Nigerian Military and Boko Haram

Nigerians should be confident that as long we remain vigilant and lend our best endeavours to a committed and sincere leader like President Muhammadu Buhari, no matter how many bombs Boko Haram explodes, the latter has no future in Nigeria. It is a matter of time before the group is consigned to the dustbin of history.

Recent bomb attacks in some parts of the country by suicidal Boko Haram members which has cost several hundreds of lives since the coming of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB), is a stark reminder that Boko Haram and its agents remain the greatest security threat to the happiness, progress and corporate existence of the Nigerian nation and people. It shows also that the group is a deadly and inhuman organisation that does not care about human life but delights in making a minced-meat of humans by wasting them. Thus it is not for nothing that a recent international report categorised the group as the deadliest terrorist group in the world.

The threat posed by Boko Haram is all the more challenging because the group has affiliated itself to international terrorist groups notably, Al Qaeda, Al Shabab, and the notorious ISIS. However, with the international community including the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin deploying arsenal against the Islamic State, and terrorists worldwide, the days of Boko Haram and all terrorists are numbered.

Terrorists the world over are facing annihilation or at least the last fight of their lives, as the West and Russia, including the People’s Republic of China have united to end once and for all the threat which these depraved people represent. The merciless butchering of innocent people at a cinema in Paris, the bombing by ISIS or their affiliate of a Russian civilian aircraft over the Egyptian Sinai recently, which killed 243 Russian tourists and the brazen attack at a popular hotel frequented by diplomats and foreigners in Bamako, Mali, forced a reluctant international community to close ranks to obliterate a scourge that has become the greatest threat to human civilisation, and peace.

Therefore, Nigerians should be confident that as long we remain vigilant and lend our best endeavours to a committed and sincere leader like President Muhammadu Buhari, no matter how many bombs Boko Haram explodes, the latter has no future in Nigeria. It is a matter of time before the group is consigned to the dustbin of history.

It will be recalled that a couple of months ago, President Muhammadu Buhari gave an ultimatum to the Army High Command to defeat and degrade the insurgents disturbing our land by the end of December, 2015 to enable the planned economic and infrastructure master plan for the North-East region and other regions of the country to take off, and allow the thousands of displaced persons to return to their homes and their lives. Unfortunately, this has not happened. There is no doubt that it would eventually come to pass a little later than envisaged.

The Army since the coming of PMB has found its lost rhythm and fighting ability and has succeeded in forcefully removing the Boko Haram from occupying any inch of the nation’s territory. Even the popular Sambisa forest once occupied by the terrorists and which became a no go area for our soldiers has become a forbidden forest of death for the insurgents.

When PMB gave that deadline to the Army High Command, this writer recalls that the Army said they would be able to accomplish the desire of the president and ensure that the menace of the Boko Haram is a thing of the past. In fact the president had done most things required of him to ensure that the terrorists would no more have a hiding place. President Buhari spent valuable time and energy building an international and regional coalition to confront the threat. He visited neighboring countries of Chad, Cameroun, Niger and Benin as well as the influential G-7 summit in Germany, in search of assistance and understanding. These countries all pledged support. Even the entire countries that make up the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), pledged support and cooperation to fight the threat posed by the Boko Haram. The African Union was not left out. These important institutions and countries declared terrorism an enemy and unequivocally consented to fight and defeat it wherever it reared its monstrous head.

The president went on to do the unprecedented but needful. He moved the Command and Operational headquarters of the Army to Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, which used to be the birth place of the insurgency. This was done so that Army Commanders and Field Officers would operate from locations near the theatre of combat and where the insurgents are found.

President Buhari gave the ultimatum to defeat the Boko Haram by the end of December 2015, because of his no-nonsense approach to issues and because when Buhari was in his prime as a divisional Commander of the Nigerian Army, he dealt with similar irritants called Chadian rebels with dispatch, routing them from Nigerian territory and they never returned! The situation today is different as the Boko Haram had been left to acquire military clout and territory by a previous inept government which saw the Boko Haram threat as a political issue and allowed it to fester. It is gratifying however that in spite of daunting challenges of terrain, hostile weather and familiarity of the well-armed terrorists with the geography of the North-East of the country, the Nigerian Army of today under General Buratai has carried out its tasks with professionalism and resounding success. The Army since the coming of PMB has found its lost rhythm and fighting ability and has succeeded in forcefully removing the Boko Haram from occupying any inch of the nation’s territory. Even the popular Sambisa forest once occupied by the terrorists and which became a no go area for our soldiers has become a forbidden forest of death for the insurgents. The remaining task for the Army is to ensure that liberated areas are re-occupied by the inhabitants by collaborating with other security agencies including the Police Force, to man and keep vigil over the liberated areas. This would entail a boost in the number of the Army’s personnel via fresh recruitment to beef up the infantry.

Back to the deadly irritant of incessant bomb explosions by Boko Haram suicide bombers, Nigerians need to unite and endeavour to gather intelligence for the security forces. No longer able to stand and confront a better mobilised and motivated Nigerian Army, the terrorists understandably will deploy their remaining capabilities into bomb making and deadly explosions to sow disaffection sufficient enough to turn the people against the government. This bomb throwing constitutes terrorism of either the urban or rural variant.

President Buhari’s ultimatum to the Army to uproot and defeat the Boko Haram was in order and well- intentioned. The Boko Haram is in their death throes and has no future in Nigeria.

To deal with this menace, the government may do well for the period that this fight lasts to ban certain kinds of dressing associated with religious and cultural ethos that will deny potential Boko Haram bombers of the cover which these dressings provide. Though this is a touchy issue as the management of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has found out when it banned the wearing of veil by female Muslim Corpers.

When, however, a nation is facing a security threat in which many lives are lost and could be lost at short notice, such decisions by the NYSC are well-founded and should be supported by all patriotic and right thinking citizens.

Second, the authorities should monitor religious preachings that spread hate and intolerance or that is intended to cast the government in bad light or denigrate certain religions or nationalities. Such preachers should be apprehended and prevented from further talking to congregations. As a counter, government should encourage and mandate religious leaders and preachers to tell their audiences the evil that terrorism represent and impress on the people, notably the very young that a terrorist is friend to no one. Third, our security agencies, including the Police should sharpen their intelligence gathering ability and network to deny the Boko Haram any space to operate.

In view of the above, President Buhari’s ultimatum to the Army to uproot and defeat the Boko Haram was in order and well- intentioned. The Boko Haram is in their death throes and has no future in Nigeria.

Louis Okoroma, a Public Affairs Analyst writes from Abuja.