Day 150 Since the Abduction of the Chibok Girls: Coming Together to Save the Nation
Day 150 Since the Abduction of the Chibok Girls: Coming Together to Save the Nation
#BringBackOurGirls Movement, 11th September 2014
On this 150th Day since the abduction of the Chibok girls, we members of the #BringBackOurGirls Movement sign this Declaration and call on all Nigerians to do the same so that we can come together to save the Nation. Our advocacy has always been for a singular purpose, that our Government and security agencies act to save the girls and all other Nigerians in distress. The response from them has not yielded the result that most Nigerians want. The reality on the ground today is that the terrorists are well armed, they are motivated and they seem to have a game plan for carving out their vision of an Islamic Caliphate from Nigeria and its neighbours. This must never happen. Over and above the Chibok Girls, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Nigerians are in danger of falling into organised bondage, torture and death at the hands of the terrorists.
This is happening because our armed forces are not sufficiently armed or motivated to fight the terrorists. The result is that the rampaging insurgents are conquering more and more of Nigerian territory. With over three million Nigerians displaced from their homes by the ravaging terrorists, no sane person can question the capability challenges that our armed forces have. It is clear today that our call for action was not heeded because the capacity to act had diminished. Yet, we cannot continue to go down the path of the dismemberment of the country. We must reconquer and reclaim lost territories as well as re-establish sovereignty over the nation and security for our people. The President must show leadership in this process or else we will fall into the dangers associated with alternative action that could lead to chaos or further loss of our sovereignty.
If Government does not act quickly and effectively, the danger we face is that of communities arming themselves through local militia. Already, we saw signs of these last week when a massive congregation of hunters, ex-servicemen and civilian JTF in Maiduguri demanded for arms to save their communities from the terrorists. They declared that given the evident challenge within the military, they should be allowed to procure arms and save their community from the terrorists. This solution might appear viable but we believe it is a dangerous one. We must take on board the contemporary lessons we have learnt from arming militia to fight a cause in Libya and Syria. Yes they can start the fight and even achieve early successes but they will not stop the fight and allow the state to operate subsequently thus creating anarchy in the land. We cannot afford to take the risk of arming the militia because they can become just as bad as the terrorists.
We also do not have the option of relying on the Western powers to solve our problems. We have invited the Western countries to join us in the search and rescue operation of the Chibok girls but although they came, they have made it clear that the core work is our responsibility, which we have to carry out. They have also said that they cannot work with our military so clearly we have to rely on our own armed forces.
The best option really is that dictated by article 14:2(b) of our Constitution that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”. If government has not been carrying out its primary purpose, we should come together to create conditions under which we can solve our problems. Serious allegations made against people in high places who have been helping the enemy must be investigated sincerely and the guilty punished. We cannot allow corruption and treason in high places sap our capacity to defend our sovereignty.
We must rebuild the capability and confidence of our armed forces. At the same time, we as citizens need to play our role in creating the conditions for recovery. In the past, our armed forces have proven their mettle even in global warfare where they were in foreign terrains from the Second World War through the Congo to more recent successes in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Our armed forces have also, during the Civil War, successfully saved our country from dismemberment. We must rebuild those armed forces of our past to ensure that we have a future.
#BringBackOurGirls as a Milestone
One poignant milestone in our history was that fateful Monday of April 14th 2014 when Nigerians woke up to the news of yet another heart-rending carnage at Nyanya Motor Park after the detonation of a bomb leading to the death of over 70 people and over 100 people injured. That same night, nearly 300 schoolgirls were abducted in Chibok, Borno State. They were in their secondary school preparing for their WAEC examinations. This act was to traumatise not just Nigerians but the whole world. Why would anybody abduct innocent teenagers preparing for their exams and keep them in bondage for so long? That event led to the emergence of our movement and our continuous campaign for 135 days has played no small part in drawing attention to the capability challenges facing our state and its armed forces. Our point is not to say that we were right, but that we have a collective interest in addressing our challenges.
Citizens’ Approach as the Way Forward
Nigeria is confronting asymmetrical warfare, which requires a more concerted and comprehensive approach to defeat terrorism. The State and its security agencies must cultivate the civilian population to become allies in the struggle. Intelligence is a key factor in ensuring success and sourcing timely intelligence requires close collaboration with communities. It is clear to all that the Nigerian security apparatus is at its weakest strength and capability at this historical point when we need them most. Rebuilding the strength and capability of our security agencies is a national commitment that government and citizens must support. Nonetheless, the Nigerian public is concerned that the resources allocated to our security apparatus (N922 billion in 2012, N1 trillion in 2013 & N845 billion in 2014) do not seem to correspond with the results delivered by those at the frontline that are prosecuting the war against terror. While it is understandable that security operations are mostly classified, citizens believe that some degree of transparency, accountability and disclosure is essential to gaining public confidence and achieving optimal results. Even more important, if there is a generalised system of corruption and leakages in administering security budgets, just throwing money at the problem will not produce the desired results.
New Approach to Security Governance
Nigeria needs to develop a new approach to security governance. Developing local agency in security provisioning must be central to this new approach. One element of the new approach is getting security agencies to collaborate closely with local communities. We need to significantly expand and institutionalise community policing in the country. A pact, a bond must be developed between security agencies and the people in executing the war against terror. The second element is that communities should be encouraged to set up Community Safety Groups / Neighbourhood Watch Groups to help promote the fight on terror. Community members know their communities better than the security agencies. They need to take an interest and connect with security organisations. There needs to be support and protection for the communities that are supporting the security agencies. Most importantly, the source of information emanating from communities must be protected to ensure that there are no reprisal attacks against such communities.
The insurgency that is challenging our society today has arisen because we as a society have allowed extremist ideas to develop, grow and fester. All of us; governments, religious institutions, the private sector, communities and families as well as civil society groups have a collective responsibility to ensure that extremist ideas are contested and delegitimized. Our religious leaders in particular have the onerous responsibility of ensuring that radical interpretations are countered. We must all invest more resources – theological, ideological, philosophical, communications, financial and institutional in promoting peace education. Peace education will help to redress the culture of violence and aggression that has developed in our society. We need to continuously inculcate the value of peaceful coexistence and non-violent orientation on every Nigerian citizen.
Finally, the very important sub regional dimension of our insurgency crisis has thrown up some curious developments for us as citizens. What exactly are the Governments of Chad and Cameroun doing right, that produce their widely reported successful strikes against the terrorists that we read ever so often? This surely calls for deep reflection