by Tobi Adebowale
Upon reading Dr Peregrino Brimah’s proposition of a citizen invasion of the Sambisa forest, different emotions coiled within me. A part of me was initially gladdened to see such level of concern – at least on the face of it. We are often more willing to talk than act as a people, so to see efforts being made to confront terrorism by some of us gave a little spark of hope within me, it probably did for many others.
That spark was however momentary, lasting the few seconds of a thought and fizzling out the moment my reasoning took over. What? – That was a scream from my mind – What on earth has reduced our nation to this level? Where citizens at best armed with shovels and their climbing ropes claim to possess more intelligence update than the Army we yearly expend billions of Naira on through budgetary allocations? How did we get to this shameful level where agonizing parents and sympathetic friends now have to head to face the bloodthirsty demons in their own fortress, how?
A lot is wrong if the contents of Brimah’s write-up are right, that the terrorists operate in open camps to the knowledge of soldiers who are unwilling or unable to do anything. It is good to have faith in oneself when others doubt one’s vision but this illusion of untrained citizens smoking out members of a terrorist group with years of ill-intended training and with strangely acquired sophisticated weaponry, is one I do not subscribe to or think should be encouraged. The skeptic in me on the matter will however embrace caution in the same length.
If the proposed mission were to ever get the approval of the President and succeeds, it will definitely amount to an unprecedented show of grit that historians the world over will pay every dime to study. It will also mean that either the ability of the terrorists has always been overstated or the supposed efforts of the military in tracking them down has always been over-emphasized. Undoubtedly, such victory by a group of civilians will be a conclusive proof that our military apparatus is a hideous joke that should be immediately done away with, even up to the Commander-in-Chief. But then, a Boko Haram group that has killed 1, 600 citizens in just four months, confidently sacked police stations and attacked several military barracks is not one to be taken lightly. The victories of our uniformed men on days they rose to the occasion during attacks are evidence that the situation is not completely beyond them. I therefore do not subscribe to the assumptions of Peregrino Brimah and his group. Those are very unsafe assumptions.
As hard as it may sound, I must say that any attempt by citizens to stage an assault on Sambisa may be a grand massacre we can avoid. The number of members of the better-psyched Civilian
JTF lost already to the more equipped and mentally deranged sect is enough. It may not seem easy to trust the military but aside possible foreign military assistance, our armed forces are our best bet in this situation, not untrained passionate citizens. The government and the security forces are the ones we must prevail upon to be honest and to do their jobs.
Our involvement in providing solutions must remain within the bounds of reason and reality.
Beyond the military assault approach, for the sake of those 234 pearls already being psychologically stained by the mud of their experience in Sambisa, I wonder if it will be possible to negotiate with the sect for their release. If Peregrino Brimah’s team has useful intelligence on how we can get to the sect and to get them to reason, if any hope of that at all, they can be more useful in this regard. It may be unpalatable to suggest negotiating with terrorists but considering the lives of these pearls who may already have been subjected to unimaginable evil fantasies, whatever can ensure their safe return must be considered. It is taking far too long to have our gems with people devoid of a sense of appreciation.
Back to Brimah’s proposition and in conclusion, no one needs to embark on a suicide mission in the name of hot-blooded activism when there are other options. It is a really sad and very bad situation, we need not further increase the number of hostages or outright casualties and make it worse than it already is.
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