By Emmanuel Onwubiko

Terrorism as a political lexicon defined by the WRITERS of Encyclopaedia Britannica as the calculated use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective. The term was first coined in the 1790s to refer to the TERROR used during the French Revolution by the Revolutionaries against their opponents.  TERRORISM as a term is a thing of terror to scholars since there is no unanimity among them on what exactly constitutes universal form or character. However there are some commonality of elements such as the use of threats of violence to create the climate of fear all around the place. TERRORISM does not yet enjoy a Universally acknowledged legal frameworks of codification.  

In this reflection, this writer is not out to discuss the academics of the concept of terrorism but to look at it from the prism of the popular belief that checking the activities of terrorists in any given society such as the Federal Republic of Nigeria, both the government and non governmental bodies and individuals have a collective responsibility to work in synergy to attain the overall national security objective of defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria. Apart from Nigeria, many debates have happened even in the Western Societies as to whether Islamic fundamentalists turned terrorists can be decisively defeated and if in the affirmative, what roles should civil social leaders play in the attainment of this overall objective. 

The need to reflect deeply on the probing question of whether terrorism can be defeated and what roles should the civil leaders play in achieving holistic defeat of terrorism, has become necessary given the incessant calls for the Service Chiefs to be dismissed.  

The frequent media generated propaganda by Northern elders against the service chiefs concerning the protracted fight against terrorists in the North East of Nigeria, was recently faulted by a prominent Civil Rights Advocacy Group- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) which has asked the community leaders to play their own part in partnership with the armed forces of Nigeria so the counter terror war can come to a quick conclusion. 

Making the charge is the Nation’s prominent civil rights advocacy group:- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA ( HURIWA) which applauded the chief of Army staff LIEUTENANT GENERAL YUSUF TUKUR BURATAI for doing so much with so little made available given the complexity involved in waging holistic war on terrorists that have global affiliation to the Middle East based Islamic States’ terror network that is awash with secret sponsorship dollars from their institutional and private supporters.

“We hereby call on Northern leaders and elders to stop the well oiled calculated and orchestrated campaign of calumny and desists from the “beer parlour” criticisms of the war on terror and return to their communities to show leadership examples to their wards and children”. 

HURIWA affirmed that: “These members of the terror network seeking the destruction of modern day constitutional democracy in Nigeria are children and wards of these community elders who are now transferring their misdirected angst at the service chiefs. What the Northern  elders need to do with all due respect, is to articulate position paper on practical measures to be adopted by them to dissuade and discourage their kith  and kin from enlisting into the terror groups that are waging the war of attrition  against the Nigerian state and the people of Nigeria”. 

The Rights group said the Northern Elders supported by the central and regional governments should unfold and begin to implement community based enlightenment crusades to redirect the brainwashed Children and Youths of the North East of Nigeria to accept the universal fact that their future development and aspirations can rapidly be attained in a United, democratic and prosperous Sovereign Republic of Nigeria and not by any group of TERROR WARRIORS because: “As long as we are concerned, we think what is critical is for all stakeholders to stop playing political pranks with the war on terror being waged by the Federal Government but to contribute our quota.”

HURIWA cited highly scholarly paper by experts on how the constructively positive roles of community elders can help transform a war torn region into a peaceful and purposeful homes for all the good citizens of Nigeria thus: “One of the major challenges in our communities as narrated in the work titled ‘The role of community participation in combating crime’  is the increasing, high rate of crime. Government and law enforcement agencies, trying to control this phenomenon, have focused most of their efforts in combating it through repressive or police force related methods (Barreto2002 large and ornish 200″ believe that, the adequate solution for crime related problems must be based on community participation and citizens & involvement with each other and with their communities”. 

“The most important element of community crime prevention, according to this scholar appears to be bringing about social interaction, whereby residents of the community maintain a degree of familiarity with each other. Such interaction and familiarity should at least, make it possible to detect strangers in the community. Such interactions may lead to a cohesive neighbourhood. The basic philosophy of community crime prevention is that social interaction and citizen familiarity can play an important role in preventing, detecting, and reporting criminal behaviour. Community participation is regarded as an important tool for crime prevention.”

HURIWA also asked the Northern Elders and indeed Nigerian Elders to redirect their agitations towards the National and State Assemblies so good laws are immediately made and effectively implemented to create a harmonious relationship between traditional institutions,  community based credible groups and the government in such a way that constitutional roles and responsibilities are created for the community leaders and traditional institutions to amongst others carry out grassroots mass enlightenment crusades and programmes to win the hearts and minds of the youths and the generality of the citizens to be focused towards social responsibility roles of building a strong, United, Cohesive and Prosperous Nigeria whereby there will be no much rooms for groups to embrace terrorism or armed struggles in their attempts to destabilise Nigeria. 

HURIWA recalled that the Northern elders operating under the auspices of Coalition of North East Elders for Peace and Development had expressed disappointment in the New Year message of President Muhammadu Buhari, saying it does not align with the demands of calls for the sack of security chiefs over worsening security problems in the country.

HURIWA recalled that the  elders, who said Buhari’s New Year message is disappointing and empty, charged the president to immediately do the needful by not only announcing appointment of new security heads but also ensuring that the new security management team was in line with Nigeria’s federal character principle.

HURIWA citing media reports quoted the Northern elders in a statement signed by its national coordinator Zana Goni as stating that they needed a gift of new service chiefs from the president, saying it was the only way the president can convince them of hope for positive results in the ongoing war against insecurity in the region even as they noted that the continued retention of the service chiefs many years after expiration of their retirement date in service was not only unconstitutional but that it had also weakened the morale of military personnel and the front line troops.

HURIWA said the frequent media propaganda against the hierarchy of the Armed forces of Nigeria is not useful but amounts to political distraction just as the Rights Advocacy group HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) said what is needed now apart from a well equipped, motivated and battle prepared combatants which the Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai has endeavoured to institutionalised progressively and rapidly, is the component of community participation in waging the counter terror measures to deal decisively with threats posed to the territorial integrity of Nigeria by Armed Islamic terrorists and other desperate armed non state actors. 

Now let us look towards some security scholars on those twin probing issues of defeating TERRORISTS and Who can or should work in partnership to achieve that. Frank Gardner, a Security Correspondent of the highly respected British Broadcasting corporation did a vastly factually accurate report and I intend to narrate the entire scope of this report. The report was published on June 20th 2020 whereby this journalist just like this writer asked the intriguing question as follows: Will the ‘War on Terror’ ever end? Then his story follows subsequently. 

“Last weekend’s deadly knife attack in Reading, west of London, has been an uncomfortable reminder that the threat of terrorism has not gone away. But what about the so-called War on Terror, as declared by US President George W Bush in 2001? Is it still going on? And if not, has it been a triumph or a massive waste of money?

Nearly 19 years on from the day America was attacked on 11 September 2001 thousands of US servicemen and women remain stationed in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Gulf and the Horn of Africa. Drone strikes in remote regions of the world continue to target suspected terrorist leaders; counter-terrorism budgets across the world have ballooned to astronomical proportions to meet a myriad of ongoing threats.

‘Reading weeps’ as town mourns stab deaths

Al-Qaeda tries to exploit US unrest

RAF carries out four air strikes on IS in May

Sasha Havliclek, the CEO of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, has been following this war since its inception. She maintains there is a distinction between the rhetoric and the reality:

“The rhetoric was done away with the minute President [Barack] Obama came into office [in 2009] but in reality there was much more continuity than rupture in the tactics of the war on terror. Under the Obama administration it’s well known that they massively scaled up droning attacks, for instance, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And for all the talk of America First now.. and I think there is a wide perception that this is winding down… we’ve actually seen a continued expansion of US counter-terrorism operations.”


‘A determined group of enemies’

That’s a view largely endorsed by the man appointed by President Donald Trump as the US State Department’s co-ordinator for counter-terrorism, Ambassador Nathan Sales. I asked him whether this war – as originally conceived by the Bush administration – is over?

“No, the fight is very much ongoing, we’re winning the fight but we’re continuing to fight against a determined enemy or I should say a determined group of enemies.”

He points to the example of Islamic State (IS) where a vast, multi-national coalition successfully eliminated the last of the jihadists’ physical caliphate at Baghuz in Syria last year, as well as its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. Yet IS affiliates and networks, he concedes, are still very active around the world.

On Wednesday, the State Department releases its annual Country Terrorism Reports.

To some in Washington, it must have all seemed so clear-cut in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on the US.

Announcing the start of the “War on Terror” back then, President Bush declared that you were “either with us or against us”. There was no middle ground, no allowance made for the subtle nuances of the Middle East with its ever-shifting alliances and allegiances. In Iraq, which the US and Britain invaded in 2003, this uncompromising position turned potential allies into enemies, laying the foundations for today’s ongoing global jihadist movement. Mina Al-Orabi is the Editor of the UAE newspaper The National. She is originally from Mosul, Iraq’s second city, which was devastated during the battle to dislodge IS from its streets.

“‘In Iraq,” she says, “there were clear instances where the United States undercut the Iraqi state. Of course in 2003 the decision to dismantle the police and the military, the decision to put tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of young men out of work… with the idea that they should be completely excluded from the country, that became the nucleus for al-Qaeda in Iraq and then the nucleus of IS.”

Far from over

Other policy mistakes have also been made as a part of this war that, although later reversed by President Obama, continue to have consequences today.

The detention of hundreds of suspects without trial in Guantanamo Bay, the practice of “extraordinary rendition” – blindfolding terror suspects and flying them across the world to CIA “black sites” where they were subjected to prolonged and “enhanced interrogation”.

These have all been used by critics of the West to undermine its moral authority. Ambassador Sales from the US state department says that “the world has learned a lot of lessons about what works and what doesn’t and we’ve incorporated those lessons into our current approaches”.

He is particularly irked by those critics of Guantanamo Bay, including Washington’s Western partners, who have now abandoned their citizens in desolate camps strung out across Syria and Iraq. He says these countries should take them back.

It is impossible to pin down exactly how much the “War on Terror” has cost but most estimates put it well in excess of US $1 trillion. The vast bulk of that has been spent on “kinetic” military action, as well as intelligence-gathering and drone strikes. Only a tiny fraction has gone towards prevention – steering people away from the path of extremism. Shiraz Maher from Kings College London’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation believes this war has helped spawn many of today’s other problems in society.

“If you look at things like the wider Islamic State and Syria and Iraq or these types of thing,” he says, “then that fuelled a degree of xenophobia in Europe, that fuelled a degree of suspicion and hostility towards Muslims, which translated into animosity towards refugees and the refugee crisis that was a result of Syria. So you can see a cascading series of consequences. So I think it’s fair to say that the ‘War on Terror’ is far from over in many senses.”

So will there ever be an end to this amorphous campaign? Will there be a decisive “Mission Accomplished” moment that brings the so-called War on Terror to a close? It is unlikely. Because, like crime, terrorism can only be reduced to what officials call “manageable levels”. And today there is already a newly emerging threat, that of far-right extremism, something that will likely breathe new life into what appears to be a War without End.”

From the benefit of hindsight,  what must be emphasised is that tackling terrorism would demand collective responsibility of the government and leaders of community based platforms such as traditional rulers and civil society stakeholders. The Service Chiefs should however remained focused and do the job of clinically finishing the war on terror which I think is winnable if NIGERIANS WANT IT TO END.

Emmanuel Onwubiko is the Head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria andblogs@www.huriwanigeria.com;www.emmanuelonwubikocom;www.thenigerianinsidernews.com;www.huriwa@blogpot.com

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