Let’s create an army of women to fight Boko Haram —Soyinka

In African
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NOBEL laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has made a call for the creation of a special security force of women fighters to combat Boko Haram, which he said had made women its primary target of attacks.

Professor Soyinka made the call on Friday in a statement, in which he noted that “our youths – the female most especially – have been brutalized beyond imagining and remain abnormally exposed as frontline victims.


“There is now, inevitably, a recruitment drive by the army. I have myself made that call, not for front-line action necessarily, but for the performance of backup tasks for an overstretched military. 

“The Nigerian army, of course, already admits women in its ranks, but I believe that this should now be made an open, declared policy, one of the many ways of taking the battle to such an enemy. It can only diminish them in their own self-conceiving as super-beings, compelling them to engage their worst, despised humanity in combat – even if only sporadically. 

“Let me go even further: create a special unit of women fighters to confront their tormentors. Ideally, such a force should have an international character, though centred on the West African sub-region in its formation.”

He noted that women have borne the brunt of Boko Haram hatred, disdain, dehumanization and primordial viciousness. He recommends that survivors of Boko Haram onslaught, and even those who have not undergone any baptism of fire, but have the “fire in their belly” should be encouraged to teach Boko Haram some gender-free truths of human commitment at the war front and the even more primordial call of human liberation, even at the risk of life. 

Africa, and especially West Africa, Soyinka noted, “is not without a tradition of women warriors – Dahomey with her so-called ‘Amazons’. Even the late Qaddafi refused to trust his most intimate safety net to any but a female praetorian guard. Nor should we forget that female combatants were recorded on both sides during the Nigerian civil war. 

“Nigeria is awash today with the equivalents of the so-called ‘white widows’ whose internal motivation is, alas, part of the lethal assets of global ‘Boko Haram’. Nothing unique, therefore, is proposed here; and of course we are speaking of strict volunteering only, not conscription. The door should be cast open even wider to the gender peers of those whose very presence within the army, even in auxiliary roles, already punctures the warped theology of Boko Haram.

“We denounce the perpetrators of the ongoing crimes against our humanity – it is both just and humane to take arms against them. The only betrayal would be to do this halfheartedly, desultorily, with less than total commitment. We mourn with the stricken, and condole with our soldiers and their families for their losses. At such a time, in such a cause, the army deserves a people’s moral, practical and material support. If the army fails, we fall.”

Soyinka lamented that so soon after Nyanya (bomb blast), Jos had turned into yet “another national abattoir; the current fate of so many of our towns, villages and other once-thriving habitations across northern parts of the nation. Perhaps at long last, the government and political leaders will fully accept what many have been declaiming for upwards of two, even three years: the nation is at war. There can be no further evasion; indeed, it is criminal folly to attempt to disguise or fudge this reality. 

“We are at that point in a people’s survival where there is no choice but to mobilize in an unprecedented manner; to place the entirety of the population on a national alert and on invitation to sacrifice. This is a pressing undertaking for president, governors, local governments, institutions of every shade and purpose, businesses and individuals. This requires inculcation into citizen mentality of the plain fact that nowhere now should we accommodate the tranquilizing mode of ‘business as usual’. It is time even for that drastic, unpalatable creation of A War Council!

“The non-partisan mandate that many have called for, to combat the menace of Boko Haram, must be ingested and manifested both in pronouncement and deed, calling for an unaccustomed discipline and a level of public morality that does not make a mockery of the innocent dead, maimed and bereaved. It is that kind of state of peril where the illegal appropriation of public resources should translate as nothing less than an act of treachery against the people, treason against the state. 

“Derelictions of the past in the sphere of public responsibility in all fields must now count as hostile engagement and, above all, a security consciousness at all levels as instructional undertaking, not as incidentally imbibed or trickle-down awareness into citizen mind, should be a priority of ministries and parastatals, and voluntary organisations. That private sanctuary, the individual homes, should take the lead. One waits in vain for an accentuated discipline of watchfulness to be inculcated, energized through a public education process on young and old, so that every individual becomes alert to any unusual event in his or her neighbourhood.  

“Let it be understood that I am not advocating meaningless and banal slogans, or regimentation, but the imaginative development of citizen structures – work places, clubs, trade unions, schools and colleges, religious bodies, sports fields etc. etc. – in enhancing security sensibilities and educating the population on the now unarguable nature of the enemy.

“We have warned. Now even the pores of the most calloused skin have been forcefully opened for listening, and absorbing reality. This is no time for recriminations. At the same time, however, it will be foolhardy to fail to recall today some signal failures of the past, missteps, complacencies, evasions and denials, if we accept that re-building a nation should come sooner than later.  

“Confronted especially with the resident nightmare of the abducted schoolgirls, that insolent and brutal climax of the serial targeting of the female gender under theocratic misteachings, and given the context of an ongoing National Dialogue, let it be acknowledged as imperative that we commence the process of internal questioning and cleansing. This cannot be done with avoidance of contributive factors to the present crisis wherever relevant; else we carry into the future the same destructive seed whose burgeoning deservedly threatens to wrap the nation in a seamless shroud of mourning and lamentations.

“We must not allow ourselves to forget that the diligence of security agencies did net some high-profile individuals who even occupied governmental and elective posts. They were caught in flagrante as collaborators of Boko Haram and were duly charged to court. How many still recollect or can assess the significance for a nation, when a number of their regional colleagues rallied round to demand that the charges against them be dropped, even as a mere foot soldier in the same terrorist ring was successfully tried and (jailed)? Do we have to be reminded of an occasion when, after a lull in attacks ended and attacks resumed, some ‘Elders’ figuratively shrugged their shoulders and declared, ‘We told the government to drop the trial of that legislator, but they didn’t listen; so let them go and solve the problem by themselves’? 

“If ever there was a blatant demand for the enthronement of impunity, or arrogant pronouncement of self-indictment, that, and allied forms of conduct were sufficient warnings of the remorseless march of the looming, orchestrated menace. There were, of course, hundreds of other signs. But I repeat – post-mortems can wait. Even those whose culpability in the present predicament is no longer matter for speculation – active or merely complaisant at the onset – now stand under threat of a common fate: to be consumed by the sightless scourge they brought into being. Thus, we have no choice but to pull together. Only let no one dare deny that there were stern warnings of the consequences of dining with the devil, or sleeping soundly while the devil came swaggering down the streets in cloven, iron-clad hooves!

“From a splurge of two hundred buses for the enforcement of human division to the abduction of 200 female students into a forest vastness is one easy and predictable slide into the abyss. The same mentality is at work. We could (and should) go further; but right now, the priority of the nation is to survive physically so as to be able to address questions of the mind. A National Dialogue that sits in session at this same time must not avoid such rigorous questions; otherwise, it has taken the side of the right of abduction – and enslavement – of one division of our humanity, and approved the right of arbitrary decimation of dissenting humanity in any form. The word is: dictatorship.

“Priority, for now, however, is survival; the recovery of the abducted, and destruction of the enemies of humanity. Over and over, we have stated that the boundaries of insulation have long been erased, and every soul in the nation is exposed. 

“When we say a nation is at war; when we call on a nation to thereby mobilize, we do no more than urge that the various arms of warfare must be activated – among them, the psychological. The girls of Chibok are scattered in the forest of Sambisa, inhibiting frontal assault in parts and aerial bombardment generally. But what inhibits bombardment with leaflets undermining the will of some members within that sect, some of them unwilling recruits, others teetering on the edge of conviction, and yet others with a deep hatred for their captors? After all, there is hardly anyone who does not know of several escapees, and the testimonies of coercion and brutality that have left a deep hatred in the hearts of many. 

“Leaflets of aggressive detoxification that weaken the perverted reading of Islam by these apostates should be dropped in likely occupied zones (containing) denunciations of all Boko Haram followers as defilers of the very faith of Islam and the laudable ends, and practices of genuine faith. This is the time to put to positive use the often sweeping and opportunistic evocation of the fatwa – this time collectively pronounced against Boko Haram by authoritative Islamic prelates and scholars, rather than against easy prey who may have offended their often contrived theocratic sensibilities. 

“Preachers across all faiths should sign and jointly issue calls to the mixed bag of insurgents to abandon a damnable cause, itemizing the common grounds that bind all faiths together and isolating Boko Haram as outside those basic tenets, and therefore fit only for the company of the mindless brutes whose habitation they have intruded upon.  

“Let the forest of Sambisa (and whatever areas they have left their mark) be inundated with such tracts – Boko Haram is haram – in all relevant languages, including the Arabic. If ever there was a time for a call to jihad, this is such a time; and Boko Haram is the self-proclaimed enemy of all faiths. 

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