Confronting Boko Haram: Action, not empty words!!

Sat, 10 May 2014 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Wednesday, May 8, 2014

Folks, while the United States and Britain have taken practical action by sending security and intelligence personnel to Nigeria to tackle the Boko Haram menace, leaders in the ECOWAS sub-region are merely scratching the surface of the problem: talking and talking about intentions and not what decisive action they have planned to take.

As usual, a "talk-shop" approach is all they have determined as their response to Boko Haram. Forget about the nicety entailed by the murky intent "to” activate anti-terrorism strategy against Boko Haram”. It is a mere whiff of air being blown!!

Here is why I am saying so:

"ECOWAS member countries are to summon their intelligence chiefs to Accra next week to discuss strategies to deal with Boko Haram’s threat in Nigeria and the sub-region.... ECOWAS has common anti-terrorism strategy, and so as Chair of ECOWAS I have been speaking to other ECOWAS heads of state and they believe that we should activate that anti-terrorism strategy.

“We are looking to call a meeting of our joint intelligence chiefs in Accra next week, and we are inviting Cameroun and Chad to join so that together we can see how we eliminate this security threat to the sub-region.”

These were the words of Ghana's President, John Dramani Mahama, after he had met with Nigeria's Goodluck Jonathan to deliberate on the Boko Haram menace.

(Source: http://www.myjoyonline.com/world/2014/May-8th/ecowas-to-activate-anti-terrorism-strategy-against-boko-haram.php)

In contrast, here is a better approach: US Secretary of State John Kerry says a specialist team is set to start work in Nigeria to help find more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by militants.

"Our inter-agency team is hitting the ground in Nigeria now and they are going to be working in concert with President Goodluck Jonathan's government to do everything that we possibly can to return these girls to their families and their communities... We are also going to do everything possible to counter the menace of Boko Haram," Mr. Kerry said.

(See: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-27335956)

This is how action is taken to solve such problems. Too much idle talk from the Nigerian leader himself, which has culminated in the "talk-shop" approach that will emerge in Accra next week. The declaration of intention to assemble those so-called intelligence chiefs in Accra next week alone tells me how clueless these leaders are.

So, all this while that Boko Haram has established itself as a major security threat to Nigeria and the entire West African sub-region, what have these leaders and their so-called intelligence chiefs been doing? What strategy have they already drawn to collaborate with those that the United States and Britain have already sent to do the job?

You see, my good friends, our leaders just don't know how to solve problems; they are more interested in wearing their power on their sleeves than using that power to improve conditions in the countries that they rule.

I have written numerous opinion pieces to urge action against Boko Haram; but nothing concrete has been done to indicate, at least, that our leaders are also closely monitoring the trend of affairs to know how to deal with the menace.

Of course, I don't presuppose that these leaders read my opinion pieces to know my views; but, at least, they are better positioned to receive intelligence reports that could be processed to help them formulate plans of action. They have failed to do so and are only meeting now to save their faces because of how the international community has reacted to the happenings in Nigeria.

All this talk of meeting in Accra next week means nothing to me or to Boko Haram. Only immediate action (the most potent of which is a military option) will neutralize Boko Haram.

What irks me most is that these leaders have proved to be grossly ignorant of why ECOMOG was formed to confront the Liberian crisis; and Nigeria played a prominent role in ECOMOG too! But now that its own territory and people are suffering the scourge of terrorism, Goodluck Jonathan doesn't know what to do. He is one particular dormant leader who really gets on my nerves!!

He talks too much and does very little to move Nigeria forward. Now that he has found solace in support given him by his fellow leaders, I hope he will see the urgency of the situation and stop thinking that the Boko Haram threat is "temporary" (in his own word).

Only decisive action can stop Boko Haram in its stride; and that action has to be taken sooner than later. Too much of the empty political rhetoric grates on our ears and irritates us!!!

I am reminded of how Ghana's General Arnold Quainoo (the first ECOMOG Commander) led the first contingent to Freetown (Sierra Leone en route to be directly involved in tackling the Liberian crisis).

In a pre-departure interaction with the troops, Gen. Quainoo spoke for long, exhorting the troops: When I say anytime, say anytime! When I say every time, say every time! No retreat, no surrender! Any time, any day, anywhere!!" and many more.

Then, he handed over the megaphone to the then Sierra Leonean military leader, Gen. Joseph Momoh, to add his own words of encouragement.

Guess what? Gen. Momoh loudly said: "This is time for action and not words!!"

You can imagine Gen. Quainoo's mien at this point. But ECOMOG went on to do a good job.

I have raised this particular issue to remind the ECOWAS that it is long past talking time. Only firm action is needed at this stage to deal with Boko Haram.

Some Ghanaians may be wondering whether Ghana's involvement in this attempt to rout Boko Haram may not anger the terrorists to turn their attention to Ghana. I don't anticipate anything of the sort provided the ACTION that I am calling for is not restricted to only the territory called Nigeria.

It must be an all-encompassing action and perpetual readiness to deal with any threat that surfaces anywhere in the sub-region. Otherwise, what are the security services being funded/supported for?

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.