LIFE IN BOKO HARAM ENCLAVE: A culture of savagery and blood bath.
Historically the modern Maiduguri city known as Yerwa by the locals was founded in 1907 as a military outpost of the British colonialists. It was also the former headquarters of the defunct North-east states before the creation of Borno in 1976. Borno is a home of commerce due to its proximity to three African nations of Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Hundreds of trucks convey consumables to the neighbouring countries for sale. It was indeed a home of peace. Most of this trans-border business has become a forgotten issue with the closure of the Nigerian borders in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
The people of the area were said to have fought many wars in the past to liberate themselves from invasion of the enemies. Ironically for five years now the military have found the dislodgement of the terrorists from the Maiduguri city a hard nut to crack. The insurgents have sacked and occupied, while terrorizing a substantial part of the city. The atrophic nature of peace in Maiduguri has been a serious cause of concern and worry to many Nigerians. It is a well known fact that the Boko Haram militias constantly launch massive attacks on military base surrounding Maiduguri to cart away arms in a bid to heavily attack the City. The military base in Bama has been over run, the Multi National at Baga has also fallen and the Mongonu barracks was their major achievement in advancing towards the city. The Boko Haram base in Mongonu now neighbours the 7 Div. of the Nigerian Army. There is no heavy military unit between the terrorists’ base in Mongonu and the Head Quarters of the 7 Div. in the capital city of Maiduguri. Maiduguri has been effectively and comfortably surrounded by the terrorists. We in Maiduguri are pragmatically speaking, sitting on a keg of gun powder. No exit route, since the only road out of Maiduguri as it stands is the Maiduguri – Damaturu road. We live with constant fear, which is been heightened by each passing day.
RECENT ATTACKS AND THE FEBRUARY POLLS
The recent attack on Maiduguri was quite deadly. The city was under a massive attack from its four corners. The radical Islamists group did not venture an attack from a particular direction but from four different corners. This speaks clearly and eloquently of the might the terrorist organization has got. I dare to say that Boko Haram should not be under estimated, it has snowballed from a group of miscreants into a ferocious terrorist organization, with the capacity of pulling down nations if not cracked down.
Residents in Maiduguri are really facing a hard time in the face of the Boko Haram on slaughter. The attacks have become ever frequent as they have come close to the city.
Christians in the capital city are really paying the prize for their faith. For some time now, we have been forced either to attend Mass/ Sunday service lately or never to attain at all. We cannot even have a sound gathering on a Sunday to thank God for his love thus far and most particularly to pray for peaceful elections. The threats and distractions have become totally unbearable.
The ferocious attempt by the unrepentant radical Islamist militants, Hoko Haram to overrun the capital city of Maiduguri has been very frightening. I wonder and sometimes I am forced to think aloud, when will this culture of savagery and bloodletting end. Is it that as a Nation we lack the inner capacity to abate it?
With the recent waves of attacks, there is so much fear and tension in the air. With the February Polls drawing ever close we see all sorts of personalities with well fashioned and designed promises too good to be taken as true; trooping into Maiduguri and the northeast, not to identify with us in our plight but to beg for our votes.
Most people are quite skeptical of the polls for fear of the terrorists’ attacks. Citizens of Maiduguri as much as possible avoid crowded areas and the polling units would not be an exception, unless people’s security is assured and ensured. If anyone needs our votes, our safety must first be assured.
MAIDUGURI MUST NOT FALL
Up on till now the militants have been conquering and occupying towns and villages close to the capital city of Maiduguri. Those whose duty it is to protect the lives of the populace are obviously unable to halt the radical Islamist group. The Government and the polity are saturated with campaign rallies; and the minds of our political leaders are gradually been eclipsed from the core issues regarding our safety but Maiduguri must not fall… if it does fall, the corresponding consequences would be devastating.
Apparently worried by the alleged alarm raised by the Executive Governor of Borno State Kashim Shettima, that a third of the state had been captured by the militants, a group of Lawyers wired a wake- up call to Federal Government, urging it to declare a “full scale war” by exerting its authority inform of more airstrikes on the unrepentant Boko Haram with a view of bringing normalcy to the affected region. The Government must marshal out strategy of relocating vulnerable civilians to safer heavens to prevent the unintended collateral damages, they said.
We do know that we are in a state of real war. This is no time for legal niceties and jurisprudential theories. Desperate diseases require desperate remedies. The Federal Government and Nigerians must wake up to this call. They have to step up and change the old approach of countering the Boko Haram on slaughter, because we are gradually descending into a civil war that would consume us as a Nation.
If Maiduguri falls, the implications are huge and in the negative. Maiduguri is the state capital and the seat of Government, with all its structures, with a high concentration of state population and the commercial nerve of the northeast. If it falls, the citizens will be more facile to radicalization. And the terrorists will have more conscripts. They will have a strong base and then rumble into YOBE, BAUCHI, ADAMAWA, GOMBE STATES……and colonized them into the ambit of its counterfeit Caliphate. If the city falls, it will enrich the grown militancy. Considering how enclosed we are, so many would fall. The militants can then molest and slaughter all the more at will. If Maiduguri falls the militants would control an airport and a military base with the 7 Div. This is really and truly dangerous for the Nation, as it is a potential disaster for Africa as a continent.
The argument is simple, sophisticated military base have fallen in the not too distant past. The Federal Government must tighten and step up her counter insurgency and counter terrorism approaches even amidst the seeming distractions posed by the upcoming elections so that Maiduguri the Capital city does not fall. If it falls, we have all succeeded collectively in empowering the terrorists, recapturing it would take some time and the consequences apparently would be deadly.
Fr. Gideon Obasogie
Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri