By: Okanga Agila
No lexicon can appropriately reflect the mood in Nigeria at the moment. But the gale of jubilation and torrents of accolades from all and sundry have explained the ecstasy more vividly than anything else.
Nigerians are so elated because eventually, the Nigerian Army has completed its mission of obliterating terrorists, by its final seizure of the dreaded Sambisa forest which until recently was the haven of Boko Haram Terrorists, in Borno state, Northeast, Nigeria. To every Nigerian, this victory is the rarest and the most cherished gift ever presented to them for Christmas and New Year.
Nigerian troops in the commanding frenzy of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai finally humbled the remnants of Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs), with a fatal blow and last onslaught, by the conquest of the hitherto dreaded Sambisa forest.
Sambisa forest is reportedly a mountainous region of Gwoza, on the fringes of the Cameroonian border. Nature has erected it on a large swathe of land unarguably bigger than some states in Nigeria. And it is reputed as a notorious hideout for terrorists, who have tormented Nigerians for years.
Sambisa is a forest that provides retreating terrorists with the protective shield, each time they strike. And in this inaccessible sanctuary, insurgents gather impetus to organize and launch fresh attacks on targets. And at the peak of terrorism in Nigeria, Sambisa remained seemingly, an impenetrable fortress for Boko Haram insurgents. And until its final capture, Sambisa forest still served as harbor for remnants of terrorists, soldiers forced into receding, as they congregated in it to plot occasional attacks on soft targets.
But on December 22, 2016, after days of co-ordinated ground assaults by troops of the Operation Rescue Final (ORF) which is a brain child of Operation of Lafiya Dole demystified Sambisa forest. Nigerian troops also captured the camp zero cave, which housed commanders inside the Sambisa forest, in a sensational, unbeatable and vicious military assault on the terrorists’ tent.
When Nigerian troops, assailed the Sambisa forest, the terrorists opened fire on the troops, who gallantly repelled. When it became obvious to the terrorists that they could no longer sustain the “joke”, they had started, Nigerian troops, descended hard on the outlaws, who were eventually subdued by the superior fire power of Nigerian soldiers.
Some accounts of the operation reportedly said nearly 5,000 troops were deployed for the military expedition in Sambisa forest. And troops cordoned and assailed the forest from various axis, trapping the terrorists in their dungeons’.
Thus, the last victory of the Nigerian Army over BHTs marks the completion of the circle of cleansing of Nigeria of all traces of terrorists. It again pungently relive memories of the promise the COAS, Lt.Gen. Buratai made to Nigerians when President Muhammedu Buhari (PMB) appointed him to lead the Nigerian Army and the anti-terrorism campaigns in the Northeast and the rest of Nigeria. PMB’s brief to him was simple; to end the menace of terrorists in Nigeria.
By this order, Buratai, a shrewd Army General was apparently prodded by his Commander-In-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces to tramp his familiar path. He instantly covenanted and firmly assured Nigerians on July 14, 2015 of ending the menace of Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria by end of December of the same year. Nigerians had heard such fruitless promises in the past; so many cynics took his words for granted, hence, “once beaten, twice shy.”
But stepping out on this national assignment, Buratai blended his words with action, by applying his ingeniousness in military warfare to battle terrorists. And by December 2015, Boko Haram terrorists were not only decimated, but “technically” defeated in partial fulfillment of his promise.
Nigerians suddenly noticed that terrorists could no longer freely unleash their lethal weapons in bombing motor parks, shopping malls, mosques, churches, schools, hospitals, banks, markets and offices in Abuja, the Northeast and other parts of the North. Terrorists’ attempts to penetrate parts of Southern Nigeria were also foiled.
More respite berthed in Nigeria when the terrorists were decapitated against striking choice targets and holding communities hostage for hours, killing, burning and abducting innocent Nigerians. They could no longer annex Nigerian territories and declare these areas Boko Haram “Islamic Caliphate.” Rather, Nigerian soldiers reclaimed the nearly 20 LGAs and communities in the Northeast, severed from Nigeria and held hostage by the terrorists.
The case of the abducted Chibok schools girls was peculiarly empathetic because of their innocence and it attracted greater attention; but it never crossed the minds of many Nigerians that Boko Haram had taken hostage of over 25, 000 Nigerians they held in captivity, within and outside the shores of Nigeria before mid-2015.
Gen. Buratai led the Nigerian Army to rescue over 20, 000 of these abductees’ months back at different intervals and locations. And even with the launch of ORF, army authorities have disclosed the rescue of another 1,800 Nigerians from Boko Haram manacles. And since the Chibok schoolgirls could not be found in the punctured Sambisa forest and in line with the focus of ORF, Buratai has charged Nigerian troops to ensure the remaining Chibok girls are also freed. The Nigerian Army also massively received Boko Haram terrorists who voluntarily surrendered and denounced the satanic sect.
It is also worthwhile to pontificate that the remnants of the insurgents got to a pitiable level of helplessness, as they struggled frantically to even survive; some faced internal rebellion within their families, which kicked against abandonment to hunger, threats of soldiers and continuous excommunication from the sane society.
And the residues of terrorists receded farther into the hinterland and finally into Sambisa forest, erroneously thinking it was their safest haven.
Having effectively curtailed terrorists’ isolated attacks on soft targets, Gen. Buratai eventually launched the ORF under the Operation Lafiya Dole military command Center in Maiduguri, headed by Maj.Gen. Lucky Irabor, the Theatre Commander. So, December 22, 2016 was terrorists’ final doomsday, as they met their waterloo in the hands of Nigerian soldiers.
At the birth of ORF, the Army chief again promised Nigerians that its sole mission and mandate was to flush out remnants of terrorists and rescue every Nigerian still held in captivity. This promise too has reached its full moon, with the fall few days ago, of the dreaded Sambisa forest, with soldiers’ harvest of Boko Haram terrorists in droves. Gen. Irabor broke the cheering news about the final freedom of Nigeria from terrorists a few days ago.
Evidently, it was a Christmas and of course the New Year gift that has ever pleased President Buhari in his entire life, like the final victory on terrorists’ as he jubilantly said: “I am delighted at, and most proud of the gallant troops of the Nigerian Army, on receipt of the long-awaited and most gratifying news of the final crushing of Boko Haram terrorists in their last enclave in Sambisa forest.”
“I want to use this opportunity to commend the determination, courage and resilience of troops of Operation Lafiya Dole at finally entering and crushing the remnants of the Boko Haram insurgents at Camp Zero, which is located deep within the heart of Sambisa forest.”
The development has sparked pervasive jubilations across Nigeria, defiling religion, political party affiliation or any creed. The excitement about the defeat of terrorists as symbolized by the collapse of the Sambisa forest has turned hitherto staunch critics of the PMB administration to believers in his leadership, as they heap accolades on his government and the Nigerian military.
Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, an ardent critic of the insurgency war under Buhari and a man who believes, without him as President of Nigeria, Boko Haram would remain a national festering sore, spontaneously made a u-turn, erupting in joy and praises. An elaborate public statement credited to him said the army has actualized its promise to defeat terrorists. Atiku succinctly confessed that the outstanding victory against terrorists is a consequence of committed and focused leadership of PMB and the military Commanders at the battlefront among others.
Even the opposition PDP neutralized its anti-Buhari sentiments, as the party regaled in the feeling of the triumph of Nigeria over Boko Haram terrorists. The party’s national publicity Secretary, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, said, “We also congratulate the President (Buhari) for his dogged pursuit of the war against insurgency.”
As the euphoria of celebrations of the victory against terrorists intensifies in the months ahead, Nigerians would continue to adore and cherish President Buhari; the COAS, Lt.Gen. Buratai; other Service and Security Chiefs; battlefield theatre commanders, and indeed, the gallant men and officers of the Nigerian military for this wonderful dogged fight which has led to the Actualisation of the gigantic feat.
Buratai symbolizes this crucial springboard of freedom from terrorism and Nigerians are proud of him, Nigeria and its leader. And like the Holy Book says, the Army Chief is indeed a “Son, in whom we are well pleased,” as the pillar of the pride of Nigeria.
Okanga writes from Agila, Benue State.