Last week, the Nigerian military released a report card, the first under President Muhammadu Buhari as its Commander-in-Chief, on the on-going war against Boko Haram. The report which was conveyed to the public by Colonel Rabe Abubakar, the new Director of Defence Information, contained the very cheering news that Boko Haram fighters have been considerably weakened and no longer had the capacity to take over and hold onto any Nigerian territory.
This achievement, according to him, is only a step away from the final phase of the war, which is to completely flush out the terrorists from the entire North East. I know it is the kind of news that will gladden the hearts of many Nigerians and even citizens of neighbouring countries who have also shared in the pain that the Boko Haram’s campaign of death and destruction has inflicted for several years now.
But what I’m not sure of is if this particular one would, in any significant way, put smiles on the faces of many people. The reason is that such assurances in the past were not, in actuality, a reflection of the true state of the war. They turned out to be an exaggeration of the victories recorded by the military in various sectors of the campaign against Boko Haram.
There is the tendency to suspect that the military may be p to the same old game. I cannot forget how those reports provoked desperate aggression in the Boko Haram camp. the reports brought out Boko Haram fighters, almost always after each of those reports, on attacking missions that always turned out to be an overkill on civilian positions in the territory.
The latest one has also provoked a similar reaction. On Friday last week, Boko Haram’s suicide bombers attacked the Internally isplaced Persons camps, IPs, camp in Yola and Madagali town, both in Adamawa State. Both attacks resulted to the death of 12 and the injury of 13 persons.
The attack, as in the case of the previous ones, were meant to prove the military wrong on its claim that insurgency has been subdued. But on this particular occasion, the military high command is not misleading the public, the twin suicide bomb attacks notwithstanding.
The presence of the military in Sambisa forest which was for its fighters a much dreaded zone in the past has been properly established. It is the best evidence that Boko Haram’s defeat is imminent. Sambisa forest was, for several years, the operational base of insurgency in Nigeria. It was there the insurgents planned the attacks they unleashed on towns and villages in the North East.
All abducted persons, including the over 200 Chibok schoolgirls ended up in the belle of the forest. The recent tour of abandoned strategic positions of Boko Haram fighters in Sambisa by the Chief of Army Staff, Major General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, has cleared all doubts in the military’s latest report on the war.
Photographs of Nigerian soldiers clearing Boko Haram’s former enclaves in the forest released to the public were the extra evidence. Certainly, the nation is on the threshold of a well deserved victory against Boko Haram. But this victory over Boko Haram may not translate into total defeat of insurgency.
There is still a big gap between victory being declared and the defeat that will consign Boko Hoaram to the history books forever. Nobody should be deceived. There is certainly another phase of the war to be fought. And, in this regard, I wish to acknowledge and commend Colonel Rabe Abubakar’s choice of words in his presentation of the report on the state of the war.
He was careful not to say Boko Haram has been defeated. The newspapers which used ‘defeat’ in their headlines were only trying to attract readers’ attention. Insurgency does not always end with victory on the battlefield. There is always the silent but underground battle done mainly with suicide attackers throwing bombs into the crowds and at other selected important targets.
So far, Boko Haram has proved its efficiency in this department of the war. Most of the casualties recorded in the war were through suicide bombings and surprise gun attacks on markets, schools and villages. This is likely to become the group’s next major style in the war.
I know that the military is not unaware already of this logical next phase. It ought be already spreading its intelligence network wide to cover strategic places in order to protect innocent lives.
This next phase of the war is not for the military alone to fight. It should, therefore, not be left entirely in their hands.
It is an intelligence-based phase, meaning that it can only be successfully prosecuted with information that is accurate and intelligently used against the enemy.
Nigerians, particularly those who live in the North East must assist the military with vital information on enemy plots and positions.
In addition, there is the need for extra security consciousness in our major towns and cities. Security cover for major national events and institutions like markets, hotels, airports, shopping malls, schools and universities should be enhanced in order to frustrate Boko Haram’s suicide attackers from doing more damage.
– BALA DAN ABU e-mail: email@example.com