Are we fighting the wrong war against Boko Haram? (II)
The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish … the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its nature.
Let us be very frank on this matter. The blatant contradictory statements on the Boko Haram insurgency are very unfortunate and diversionary. The signals are confusing. Either we are fighting a war against an insurgency or we are playing politics. And the Federal Government must take a major part of the blame.
While the recent renewed push by the military, and the new counterterror approached just announced by the National Security Advisor are both highly encouraging they are bound to be limited by political posturing and even manufactured “findings” peddled by President Jonathan and his propaganda outfit. It is not just the PDP National Publicity Secretary Olisa Metuh, or the ethnic-nationalities ideologue Ben Nwabueze that are repeating the mantra often enough with the hope that by constantly saying it people would believe the lie, but even the president seems to have bought the fiction that Boko Haram was created by frustrated northern politicians to fight him.
What is important however is not to be diverted by baseless assertions but to seek to understand the technique of the “big lie” and why the fiction is being propagated in the first place? In his book “Mein Kampf ” (My Struggle) Adolf Hitler explains the approach thus:
“… the most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It (the Big Lie) must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success.”
The trick is not to tell small lies; those can be easily refuted. Tell big ones like “my people are better off under me”, “this year’s harvest is fantastic” or even “the poor caused their own poverty.” It won’t be easy to disprove, and if enough people keep repeating it even the serial doubters may begin to think there is some truth in your assertion. Boko Haram was there before Jonathan? That’s irrelevant. More northerners have been killed by them? So what? Governors, Emirs and even Imams have been attacked? Pure fiction!! Stick to your fiction and enough people may come
The trick is not to tell small lies; those can be easily refuted. Tell big ones like “my people are better off under me”, “this year’s harvest is fantastic” or even “the poor caused their own poverty.” It won’t be easy to disprove, and if enough people keep repeating it even the serial doubters may begin to think there is some truth in your assertion. Boko Haram was there before Jonathan? That’s irrelevant. More northerners have been killed by them? So what? Governors, Emirs and even Imams have been attacked? Pure fiction!! Stick to your fiction and enough people may come to believe it.
to believe it.
But why employ this approach? Partly because President Jonathan himself was convinced his administration was being targeted; at least initially. More important however, it came to serve a purpose. The Government can always blame its’ perceived enemies for any failure to bring the insurgency to an end. Simply keep on blaming others. George Bush once mutilated Abraham Lincoln by saying, “you can fool some people all the time, and those are the ones you would want to concentrate on”. As 2015 approaches, a friend told me, the “blame game” would only get worse.
This technique works if it is kept very simple. Now, however, it is becoming complex and is starting to lose its edge. Also, everyone is currently fighting back. The Opposition is also blaming the Government for incompetence. Others are blaming Libya, Sudan, Al Qaeda, the Americans and others for the insurgency. Some are even saying it is a plot against the economy of the north. Many people I know even deny that there is Boko Haram at all claiming it is the Government or its agents that are destabilizing the country to scuttle 2015 elections. When conspiracy theories meet “the big lie” what we have is a refusal to address concrete issues.
Add to the mix the unsubstantiated claims regarding AK 47 wielding “Fulani” herdsmen ransacking villages in the middle of the night, and the more credible reports of helicopters ferrying arms to the insurgents and bandits, you begin to wonder if the conspiracy theorists are not correct after all. We cannot fight too many wars at the same time and we should not turn this, or any other insurgency, into politics. On the part of the government it could backfire; 2015 cannot be worth this price. For all of us we risk ignoring the lessons to be learnt. Unless we start tackling the root causes this may not be over even after a military victory. Massive corruption, disproportionate counterterror, torture and extra-judicial killings are further complicating the unstable mixture and alienating even those disgusted by Boko Haram’s senseless terror.
The Federal Government is the only body constitutionally empowered to have armed troops, and has the ultimate responsibility for fighting the war against Boko Haram. It is responsible for ensuring law and order, protecting our territory and infrastructure. These it cannot do in isolation. It must bring the other tiers of government on board to defend and sustain our economic, financial, administrative and legal institutions, protect the rights, lives and property of citizens so as to deny these insurgents the physical and propaganda space to establish themselves and their misguided intents. They are the enemy, not the state governors or the ordinary citizens. We are involved in a conflict which is not just physical but one that involves the loyalty and trust of our people. We should not be guided by other considerations, financial or political. That has gone far enough. Governors Nyako and Shettima are trying their best and should be supported not be sacrificed in the interest of petty politics.