WE need to apply great caution in our attitude to the war on terror. Terrorism being waged by Boko Haram and other Islamist groups in the North East of Nigeria is asymmetrical warfare. There is no formal drawn battle line, and the enemy feels free to attack “soft targets” such as innocent citizens and their property.
For conventional armies all over the world, defeating terrorism is never an easy task. It took 25 years for the Sri Lankan authorities to defeat the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, LTTE, in 2006. Since the announcement of that famous victory, calm has returned to that country. That is what “victory” means.
But here in Nigeria, the term “victory” has been bastardised on the altar of politics. The Nigerian military under former President Goodluck Jonathan, on two occasions, announced the killing of the leader of Boko Haram Islamist group, Abubakar Shekau. Yet, up till today, Shekau continues to appear in videos which the group posts online, taunting the Army and abusing the Federal Government.
It was the Jonathan government’s difficulty in crushing Boko Haram that made the All Progressives Congress, APC, tout their presidential candidate, retired Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, as the man with the magic wand to vanquish the insurgents in six months.
Boko Haram’s murderous orgies intensified in tune with the massive onslaught against them when President Buhari assumed power in 2015. But in December 2015, Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, ruffled feathers when he announced the “technical defeat” of Boko Haram.
Since then, the Army, the Federal Government and even the Borno State Government have continued to maintain that the terrorists have been defeated.
Just last weekend, the theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Major-General Nicholas Rogers, again claimed that Boko Haram had been “completely defeated,” having been flushed out of their Camp Zairo base in Sambisa Forest.
Shortly after that, more terror attacks were recorded at Alau-Kofa village, just 12 kilometres from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. The village was burnt down, two people killed, 50 cows taken away and villagers’ food stores pillaged by Boko Haram fighters. More attacks have been recorded after that.
Before we can conclusively claim that the terrorists have been fully defeated, we must not only annihilate them as a fighting force, we must capture or at least account for the whereabouts of its leaders.
We must recover the rest of the missing Chibok girls, and there must be no further attacks on unarmed, innocent citizens. It is only then that the rebuilding process can credibly proceed.
Until these are done, we should focus on the task. These claims are misleading and can endanger lives and property. Let us drop all political manipulations until the war is won once and for all.