Boko haram is a nuisance to the Nigerian society and they are clearly getting bolder with every successful attack. They are proving to be a difficult challenge for the government to overcome as the general public continues to loose trust in the ability of the Government to protect them. The government has failed to reassure Nigerians by carrying out reactive security measures rather than proactive ones. These reactive measures end up frustrating Nigerians and possibly expose them to further attacks as these measures are only carried out by the Government to save its face. Proactive security measures such as intelligence gathering, continuous public awareness and orientation amongst others are the first steps to take on the long road to restoring security back in Nigeria. This article attempts to suggest ways of providing continuous public awareness and orientation to the People of Nigeria.
The Nigerian society has always been made up of numerous and diverse communities both on the social and religious front. These social and religious communities can be targeted to continuously propagate anti terrorism messages. Nigerians of different age groups can be found in different societal structures like schools, universities, work places, churches, mosques, village community meetings, social clubs, business clubs, professional organizations and other public structures. The Nigerian public can also be reached through different media outlets like TV stations, radio stations, social media via the internet, billboards, bulk SMS messages, bulk email messages and so on.
These societal structures should continuously be engaged and spammed with anti-terrorism messages and awareness programs. Religious organizations for example control a vast majority of the Nigerian populace. Each religious organization should be urged to carry out anti-terrorism awareness programs during all their activities. Imams, Pastors and Priests should be urged to add anti-terrorism messages to their sermons and teachings. Bulletins and other pamphlets should have sections that contain anti-terrorism messages. There should be huge sign boards with anti-terrorism messages in each and every religious organizations. This way, the members of these religious organizations know that their religious authorities and the government are taking the terrorism problem seriously. Unfortunately, an awareness program of this scale has not been carried out in religious organizations in Nigeria.
The same type and scale of anti-terrorism campaign described in the religious organizations’ example should be applied to primary and secondary schools, universities, work places, village community meetings and every other social structure where people commune. Lecturers and school teachers should be trained and used to propagate the anti-terrorism messages to their students. Pamphlets and posters of the kinds we see during political elections should be scattered and littered all over universities and schools. This would go a long way to inform and educate our young students and youths on counter-terrorism measures to take in case of any situation or emergencies. It would also show the government’s seriousness and commitment in resolving this terrorism problem.
In the of-chance that certain Nigerians miss out on the counter-terrorism awareness programs going on in religious organizations, schools, universities, village community meetings and other social structures, these select few can also be targeted through the media. Just as we our media outlets bombard us with TV and radio commercials, Nigerians should also be bombarded with counter-terrorism messages. These messages should not appear only once or twice a day, they should come up on an hourly basis on every TV and radio station in the country. Every Newspaper in circulation should also dedicate sections of their newspapers with these counter terrorism messages. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, and yahoo to mention a few, is also a beautiful way of sending out these counter terrorism messages. Government websites that receive high visitor traffic should also be targeted with anti-terrorism adverts. Private sector owned websites like banks and telecom companies should also help out by advertising these counter terrorism messages.
It is a matter of National pride that almost every Nigerian has a mobile phone. Mobile Telecom companies in Nigeria especially MTN spam their customers with commercial messages urging them to buy one ringtone or caller tune or the other. These same mobile telecom companies can be urged to send out counter terrorism messages to all their customers on a regular basis.
The public awareness measures described in this article if implemented successfully will go a long way to eliminate the perception by Nigerians that the Government is doing nothing to resolve the Boko Haram crises. This counter-terrorism public awareness program combined with other proactive security measures will go a long way to prevent and hopefully end the Terrorism problem faced in Nigeria today.