By Sampson Ikemitang
As the Boko-Haram insurgency which began about a decade ago rages, and proving almost intractable, the Nigerian military can be seen to remain steadfast in its determination to bring the insurgents to their knees.
Even as unconventional a war as the war against insurgency is, the Military has shown great courage and resilience and this has been rewarded with the recapturing of nineteen local government areas out of the twenty Local Government Councils in the North-eastern States of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe which were hitherto in the firm control of the insurgents.
Recent reports have it that the Military is indeed on top of the situation. That explains why only one Local Government Council area, Abadam located at the border of Niger Republic in Borno State that is yet to be liberated from the clutches of the Boko Haram insurgents. This clearly underpins the unflinching determination of the extremist group to destabilise the North-east region in particular and the nation at large. It will be recalled that since 2009, the group has been fighting to create an Islamic State in the Country’s mainly Muslim northern part and to institute the Sharia law in Nigeria.
The Boko Haram terrorists in their frantic resolve to dismember Nigeria and make nonsense of its sovereignty had resorted to guerrilla tactics of hitting at their targets and running. They are also aware that time may not be on their side; especially with the intensification of military actions against them with the marching orders which President Buhari gave to the Military to end insurgency in the Country.
It will be recalled also that soon after President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in 29 May, 2015, he ordered for the immediate relocation of the Military Command and Control Centre (MCCC) to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. The essence was to ensure that the Military had firsthand information about the insurgents’ mode of operations in the North-east. Also, the relocation was intended to expose the Military to the realities on ground, to enable them re appraise, re-strategize and re-direct their counter-insurgency plans at the terrorists’ activities.
Indeed, it is incontrovertible to posit that President Buhari has absolute confidence in the ability of the Nigerian Military to bring an end to the insurgency of the Boko Haram sect. To this end, his administration has remained committed to completely eradicating the Boko Haram menace at the shortest possible time. For instance, in a statement recently released by Mr. President’s media aide, Garba Shehu: “The Buhari’s administration was already taking concrete action to build a more efficient and effective coalition of Nigeria and neighbouring Countries against the terrorist group.’’
Similarly, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed recently led a group of 33 journalists, working with Nigerian media organizations and their international counterparts to the hotbed of the insurgency – Maiduguri, Kondugua, Kaoure and Bama. This was aimed at exposing the journalists to the realities in the region, for them to see and write their stories from the standpoint of knowledge, rather than sensationalism, hearsay and conjecture.
According to the Minister, “Today, I can report to you that the entire 70 plus kilometres stretch from Maiduguri to Bama and all the way to Banki which leads to Cameroun and the Central African Republic are in the hands of our gallant troops. They have so degraded the capacity of Boko Haram that the terrorists can no longer hold on to any territory just as they can no longer carry out any spectacular attack.’’
As part of the Government’s effort to sustain the ongoing military success in the war against terror, the Information and Culture Minister in a forum with political editors in Lagos, disclosed that a national security awareness campaign will soon commence across the country to raise awareness among Nigerians about the war, the sacrifices of our troops, and how to stamp out the remnants of the war. He said: “Jingles are being played on national radio and television as part of the campaign in order to keep the media better informed about the war, so that they can also better inform Nigerians.’’
Following from what he said of the military campaigns against the insurgents, Lai Mohammed enjoined Nigerians to support the Military in the fight against terrorism in the Country. In his words: “It is our turn as civilians to give them our support; to realise that the war they are fighting is not their war alone, but our war, hence we must own the war.’’
In the same vein, the General Overseer of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Enoch Adeboye said, “The success achieved by the Military in tackling insurgency in parts of the Country is commendable and can be sustained through intelligence gathering mechanism put in place by security operatives.” He spoke at the ‘Let’s Go a fishing’ programme organized by the RCCG, Region One, held at the CMD field, Magodo, Lagos Mainland.
According to the Church Leader, “Boko Haram insurgency was an internal insecurity problem that can be curtailed through a transparent partnership arrangement between the local people and the security operatives. Let us do our best to cooperate with the law enforcement agencies by volunteering vital information that would be investigated and crime and any form of criminality will be reduced in our society.’’
There is no denying the fact that since President Buhari came into office, the morale of the Nigerian military has been heightened. No doubt, reclaiming territories from the insurgents appears to have been Mr. President’s priority, and the insurgents have now abandoned conventional warfare tactics and strategies owing to the losses they have suffered while trying to defend territory.
The President has also made series of diplomatic moves – signing of regional and bilateral anti-insurgency agreements and the immediate payment of $20 million of Nigeria’s share of the logistics to the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) is illustrative of this point.
Nigerian security forces have also killed several kingpins of the Boko Haram sect, coupled with substantial disruption of the media coordination between Boko Haram and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which Shekau had officially pledged loyalty to its leader, Abubakr Al-Baghadadi in March 2015. The inability of the Boko Haram sect in recent times to release scary videos and stage spectacular attacks as it were, is a confirmation of the fact that their strengths is beginning to fail them, and in no time, they may be forced to take flight.
It should be remembered that before now, Maiduguri, the major city of the North-east was under incessant attacks and harassment by the Boko Haram terrorists. Today, the situation is slightly different as Maiduguri is a bit secure from Boko Haram’s daring raids. This is evidenced by the fact that attacks of the terrorists have been restricted to the outskirts of Maiduguri as they flee. It is pertinent, therefore, to note that Boko Haram threats to Nigeria’s territorial integrity has to a very large extent, been curtailed by the intensified campaigns of the Military.
One of the sore points in the anti-terror campaigns by the Military is the non-release of the abducted Chibok school girls. Even the non-release of the Chibok girls does not vitiate the fact that terrorism is indeed being defeated in the Country. In fact, a dispassionate and objective assessment of the situation in the North-east reveals that truly, the Military has completely degraded and decimated the deadly terrorist group. Even with cases of suicide bombings in the Northeast, it can still be correctly said that terrorism is being defeated.
In the US, for instance, with 9/11, America still experiences the San Bernardino, California attacks that killed 14 and injured 21 at a County employee meeting and Christmas party on 3rd December, 2015. Yet, it can be said that America has not been subjugated by her terror experience.
The 13 November, 2015 attacks on Paris which also claimed several lives and brought a dangerous moment to the entire Europe speaks volume. Yet, the world did not say France did not survive her terror experience. In the same vein, the fact that Nigeria still experiences some attacks on soft targets such as suicide bombing of markets, churches and mosques does not imply that barefaced terrorism of Boko haram is not yet defeated or degraded by the Military.
In view of the foregoing, it is discernable to all and sundry that President Buhari has taken practical steps that will indeed cause the nation to witness the beginning of the end of the war against terrorism, which had regrettably festered for eight years now. While President Buhari remains committed to stamping out insurgency and freeing the Country for socio-economic and political development, he will continue to welcome greater support and cooperation from well-meaning Nigerians, the Nigerian populace and of course, the international community in the ongoing efforts at overcoming Boko Haram terrorists and restoring full security and normalcy to areas seriously affected by the group’s atrocities.
Sampson Ikemitang writes from Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.
Terrorism: Sustaining Military Action In North-East Nigeria
By Sampson Ikemitang