According to UNESCO, a deadly militant group, Boko Haram operating in Nigeria but not limited to North-east Nigeria, Northern Cameroon, Niger, and Chad, has killed an estimated 50,000 people and displaced 2.3 million others.
Founded by a charismatic Muhammed Yusuf and guided by the ideology of Wahhabism and Salafism, the group maintained in its opinion that only a complete rejection of western models of education, economy, and government (democracy) offers any hope of the redemption of Islam- the sole aim of the group.
When Muhammed Yusuf was shot in controversial and yet to be explained circumstance in 2009, the Boko Haram threat seemed to have ended. What many failed to realize was that his teachings had already touched the deepest corners in the hearts of young, hungry, and radical Muslim youths from Bauchi, Potiskum, Kano, Maiduguri, Gombe and spread across the Sahara.
Unlike Maitatsine and the other groups that were crushed by the government in the past, Boko Haram has withered through the storms and survived years of bombardment, siege and open clashes with Nigerian and regional forces.
Why and how is this case?
Many of the group’s associates have ties to Nigeria in businesses and even in the very corridors of power.
The suicide bomber that struck at the Police Headquarters in Abuja was reported to have driven right behind the convoy of the IGP from Maiduguri to Abuja. How was he able to do so undetected through a 13-hour drive?
Again, Kabiru Sokoto the mastermind of the New Year day bombing of a church in Madalla, Niger state was arrested at a governor’s lodge in Asokoro. How did he get there, and what was he doing there?
A particular senator was rumored to have direct phone contacts of top Boko Haram commanders but was never questioned.
The group’s lethal qualities have been grossly underestimated. Contrary to the contemptuous views held by the media, security agencies and the Nigeria government that Boko Haram isn’t more than a rag-tag militia, the group has learned to use modern tools and modern ideas including the use of video cameras, the internet, and sophisticated military grade weapons.
Complacency: Instead of nipping the group when it was budding, the government and security agencies never believed the group to be capable of mounting any threat thus neglecting all attention towards it.
The error of the Muslim Ummah: When the group first came into prominence, other Muslims continued to live in denial that the members of Boko Haram were not Muslims even though they shared biological family ties, same mosques, and schools and even live together in some cases.
Still, others did not condemn them because the group convinced them that they were acting for the greater good of Islam and glory of God. Therefore, anyone who gives his life in pursuit of that was to be accorded the status of a martyr whose selfless sacrifice will gain them paradise.
Detaining some captured key commanders of Boko Haram and subsequently releasing them was in great error.
They, in fact, should have been shot rightly. If there was anything, Nigerian prisons became a factory for hardening them into radicals whose belief was all- consuming.
Government propaganda: to a large extent negatively affected the war on Boko Haram. Political correctness and the unending desire to score cheap political goals (even offside goals and own goals) saw the government claimed series of victories that turned out to be completely unfounded.
Ignorance: Perhaps the key players saddled with the responsibility have failed to understand that the men and women and children who make up this terror organization are trained and hardened with arguably tremendous resources both material and human.
Charged by a philosophy so compelling that they are willing to blow up themselves straight into the hereafter, Boko Haram is the leading deadliest terrorist organization in the world.
It is a question of ideology and one cannot fight and win using guns and tanks. Only a counter ideology would win the war in the most important battle field- the mind.
What are the steps being taken to de-radicalize followers and sympathizers of Boko Haram? If force was enough, the US would have won against the Taliban have spent over a trillion dollars in 10 years.
More than 8 years after the first shots were fired in 2009, Boko Haram has remained undefeated.
More than anything, it has shown itself to be adaptable and flexible. But the yearning of millions remains that one day Boko Haram would fall, as Maitatsine and others had.
But the template of asymmetrical warfare and mass murder that Yusuf and Shekau together with their henchmen have created will feature groups flying other banners.