With the bombing of 'This day', 'The Sun', and 'The Moment' newspaper offices by Boko Haram, the terrorist war in Nigeria has entered a new phase. This is a time for every Nigerian to take serious stock; nobody is exempt from the enemy's telescope and it would be hibernation in an idiot's paradise to adopt any attitude that excludes confronting this scourge.
My heart goes out to these media organizations and Channels TV that earlier lost a reporter to the terrorists. That the journalists continue with their dangerous task of being the fourth estate of Nigeria's realm in the face of this onslaught is a testimony to their courage, tenacity and worthiness as the inheritors of the legacy of the media who fought and won the various wars that shaped Nigeria, right from the anti colonialist struggle to the quest to get rid of military dictatorship and enshrine democracy. May the brave souls who died in the attacks rest in peace.
What is the official policy of the Jonathan government to the terrorist menace? Forget about the crap of combating Boko Haram and negotiating with them. How is the President and Commander-in-chief going to dialogue with a group that stands for everything against the letter and spirit of the Nigerian constitution he swore to uphold and the Nigerian state he symbolizes? Is there anything about Boko Haram and our rulers that we ought to know? For the National Security Adviser to the President, General Azazi, to openly blame the ruling PDP's internal wranglings and unfair spoils-sharing system for Boko Haram's insurgency has grave implications, even if the security chieftain was running his mouth to cover his incompetence.
Boko Haram's grievances against the media reveal a major fact: the terrorists are getting hot under the collar with the media searchlight constantly being beamed on it. Probably some of the media are not portraying the 'facts' about Boko Haram but if they had not commenced their blood-soaked campaign they would not have had a basis for complaints. The media did not create Boko Haram. But since the terrorists know the power of propaganda and are so media-savvy, why can't they wield media technology to put across their ideology and point of view? They claim that among other things 'This day' was hit in revenge for its alleged 2001 insult of Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon him). For those who have short memories bloody riots inspired by Muslim fundamentalists broke out in Kaduna in 2001 against plans for Nigeria's hosting of the Miss World beauty contest. An article by a 'This day' reporter which alluded to the Prophet in response to the fundamentalists' opposition to the pageant was supposedly the fuel that sparked the fire.
Boko Haram sees the media as upholding what it hates. It seeks the birth of a Taliban Afghanistan in Nigeria and an open, vibrant press has no place in its kingdom. Same for schools and universities, except their unique brand of Islamic schools. These guys are not interested in historical facts, namely: Prophet Mohammed's followers, at the height of persecution in Mecca, went to the Christian kingdom of Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) for protection. The Abyssinian king not only allowed them to face their opponents in a debate, he was so completely won over that he gave the Muslims his personal protection; Islamic knowledge and scholarship were the basis for the revival of ancient Greek and Roman learning that led to the Renaissance; long before the birth of great Western universities like Oxford, there was the Islamic university in Egypt; in Timbukutu (in northern Mali). Islamic intellectuals dazzled the world with schools that taught everything from the Qur'an to medicine and languages. Nowhere in Islam did the great Prophet and his succeeding Caliphs advocate the wanton killing of innocents in God's name. Even at the height of the spread of Islam during and after the Prophet's time, non-Muslims were not subjected to forceful conversion. So where did the warped ideas of Boko Haram come from?
But why is the group shaking Nigeria now that a Southern Nigerian Christian is president? The group's antecedents are documented: a small extremist preaching group that went ballistic following the police murder of its leader during President Yar'Adua's time. But it has now been hijacked by power-seekers who capitalize on the North's complex political, ethnic and religious factors. Their external connection is known and need not detain us here.
As long as God lives Boko Haram will not win. All true Nigerians and friends of Nigeria should unite in this war on terror. Jonathan and his men should tell us that they lack strategies to fight Boko Haram. There is no shame in bringing in Britain's M 16, USA's CIA, Israel's MOSSAD and Egypt and Saudi Arabia's security agencies to assist. We should send to Jordan, Qatar, Dubai and other moderate Middle Eastern states for help; they have been battling Boko Haram's brothers in blood for years. Jonathan can sign a compact with the leaders of these states that will not undermine Nigeria's sovereignty. Then a top secret security force comprising agents from these states and selected Nigerian staff-who must be well screened for the Boko Haram virus- should be formed and unleashed after they draw up a highly classified plan incorporating several components on the insurgency. e.g.. infiltration, winning the hearts and minds of the indigenous populace of the flashpoints and malleable sect members, a solid blueprint for the North's economic revival, espionage and crack commando units in the mould of Britain's Special Air Service Regiments (SAS). Our friends will help us if we are sincere; Boko Haram is not in their interest.
Henry C. Onyema is a Lagos-based writer and historian. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org