THE regular assurances by the Nigerian Armed Forces that terrorism in the Northeast has been “technically defeated” notwithstanding, there are still gory images from the area enough to give citizens the impression that all is not well with Nigeria yet.
The other day, a Senator representing the area on the platform of the governing party added a new twist to the narrative when he said that despite the military’s progress report of victory over insurgency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, 50 per cent of Borno is still being occupied by Boko Haram. The presidency and the military authorities have since disputed the claim. But what is not disputable is that insurgency has not been defeated.
A source of hope, however, is that President Muhammadu Buhari has not been complacent about the magnitude of the complex internal security challenges. He has succeeded in internationalising the discussion and built enough consensus to make Boko Haram’s insurgency a global issue that it really is. That consensus has been further strengthened within sub-regional groups within Africa, especially the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and with the African Union at large.
It is on the strength of this globalisation of the fight that wherever there is any discussion on terrorism, Nigeria’s variant has been integrated into the context of finding solutions. That is also why it is now on record that there is an official linkage between Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda and ISIS. And there can be no better way of dealing with the global common enemy.
Nigeria has been particularly noted for foreign policy activism and vibrancy since independence. The country was well applauded barely 40 years ago when she led Africa at the then Organisation of African Unity (defunct OAU) special summit on Angola to tell the world powers from the West that “Africa has come of age”, and was no longer a continent to be toyed with. Nigeria has also been prominent in the formation of the Concert of Medium Powers (CMP). Nigeria has been credited with prominent and creative foreign economic and defence policies such as “Economic Diplomacy”, New Partnership for African Development, (NEPAD) Peer Review Mechanism (PRM) among others on the continent. Besides, the country has been significantly associated with successful peace-keeping forces in Africa and other global flashpoints. Which is also why the Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Ministry should find some inspiration from these antecedents in pursuing a clear, activist foreign policy.
In 2014, the number of lives lost to terrorism around the world increased by 80 per cent, the highest level ever. The majority of such terrorist activities occurred in the largest refugee-producing nations, a Global Terrorism Index (GTI) showed.
The 2015 GTI, released on November 17, last year recorded a rise in terrorism, with a nine-fold increase in terrorism-related deaths. In total, 32,658 people were killed in terrorist attacks in 67 countries in 2014. Most of these deaths, over 78 per cent, happened in just five countries: Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria.
In Nigeria alone, deaths by terrorism increased over 300 per cent to 7,512, the largest increase ever recorded by any country. This has allowed Boko Haram to surpass any other such organisation to become the deadliest terrorist group in the world. The index also highlighted the link between countries with terrorist activity and levels of internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees.
From just these five countries with the highest levels of terrorism, there were over 16 million refugees and IDPs in 2014. This steady increase in the destructive capacity of small groups and individuals is driven largely by three factors: more powerful weapons, the dramatic progress in communications and information processing, and more abundant opportunities to deploy non-weapon technologies to destructive ends.
As technological change, even crude change, makes it easier to kill, societies are becoming more susceptible to perpetual cycles of attack. That is why the Nigerian President’s action in taking the war on terrorism to the global stage is a welcome development because vulnerability is shared and concern is total. President Buhari must be encouraged in his bid to further internationalise the fight against Boko Haram given that the level of sophistication associated with terrorism today calls for a multi-faceted, multi-national solution. This calls for a robust foreign and defence policy and actions that assert Nigeria’s pre-eminence frontline position in the war against terrorism.