At the mention of Borno state, what readily comes to mind was the devastation Boko Haram insurgency unleashed on the home of peace and by extension the entire North East. Borno became a theatre of war and of the absurd after the gruesome murder of Yusuf Mohammed the pioneer head of Boko Haram insurgents by the police in 2010.Yusuf was captured by the military in the wake of the intensity of the insurgency and handed over to the police as required by the law but he was killed together with some of his adherents by the police under a controversial circumstance.
The consequences of what many saw as police high handedness and unnecessary cover up for some ‘big men’ directly involved in the rise and audacity of Boko Haram have taken grave tolls on the state for over a decade. In fact, hundreds of people were murdered in their cold blood and numbers while houses and properties worth millions were destroyed in retaliation. Peace literally fled Borno. The Nigerian security apparatus was decapitated and forced to function in total disarray. Many officers and men of all the security agencies paid the supreme price. It was catastrophic. Several opportunities for development were lost as a result. That hell was incidentally let loose was an understatement.
Basic infrastructures serving the state were completely cut off. Borno became desolate. Humanitarian crisis spilled out of hand. The insurgents overran the state with audacious viciousness and occupied territories where they mounted Islamic flags and collected taxes at will. Borno became a state synonymous with violence, crimes and blood-letting. The kidnap of two hundred and seventy-five Chibok School Girls was one sad reminder of the deadly insurgency. It was unimaginable that a rag-tag group could unleash such magnitude of terror on a state. It happened all the same.
Before Yusuf Mohammed, a demented Maitatasine and his group was once a brute societal menace spreading extreme fundamentalist and violent Islamic religious teaching. But it must be stated that there is no smoke without fire. Maitatasine and Yusuf Mohammed did not fall from the sky; neither do their adherents. They are known members of the society. Yusuf’s influence and rabid Islamic teachings are well known all over Borno and neigbouring Yobe extending through Bauchi and Adamawa states before his death. His avowal to islamise twelve states in the North, dethrone the Sultan of Sokoto and foist a new Islamic capital in Yobe were not new. Yusuf capitalised on the ignorance of many and the increasing level of poverty to lure his followers with little incentives as enticement to conform with his teachings. The design eventually worked out as envisaged. It filled the yawning gap created in an environment where leaders and government abandon citizens to penury and want.
What measures did the government and security agencies put in place to check his excesses and that of his followers? How did light and heavy weapons find their ways into the hands of this rampaging group? It takes a whole lot of financial resources and influences to import arms and ammunitions into a country. However, one missing point in the fight against insurgency is the lack of will power to identify financiers and block the financial routes through which insurgents access funds. Government has announced identification of over four hundred individuals linked to sponsorship of Boko Haram. However, the same government lacks the political will to prosecute them or give full details of their identities.
Another source of worry was the obvious lack of cooperation among the rural communities and countries within the Lake Chad basin to stand against this ravaging evil. Some neigbouring nations within the basin are notorious for providing a safe haven for the insurgents whenever they attack Nigeria and Nigerians. Collaborators in crime within the communities serve as informants to the insurgents. Their role has hampered smooth operations and activities of the security agencies. The thinking that super powers could provide the needed solution to nail insurgency was misplaced. They tend to assist but also produce and sell weapon of war to the nation and insurgents at the same time.
National and international media organisations as usual feasted on the barbarity of Boko Haram and left the abysmal performance and inefficiency of government to contain them only at the court of public opinion. The government of Goodluck Jonathan was the casualty of the extensive media coverage of the insurgency. People especially in the north see him as a failure and cause of their predicament. Was he? On account of that and many more, he lost his reelection bid in 2015. The United Nations and other international donor agencies have played the much role they could but the problem is Nigeria’s which has to be solved by Nigerians. Crises thrive in a state of obvious lack, injustice and bigotry. Good governance is a panacea to harmony, ethnic, religious, socio-economic and politically related problems.
Despite the conjectures and conspiracy theories surrounding the emergence of Boko Haram’s notorious ascendancy to killing as either political or ethnic creation, the truth remains that the sect is one form of barbarism taken too far. The enormity of damage already done by this people has taken and will still take a whole lot of energy, time and resources to restore and repair. The serial kidnap of innocent children especially girls who are forced into marriages, turned into sex slaves, potential ransom and child suicide bombers are the underlining factors of violent religious extremism all over the world. Non state actors like Boko Haram have emerged strong and exploitative elements in determining and shaping politics and decision making processes all over the world. They have employed all sorts of underhand dealings to force governments to tow their line of action. It was clear even today that the government then and now still underestimate the threat this group pose not only to Nigeria but to the West African sub-region.
However, one take away from the reality in Borno was the speed at which the government of Prof. Umar Babagana Zullum is picking the pieces of a once insecure and devastated state. Civil service, markets, schools and hospitals have picked up remarkably. Peace has eventually returned to Borno. In Maiduguri the state capital and environs, giant developmental strides aimed at rapidly revitalising and returning the state to its lost glory dot the nooks and crannies of the state. Maiduguri is new and renewed. The state could now compete favourably with or even defeat many states in terms of infrastructural development. Through the interventions of spirited individuals like Bill Gates, Dangote Group, the federal and international organisations, the reconstruction of Borno and North East is in earnest.
Modern schools, markets and resettlement homes for the sacked communities have been built and are being commissioned by the governor. Farmers have been given incentives and the results are evident in the harvest. Motorable asphalted road networks link the entire Maiduguri and adjourning Local government Areas. Maiduguri city centre has witnessed improvement in infrastructural development. The state capital despite the crisis is now a model compared to any other in northern Nigeria. The once dreaded Damaturu-Maiduguri road where insurgents usually emerge from the shrubs, dominate and spill innocent blood without let or hindrance is comparatively free. Eventually peace has returned to the once celebrated home of peace. The military in conjunction with other security agencies must be highly commended for asserting their superiority over the insurgents as witnessed in recent times. Borno is working and one man is changing the whole ugly narrative. He is Babagana Umar Zullum, the governor of Borno state.
Sunday Onyemaechi Eze is a Media and Development Communications Specialist. He wrote via firstname.lastname@example.org and can be reached on 08060901201