IS the fight against Boko Haram now beyond us? The time has come for us to stop pretending. This year, 2019, marks 10 years since Boko Haram (Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal jihad, or “people committed to the propagation of the Prophet’s teachings and jihad”) was incepted in Borno State under the then Governor Modu Ali Sheriff.
When the governor and the group fell out politically, its leader, Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf, was brutally murdered while in government custody. From that moment, Boko Haram, with Sheikh Abubakar Shekau, started an armed insurgency which has claimed over 20,000 lives, upturned the entire North-East and made governance almost impossible in Borno State but for the cast-iron resolve of Governor Kashim Shettima.
It helped in getting the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, regime of former President Goodluck Jonathan voted out of power. The fury of Boko Haram was felt in Kano, Jos, Kaduna and Abuja in waves of suicide bombings.
Newly-elected President Muhammadu Buhari, riding on the crest of promises to eradicate Boko Haram within months, launched a major offensive in May 2015. By December that year, the regime was already boasting of having “technically defeated” the terrorists, asserting that they no longer occupied “an inch” of Nigeria’s territory.
As if to buttress this assertion, the Borno State Government embarked on a massive rebuilding of devastated communities and the restoration of thousands of Internally-Displaced Persons, IDPs, back to their communities.
Perhaps, somewhere along the line, the rot set in again. Deals were done with the insurgents for the return of abducted civilians (especially the Chibok and Dapchi schoolgirls).
The Army strangely enough, released thousands of captured Boko Haram fighters after “de-radicalisation.” Boko Haram split, and the faction headed by the late Yusuf’s son, Abu Musab Al Barnawi, affiliated with the Islamic State in West Africa, ISWA.
Though the Federal Government and the Army had serially denied international media reports that ISWA had resumed occupying several communities around Lake Chad since about a year ago, it has now dawned on us that we are probably back to the May 2015 situation, with increased military casualties and several towns around Baga reportedly reclaimed by Boko Haram.
Perhaps it is time for the world to see the ISWA threat in Borno and the Lake Chad zone as a carbon copy of Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi’s campaign to carve out an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which was stopped by the direct military involvement of the major powers.
Alleged corruption and double loyalties within the Nigerian military and governmental establishments could render Boko Haram unstoppable, more so as reluctance is growing in efforts to confront them. We need the necessary weaponry and discipline in command and control to apprehend the terrorists once and for all.