On July 15, 2021, the Turkish Government and people commemorated the 5th anniversary of the July 2016 military coup that shook the foundations of Turkey and created a new dimension to the state of the nation amid massive purges in the army and civil service in the country.
The coup, largely blamed on the exiled and acclaimed Muslim scholar, Fetullah Gulen, struck the nation like a tremor, when about 10, 000 soldiers staged attacks against government institutions, and after hours of action, 251 people were killed and over 2,000 were injured, many of who confronted the rampaging coup plotters.
The coup was eventually quashed but the scar was deep and indelible. The Turkish Government has since embarked on extensive purges. In the last four years, over ten thousand education staff were suspended and the licenses of over 20,000 teachers working at private institutions were revoked for alleged links to Gülen even though the US-based cleric has denied any involvement in the coup and condemned it.
The Gülen movement referred to by its disciples as Hizmet (“service”) has now been officially designated as a terrorist organization by the Government of Turkey, known as the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETO). Turkey has arrested nearly 40,000 people and dismissed some 110,000 public servants since the coup attempt. It has also outlawed the Gülen movement in Turkey.
Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria Hidayet Bayraktar, in his remarks on Tuesday in Abuja, during the ceremony to mark the 5th anniversary of the coup, in the presence of Nigeria’s Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Mohammed Musa Bello and members of the Diplomatic Corps, said “the perpetrators of the hideous undertaking actually consisted of the disciples of Fetullah Gulen, whose aim is to take control of the Turkish State to reinstitute it according to their perverted religious ethos.”
He also warned Nigeria and other countries where Gulen may have opened institutions and businesses to be wary of the Gulen Movement, describing FETO “as a mafia-like cultish terror group, with clandestine political aims.” He added that FETO “is a threat not only to Turkey but also to all countries where they still run their operations. Their actions in Turkey should be considered as a wake-up call for other countries.”
Considering that Gulen and his group have established some educational institutions and other businesses in Nigeria and in about 41 other countries, this warning from the Turkish envoy may have become instructive to Nigeria in the face of the lingering war against the Boko Haram insurgents.
In the past eleven years, the Boko Haram activities have led to the death of nearly 35,000 people and displaced about 2.5 million people, yet there is no end in sight to the crisis as Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) had certainly taken over the reins of power after killing the reclusive Boko Haram, leader, Abubakar Shekau, and subsumed remnants of the Boko Haram into ISWAP. This situation has led experts to warn of more deadly insurgency because the ISWAP is affiliated to the international terror network linked to ISIS.
An international affairs and security analyst, Majeed Dahiru, in a recent interview said ISWAP take over from Boko Haram after killing Shekau “simply means that a bigger, more dangerous, more powerful monster is born.” Her added that “apart from the fact that ISWAP is an ISIS- affiliate terror group that enjoys very massive support in terms of finance, logistics and manpower from the international terror network of Jihadi groups, ISWAP actually enjoys enormous legitimacy among the native population of the troubled areas of the north east, and that is the most potent danger ISWAP poses to Nigeria.”
Nigeria has struggled in its quest to contain the rampaging terrorists’ activities ravaging parts of Nigeria perpetrated by the Boko Haram insurgents, coupled with the mindless violence, kidnapping and rape unleashed on the nation by vicious groups of bandits who appeared to be having enormous support from local and international sources with massive business interests in even within the security circles in Nigeria.
The Turkish Government embarked on a mass purge of its institutions to fish out alleged collaborators of those it tagged terrorists. Even though the purge may not altogether be altruistic as some analysts may have posited, the step was to rid the nation of subversive elements bent on state sabotage using the instruments of the state.
During the last days of his administration, former President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, decried the existence of Boko Haram members even in his government but he probably bowed to their antics as he was not known to have taken steps to remove them from positions where they could wreak havoc on the nation.
Today, Boko Haram seems to be ahead of the Nigerian security forces in terms of intelligence as more information about troop movement, logistics is allegedly given out to them by unpatriotic elements within the security forces, which has made the fight increasingly difficult to win.
One expert, who wished not to be named, has said that for Nigeria to make significant progress in the fight against terrorism and ancillary criminal activities, the authorities need to look into the security services for the collaborators and deal with them within the confines of the law.
He cited the case of one army officer, who aided a notorious kidnapper, Hamisu Bala popularly known as Wadume in his illicit trade leading to the death of three police officers, who tried to effect the arrest of the kidnapper in August 2019. Although the kidnaper was eventually rearrested, no one yet knows the fate of the indicted army officer.
“This is the situation in the security forces, there are a lot of them collaborating with Boko Haram and strengthening them to harm the Nigerian state and its citizens. They have support from within and without and they must be identified and removed from the security circles if the war against terror must be won,” the expert said.
But can the Nigerian state contemplate such drastic measures without being accused of targeted victimization of certain ethno-religious groups?