President Goodluck Jonathan’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati disclosed a few days ago that the Federal Government has commenced talks with the Boko Haram sect. It is believed in some quarters that though Abati might be speaking for the Presidency, Nigerians know what and who to believe. A similar statement was issued in August that the Federal Government had opened talks with Boko Haram via back channels.
While the dreaded sect had named a number of people including General Muhammadu Buhari as trusted people who can negotiate on their behalf, they also gave some terms inclusive of their preferred venue of negotiations.
Abati’s statement on the dialogue has generated some questions including “”who are those negotiating on behalf of Boko Haram? Where is the venue of the negotiation?” Some people have even opined that if the dialogue has truly commenced, it means the real brains behind the Boko Haram sect are not unknown to the Government, those in charge have only refused to take appropriate action all these while, thereby allowing unnecessary loss of lives to continue.
A lot of Nigerians never even thought things would sink as low as the situation where the Nigerian Government would open negotiations with terrorists, no thanks to assurances from the various security agencies that “Boko Haram would soon be a thing of the past.”
Findings have revealed that the Boko Haram issue is indeed a war within. Though the sect hammers on religious issues, it is quite obvious that what its members and sponsors want goes beyond religious matters. Incidentally, the membership of the sect seems to cut across the security agencies, thus making it the more difficult to prosecute the war against them. It is obvious that they have men in unexpected quarters, including the army, police and immigration service. The Government might also need to look well within the State Security Service as well as the National Intelligence Agency.
One of the Commanders of the Boko Haram sect, Habibu Bama who was mortally wounded in a gunfight earlier in the year was enlisted in the Nigerian Army. Hassan Zakari Biu was until his arrest and subsequent detention for Kabiru Sokoto’s escape the Commissioner of Police in charge of the Criminal Investigation Department, Zone 7, Abuja. How a high profile suspect escaped from him still remains a mystery. And with the allegations linking two serving Senators and a former Governor with the notorious group, indications are fast emerging that Boko Haram might have taken root within all the arms of government.
The arrest of Shuaibu Bama, a suspected Boko Haram commander in a Senator’s house in Borno State confirms fears that the sect enjoys covering from influential and powerful individuals in the country. The “exclusive” covering enjoyed by the group might have been part of the reasons that have made it very difficult to track down the likes of Mamman Nur, Abu Qaqa and Sheikh Abubakar Shekau, some of the most wanted men on the sect’s register.
When CP Zakari Biu was arrested over the escape of a suspect in suspicious circumstances, many were convinced that there would be no sacred cows. The feeling harboured by the vast majority of those who followed the event was that if a Commissioner of Police could go down, anybody can. That feeling however seems to be changing with the way the war is being pursued.
Findings have also revealed that the security agencies might not achieve much if they continue to ignore the fact that the Boko Haram sect operates a well organised cell structure. Each state is believed to have commanders for various quarters within its borders. Those ones report to the state commander who in turn answers to the commander in charge of the zone, with the zone being made up of two or three states. The zonal commanders are the ones who deal directly with Malam Shekau, the overall leader of the group.
As it stands, the average suicide bomber does not know Abubakar Shekau and not many members of the sect can boast of having seen him one on one. Orders are passed through the chain of command.
While war against terror continues, it has been observed that several bomb factories have been discovered, yet none of Boko Haram’s training camps has been uncovered. The porosity of the borders also serves as a disadvantage as mercenaries could be imported at will. As such, every organ of government might need to look inwards as the war can hardly be won without first conquering the enemy within.