BY RICHARD MURPHY
The Nigerian Army in recent times has been recording successes in the war against Boko Haram. However, these exploits may not amount to much if the people, for whom supreme sacrifices are being made, do not take the bold step of winning the war for themselves by taking certain critical steps. The military could kill the last of the twisted terrorists plaguing the country while the people still leave themselves hostages to terror in their own minds.
Clearance operations against remnants of Boko Haram terrorists continue in the north-east. For instance, this month, troops rescued 149 persons and took three terrorists out of commission in Yerimari-Kura community in Sambisa axis of Borno state. In the same month, troops have foiled several planned attacks in Maiduguri, particularly around the University of Maiduguri.
Other interventions of the Army are below the radar – as they should be. Also, this month, troops averted a communal clash between Amagba Community in Oredo Local Government Area and Obagie Nevbosa Community in Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area, in Edo state. Troops equally destroyed camps abandoned by herdsmen militia in Gbajimba, Kaseyo and Adagu communities in Benue state as part of efforts to ensure they do not regroup to carry out attacks.
In the preceding months, the successes recorded are not less remarkable, even though a narrow margin of error resulted in some attacks. As humans with the desire for quick healing and recovery from Boko Haram evils, Nigerians want rapid results – perhaps faster than humanly possible under the current circumstances. Criticism of the Army is therefore rife even when in most instances such harsh assessments miss the facts and arrive at inaccurate conclusions.
Beyond achieving the intended objectives their purveyors, distortion of facts ends up distracting the counter-insurgency war. Endless round of energy is dissipated on inanities while the substance remains unaddressed. What we all desire, which is the end point, is to be rid of Boko Haram and other terrorist groups that bent on destabilizing Nigeria. Only such conclusive crushing of the terror group can guarantee that our dear country fully regains peace and security; this defeat must happen not just on the battlefields but also in our collective coconsciousness.
This would be difficult to achieve when discourse of issues like the prospect of amnesty to would be repentant Boko Haram members is weaponized as a propaganda tool. It is an addition to other propaganda piece meant to distract our troops from focusing on wiping out the last of the terrorists from the north east. The discourse has been twisted to ignore the fact that the offer of amnesty does not rule out the decommissioning of unrepentant members of the group.
Other forms of distraction take on forms and actions that are meant to spread the Nigerian Army thin and rapidly wear troops down. This has come in the form of groups like the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPoB) that grew itself to become a national irritant before it was appropriately designated as a terror group. It is interesting that IPoB is reviving efforts to again become an irritant at a time when its north-east counterpart is being dealt decisive blows.
The Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), similarly outlawed and decisively contained by the Army, is also ramping efforts to distract the military. It has refused to give up its brand of terrorism. Its members paid siege to critical parts of the nation’s capital while obstructing traffic in the hope that they can again provoke a deserving response from authorities.
A more recent addition, the incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers – only that there is more to the problem than is allowed in the public space, has seen the Army deployed to states in the north central with Taraba in the north-east. The objectives of those stoking the embers of farmers/herders’ crisis is no different from those backing Boko Haram. By escalating things to the point where the Army had to deploy under Operation Cat Race, they have again repeated their old strategy of spreading the military out.
The robbery in Offa, Kwara state, hints at an escalation of the strategy as people would soon start asking that the Army be sent after armed robbers since it had largely succeeded in curtailing ransom seeking kidnappers.
Even as these distractions are thrown its way, since some of these are matters for the civil police to deal with under normal circumstances, the Nigerian Army has done its best and proven its mettle and sealing its place as a fighting force of global repute, an institution that is equally prepared to salvage any situation the county finds itself in. One must however note that nothing less is expected of the institution given that it is under the leadership of Lt Gen T.Y. Buratai as Chief of Army Staff (COAS).
These realities should form part of the message Nigerians project to Boko Haram, which is that the country’s military is capable and would ultimately defeat terrorists of all shade. Citizens must also let evil terrorists know that the military has the buy-in of Nigerians to restore the country’s security in accordance with its stated mandate. The end of the insurgency can only be seen when we collectively appreciate where we were, where we are and where we are going.
It is only fair that we appreciate how the quest to defeat the Boko Haram’s insurgency has transformed from the uncertainties of yesterday to the reassurances of today. Logic demands that we break from seeing things from the prism of diverse interests and to then tell ourselves the truth— the Nigerian Army is doing us proud is doing us proud.
Murphy, a security analyst sent in this piece from Ambo Street, Calabar.