BOKO HARAM elements lurk in the shadows within Maiduguri, Borno State capital. An open-secret reiterated one time too many. Why conversation on the matter is not driven by opinion leaders to stir desired government and citizens response beats me. A deja vu of sorts, therefore, unravels before eyewitnesses who, like myself, sadly recollect how things were, once upon a time, when the outlaws held the city to ransom. An unenviable period of time, as it were. In Maiduguri and other flashpoints of violent extremism in the region, there are closet supporters of the insurgents. They would rather remain faceless for obvious reasons. There are accomplices too whose stock in trade is the perennial interactions they have with terrorists. This group is responsible for supplying Boko Haram with food, fuel and other logistics, in the name of doing business. Sometimes, they are caught by the military and paraded before the press. A city replete with such elements of the underworld is sitting on a time bomb.
Maiduguri is centrally located in Borno State. From the city centre, federal highways link the capital to other parts of the state. Invariably, good and bad people gain access in and out of town. The porous highways are extremely dangerous, fraught with impending attacks. It’s basically suicidal to travel 20 kilometres out of Maiduguri, through all routes, without military escort. The military is also susceptible to such attacks, ironically.
On Maiduguri-Monguno road, commuters could be killed or abducted by terrorists when they are caught, even farmers are not spared but slain by the villains. Maiduguri-Damaturu road has since become a boiling cauldron of terrorism and every bad thing associated with it. Maiduguri-Damboa road is often than not a no-go area. In the heat of it all, the relative safety of Maiduguri is threatened by the insurgents’ novel ability to hurl projectiles that could have devastating consequences from locations outside of the city. I am a tad nudged to call the situation a siege. This is because the insurgents seem to be closing in on the capital.
Villagers in Moduajiri off Maiduguri-Monguno road have started leaving their ancestral homelands to seek refuge within the city because of Boko Haram attacks. Moduajiri, for what it’s worth, can at best be considered an integral part of Maimalari Cantonment given its proximity to the military facility. Could the terrorists be planning to launch an onslaught on the cantonment from there? I earnestly hope my hunch is wrong. Grapevine has it that terrorists were sighted at a village near Chabbal along Maiduguri-Gubio road. The area is also close to Maimalari Cantonment. From experience, the longsuffering inhabitants of the embattled city have learned to believe every rumour until it is otherwise proven to be false. Good reason my opinion is a function of precaution rather than unfounded fear. As a matter of fact, between 2009 and 2013, bomb blasts and assassinations of prominent and everyday people in Maiduguri were prevalent. It was a period of extreme fear for the people. A time people were not sure if they could be alive to celebrate their next birthdays. An experience the people will not want to have again.
How soon until the North East is salvaged from terrorism that has been plaguing it since the second half of 2009? The time for military intelligence gathering, aerial and terrestrial surveillance of Maiduguri general area is now. Also, engaging all stakeholders in the onerous task of effectively combating terrorism is important. This includes community policing, information gathering and sharing with relevant authorities and general security consciousness in society. The morale of troops ought to be boosted astronomically with the requisite armaments, strategists and welfare so that the unfortunate war doesn’t find a firm footing on its way through the next decade.