It does not matter that several individuals, groups and leaders threatened to make Nigeria ungovernable should President Muhammadu Buhari, who was then the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), defeat the then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). What matters is that the threats are now a reality with the birth of Niger Delta Avengers.
The group has within a matter of weeks blown up enough oil and gas infrastructure to cripple the economy of the country. In the space of time they have killed several troops and policemen sent to the Niger Delta to stop their attacks on critical infrastructure. They have issued more threats to blow up more installations and kill any additional troops sent to the area.
Similar threats to make the country ungovernable were made from another geo-political zone. The rise of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and re-militarisation of the Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) now appear to be the South-East response to President Buahri’s emergence. Far from the cover of ideological agitation that they present to the world, members of these groups have repeatedly shown their rabidity – from shallow graves of murder victims to chucking policemen and soldiers into the River Niger, their capacity to kill and maim.
Unfortunately, Niger Delta Avengers, IPOB and MASSOB have similarities with the biggest monster Nigeria began battling in recent years, Boko Haram. When the terrorist group first came to limelight the general misconception was to dismiss it as a group of fanatics pursuing the unrealistic goal of implementing full blown Sharia across Nigeria. We have all since learnt differently. Boko Haram is a group of mentally deranged sadists and pyromaniacs that have over and over again proven that Islam is the furthest thing on their minds and agenda. Their attacks on security formation and churches moved to mosques once they no longer got their high from killing non-Moslems.
It is the strategy of Boko Haram that Niger Delta Avengers, IPOB and MASSOB want to replicate, albeit with modifications to suit specific peculiarities. All the separatist groups, like Boko Haram abhor Nigeria as geographical and political entity and want to break it up for their purposes. At the start of Boko Haram’s reign of terror, several highly placed persons were talking about peace deals, amnesty, as well as stick and carrot approach among others. But it turned out that these people pretending to be interested in peace were actually buying time for the terrorists to gain grounds. The circle is playing out all over again with the separatist groups, their leaders at state and federal level are asking the Federal Government to dialogue with these criminal without even first distancing themselves from them.
Like Boko Haram, they are out to get what they want – separation from Nigeria, by the use of destruction, killings and instilling fears into the rest of the population. This explains the wanton riots in the south-east and the destruction in the Niger Delta. There is no other name for it but terrorism. It will be in the Federal Government’s interest that the terror groups are not allowed to get off with any other appellation because that is what they are. Local media must label them as such while we must all collective reject the western media giving them any other self serving designation.
We must also be mindful of what they think of the rest of us and how they perceive us. Boko Haram justifies its killing of others including devout Moslems by labelling them as ‘unbelievers’. Niger Delta Avengers sees Nigerians as occupiers. IPOB and MASSOB call Nigeria a ‘zoo’ and other Nigerians ‘animals’. Let us not forget the ‘cockroaches’ jibes before the Rwandan genocide took place. Depraved killers first programme their minds to see others as lesser humans to enable them carry out their pogrom without emotions. This is what these separatist groups are doing. This is what should scare Nigeria’s other ethnic nationals.
But we are being sold the lie that these separatists are mere agitators. Nothing can be farther from the truth. If it uses guns and explosives to kill, maim, destroy and intimidate then it is terrorism. The delay that allowed Boko Haram to mutate must not be repeated. That was a mistake. The delusion of dialogue could in the end be costly. We have been down that road before with Boko Haram when ceasefires, peace talks and amnesty were smokescreen for conflict entrepreneurs and terror sponsors to make money. Before anyone talk about dialogue we must first separate the criminals from genuine ethnic agitators and what if what they are asking for – the breakup of Nigeria, is as unrealisable as Boko Haram drive to rule the whole of Nigeria under Sharia.
Sponsors and sympathisers of these terror groups are highlighting casualties from clashes with security operatives as highhandedness that should make dialogue an option. Such misguided people should be educated as to the value and sanctity of human live. The right to life is the first and primary because it takes someone still alive to demand the other rights When Ethnic militias kill others in the pursuit of their goals it is called terrorism and no sovereign country will sit by and allow that go unchallenged and it closes the door on dialogue.
The rest of us should not be fooled into tolerating this newfound madness under any guise. Terrorism is terrorism and all terrorists should be treated alike. What is good for Boko Haram should be good for NDA, IPOB and MASSOB.
Abiodun is a security strategist based in Lagos.