By Godwin Etakibuebu
TOO many things happened in the last few days that seem to cast doubt over the professional and operational integrity of the Nigerian Armed Forces. Yes, the hard-earned reputation of our cherished armed forces in environment of hostilities has suddenly taken unbelievable nose-diving into what looks to us “bloody civilians” at least, abyss of opprobrium. Mentioning just a few of these happenings would suffice here. By the way, it is all about this Boko Haram war.
The American government, through its State Department, a few days ago, rated the efficiency of the Nigerian Army in the war against Boko Haram very low. The Yankees specifically pointed out the inability of the Nigerian Army to hold down effectively areas recovered from the insurgents as responsible for recent escalation of hostility. The stand of the Americans is that the “Nigerian Military is not doing enough to hold onto territories recaptured from Boko Haram terrorists despite the successes recorded by the Multi-National Joint Task Force”.
The colour of the Nigerian Army painted by the American authority on this subject matter is that of an inefficient army. This did not go down well with our military. Of course, it is not expected that the Nigerian Army should throw a celebration party heralding the American analytical statement of fact. We should accept that America knows exactly what it is saying concerning the Boko Haram issue because that country [America] pays very heavily to the sustenance and maintenance of the multi-national force. He, who pays the piper ought to dictate the tune, is a popular saying.
The American’s evaluation report however coincided with the Acting President’s marching order to the head of the Nigerian Army and Air-force to move their high command back to the theatre of war in Maiduguri. In issuing that order, the Acting President would have recognised the continued decline of the Nigerian Military’s ability in holding effectively what it had gained initially. Such decline of authority in command of the Nigerian military over Boko Haram; a terrorist organisation declared to have been tactically defeated by President Muhammadu Buhari some months back, is not lost on many watchers of events, both within and without Nigeria. All we can feel this time is that the camp of the insurgents is gaining power and once again dictating the pace of action to our gallant military, which is not supposed to be.
Perhaps, the most disturbing aspect of this war against Boko Haram is the lack of exactness about facts about the person of Abubakar Shekau; the dreaded leader of the sect. Who is he? Is he alive or dead? We don’t know where to get facts about this man with “nine lives” from. The Nigerian Military that has engaged this man in this bloody war, which has gone on for years may not have even known the man. It means we shall remain in the terrain of illusion continuously if we are expecting facts concerning the man from the same military because it is what it [the Nigerian military] has that it can give. One is not being pessimistic for nothing. Let me just establish it quickly the number of times the Nigeria military told us about the death of Abubakar Shekau.
In 2009, Shekau was reportedly killed, with some one hundred Boko Haram members, including a key Financer of the group; Alhaji Buji Foi, only for the man to resurfaced in July, 2010 in a video clip. In 2011, the same man was reported killed in a Kano neighbourhood “after an exchange of fire”.
In 2013, Shekau was reported to “may have died between July 25 and August 3 in a battle in the Sambisa forest which was very fierce on July 30”. The statement made public from the JTF said, “Shekau was mortally wounded in the encounter and was sneaked into Amitchide, a border community in Cameroon for treatment from which he never recovered”. But on August 4, 2013, a day after Shekau was reported to have been killed, members of the Sect launched a ferocious attack on two military camps in Mallam Fatori border village and shortly thereafter, a video of Shekau, boasting was released.
In 2014, both the Nigerian and Cameroonian authorities provided video evidence that a Boko Haram Commander by name Bashir Muhammad who “doubled” as Shekau and took up the mantle of leadership after the real Shekau in 2013 was killed in Konduga in Borno State. There was tough argument between Nigeria and Cameroon about the authenticity of who actually killed the Shekau and the place he was killed.
On September 24, 2014, the Nigerian Army claimed it killed Shekau during a raid on Konduga on September 17 while photos of Shekau [dead] were made public by the Cameroonian authority, claiming it killed him “during a cross-border raid deep inside Nigeria by its military”. However, Shekau resurfaced a few days later saying, “here l am alive. I will only die the day Allah takes my breath”.
In 2016, report surfaced from the Nigerian military on Tuesday, August 23, that Shekau was “fatally wounded during unprecedented and spectaclar air-raid. Those Boko Haram terrorists commanders confirmed dead include Abubakar Mubi, Malam Nuhu and Malam Hamman, while their leader; the so-called Abubakar Shekau, is believed to be fatally wounded on his shoulders. Several other terrorists were also wounded”. This statement was credited to the Army Spokesman; Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman [now Brigadier General SK Usman].
So, when the Chief of Army Staff gave order to his men and officers a few days ago to “get Shekau dead or alive within 30 days” the question of “which Abubakar Shekau” left many confused.
By the time Sambisa Forest; declared “Zero Camp” by the Military, with Shekau Caliphate’s flag and abandoned Koran, alleged to have been taken from the raided Forest [items presented to the Commander-in-Chief as spoils of war in a very elaborative ceremony in Abuja] is added to the Shekau mystic life, the Nigerian Armed Forces will have a lot of explanations for Nigerians about the truth of this war against Boko Haram.
For now, Abubakar Shekau’s reign of terror continues in a possible Sambisa Forest of evil that has not been liberated.
It is sad indeed. Yes, it is sad!