Antonin Scalia, the famous American jurist, once said: “Words have meaning.” Today, that seemingly simple quote is relevant, especially in an age where doublespeak is fast becoming the standard. Take Nigeria for instance, where a Nigerian Air Force Alpha Jet aircraft was shot down two days ago. The media said the plane was attacked by “bandits.”
But words have meaning – any group of people who have anti-aircraft guns or surface-to-air missiles and can shoot down an air force jet are no longer bandits. They are terrorists who have declared war on Nigeria.
The attack of July 18 is the fourth air crash involving a Nigerian Air Force plane in the last six months. A NAF Alpha Jet which went missing on March 31, 2021, has still not been found. There are no reports on any investigations into the incident in the public space, speaking to the current government’s mishandling of terrorism in Nigeria’s Northern region.
The war against Boko Haram has now entered its second decade and despite several claims by the current administration that the insurgency is over, there is no real end in sight. Every proclamation of a technical victory over the insurgents is quickly followed by a resurgence. It is clear that Nigeria cannot win this war in the short term; it is time to speak plainly.
The Nigerian government needs to treat this issue of banditry as an all-out war against the state and direct its security apparatus to completely decimate them and bring this to a close. The days of treating this issue with kids gloves, where notable clerics go into the forest for photo ops with bandits and serve as their unofficial mouthpieces, should end.
Political will should match military might and actions in getting to the root of this scourge. We cannot, as a nation, sit and fold our arms as bandits shoot down fighter jets from the sky. If appropriate action is not taken this would be the first of many and will be normalised, like other heinous acts of terrorism in the country.
The implications of this attack are grave and the Political and Military leadership should approach this banditry scourge with the urgency that it requires, showing the Nigerian people that it is still alive to its primary responsibility as defined by the constitution, which is the protection of lives and property.