where we have 99% Nigerians living under Camerounian authority.  By 2011, piracy or other similar attacks were reduced to one incident and by 2012 till date there was none, the threat has been reduced to zero.

I make bold to say that the Camerounian Gendarmes, as we love to call them, are not better than Nigerian security forces.  I draw this assertion from the achievements of our security forces outside Nigeria.  What we have achieved in that direction, even the big powers of the world have not achieved anything near it.  Close by, we will recall how Nigerian security forces worked in Liberia restoring lasting peace and how they went into Sierra Leone, drove out the junta and instituted a democratically elected government even when there was no democracy in Nigeria.  The Nigeria security community is competent and able, therefore there must be other explanations to our insecurity story.  It is just not comprehensible that we handle our own problems in a way they mushroom while we go out to others and help them decisively.

Therefore, when the Baga incident was reported, I saw the systematic entrenchment of sentiments in the North East where already the President has an extremely low rating because of the lack lustre approach to the crisis in the region.  Some important senior government officers either see this insecurity as a means of settling scores, political or otherwise, or the beneficiaries of the crisis situation that are too powerful for government to handle.  This is not new to Nigeria; after all this is also the same reason why the corruption fight has entered a reverse gear.

ABDUL-WAREES  SOLANKE B.Sc. Mass Comm (Lagos); Master of Public Policy (Brunei Darussalaam)  Head, Voice of Nigeria Training Centre, c/o VON Transmitting Station, Ikorodu, Lagos. Formerly the special assistant to the Director General, VON, he is the 2007/2008 Commonwealth Broadcasting Association scholar in Public Policy at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam, 08090585723



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