Published On: Mon, Apr 24th, 2017

Boko Haram: Is the military winning?

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Chief of Defense Staff, Major General Abayomi Olonisakin

Chief of Defense Staff, Major General Abayomi Olonisakin

By Ochiaka Ugwu

There is no doubt that the military under President Muhammadu Buhari administration has mounted a series of high-profile raids on Boko Haram insurgent hideouts in recent days after the country was stung by a wave of suicide blasts. Many had thought the Boko Haram militants were on the back foot after a security crackdown on their stronghold of Sambisa and will soon be a thing of the past, but far from it they are still very much around.
Indeed, the recent revelation by the Minister of Defense, Gen. Mansur Dan-Ali (Rtd) that the leader of dreaded sect, Abubakar Shekau is well, alive and may be planning high profile suicide attack against unsuspecting citizens lives much to be desired. This recent leak coming from a high grade Defense strategist after the Army had earlier declared that Shekau was killed in one of their area bombardments in Sambisa forest calls for worry. This recent development has sent shivers down the spine of many Nigerians who had hitherto heaved a sigh of relieve when the news of Shekau’s death was reported in the front page of most dalies following the confirmation by the military that he was killed in one of their area bombardments in Sambisa while trying to escape with remnants of his ragtag troops.
But with the recent revolution by Gen. Dan-Ali (Rtd), Nigerians are now asking, “Who’s got the upper hand between the military establishment and Boko Haram insurgents? They went on to even question the capability of the military towards putting an end the heinous activities of the dreaded sect. This could be seen as a clear case of eroding of confidence in the nation’s security architecture which must be up and doing at all time to repeal any threat from any quarter no matter how intense it may be. This perceived loss of confidence on the security apparatus and its ability to give Boko Haram a bloody nose is not only common among the Nigerian people. Even personnel within the military spectrum are not too sure of the readiness of their establishment in confronting the sect head on. An army officer who recently worked with Operation Lafia Dole in the North East lamented their problem which he said was better imagined than told. He said that it is unfortunate that the Army will only teach you how to put on the uniform, but will never teach you how to remove it, otherwise he would have bade the force good bye.
However, recent incidents in the security architecture of the anti-terrorism spectrum have attracted interest of most country folks. The Department of State Security Service (DSS) arrested some five Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Boko Haram militants in localities of Benue state and the FCT, Abuja end of last month, while they are busy plotting heavy atrocities against Nigerians. The recurrent arrests of fleeing remnants of terrorists in different parts of the country have persisted for months, even when the military has seized Sambisa.
Again, last week, Boko Haram killed some soldiers in Borno while trying to take over a military base, but this was after many of their members were killed. This happened in a prolonged battle in the Boko Haram prone state. Days later, a female sect member was intercepted by the eagle-eyed army personnel manning checkpoints. This shows that the sect is always devising new methodology towards perpetuating its evil acts. It is important to know that these attacks came after many botched suicide bombing in Maiduguri and its environs.
Indeed, suicide bombings are rare in our society before now, so the apparent shift in militant tactics is alarming and a course for worry. There are no doubt the suicide explosions we are seeing today pose a serious challenge to our national security. This does not suggest in any way that Boko Haram is a match to our able military men and women who were working tirelessly to restore normalcy in the troubled areas, but their activities if not checked are capable of destabilizing the whole region. We cannot afford to allow that especially now the present administration is doing everything humanly possible to restore sanity and stability in the region.
Moreover, many have been shocked by the intensity of the recent violence and the ugly dimension it has taken. With the militants using unsuspecting females and children as courier for bombs and the military releasing women and children held hostage by the sect in the most inhuman way, it shows that the war to defeat terror in our clime just begun. When the military entered Sambisa for the first time in its quest to give the sect a bloody nose, they were said to have found a scene of carnage with no semblance of humanity shown by these sect members.
From the visuals we have seen and personal testimonies of witnesses, they were all gory sights and unbelievably repelling. The militants had taught their hostage wives and children on how to use bombs to destroy humanity by mere indoctrination. They have blown themselves up along with their wives and children in many occasions in a desperate move to achieve their aim of instituting their own type of Islamic caliphate.
However, opinion is divided on whether the constant suicide explosions reflect a level of desperation among the militant groups or a new level of bravado. Either way, what we need do is to do proper thinking and come up with sustaining strategy on the best way to weaken the backbone of the sect, be it encouragement and support from ISIS for which the sect has pledged loyalty to.
Agreed the militants are now desperate, they are on the run and security forces have continued to hunt them down, the suicide bombings could be an act of sheer desperation, but much need to be done to decapitate them totally, so that Nigerians can go about their lawful business without fear of molestation form any quarter.
No doubt that the fight against terror has been largely successful so far because the operations have been unrelenting and unwavering. But there is every need to pitch for a more inclusive approach, particularly focusing on eliminating conditions conducive to radicalization. The way they are radicalizing young people and making them see the state and its apparatus as their number one enemy which must be destroyed to usher in a new arrangement that will accommodate their system has led many to believe the military was losing its war against Boko Haram.
Based on this fact, the military as the leader in the war against insurgency should as a matter of urgency galvanize the country’s security architecture into action. Terror war now should transcend the boundaries of military bombs and guns. Terrorists are a scattered camp now and this is the pertinence conveyed to all of us. It leans on the timely sensitization of Nigerians of the necessity to blend the gulf between artillery gunfire and the adoption of the olive branch as an alternative means of finally ending terrorism.
No Nigerian has a modicum of doubt about the defeat of terrorism in Nigeria by the Nigerian troops. The world is aware of this prevailing reality, with respected world leaders and institutions paying the rare accolades to the Nigerian Government and troops.
But the truth is that terrorism battles manifest in varying forms. The first approach of battlefield confrontations as done by the Nigerian Army is necessary to decapitate and defeat them, to minimize the scale of their exhibition of violent, blood-thirsty instincts, manifest in the mass murders of innocent people. The effort put in by the militancy looked like it might have been curbed, but far from it the battle may be over but the war is still raging.

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