From the day of the inauguration of the new administration to date, the Boko Haram terrorist group has killed over 400 hundred Nigerians. In one week alone- that is between last Monday and yesterday- the group, in its clandestine and cowardly manner, murdered 300 people. The alarming and sad thing about it is that, the terrorists have not only struck at places hitherto considered cleared of the terror operations, such as Kaduna and Plateau states, but have also demystified the pristine military presence in the Northeast and undercut the stellar performances of the gallant armed forces in their bid to rid Nigeria of the inglorious bastards.
What can be more disturbing is the fact that the group has gone back to its crude old ways of detonating bombs and using human mines at gatherings where they are least expected to operate. Between 2011 and 2013, Boko Haram was infamous for using young or mid-age suicide bombers as well as planting of explosive devices at religious centres, market places, bus stations, and the likes. But by late 2013, the group, with their cult figure and octopoidal Shekau (the man who had been “killed” thrice and yet “resurrected” on each occasion reversed from this guerilla or unconventional method after gathering more momentum and strength and having overpowered the then demotivated and ill-equipped military, and staged a full-blown assault on Nigeria’s territorial integrity, displacing villages, towns, police and army barracks as well as whole local governments. These places were annexed by the group and literally “severed” from the rest of Nigeria and became what was known by 2014 up to early 2015 as the Islamic Caliphate.
Having killed a former Civil War hero, General Mamman Shuwa and sacked the homes and towns of some powerful citizens from the Northeast, including that of the current Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Alex Badeh, Boko Haram went on a murderous rampage, pushing their luck further down, to such places as Benue, Kogi, Niger and even Southeast (with an attempt to bomb a church in Owerri, Imo State). The group claimed responsibility for any major disaster and in one of their most unforgettable ventures, over three hundred school girls of Chibok town were rounded up in the dead hours of the night, captured and taken through a long course and smuggled out like invincible pins out of any known human habitation and probably out of Nigeria. Boko Haram was literally an alternative government, and a cruel and a more effective one at that. The Nigerian government seemed to have surrendered its sovereignty over the Northeast to the terror group, which under Shekau, forced hundreds of soldiers to flee their battlefronts and barracks and in one of those sore and better-forgotten episodes, 480 soldiers of the Nigerian Army were overpowered and made to run into Cameroon.
It was that bad! The government seemed to have exhausted all options as Nigeria was boldly placed in a disgraceful part of the global map. The past administration ran out of luck as world powers refused to sell arms to it or continue in the strategic partnership to combat the terrorist group. Those countries alleged complicity of Nigerian military leaders in the leakage of intelligence reports to Boko Haram, a development that posed grave threats of exposure of western military intelligence and its mode of operation. It was feared, and reasonably so, that sophisticated western arms would fall into the hands of the terrorists, in the same manner that smart intelligence reports fell into their ears. So, to South Africa did Nigeria head, and the outcome was a brutal disgrace to the latter as covert military transactions were not only unduly and embarrassingly exposed, but were also made to seem like an illegal and fraudulent attempt to smuggle arms out of South Africa. The Nigerian authorities had planned to fail in that venture as they had assembled a former insurgent and some other questionable characters to seal the covert arms deals on its behalf. They had also used the aircraft of a locally and internationally acclaimed pastor to convey the funny elements in the deal. It was indeed a combination of paradoxes that made the anti-terror and counterterror war laughable.
Well, the administration finally geared up from the eve of the elections in a last-minute struggle to gain acceptability and warm itself into the hearts of stone-cold and resolute Nigerians that sought an outright change of the status quo. Majority of Nigerians looked up to a General Buhari administration, which was believed to be the right thing for a capitulating giant. Buhari had seen and put down bitter insurgencies in the past. When the chips were down and the country was heading to an “efulefu” junction in the 1980s, it was General Buhari that came with the good intention of saving the day. He did save it, but regrettably not in the precise manner many Nigerians would have wanted it. It was expected that Buhari would know how to tackle insurgents, having exactly dealt with Islamists in the same Borno State, which then had Yobe as part of it. But interestingly, the tides have changed- Islamist terrorists now use improvised explosive devices, suicide bombers and other sophisticated materials, which were not in vogue in the 1980s. The colour, context, texture and character of insurgency have changed in the 21st century. Even the philosophy of war has changed. Today, Islamists have a huge and wide network of collaborations and operations and the knowledge, intelligence, weapons and software materials sharing of terrorists have gone beyond “stop and search” or a cordon, encircle and mop up approach. The intelligence, knowledge and materials sharing of governments must not only be a core focus, but they should also be upped to beat or outsmart that of the terrorists.
The Buhari administration must therefore be commended for the immediate approach of stepping up collaborations with the immediate neighbours. The government deserves plaudits for also going beyond the immediate borders by also networking with and committing to sharing soft and hardwares with other African countries and bigger powers. That is the way to go in order to outsmart the capacity of the 21st century terrorists. The retired General has brought his expertise to bear in this direction, just as he did by asking the Command Centre of the counterterror operations to move to the centre of operations. It is tactical to demotivate, deter and smash the terrorists. The idea is that there cannot be two masters or captains in a ship and the average soldier’s mind is preoccupied with anger and ruthlessness when his competitor is claiming control of his territory. It is a very tactical but simple military strategy that has won great wars. This is why Boko haram has gone back to suicide bombings, which exhibit the group’s frustrations and decapitated state.
However, in view of the sophisticated nature of terror activities and limitations of military confrontation with terrorists, the Buhari administration must understand that there is need to operate within and dare to overcome these limits, by doing little extra to change the tides. Under no circumstances should the Buhari administration mention, contemplate or offer negotiation with Boko Haram. One of the steps that practically killed Jonathan’s administration was the dialogue platform it pursued and its clueless manner of handling the group. A General should know better that negotiating with terrorists is not only mark of weakness, but also another way of motivating the enemy and giving him a sense of importance. Dialogue or negotiation with Boko Haram MUST NEVER be contemplated or mentioned again. It deflates the resolve to fight and shortchanges the reputation of this administration as the one that would bring an end to Boko Haram.
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