In a January 30 editorial titled “We want to believe CDS Badeh but..’, we praised the optimism and courage the new Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, has brought to his primary job of ending the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east zone of the country. While taking the oath of office last January, he said he expected the sectarian violence that has taken tens of hundreds of lives already to end sometime soon. Indeed, he was quoted to have given April as the timeline for putting the violent sect to rout.
We acknowledged in that editorial that “Certainly, a new military helmsman, untainted by the controversies that have dogged the counter-insurgency campaign so far and a native of one of the affected states, does inspire public hope and expectations”. However, we feared that the CDS was rather precipitate in his expectations, given our sad past experience, particularly what the sect did after former Inspector General of Police Hafiz Ringim pledged to end the insurgency sooner. The sect scaled up its murderous campaign which had experienced a lull before the IG made his boast. He almost paid with his life in a bomb attack on Force Hqtrs in June 2011, and the following year President Goodluck Jonathan gave him the sack.
We recall telling the new CDS that “he should not be surprised if the reality he will confront forces him to scale down his hopes”. Well, he has since clarified his remarks uttered on the day of his swearing in . A statement by Defence Hqtrs in Abuja denied the CDS gave April this year as the deadline for ending the insurgency, saying that he only expressed a hope of ridding the country of this menace “very soon”.
However, that ‘clarification’ meant no difference to the sect. As far as it was concerned, Badeh had drawn a new battle line and it was back to the trenches. A month after, Boko Haram foot soldiers who had all but been driven out of Borno state’s urban centres regrouped and launched attacks on three towns, inflicting fatalities and physical destruction never before seen during the more than 4-year insurgency. From Borno, they took the war into Badeh’s Adamawa state.
Two attacks on Konduga in Borno in less than a week this month claimed over a hundred lives, including 11 soldiers ambushed and killed while on a rescue mission. Next to fall to the sect was the town of Izge where on February 16, over 130 residents were rounded up, made to line up and then were slaughtered like rams. The sect even kidnapped students from a girls’ secondary school. Four days later, Bama town was attacked and reports said 37 people were killed. A day earlier, February 17, the sect killed 11 in an attack on Galga village in Adamawa state.
A case of déjà vu? The resurgence of Boko Haram, after the army claimed to have killed its leader, Abubakar Shekau, and the boast of the military’s new helmsmen, shows that Boko Haram’s head is far from scorched. Indeed, Borno governor Kashim Shettima put it bluntly this week when he told journalists in Abuja that the Nigerian military was no match for Boko Haram and that “it is absolutely impossible to defeat” the sect . Who can doubt words from the horse’s mouth? The lesson is that our leaders should not give our people assurances that only create a false sense of security.