Nigeria’s future stability and peace

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The recent female suicide bombings in Nigeria’s Borno state once again raises the issue of insecurity in that country. The Premium Times on Saturday, 29 June2024, reported that four suspected female suicide bombers, believed to be members of the Boko Haram sect, killed a number of people, including a soldier, when they detonated their explosives at different locations in Borno State.

A source familiar with the insurgents’ operations in the state said the first bombing was recorded at a wedding ceremony in Mararaban Gwoza. The joyous occasion turned tragic as the bomber detonated her explosives, killing and maiming guests who had gathered to celebrate. The second one took place at a security checkpoint, killing a soldier and two civilians. The third incident happened at a shopping mall. Witnesses described scenes of chaos and destruction, with buildings shattered and dozens of innocent shoppers caught in the blast.  Shortly after, news broke of another attack at a burial ground, where mourners had gathered to pay their last respect. The explosion tore through the crowd, adding to the day’s horrific death toll. The incidents took place between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on that Saturday around the same area where the Boko Haram faction  led by Ali Ngulde operates.  The coordinated nature of these attacks  raised alarm about the operational capabilities of the perpetrators.

These attacks have, no doubt, left a scar on the affected communities and sparked widespread outrage and sorrow across the nation. As if the killings were not enough, there was no news of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) government or its official showing any sympathy for, or solidarity with, the affected communities or families. Moreover, when we consider the soft spots these female suicide bombers chose – a wedding  ceremony, a shopping mall, a burial ground and at a checkpoint,  many Nigerians feel their intelligence was being insulted by the Borno Commissioner of Police suggesting that in all these bombings, there were  only six casualties. The police should do their work and tell Nigerians the truth in this very grievous matter, at least so the citizens can be more precautious. The Nigerian government, facing yet another brutal reminder of the seriousness of the ongoing insurgency, will definitely come under fire for its handling of the aftermath, particularly due to controversial statements by the Commissioner of Police and the criminal silence of the government on those very pathetic bombings.

This downplaying of the number of casualties in the bombing incidents is perceived in many quarters  as disrespecting the intelligence of Nigerians who have seen the extent of the destruction and loss firsthand. Eyewitnesses, local leaders, and media reports suggest that the actual number of casualties is significantly higher, with estimates ranging into the dozens for both the dead and injured. The discrepancy between official figures and on-the-ground reports is right now leading to accusations of government incompetence and insensitivity, further eroding public trust.

The militant group Boko Haram is widely believed to be behind these attacks. Since its emergence in 2009, Boko Haram has continued to wage a relentless campaign of violence in Nigeria. Originally, the group’s grievances included perceived social and economic marginalization of northern Nigeria, widespread poverty and government corruption. Boko Haram claims to fight against the injustices and neglect faced by the region, yet their violent tactics have only exacerbated the suffering of the very people they purport to represent.

Why does Boko Haram not pursue its grievances through peaceful means, such as engaging with the Nigerian National Assembly?

The many reasons makes it obvious that the government is fighting an unknown enemy and that fact makes their mission dangerous and therefore more challenging. The first is that Boko Haram’s leaders adhere to a strict interpretation of Islam that views the Nigerian government as fundamentally illegitimate. Their ideology does not allow for compromise or negotiation with a secular state. So, the issue of trying to negotiate with them should be completely ruled out. Their deep-seated mistrust of government institutions, fuelled by years of corruption, neglect and military abuses, makes dialogue with the National Assembly seem futile to Boko Haram. They do not believe that the government can address their concerns or that it genuinely seeks to do so.

Violence and terror are central to Boko Haram’s strategy. By creating fear and instability, they aim to weaken the government’s control and legitimacy. Negotiating peacefully would undermine their approach and could be seen as a betrayal of their cause. Past attempts at dialogue had often failed. There had been several instances where the Nigerian government tried to negotiate with Boko Haram, but these efforts either broke down or resulted in further violence. This history of failed talks reinforced the group’s belief that only armed struggle can achieve their goals.

The fact remains Boko Haram is not a monolithic entity. It has splintered into various factions, some of which may have differing agendas and levels of willingness to engage in dialogue. This fragmentation complicates any efforts at negotiation, as there is no single representative with whom to speak. That is the dilemma of the Nigerian government.

In a nutshell, the tragic bombings on 29 June 2024, in Borno State underscore the persistent threat posed by Boko Haram and the ongoing suffering of the Nigerian people. The controversial response by the Commissioner of Police highlights the challenges faced by the government in addressing both the violence and the public’s demand for transparency and accountability. Boko Haram’s deep-seated ideological convictions and mistrust of the government prevent them from seeking peaceful resolutions through the National Assembly. Instead, they continue to pursue their goals through terror and violence, leaving a trail of devastation in their wake. Addressing the root causes of this insurgency—such as poverty, corruption, and social marginalization—remains critical for Nigeria’s future stability and peace.

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