What happened in Dapchi yesterday, if not properly responded to, could become the trojan horse that shifts the dynamics of this warfare to the advantage of the insurgents. Boko Haram has shown several times that it can be fluid in its strategy and as such we must be dynamic in our responses. It has moved from territorial occupation to guerrilla warfare and now seeks to redefine the battlefield of this war…


The Nigerian military might be pushing back successfully on the insurgents in the North-East, but one thing is clear, Boko Haram is winning the propaganda war. As reported in The Guardian UK newspaper, “Boko Haram shook hands with the parents and apologised for abducting them. They said that if they knew they were Muslim girls, they wouldn’t have abducted them”. False! Boko Haram knew very well the community they were invading and could not have been ignorant of the fact that Dapchi was a predominantly Muslim community. What the insurgents did in Dapchi was a carefully orchestrated ploy to win the hearts and minds of the locals and to sow a seed of discord among the Nigerian people across religious lines. Sadly, the insurgents masterfully pulled it off, as hundreds of people cheered them on while they dropped off the abducted 101 girls.

Tactfully, the Al-Barnawi led faction of Boko Haram has latched on to the “us against them” strategy, effectively used by the Taliban when the United States invaded Afghanistan right after 9/11. The Taliban was out-gunned and out-manned by the superior forces of the U.S., yet by unleashing an effective propaganda targeted at winning the hearts and minds of the locals, the U.S. found itself on the backfoot. After 16 years of war, the spending of over $700 billion dollars on military operations and reconstruction projects, the Taliban is stronger today than it was in 2002.

What happened in Dapchi yesterday, if not properly responded to, could become the trojan horse that shifts the dynamics of this warfare to the advantage of the insurgents. Boko Haram has shown several times that it can be fluid in its strategy and as such we must be dynamic in our responses. It has moved from territorial occupation to guerrilla warfare and now seeks to redefine the battlefield of this war, from the forests of Sambisa, to the hearts and minds of the locals. We must never allow this to happen!

The North has the highest percentage number of radio penetration in Nigeria; in-fact, Kano has the largest radio listening community in all of west Africa, with over 13 million people hooked on. What is lacking, however, are several voices of reason across the airwaves in the North countering the hardline messages of several far-right puritanical preachers.


This is why Osita Okechukwu, director general of the Voice of Nigeria, must roll up his sleeves and get to work. It is a fact that bullets only kill people and not ideologies. It takes a counter ideological response, with a superior argument to tame the virulent ideologies being propagated by Boko Haram.

The North has the highest percentage number of radio penetration in Nigeria; in-fact, Kano has the largest radio listening community in all of west Africa, with over 13 million people hooked on. What is lacking, however, are several voices of reason across the airwaves in the North countering the hardline messages of several far-right puritanical preachers. The DG of VON must engage the right Northerners with the right messaging on primetime radio, to compete for the hearts and mind of young northerners by propagating a counter-narrative.

Just like the British did during the second world war against the Nazis, when the BBC hired a brilliant journalist, Sefton Delmer to destabilise the Germans with his daily broadcasts that was listened to across Europe. Delmer’s propaganda was so effective that the chief propagandist of the Nazis, Joseph Goebbels, described it as the “intellectual invasion of the continent by British radio”. It was no surprise that Delmer once opined that “we (the British) won the war with atrocity propaganda”.

While we continue to use more ‘boots on ground’ we must ensure we also seize the initiative by controlling the airwaves too.

Ayodele Adio, a communication strategist, writes from Lagos.