The deadline to end Boko Haram
AS the December deadline given by President Muhammadu Buhari for the military to put an end to the Boko Haram insurgency draws to a close, Nigerians must be under no illusion that ending the war is automatic. Such a notion will amount to a misconception, in view of the nature and the deep connections of international terrorism, of which Boko Haram is a part. The sporadic attacks carried out by the distraught insurgents even on Christmas Day, despite the counter-insurgency operations of the military, is only one indication that this war is not about to end just yet. To believe otherwise is to foster apprehension in public consciousness and unduly incite criticism against the government security measures, and also disparage the military or dampen the morale of soldiers.
It is important first, to commend the military and other security agencies combating the insurgency in the North Eastern part of the country for the remarkable feat they have so far achieved in routing the war-mongers.
They have not only restored the once broken morale of soldiers, they have proved that the long acquired international reputation of the Nigerian military as efficient and reliable peace keepers is not misplaced. Ending the insurgency, as the president ordered, includes dislodging Boko Haram members from occupying Nigerian territories and purporting to establish a rule different from that of the 1999 Constitution governing the entire country. To the extent that the military has been able to liberate occupied territories largely or wholly, that aspect of ending the insurgency can be said to be realisable by the end of this month. Indeed the military have destroyed Boko Haram camps and freed many abducted men, women and children
Only recently the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, while briefing journalists on his assessment tour of the activities of ‘Operation Lafiya Dole’ in the Military Command and Control Centre (MCCC) 7, Maiduguri, reiterated the sacrosanct nature of the December deadline, assuring that “the operation is well on course…the December deadline is sacrosanct…”
Considering the achievement of the military, or the joint task force over the insurgency, the assurance in Gen. Olonisakin’s statement is not totally misplaced. He probably was speaking in the tone of military communication, which brooks no negotiation when an ultimatum is given. However, for the ordinary Nigerian who is being dehumanised and socially destabilised by the carnage harvested in the terrorist activities, the perceived assurance of the military should not be misunderstood, if by the end of this month, the Boko Haram still attacks any part of the country. Indeed, it is realistic to expect the insurgents to fight back.
An insight into the Boko Haram insurgency shows three stages in their murderous strategies. One is to destabilise communities by surprise, overrun security paraphernalia, occupy the territory and proclaim victory over Nigeria. The Boko Haram then embarked on a face-to-face combat with the military. Then, desperate to get world attention, it gravitated to attacking vulnerable places like hospitals, churches, mosques and facilities of international institutions and corporate bodies. Contained at that level, the insurgents resorted to using captured and brainwashed minors to attack soft targets such as markets, motor parks, pedestrians’ convergence centres, and centres for internally displaced persons.
Despite the ultimatum, the Boko Haram insurgency, though surmountable, is neither a conventional combat nor a local rebellion. Given the globalisation of terrorism, Boko Haram might be tied indirectly to both Islamic State (ISIS) and Al Qaeda. It is common knowledge amongst strategists and defence historians that, as part of a pan-Sahelian insurgency, Boko Haram has cross-bred with groups in Mali and Libya, and has also splintered into factions that are linked to Al-Shabab in Somalia and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). If this is the case, then what is before the military may be an influential sub-regional command of a global terrorism empire. The implication of this is that the Boko Haram enjoys finance, logistics, training and supplies from an unrestrained international pool. That this accounts for some challenges on the Nigerian side should not be discountenanced.
Therefore, there is a need for caution by all Nigerians, including the media, in analysing the rhetoric of deadlines and ultimatums. The situation at hand does not call for a simplistic declaration of victory by the end of the month. Such an endeavour would be counterproductive. Thus, President Buhari’s ultimatum and deadline to the military, in this instance, should be viewed, not merely as a warning to comply with a directive under the pains of sanctions, but more as a guide for re-strategising and reviewing challenges being encountered by the military.
Government and military officials must tone down their rhetorics on the state of the counter-insurgency war, so as not to give the impression that all is well. Meanwhile, the Nigerian public should understand that the Boko Haram insurgents are more than mere miscreants pestering a segment of the country. The insurgency is an ongoing war against this country, and is linked to an international coalition of pseudo-Islamic war-mongers with a brutal ideology to dubiously acquire territories. As a result, the fight against Boko Haram is not the military’s alone.
Whilst the military have a duty of containing the insurgency, Nigerians should applaud them for the modest success they have so far achieved in the counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations.
Deadline or not, the Nigerian populace must also own this war by giving the military the maximum encouragement.