THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
Imagine being confined in the same room day after day with an elephant! Apart from the fact that you would probably be shaking in your boots, it is fair to say that it would be impossible for you to ignore the elephant. Sometimes when the expression "elephant in the room" is used, it normally refers to an obvious topic, which everyone present is aware of, but which isn't discussed, as such discussion is considered to be rather uncomfortable.
Several months ago before the incidence of the Boko Haram attacks became so frequent, I wrote ‘The Elephant in the Room’ to address the fact that the government was very obviously ignoring measures necessary to solve the problem at its root. From the first time I wrote this article to the present, not only has the Boko Harm offensive developed into a hydra headed monster, it has also grown tentacles of terror that are most likely being exploited and utilised by several other interests.
Needless to say, no matter the conspiracy theories surrounding Boko Harm or who at this point is involved in their activities, honestly, unless the problems and people that created the crisis in the first place are addressed and all the people that suffered are compensated in one way or another, then the exercise of the security authorities to stop the offensive almost seems like a superficial measure. Let’s cut to the chase here, the truth of the matter is, even if the members of Boko Haram are neutralised, the situation can never be effectively dealt with in the long term as long as the lead protagonists that created the problem in the first place and nurtured it for several years before it became a Nigerian problem take responsibility for their conduct. The apparent disregard of the government to address this is the reason I reiterate this message.
From the beginning of the crisis till date, thousands of family members of the victims of bombings and devastation, victims of the extrajudicial killings of Boko Haram in the hands of the security forces and hordes of other people that were not protected by the state feel angry and disenfranchised. The majority of these people are poor, hungry and desperate. When a human being feels this kind of desperation and anger and is threatened by the kind of attacks Nigerians have been subjected to of recent, it is almost as if the balance of justice is disturbed. And unless that balance is somewhat restored, the society in which they live in succumbs to a rule of violence and the thirst for retribution from those people. I believe, that is exactly what has happened here; what we are seeing play out in this Boko Haram saga. The government has to realise as a matter of urgency that all the people that have been affected by this crisis need to see that justice is served together with a commitment to protecting their rights as Nigerian citizens. That and only that will allow the balance of justice to be restored and affected people to have closure.
In order to tackle the problem at its roots, government is going to have to upset and subvert a rather ‘government collectivist mentality’ and fully investigate all the players in the whole affair, even those from within its ranks. They know it, we know it; heck everybody knows it. It’s the 10,000 lb elephant in the room that the president appears to ever so slightly tip-toe around.If there is anywhere the government must start in its bid to stifle this issue; then the buck stops at the GAS Station or more aptly, the SAS Station! The Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad sect, commonly known as Boko Haram has been in existence way before Senator Ali Modu Sheriff became governor of Borno State. In several incidents in Yobe in 2003 and in Kano in 2004 and 2007, Boko Harm has been reported to have been involved in minor conflicts with the police but was by and large not going out of its way to harm civilians. However, in regards to what eventually led to the present situation, there is no doubt that several high ranking politicians, but Senator Ali Modu Sherrif in particular, have been complicit in the saga. It is shocking that today as we suffer under the threat of Boko Haram, not only is Senator Ali Modu Sheriff freely plodding around between London, Dubai and God knows where else as if he wasn’t the one who created the problem in the first place, the president doesn’t seem interested in making this man accountable for his role in kindling the Boko Haram saga. As a result, it would be fair to say that the fortification of Senator Ali Modu Sherrif’s role in the Boko Haram situation has now become to President Jonathan a mirror image of the resolve late President Yaradu’a had in wrongly protecting former governor James Ibori.
While the actual crisis itself started in Bauchi State in 2009 when hundreds of the sect’s supporters launched retaliatory attacks on police station, it was the five day clash the group had with the police that led to the eventual death of the sect’s leader in Borno that gave birth to the bloody impasse we see today. When President Yar’adua sent security forces to quell the situation, they proceeded to act ultra-vires by randomly arresting and murdering people they suspected to be Boko Haram members. This brutal response by the security forces, appeared like a reprisal, and resulted in the unjustifiable extrajudicial killings of suspected members of the religious sect, as well as many innocent citizens. The horrendous clips can be viewed on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxrI8ihrkrw&feature=related
It was also at this time that the sect’s leader, Mohammed Yusuf and alleged sponsor Alhaji Buji Foi were also extra-judicially murdered, in police custody. Furthermore, at that time, Mohammed Yusuf’s father in law, 72 year old Alhaji Baba Fugu was also murdered after which his houses and plots of land were forcefully taken over and destroyed by the state government. The alleged financer of the group that was killed on the same day as Mohammed Yusuf, Alhaji Buji Foi had been a former commissioner under Senator Ali Sheriff’s cabinet and was also considered as one of his political opponents. At the time of his arrest, it is reported that he asked to speak to Governor Sheriff several times to which the governor refused to respond. Shortly after, he was murdered allegedly by directives from above. The clip of his unspeakable murder can be viewed on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBgdxJp8RzY
Whoever it was that ordered the extra-judicial killing of the sect's leader and Alhaji Buji Foi, it is yet to be established. But one can say for sure that the deaths of these two men have been the main catalyst for igniting the ferocious violence unleashed by the group today. And whoever it was that ordered their unlawful murders must share the responsibility for today’s violence.
Senator Ali Sheriff the former governor of Borno State, whose failure to respond to every security information he received during the initial unfortunate standoff, including a letter that was sent to him warning him of the impending security breach, by the former Secretary to the State government, Babakura Alhaji Fugu, the first son of Alhaji Baba Fugu, the father-in-law of Mohamed Yusuf (The same man that was recently assassinated after he was paid a visit by General Obasanjo to bring an end to the crisis), should be called to clear up several uncertainties and enlighten Nigerians on who ordered the killings of people and destruction of property at the time the crisis began. The Federal Government should open a public enquiry immediately, starting with an examination of all the previous enquiries, reports, committees and white paper that had previously been set up by Senator Sheriff when he was governor.
The aggression that stemmed from the original crisis was unnecessary; it was created by the unobstructed failure of governance and carelessness of the Borno State Government and Security authorities. Now what was once a controllable insurgency in one Nigerian state has morphed into an international crisis.
Although the victim's family cannot be restored to the status which preceded the mayhem and their loved ones cannot be brought back, all affected victims must be fairly, equally and adequately compensated. And those who created the problem should be made to answer to Nigerians. If we fail to hold those who created this crisis accountable, it is likely that as a nation we will continue reaping the blood-spattered consequence.I can’t imagine being in a room with a large elephant! Apart from the fact that I would probably be shaking in my heels, it is fair to say that it would be impossible for me to ignore that elephant. And while, sometimes we shy away from discussing looming big issues, the truth is that they will not go away by themselves; much like an elephant in a room.