Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How we will stop Boko Haram, by Muhammadu Buhari

President-elect Muhammadu Buhari (L) waves in Abuja on April 1, 2015. Nigeria’s new president-elect Muhammadu Buhari hailed polls that will lead to the first democratic change of power in Africa’s most populous nation as “historic” hours after he secured a decisive victory. AFP PHOTO
Being an opinion article by President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari, as published in yesterday’s edition of New York Times.

ABUJA— When Boko Haram attacked a school in the town of Chibok, in northeastern Nigeria, kidnapping more than 200 girls, on the night of April 14, 2014, the people of my country were aghast. Across the world, millions of people joined them in asking: How was it possible for this terrorist group to act with such impunity? It took nearly two weeks before the government even commented on the crime.

This lack of reaction was symptomatic of why the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan was swept aside last month – the first time an incumbent president has been successfully voted out of office in the history of our nation. For too long they ruled, not governed, and in doing so had become so focused on their own self-interest and embroiled in corruption that the duty to react to the anguish suffered by their citizens had become alien to them.

My administration, which will take office on May 29, will act differently – indeed it is the very reason we have been elected. This must begin with honesty as to whether the Chibok girls can be rescued. Currently their whereabouts remain unknown. We do not know the state of their health or welfare, or whether they are even still together or alive. As much as I wish to, I cannot promise that we can find them: to do so would be to offer unfounded hope, only to compound the grief if, later, we find we cannot match such expectation. But I say to every parent, family member and friend of the children that my government will do everything in its power to bring them home.

What I can pledge, with absolute certainty, is that from the first day of my administration, Boko Haram will know the strength of our collective will and commitment to rid this nation of terror, and bring back peace and normalcy to all the affected areas. Until now, Nigeria has been wanting in its response to their threat: With our neighbours fighting hard to push the terrorists south and out of their countries, our military was not sufficiently supported or equipped to push north. As a consequence, the outgoing government’s lack of determination was an accidental enabler of the group, allowing them to operate with impunity in Nigerian territory.

That is why the answer to defeating Boko Haram begins and ends with Nigeria. That is not to say that allies cannot help us. My administration would welcome the resumption of a military training agreement with the United States, which was halted during the previous administration. We must, of course, have better coordination with the military campaigns our African allies, like Chad and Niger, are waging in the struggle against Boko Haram. But, in the end, the answer to this threat must come from within Nigeria.

We must start by deploying more troops to the front and away from civilian areas in central and southern Nigeria where for too long they have been used by successive governments to quell dissent. 

We must work closer with our neighbors in coordinating our military efforts so an offensive by one army does not see their country’s lands rid of Boko Haram only to push it across the border onto their neighbors’ territory.

But as our military pushes Boko Haram back, as it will, we must be ready to focus on what else must be done to counter the terrorists. We must address why it is that young people join Boko Haram. 

There are many reasons why vulnerable young people join militant groups, but among them are poverty and ignorance. Indeed Boko Haram – which translates in English, roughly, as “Western Education Is Sinful” – preys on the perverted belief that the opportunities that education brings are sinful.

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