Boko Haram And The Urgency To End Its Horrors
WHEN Nigerians voted in President Muhammadu Buhari on March 28, 2015, and his subsequent inauguration on May 29, 2015, one thing they didn’t pray for was to listen to Lamentation songs. They didn’t want to read that book of the Bible. They wanted a President, who was tough, bold and courageous enough to crush the growing Boko Haram insurgency. As a former military leader, Buhari seemed to have the resume to do just that.
Majorly touted was his feat as the General Officer Commanding 1st Mechanised Division, Kaduna. His troop repelled the invading Chadian rebels, which had killed some Nigerian soldiers. Buhari crushed the rebel’s incursion.
Shortly after taking over the reins of political power, Buhari gave the Nigeria military’s High Command three months to crush the insurgents troubling the Northeast of the country. The military was equally moved to Borno. This was understandable. There was renewed onslaught by the deadly sect. In fact, in his first 39 days in office, suicide bombers and gunmen had killed no fewer than 535 innocent people in part of the North. This is an average of 14 plus per day.
With trips to Chad, Niger, USA, France, Benin, Great Britain, Cameroun and hosting of multilateral security meetings of countries threatened by insurgence, more deaths were recorded on a daily basis. The devastating attacks in Lake Chad by the group that killed scores are a sign of things to come and a clear indication that efforts to combat this scourge may be a failure, after all.
The truth is, unlike some months back when they attacked, captured and governed Nigerian territories with reckless abandon, Boko Haram has since refrained from such direct confrontation with the Nigerian State. The group has realised the foolhardiness in trying to battle for territory with a military fighting to restore its battered pride.
Though, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said on Tuesday the military had sufficiently reduced the capacity of Boko Haram insurgents to launch spectacular attacks, while also recapturing most of the territories seized by the terrorists, experts say the war against terrorism is never won in the battlefield.
“Winning the war against insurgency is about sufficiently degrading the insurgents’ capacity for action. This the military has substantially done. The rest is mop-up actions,” the minister had told the media in Abuja, following his recent trip to Borno State to visit the areas liberated by the military.
“The military has largely met the deadline issued by President Muhammadu Buhari, and would have done so totally by December. The question, therefore, is no longer whether the military will be able to meet the December deadline, it is about how to give the military all the support it requires to continue to keep our country safe from the activities of the terrorists,” he said.
Mohammed corroborated a recent statement by the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) that the army will meet the deadline given by Buhari.
Colonel Rabe Abubakar, the DHQ spokesperson said: “We are on course to meet the deadline given to us by President Buhari, with the active collaboration of the Chief of Defence Staff and other Service Chiefs, the insurgency will definitely be over before the deadline or at worst on the deadline.”
Abubakar added that the army was poised to maintain the recent success recorded: “We will maintain that level of momentum; we are not going to fail Nigerians. I believe the activities of Boko Haram will very soon be a thing of the past.”
But former military Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, had earlier cautioned on the December deadline for ending the insurgency.
Gowon stated, “I can tell you this, nobody can really talk about when any particular operation is going to end. And as a (former) commander-in- chief, I know this. Yes, you can say you target a particular time, but it may finish before that time or it may go slightly beyond. To end it, that is the most important thing.”
Being realistic, President Buhari said in Dutse last Monday, at the opening ceremony of the 2015 Annual Conference of the Chief of Army Staff, that the date could be shifted.
Buhari, who was represented by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Gabriel Olonishakin, said the Federal Government would assess the present situation and act appropriately in order to end the menace of terrorism in the country.
The President said that the timeline was only to guide the military operation. He, therefore, charged the military to develop new strategies to address the emerging challenges in its operations.
Mr. Dennis Amachree, a member of the American Society for Industrial Security, and managing director of Zoomlens Security Solutions, equally does not believe the December 31deadline is feasible.
He said, “you cannot set a date to the end of terrorism. It’s good for the President to set a date for the military, so, that they will look forward to it. December will come and go and we will still have Boko Haram.”
While significant resources invested in intelligence and interior security, not much has been invested in resolving the conditions that generate terrorism.
Dr. Ona Ekhomu, president of Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria (AISSON), told The Guardian that the almajiris are fueling the rank of Boko Haram foot soldiers.
According to him, “anytime you have demography of people with no homes and fixed addresses, it means you cannot name and place them. And what does that means? All that crime needs to thrive is anonymity and if the government is allowing anonymity of this large demography to thrive, where do you think Boko Haram found all these fighters with there ranks not depleted with news of hundred of them killed on many occasions.”
However, military action alone will not wipe out the terrorist group. Neither will eliminating their territorial base be done with airstrikes and boots on the ground. Much of the war is in the mind.
With ISIS metastasizing around the globe, and Boko Haram, franchisee of the group seemingly unyielding, terrorism today is far more prevalent around the globe than it has ever been. The new strategy of terrorists appears to be about activating sleeper cells in different towns and cities far away from the main theatre of the conflict.
The only option here is to pay special attention to intelligence gathering, especially, on those who continue to use religion to serve their narrative. It might not be over any time soon. This is a long-term campaign, and the larger part of the battle is for the hearts and minds of religious adherents.
“Ideologies are not defeated with guns, they are defeated by better ideas, a more attractive and compelling vision,” as the American President, Barack Obama, puts it.