One of the major items on which this President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC (All Progressives’ Congress) Federal Government campaigned on (and won the Presidential Election) was Security, and how within a short period they will find the solution to Nigeria’s security challenges should the party win power at the centre. In the dying days of the past government, especially after it seemed that defeat was staring it in the face, the President Goodluck Jonathan-led PDP (People’s Democratic Party) government postponed the General Elections on the premise that elections couldn’t be held under the subsisting security situation, hence it was pertinent to allow the military degrade further the capabilities of the insurgent Islamist fundamentalist group, Boko Haram operating in much of the Northeast, before the elections so that the military can also be deployed to maintain peace and security in other parts of the country during and immediately after the elections.
Within the six week period in which the election was postponed, much progress was recorded, as major towns formerly overrun by Boko Haram were recovered owing partly to military equipment sourced unconventionally, especially from East European countries and the likes, as the Nigerian government was largely snubbed by western powers, sometimes citing human rights abuses by the Nigerian military as their reason. There were also reports that mercenaries from South Africa were engaged to help rout and smoke the marauders out of their hiding places. If the intention of that government was political, it failed woefully for the electorate felt betrayed that the government kept such a winning formulae close to its heart only to dispense of it when it felt politically expedient to do so, and rewarded it in full by denying the party and incumbent president reelection.
The Buhari government that succeeded it decided to play by another rule, going in almost the opposite direction without considering any merit in the path explored by the Jonathan government in combating Boko Haram especially in the twilight of the latters’ days in power. Such was the confidence and zeal by those reposed with the responsibility of wiping out the dreaded terrorist group that the motto under the new dispensation was called “OPERATION LAFIYA DOLE”, which is Hausa for “PEACE BY ALL MEANS” to replace the former motto “Zamman Lafiya” (literally, “To Stay/Live in Peace” in Hausa), sometime in June this year by the Chief of Army Staff, Major General Tukur Buratai on assumption of office, acting on a Presidential Deadline to end the insurgency by December. Nigerians were soon regaled by an army chief who now worked with officers and other ranks on the field of battle, even as the military Command Centre was relocated from Abuja (Nigeria’s administrative capital) to Maiduguri, Borno State right in the heart of the State where the insurgency had its roots. Videos of him doing pushups,
leading treks and other exercises and military drills became commonplace, and it was beginning to be considered anathema for military officers to be pot-bellied (as if that took away military sense and tactics from officers so endowed), though not that it is a bad idea in the first place.
For a while it appeared that finally the possibility of defeating Boko Haram was looking more like a reality, especially as coordinated attacks by the group against military installations and establishments appeared to all but cease, and the frequency of suicide attacks were few and far between. Then out of the blues, in what looked tactical on the side of Boko Haram, they returned with a vengeance, with slight modification of their modus operandi, attacking soft targets only using male and female (mostly) suicide bombers, leaving wanton destruction of lives and properties in their wake in mainly two of the three states (of Yobe and Borno States, than in Adamawa State) under a state of emergency, in markets, mosques and of villages especially at night or early hours of the morning using “shock and awe” tactics, leaving the security agencies when they eventually arrive no choice but to count and cart away bodies of the dead and injured, and assessing extent of damage done.
Nigerians may not have been jolted if the Nation’s federal capital wasn’t hit last Friday in two separate incidents at Kuje and Nyanya areas of the territory leaving tens of victims dead and many more injured. Though the casualty figures were lower than those in the Northeast that occur almost on a daily basis, it was the significance of the attack that drove many to begin to question if truly any progress is being made in this war against Boko Haram or that though a different approach may have been employed, we are back to square one, seeing that the Boko Haram group had been contained mainly in the Northeast even months before the Jonathan government lost power, and that even at the worst of times (after measures taken by that government) Abuja was devoid (at least for the period it lasted) of Boko Haram’s deadly activities.
The progress announced by the military, many times without pictures (making many people suspect some of the news as mere propaganda) cannot be overlooked and though every patriotic Nigerian would wish that these scum of the earth in the toga of religious extremists dealing death and destruction in the Northeast and other parts of Nigeria and their counterparts in other parts of the world will soon become a part of history we would rather forget, the truth is that a change of tactics has become all the more pertinent now than ever. Merely mouthing the fact that the capability of the group has been degraded because they have ceased to attack in large groups or because their leader Abubakar Shekau hasn’t made a video in a long while (though an audio message once surfaced) amongst other methods formerly employed by the group, isn’t enough as long as people continue to be targeted, killed and their families, livelihoods and way of life altered or destroyed by members of the group. Not even the news bandied about regarding a split in the ranks of the terrorist group will cut it.
What the military needs to do is less of posturing, the recent exchange of banter between the army chief (responding to Shekau’s audio message) and Shekau is totally uncalled for if not even embarrassing to the formers’ position and status. What is key now is the one thing that has been totally lacking since the insurgent group became emboldened years back following the extrajudicial killing of Mohammed Yusuf, the late leader of the group whose death and replacement by a mad man caused the group to go fully rogue. It should be the sort of intelligence that should put an end to the suicide bombings not the running to the media by military spokespersons (who should know better), to blab about involvement of Borno State elders and elite (political and otherwise) in hampering the efforts of the military in neutralizing the deadly group and its activities, if not outrightly providing support and assistance to the group overtly and or covertly in all aspects that may be required of them. Now, even if those allegations were true (as have often been alleged by the past government), it remains mere speculations if no one including the Borno elders or others in the North of Nigeria, has ever been brought to justice for complicity, by security and intelligence agencies, and until they work their arse off in getting that, the best to do for now is to show proof of such if any, and bring culprits to face the full wrath of the law.
The APC in power now is getting from the PDP what it never offered while it was in opposition, as it glosses over serious issues regarding security in Nigeria, at the behest of a population yet with loads of goodwill to giveaway for President Buhari, even though it is beginning to gradually wane. Failure to turn this security situation around sooner than later (especially if the ill-advisedly set deadline for December isn’t met) may spell doom for the stability and oneness of Nigeria, especially if the insurgency begins to once again spread beyond its traditional base in the Northeast without let. The government needs to now humble itself and come down from its high horse to involve all stakeholders (especially those with experience of mistakes in fighting this insurgency in the past, even if that is to ensure that mistakes aren’t repeated) devoid of political or other considerations, while simultaneously working the softer sides of things to ensure that if Boko Haram (the successor of another, Maitatsine many years before it) is eventually defeated, another in its like will not spring up tomorrow, deadlier to take its place because nothing was done to prevent a recurrence.
The fact that the nations of the world with powerful militaries have yet to defeat terrorism show that it isn’t an undertaking that can easily be solved by military might alone, as behind the religious fundamentalist groups perpetrating much of the terror worldwide lies an idea. An idea that can only be overcome by emphasizing a superior idea and argument, by members and clergy of the religion(s) concerned. Nigerians must begin to view the war on terror in that light if any headway is to be made in tackling this menace, for L-A-F-I-Y-A to be duly D-O-L-E!