“The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of terror.”

Who should be rehabilitated, and reintegrated back to society? Is it the self-acclaimed repentant Boko Haram members, or the victims of Boko Haram attacks?

To answer this question, it is important to look at each side of the two different coins. First, let’s consider it from the point of view of the Federal Government that has chosen to be on the side of repentant Boko Haram members; the same Boko Haram members that they should be waging a war of terror against.

Then we shall consider the perspectives of folks like Senator Ali Ndume, and other patriotic and well-meaning Nigerians who have chosen to stand on the side of victims of Boko Haram terror attacks.

To proceed on this assessment, one must examine the effects of Boko Haram terrorism on Nigeria as a nation, right from when the group came to limelight over a decade ago. This will enable us see the two different sides clearly.

The group now known as Boko Haram began in the year 2002, under Muhammed Yusuf. With the execution of Yusuf in July 2009, by some overzealous, trigger-happy policemen, Boko Haram as an Islamic movement suddenly became an insurgent group under Abubakar Shekau who succeeded Yusuf.

The initial aim of Boko Haram, as documented in archives, was to purify Islam in Northern Nigeria (cf. “History of Boko Haram,” Wikipedia.org),where they saw themselves as the radicalized or revolutionized brand of Islam that will free Islam from many excesses by enforcing Sharia law to the fullest. But with the eventual radicalization following the death of its founder, it became a full-blown terror group.

As it stands today, the group has killed over 38,000 persons, including several military personnel. The results of its terror activities have equally seen the displacement of over 2.3million people; of which many are in Internally Displaced Persons’ Camps, with little or no care.

Over the years, these IDP camps have themselves come under attacks by the terror group, which has led to victims having to flee to neighboring countries like Chad, Cameroon, and Niger Republic. As a result, many of the survivors have been cutoff from their families.

Going further, the terror group has equally carried out massive/aggressive abductions, of which many never returned alive. Some of those who weren’t killed ended up becoming slave-wives to the members of the group. Notable in the group’s abduction mechanism as a way of destabilizing government forces, and making more monies through negotiations, was the kidnap of the Chibok School children on April 14th, 2014.

By the group’s rates of abductions, killings, and tactics, the group has become one of the most dangerous terror groups in the world. Its successful operations have equally given way to the worst form of insecurity ever witnessed in Nigeria’s history (cf. New York Times, Associated Press, January 18th, 2015).

In President Buhari’s inaugural speech, on May 29th, 2015, he gave the marching order to the Armed Forces to relocate their operational headquarters to the theatre of war at Baga, Borno State. Baga at the time was under siege by Boko Haram. On that day in 2015, he equally sought a legislative waiver to pursue speedy weapons to fight Boko Haram (cf. THISDAY Newspaper, March 19th, 2020).

According to THISDAY editorial of March 19th, 2020, “Between 2015 and 2020, the Nigerian government had expended 3billion USD in the prosecution of war and other security challenges.”

Five years after Buhari’s inaugural speech, the gradual insecurity turmoil since the emergence of Boko Haram in the northeast of the country in 2009, has metamorphosed into a full grown chaos.

Sadly, despite all the havoc caused so far, the Federal Government through the ministry of defense, is busy rehabilitating and reintegrating members of such a deadly terror group. According to the Nigerian Army through the defense headquarters, 900 ex-Boko Haram members have since 2019 been rehabilitated into the country. For the federal government, the purpose is to help the self-acclaimed repentant members become productive in society again (cf. Public Domain, July 1st, 2020).

Recently, Premium Times conducted an online poll on Facebook, and Twitter on whether the government should grant amnesty to Boko Haram. In the poll, 92% voted against amnesty. Yet, the federal government is still embarking on such a weak and insensitive endeavour.

The Federal Government is rehabilitating those who can no longer live normal lives like every other human being. Those whose hands are soaked in blood, those who have rendered many homes homeless, and shattered lives forever. Is this not an encouragement to young Nigerians that becoming a terrorist can be a shortcut to a better life?

Now, it is important to know that some of those Boko Haram members were caught in a cross battle, some during military intelligent operations. Does this not suggest that claiming to have repented within these situations of duress is questionable?

Who are those advising this government? The truth of the matter is that one of the failures of the military to bring Boko Haram to its feet is because there are saboteurs in the military. And the evidence was the attack on the convoy of Borno State governor, Prof Babagana Zulum on his way from an IDP camp recently. Following the attack, the military combat officer in the area insisted that the attack was not Boko Haram? Who then was responsible? Al Qaeda?

Frustrated by the unending insurgency, Governor Zulum said “…But notwithstanding, there is one very important portion that we need to address, why is the insurgency not ending? I repeat, there is a sabotage in the system, therefore, the President needs to examine the current security situation in the region with a view to resolving it in a sustainable manner” (“Boko Haram: We’ve Saboteurs Within And President Buhari Must Know – Zulum,” by THE INTERVIEW, August 3rd, 2020).

Is it not possible that some, if not all those claiming to have repented, are actually the saboteurs that Governor Zulum makes reference to above? Isn’t it possible that this could be why the military is not winning the war?

My honest opinion therefore is that those saboteurs must be fished out, tried and sentenced. A good place to start would be the repentant Boko Haram members. Why can’t the Federal Government use them to trace and eliminate Boko Haram once and for all, before rehabilitating them with taxpayers’ money? Why can’t a general revamping of the entire military system take place in order for fresh ideas to come in?

On August 6th, 2020, the news went viral of the USA intelligent report that Al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS) terror groups have plans to penetrate the Southwest of Nigeria. But our Armed forces have claimed to be aware, and on top of the situation.

Finally, let us remember that, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter” (Martin Luther King Jnr). So, let us not keep silent about the things that matter, so that our entire lives won’t end.

© Israel GodsPower ANAWEOKHAI, August 7, 2020

Israel GodsPower ANAWEOKHAI is a Catholic Priest of the Missionary Society of St Paul. He is currently on mission in the Archdiocese of Douala, Cameroon.