With isolated attacks here and there, the killer group, Boko Haram, is still to be crushed. But, there is no doubting the fact that the capacity of the bandits to cause massive havoc has been checked. In a way, Boko Haram has been degraded! What the remnant of the group is doing typifies what foes do at the point of obliteration. So it was with the Liberating Tigers of Tamil Eelam, better known as Tamil Tigers. So was it with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia aka FARC rebels. So shall it be with Boko Haram.
Good news is that it did not have to take decades, as was the case with the Tamil Tigers and FARC, for Nigerian troops to degrade Boko Haram. Of course, a decisive victory could have been achieved during the Goodluck Jonathan locust years had he and his cowardly and larcenous crowd acted more appropriately instead of failing at leadership by turning the blind eye as innocent people got killed and maimed while many more suffered as a result of the virtual dislocation of their socio-economic system.
Another good news is that Boko Haram operated in unfriendly terrain. And this means the savage group could have been history long ago if not for the insincerity of people who profited from its elongation. Yes, Boko Haram has a large component of nationals of neighbouring countries but, of recent, more of their Nigerian counterparts have been mulling the sense in assisting foreigners to despoil their countries. Even before now, Boko Haram’s wrongheaded claim of fighting to establish a caliphate made little sense to locals. In essence, Nigerian Muslims, especially those in the north east, never considered Boko Haram’s campaigns as a call to duty as is the case in, say, Afghanistan!
For obvious reasons, Afghanistan should excite us. From 1922 when the British hurriedly fled after Afghanistan became a hot potato right to the Western-backed Mujahideen-led decade long war against Soviet invaders from 1979 t0 1989, many Afghans view opposition to foreign invasion as national duty, the way the Taliban-led anti-American insurgency is seen. This has nothing to do with reviving Islam; rather, it is Islam that is being used to achieve an aim. In any case, what manner of Islam is Taliban bringing to a people who subscribe to the basic tenets of the religion, anyway?
This says a lot about the failure of the Fulani Jihad of 1804 in the defunct Kanem-Borno Empire. By the time the Fulani Jihadists threateningly arrived the shores of Borno, they met a people deeply steeped in Islamic practices and were accordingly questioned by Borno Ulamas as to their motive since Borno had embraced Islam at least one thousand years before the Sokoto Jihad. Which Islam then is Boko Haram reviving in today’s Borno? What, on earth, is Ansar-u-Deen doing in Gao and Timbuktu?
Back to Boko Haram! All thumbs should point north for Nigerian troops who must be commended for rising to the occasion. Barely tutored in counter-insurgency and unfamiliar with anti-guerrilla tactics, Nigerian troops have, in a little over one year, succeeded in containing a ragtag group that was allowed to assume the toga of invincibility by a crassly inept Jonathan crowds. Watch it! The day Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, is picked assuming he is still breathing, he will appear sober, as most gangsters are wont to be and probably in disguise, bereft of his trademark arrogance: no long, unkempt beard, no AK 47, no outsized chewing stick, no turban and probably spotting a French suit.
It is beyond conjecture that Boko Haram is no longer the fighting force it was portrayed to be. The perennially-inebriated Shekau, again, if the goon is alive, is no longer in control of himself and his group. They may continue to target helpless villagers, steal their food and abduct as well as rape their wives and daughters but Boko Haram bandits know they have reached the end of the road; they have come to the grim realization that they cannot win their misguided war. Like all sinking men, Boko Haram bandits are desperately clutching at straws in their bid to avoid the deep blue sea. An instance of clawing to straws is the recent spate of attacks on locals.
As the noose tightens, repentant Boko Haram members should know they have to take if they genuinely seek the face of God and man. They claim to be Muslims, right? They also claim to be killing to defend their religion with the ultimate aim of imposing an Islamic state. If they now realize they are in error and have become repentant Nigerians who wish to be accepted and integrated, it should not be asking for too much to ask them to follow the strict ways prescribed by the Shari’ah by asking for forgiveness from those people, Muslims and non-Muslims, they have orphaned and widowed.
For instance, the killers should approach families of those they have killed and confess their sins. It is left for surviving family members to forgive and let go, otherwise, the Qur’an is clear on their fate: they too must be killed or they are made to pay blood-money for taking lives they neither created nor can restore to life. This is in addition to the mandatory and unbroken sixty day fasting prescribed for killers. Whether God will forgive the killer or not is the prerogative of the Creator.
These are the injunctions of God and which is the right course for members of Boko Haram to chart if indeed they are Muslims who, in the any case are not permitted to take any life, be it that of Muslims or non-Muslims, without justification. For the avoidance of doubt, justification to take a life, even in strict Muslim societies, has never been the prerogative of bandits and criminals: death sentences are passed by recognised body of scholars who must be unanimous in their verdict.
Boko Haram is one bad dream Nigerians will outlive. In its present shape, the group represents a punch-drunk boxer who is gasping for breath. He knows he has no hope of flattening his opponent in a normal contest but, to turn the table, he has to land that elusive sucker punch. Hard as he tries, the punch-drunk boxer’s effort barely unnerves his determined, better-trained and better-motivated foe.
Of course, there will be lessons to learn from the action taken by the Buhari/Osinbajo administration to squelch Boko Haram. Conversely, it will not be out of place to demand that appropriate sanction be taken against political actors of the Goodluck Jonathan era who criminally refused to lift a finger in defence of its citizens!
Magaji writes from Abuja and can be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org>