A beat reporter provides much more than the what, who, when, where and why of reporting his or her corner of the world. If the reporter is good, indeed diligent at what he does, it shows in the steps he takes to go beyond the superficial, delves in deeper, enriching the reader, the viewer and the public who are invested with the right to know. Journalism is a service that promotes understanding of issues. That was what I aspired to be when I started my journalism career over 17 years ago. When I started with the ‘Boko Haram’ story, in July 2006, the group was only known and mostly referred to as ‘Almajiren Mallam Mohammed Yusuf,’ or the followers of Mohammed Yusuf I also aimed at making a mark.
Following SaharaReporter’s exclusive June 20 report on a vicious Boko Haram attack on a joint police/military convoy near Maiduguri which embarrassed and caught dozens of policemen off guard, the leadership of the militant group has released a video through journalist Ahmad Salkida of Salkida.com.
Andrew, a white European of the Christian faith currently works among the internally displaced persons, IDPs, in their camps in war ravaged and weather stricken villages of the North East Nigeria. His typical day is characterized by emergencies, thoroughly famished children hanging on the edge must be tended to, young women amid degrees of trauma and deprivation, avoidable deaths and life threatening situations surround him.
The biographer of “Muhammadu Buhari: The challenge of leadership in Nigeria,” Professor John Paden, revealed that the leadership of Boko Haram demanded 5 billion Euros as ransom for the release of the abducted girls, based on today’s exchange rate this comes to about 1.7 trillion Naira. Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information took it further in a recent press briefing. According to him, “on 4th August, 2015, the persons who were to be part of the swap arrangements and all others involved in the operation were transported to Maiduguri, Borno State. This team, with the lead facilitator, continued the contact with the group holding the Chibok girls… All things were in place for the swap, which was mutually agreed. Expectations were high. Unfortunately, after more than two weeks of negotiation and bargains, the group, just at the dying moments, issued new set of demands, never bargained for or discussed by the group before the movement to Maiduguri.”
It is easier to get into a conflict than to come out of it, and every war has its consequences, whether for the aggressors or the victims. Certainly, nearly everyone that survives a war lives with painful memories of its devastation.
Nigeria has been known with a rather disturbing attitude of placing a deplorable value on the lives of her citizens. It seems to run in the veins of successive administrations. And none has been more disturbing than the inclination to celebrate the much hyped technical defeat of Boko Haram over and above the continual massacre of defenceless citizens in the war ravaged North East Nigeria as well as in camps holding numerous distressed internally displaced persons, IDPs.
If the president wants to have video evidence of all Boko Haram captives he can receive it today, that’s if he hasn’t already. If the president wants the captors of innocent Nigerian citizens and school girls to put them on the phone with their parents, he can have it done, except if he doesn’t want to. He has the might as the president, so why is he saying he has no clue about the state of the girls?
The Nigerian state has embarked on dozens of programs since 2009 with the aim of figuring out and resolving the Boko Haram conflict. Each step in this direction, usually stirs a flurry of activities. Little if any effort is ever committed to seeking insight into the components of the problem. Not surprisingly, all of the programs are quickly abandoned. Not because these initiatives lacked the potentials to offer meaningful outcomes. No, only that the processes usually do not offer individual and successive leaders immediate ammunitions for cheap political points.
Boko Haram, the Islamic State affiliate that has nearly eclipsed all notions of civil normalcy in parts of Northern Nigeria as well as parts of neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger does not have barracks.
The group does not require to ferry bombs from the much hyped operational camps in the Sambisa forest before detonating same in the cities of Abuja, Yaoundé, N’djamena or anywhere else in the region. In effect, the active cells of the group are yet to be fully identified. It is also too early to contemplate Boko Haram’s impotence because they are still holding over 200 school girls captive for over one and a half years without any trace.
In two separate newspapers articles published in 2006 and 2009 in the New Sentinel and Sunday Trust, and credited to one of us, the manner Boko Haram’s total disregard for civil values was the point of discourse. The report in question warned that government’s disregard of this rebellious inclination of the group would amount a calculated catastrophe to society. The authorities ignored this at society’s general peril.