Nigeria tramps the slough of despond; slick in blood, like a country perhaps. “More than twenty thousand Nigerians have so far been killed,” said the country’s President Goodluck Jonathan; dead-pan, at a security meeting in Paris, France,mid-June, in a plea to Europe for high-grade military equipment to save Nigeria the spectre of genocidal war.
Niger Republiqué, Benin Republiqué, Chad and Cameroon,also in attendance at the Paris colloquy, pledged they’ll stand shoulder to shoulder with Nigeria on this interminably bloody road, despite lacking in military resources as Nigeria’s poorish neighbours, to secure Nigeria’s northeastern border forest of Sambisa where Boko Haram Islamic militias are putatively holed - a forest measuring six times the size of Abuja -Nigeria’s capital city - or equivalent in size to America’s state of West Virginia.
On 24th May, last year, President Jonathan saw Nigeria’s existential threats and sounded the alarm as though he also saw the omens of national dis-integration besides. He warned his usually blithely overconfident countrymen in dire words that what’s come upon the country this time is neither fleeting nor sanguine. “What we are facing is not just militancy or criminality but a rebellion and insurgency by terrorist groups which pose a very serious threat to national unity and territorial integrity,” Jonathan said.
And in case anyone was wondering the meaning of his abstract nouns, President Jonathan laid it out in gritty specifics. Nigeria is at war, and, fiercely battling to recover its sovereignty from armed Islamic militias who by then had taken over Baga town in north-east Nigeria, along with other neighbouring towns, and replaced Nigeria’s green-white-green flag with a differently coloured one of an imagined Islamic Republic.
Boko Haram militias had also issued ordinances on taxes payable by Baga locals exclusively to Boko Haram; having virtually conquered the Baga community’s elected local government and virtually disbanded the council’s Chairman and councillors.
“There is a systematic effort by insurgents and terrorists to destabilize the Nigerian state and test our collective resolve. These terrorists and insurgents seem determined to establish control and authority over parts of our beloved nation and to progressively overwhelm the rest of the country,” Jonathan warned at the time.
But since then, and even after last month’s Paris security summit, it never rains in Nigeria but it pours. Nigeria remains affronted by a spectre of Islam-inspired war as nearly 300 more Nigerians were in one month blasted to death via improvised explosives planted all around the country by Islamic militias; notably the Salafist Boko Haram Muslim Jihadists latterly designated a terrorist organization by the United Nations on 22nd May, on the back of the U.S State Department’s similar designation of it six months earlier in November 2013.
What started in 2007 in Nigeria as a localised conflict with the Police in Maiduguri, Borno state, has mutated into full-blown Islamic Jihad spreading round the country like metastasized cancer, with the forcible overthrow of President Jonathan as a main objective. “Yes, just as Jonathan is looking for me to kill me i am also looking for him to kill him as soon as i get him,” Boko Haram’s Leader, Mujahedeen Abubakar Shekhau,openly said last month.
With Boko Haram’s open commitment to regicide and to overcoming all 80 million Christians in the country by deadly force, added to its visceral rejection of amnesty, plus its renunciation of Nigeria’s national constitution and institutions, the Nigerian war situation becomes impossibly difficult to resolve by reason.
Nigeria gets pushed little by little into a long and bloody night following the lighting of all fuses that can blow up the infamously corrupt country where official stealing is now a national ethic.
“Nigeria is at crossroads. Things have never been as bad as they are today. Some have said that these times remind them of the darkness before the 1967-1970 Biafran civil war, but in my view, i believe it is far worse than then,” said Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, Nigeria’s former foreign affairs Minister.
Nigeria never once experienced mass killings in all its states at the same time or ever once witnessed a nationally organised armed Islamic revolution against its secular status. “We want to stress that in our struggle we only kill government functionaries, security agents, Christians, and anyone who pretends to be a Muslim but engages in assisting security agents to arrest us,” Boko Haram’s spokesman Abu Qaqa had announced on August 1st, 2012.
Even on Abu Qaqa’s count Nigerians in the cross-hairs of Boko Haram’s attacks will range up to 80 million – the highest ever figure of genocidal target in world history. To avoid this un-precedented genocide, Nigeria’s military and security services work round the clock. So far they’ve intercepted armoury-size arms caches in a private house of a Lebanese foreign national in Kano city, north-west Nigeria,and also un-covered details of an airliner from Ukraine which flew the weapons and munitions into Kano airport in Nigeria.
But despite the setbacks of being cut off from military supplies twice by Nigeria’s security agencies Boko Haram militias are desisting from resisting. “We are optimistic that we will dismantle President Jonathan’s government and establish Islamic government in Nigeria”, Boko Haram said curtly in a blusterous video broadcast of 20th March, 2012.
“We are calling on all Muslims in this part of the world to accept the clarion call and fight for the restoration of the caliphate of Usman Dan Fodio which the White Man fought and fragmented. The White man killed prominent Islamic clerics and emirs and replaced the white Islamic flag with the British Union Jack flag. We now want all our people to come together and restore our lost glory,” the Boko Haram statement further exhorted Nigeria’s northern Muslims.
As pledges of military equipment by the United States of America, Britain, and Israel are yet to fully arrive Nigeria, so as to tilt the balance of forces against Dan Fodio’s redux Jihad, the southern cells of Boko militias meantime exploit the gap to spread further under instruction from their Leader, Mujahedeen Abubakar Shekhau.
“Very soon we are going to the south to destroy Nigeria’s crude oil refineries,” Abubakar Shekhau said direly in his latest video broadcast last month. That notice immediately put Warri and Port-Harcourt oil refinery cities under threat of imminent Islamic militias’ attack.
And just three days ago, as if to suggest that the southward Boko Haram operation has started, the Nigerian Army announced it has intercepted 486 Boko Haram militiamen in a convoy of 33 buses headed for Port-Harcourt, Nigeria’s oil producing state in the south-south region. A wanted terror suspect was confirmed by Nigeria’s Defence Headquarters as amongst those arrested with the posse of suspects.
A week earlier, on Saturday June 14th, an improvised explosive with 500-metre range was secretly placed in a crevice of the Winners Chapel in Owerri, also in southern Nigeria, and timed to go off during church service the next day. It was luckily detected and defused by a unit of police bomb experts.Nobody has yet claimed responsibility for this attempted mass murder in a church but Islamic invasion has all the whiles talked the south-east of Nigeria as a wholly Christian region of Nigeria populated by Igbo people.
“We are calling on all Christians to defend themselves through any means possible and calling on President Goodluck Jonathan to declare Boko Haram a terrorist group and make it officially known that we are in a state of religious war in Nigeria so that Nigerian Christians could be armed to defend themselves,” the south-east Ndi-Igbo Peace Movement publicly called in pre-emption of an Islamic invasion of southern Nigeria on May 7th, 2013.
But more directly showing the latent but now heightening nervousness in south-east Igbo land was the church edict passed by Reverend Father Uche Obodoechina of St.Theresa’s Catholic Cathedral, Nsukka, Enugu State, on 27th August, 2012.
“Please, in view of the present (Boko Haram) security challenge, the church urges women to stop coming to Sunday service with big head gears and bags to enable security men know whenever a bomb will be smuggled into this church. The head gears (popularly called canopy) turn to a ‘barricade’ whenever many women putting on these big head gears stay on a row during service. The church has therefore directed security men at the church gate to seize big headgears and bags beginning September 9,” Reverend Father Uche Obodoechina’s edict said.
As Boko Haram begins to press southwards - having struck the Akure prisons in Ondo state in western Nigeria two years ago by blasting the prison walls open with explosives and freeing over 500 Boko Haram militias detained there - there’s hardly any doubt left that Boko Haram sleeper cells in southern Nigeria are being activated to wreak havoc in southern cities.
“Yorubaland is surrounded by Boko Haram militias from the border with Benin city to Saki, a northern Yoruba town,” the General Officer Commanding the Army’s 2nd Division based in Ibadan, said two years ago.
But events have since got complicated after that warning with reported dissension in the ranks of Nigeria’s national army, especially in the 7th division which was newly created by President Jonathan - comprising army battalions drawn from Nigeria’s military operations in Mali last year who were deployed against Islamic Jihadists fanned by secessionist Tuaregs with links to Libya.
The returning Nigerian battalions from Mali now battle dissension in their own ranks. And as Nigeria’s military intelligence detects more fifth columnists amongst them and elsewhere in other army units - evidenced by a serving military instructor of the Nigerian army found fighting for Boko Haram and shot dead by Nigerian soldiers - the Boko Haram Jihad is now as much a civil war as a battle to save the Nigerian Army from splitting under pressures of rabid Islam.
“Nigeria is in total anarchy today. In the case of North, the danger is very real. Ladies and gentlemen, we are in the middle of a civil war in northern Nigeria. There is no defined front in this particular war and worse still the enemy is faceless and unknown. There is no immunity for anyone. Moreover, this war is highly contagious. Needless to say, the social and economic cost is incalculable. I regret to confess that i have no suggested solution,” said Lt. General Theophilus Danjuma, Nigeria’s ex- Chief of Army, on March 2nd, 2013.
Seyi Olu Awofeso is a Legal Practitioner in Abuja.