Nigeria: Perspectives on terrorism and the failure of force – Japheth Omojuwa


The Nigerian government was the last institution to take a position on the Baga massacre. Baga was a debacle and a disgrace to any society worthy of its essence and should never have happened. What happened at Baga is a crime against humanity. Some citizens have justified the Baga killings saying the people were hoarding terrorists so should go down with them. These are of course folks who have no idea what it is to live in these terrorized towns. For the residents of these towns, they are more or less between the devil and the red sea. If you are smart enough to go to the police to report terror suspects, you are likely to have your family wiped off the very next day.


The intelligence set up of the Nigerian security forces is at best dumb. Why do you think jail breaks even at the most seemingly impregnable prisons happen at regular intervals? The answer is simple enough; the security system has been infested with the insurgents. Chances are that when making a report about terror suspects in your town, you are likely to be making same to one of their informants. Another factor that’d make intelligence gathering extremely difficult is that the people now find it difficult to know who their own terrorists are; they are terrorized by the Joint Task Force (JTF) as much as they are by Boko Haram. This leaves them with a limited option; leave or die? But leave to where? So they mostly get killed by terrorists from different divides or await death. This is not enough to depict the fear and terror in Borno and other states in the northeast under the shackles of terrorism but it offers a perspective.


It hurts one deeply to blame the innocent residents of these towns for the evil that has befallen them. I have met and had discussions with young people who witnessed the terror in the north first hand. We have no idea what it is to be troubled by JTF by day and Boko Haram by night. This is not to knock JTF, this is just to say that whatever the good intentions about their presence out there, they have gone about their job in a way that has created a chasm between them and the very people that should trust them. You can’t kill me to save me. The collateral damage in the fight against terrorism has become the primary damage. The JTF strategy has since failed and the Nigerian government has to accept that. The President was advised by the elders of Borno about other options to deal with the terrorism question but the president in all his wisdom turned a deaf ear.


Most northern leaders believe amnesty is the last resort but this is a measure that is most likely to continue our national domino of violence. It is understandable to want any solution that’d put an end to these killings – Thisday newspaper puts Baga’s deaths at 191 – but we must be careful to find solutions that last. The Niger Delta amnesty programme looked like an ingenious solution but we now know better. That should never have been. We granted amnesty to terrorists and still left the majority of the people wallowing in poverty. The faces of criminals did change but the crimes remain the same. Any amnesty programme that does not include bettering the lives of people in the northeast will not just fail but will come to haunt us all. Poverty and unemployment in the northeast remain the highest in the land. We must be thinking about the whole society not just those who have the guns. If we pacify those with the guns today, the same seeds that brought them to fruition will come to roost again. Whatever we do, time is not on our side. These deaths must stop! RIP to the innocent souls lost at Baga.

Japheth Omojuwa is Editor

The Nigerian government needs to see beyond force in its fight against insurgents