In 2009, Boko Haram insurgents broke upon Borno State like a case of hives. As the ground zero for its wider agenda of enshrining and entrenching an Islamic state in Nigeria, the state was to feel the force of its fury. Communities were torn apart and thousands were displaced.
Schools, hospitals, churches, mosques, markets were toppled and many slaughtered as the terrorists fought their way into the international limelight. There have since been factions within the group and an extension of the group’s deadly activities to neighbouring countries much to the horror of a watching world.
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In many ways, Borno State has been the battleground and the venue of most of the sect’s most atrocious attacks. For example, in 2014 the terrorists stormed a government secondary school in Chibok and abducted hundreds of girls. More than six years down the line, some of the girls remain captives of the terrorists in a case that continues to draw unwanted attention to Nigeria`s extremely fragile security situation.
As Nigeria`s security forces have battled valiantly to keep the state from falling under the complete control of terrorists, the Nigerian Army has tallied some of its worst losses. Hundreds of soldiers have either paid the ultimate price, or have been left with grievous bodily harm in courageous attempts to keep the criminals at bay. The psychological toll the war has taken on the soldiers and their families is better imagined.
Today, where does the state stand in its recovery efforts and where does the war on terror stand in the state with its wider implications for Nigeria`s security and sovereignty?
Feelers say that Mr. Zulum, the current governor of the state, has worked wonders in rebuilding it from the devastation caused by a war that has gone on for over a decade. He has obviously continued from where his predecessor in office stopped in effort to get the state working again.
Communities have been resettled and remarkable strides have been made to replacing destroyed infrastructure. It appears the Borno State government has made impressive efforts to help the long-suffering people of the state get back their lives and livelihoods. The wounds hacked open by Boko Haram`s weapons will take time to heal but praise must be reserved for the journey the state government has made so far.
What of Nigeria? What do every day Nigerians think of the security situation of the country and what is their prediction for the immediate future? It appears there is only a one-word answer to this: grim. Indeed.
On the streets of Nigeria, hope has become an increasingly scarce commodity and with each fresh attack that breaks the hearts of innocent children and their families anew, the horizons grow considerably darker.
If it were only that there was hunger in the land, Nigerians, being a people of remarkable fortitude, would have borne it and found a way out of the dense thickets of starvation. But alongside the hunger that makes a meal out of the stomachs of innocent children, Nigerians have to contend with a clan of hyenas and their insatiable taste for death and destruction.
If it isn’t chickens, it is feathers: If it is not Boko Haram, it is Fulani herdsmen; if it is not bandits, it is IPOB or unknown gunmen. Thus, wherever Nigerians turn, there are hyenas and the danger they portend.
Today, an existential question dogs Nigeria`s every step: to be or not to be? The country celebrated its 61st independence anniversary just the other day, but the pomp and pageantry of the occasion was dulled by the pricks of pain that linger in many a Nigerian heart.
The power situation is yet to improve; there is no telling when the infrastructure deficit in the country will be rectified to put many out of the misery they experience; the rampaging corruption that hugs many institutions like an obsessed lover is waxing stronger by the day. Indeed, Nigeria, like Borno State, is broken in many places and recovery must be deliberate and painstaking.
However, to reset Nigeria and set it on the path to the prosperity promised at independence in I960, there are those who must account for the pain the country has experienced; there are those who must stand before Nigerians and render an account of their stewardship – and all they did or did not do to complicate or simplify the Nigerian story.
Together with Boko Haram, bandits, IPOB, someday, all those who have made Nigerians poorer and insecure will unavoidably stand to account for their actions. It is inevitable.
Kene Obiezu could be reached through email@example.com