Leader of the counter-insurgency war in Nigeria and Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen.Tukur Yusufu Buratai is a soldier rarely given to anger, but it appears the mask forces behind terrorism in Nigeria have dragged him to the cusp of anger. He resents flippancy as indecent conduct. When he voices out on any matter, he strives his best to live his words.
Gen. Buratai has obviously lost his cool on the terrorism war in Nigeria. This much is reflected in the matching orders he issued to the Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Maiduguri, Major Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, to capture Abubakar Shekau, the self-styled, factional leader of the Boko Haram sect. The Army Chief was emphatic that the task must be accomplished within 40 days, and that Shekau must be located wherever he is hiding in Nigeria, arrested and paraded before Nigerians in chains whether “dead or alive.”
In the last two years of the counter-insurgency war in Nigeria, under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the timeline of promises made to Nigerians have been fulfilled. In July 2015, when President appointed new Service Chiefs, he ordered the military to crush Boko Haram terrorists within record time.
As the leader of the anti-terrorism campaigns, Gen. Buratai keyed into this order and promised Nigerians to crush Boko Haram. And months later, Gen. Buratai led troops on ceaseless offensives against terrorists in the Northeast and other parts of Nigeria. By December 2015, there were palpably verifiable signs of the decimation of Boko Haram insurgents.
At the turn of 2016, the deadly insurgents had been subdued beyond the ability to strike recklessly, as Buratai fulfilled his promise of reclaiming every Nigerian territory annexed by Boko Haram insurgents.
The final defeat of Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) came in December 2016, with the demystification of the Sambisa forest, the former haven and fortified cave of insurgents. Gen. Buratai has lived his words in all these instances and phases of the counter-insurgency war. The Army Chief knows that what remains to be done is to capture Shekau, who narrowly escaped when Nigerian troops invaded the Sambisa forest to camp zero.
Nigerians have lived with the tale of the military’s claimed “killing” Abubakar Shekau many times in the past. But Gen. Buratai knows he has never been killed and has never lived under such false illusion. He has never boasted of ever capturing or killing Shekau. But the Army Chief knows it is a task that must be accomplished.
Therefore, the 40-day directive for the capture of Shekau is further demonstration of the resolve of Gen. Buratai and his troops not to relent until the funeral of the last of the sect members is finally conducted to completely rid Nigeria of terrorism.
Gen. Buratai knows the game and the competence of his officers. He handed this tough assignment to another equally no nonsense soldier, Gen. Attahiru. He is known or has the reputation of excellence on all assignments. He treads where devils dread and his battlefield compendium is replete with narratives of success on all assignments. It means, Shekau’s death knell has been sounded.
The order is therefore, a loud expression of the determination of the Nigerian Army to once again surprise Nigerians by ending the jinx of Abubakar Shekau by demystifying him. It follows the pattern troops demystified Sambisa forest, which at first, appeared impossible to skeptics. Again, many may not appropriately comprehend General Buratai’s time limit for the capture of Shekau.
The number “Forty” is Biblically symbolic of judgment and liberation. Religious scholars variously link the number “40” to themes of conquest or judgment. When Jesus Christ fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, he conquered temptation and spiritually prepared himself for His rescue mission in the world. Christ’s 40 days fasting fortified the mastery of His human nature in submission to “power of the Spirit.” And when He was crucified and buried, His resurrection and ascension occurred in 40 days.
In essence, Gen. Buratai’s 40 days directive is not only the symbolic conquest of Shekau, but an undeniable possibility for the final liberation of Nigeria from terrorism. Leaders do not just speak. They are inspired and their words are usually prophetic. And in the war against terrorism in Africa, Gen. Buratai is to Nigerians, what General Washington was to Americans in the narrative of America’s independence. Washington gave his troops the tall order to defeat Great Britain or perish and every word of the order was successfully executed to extricate the then 13 States of America.
Some Nigerians belong to the wrong side of life. While sponsorship of Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria by Iran is no longer a hidden secret, enough evidence has been adduced about the existence of internal allies/agents in Nigeria. They provide protection and nourishments to die-hard terrorists like Shekau. When he is wounded in battles, they whisk him for secret treatment in caves and forests.
It explains why though almost all of his commanders have surrendered to the Nigerian Army, but Abubakar Shekau has been shielded and continues to operate clandestinely. The internal allies are afraid the capture of Shekau would lead to their exposure, through the implicative and mindboggling revelations he may churn out. And so, they are working extra hard to ensure he continues to evade Nigerian soldiers.
But let them be assured that they can only procrastinate the arrest of Shekau, but cannot prevent his doomsday. It is funny that the terrorists’ allies think Shekau would forever remain elusive to the Nigerian soldiers. And the last resolve of the army to capture him at all cost has reinforced the immediacy of this possibility. His backers and protectors have a chance to salvage themselves by confessing their sins against Nigerians and denouncing terrorism or wait to be disgraced.
No doubt, Gen. Buratai and his men are not resting on their oars, as the capture of Shekau order has conveyed. The leader of the counter-insurgency war knows that the final defeat of Boko Haram terrorism must be celebrated with the arrest or capture of Shekau. And Nigerians of good conscience are on the same page with the Nigerian military on this score.
While Nigerian troops would comb every conceivable place in the next 40 days, to smoke out Shekau from his hideout, the civil populace is expected to fast-track the process by assisting with information. It is reason for the plea by army to patriotic Nigerians to assist by volunteering information on the whereabouts of Abubakar Shekau.
The sight of a captured Abubakar Shekau groveling before the military, drenched in tears is a meal the Nigerian military would serve Nigerians on the menu of terrorism soon. And Gen. Attahiru should endeavor to bring a captured Shekau for parade in Abuja, so that the children of his countless victims and those he has tormented would mock him, while they spray his cursed flesh with spittle.
At this point and with Shekau’s revelations, researchers on terrorism would have been enriched with materials on the dimensions’ of terrorism in Nigeria. Already, an ambitious writer and activist, Comrade Philip Agbese who has closely monitored the undercurrents of the terrorism warfare in Nigeria has packaged book on the war against insurgency.
The masterpiece has succinctly captured the recycling politics of Boko Haram, Shekau and the many masked faces behind the festering of terrorism in Nigeria. The revelations contained in the book, due for public launch end of 2017, would surely expose Nigerians to the intricately bizarre and frightening political connections that have nourished terrorism all these years.
By Okanga Agila
Okanga writes from Agila, Benue State.