Nigerians were generally in high expectation when the All Progressives Congress, APC candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, emerged the winner of the 2015 Presidential Election, principal reasons among which was his avowed determination to stamp out the Boko Haram insurgency that had inflicted monumental injuries on the national psyche, particularly in the North East which had been hotbed of their attacks.
That buoyancy was severely hurt when the Presidency thrice shifted the deadline for crushing the insurgent group as many feared that the hope for eventual end of the ‘scourge’ Boko Haram represents and the security challenges it imposed on the nation will linger further than it was thought possible following the emergence of the new administration.
However, Buhari’s administration remained resolute that its December 2015 terminal date for the sect would be accomplished. And in a fairytale fashion few days to the end of December, the Federal Government shocked Nigerians by declaring that Boko Haram had been ‘degraded’, ‘technically defeated’ and demobilized and that the few remaining elements were scampering for safety and attacking soft targets.
Rather ironically, the sect launched unprecedent¬ed attacks not necessarily on soft, cheap and hapless targets as the Information Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed would want the public to believe but on seemingly heavily secured institutions like military formations and others, often with reckless abandon.
Daring as ever and with a certain resurgence, the group seems to have evolved new extreme and outland¬ish tactics in its ferocity: raiding villages, maiming women and children and burning down these villages in a manner that left clear messages that rather than scampering in desperation and degraded, it has become more audacious and sure-footed in its deadly quest to establish the Caliphate in Borno, warts and all.
For instance, between December 27 and 28, Boko Haram successfully ambushed Madagali and Adawari villages, killing no fewer than 60 persons. These were followed by consecutive attacks in Adamawa and Borno, respectively. Scores of villagers were murdered in Dalori and Gamori where three female suicide bombers blew themselves up among the people that had managed to escape the first wave of violence in Dalori.
About 100 persons were violently killed between January 29 and 30 barely a fortnight, following the attacks in Adamawa. The first attack lasted for about four hours as the militants targeting villages and Internally Displaced Persons’ camp housing some 25, 000 inmates, authoritatively downgraded the villagers at will and routinely burnt down their homes.
Besides these, there have been pockets of similar but less deadly attacks in Borno in particular where some in the IDPs have claimed the insurgents are still in control of two local government areas.
Apart from belying the claims that the insurgents have been degraded and technically defeated, the December ending and subsequent attacks clearly rubbished President Muhammadu Buhari’s assertion at a meeting with the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki Moon, in France that the militant Islamist sect has been driven into ‘fall-back positions’ and are ‘currently not holding any territory’ in the country.
The implication of this is that Nigeria is still seriously in the vicious grip of insecurity and that it is high time the federal government stopped blaming the failings of the past administration in the fight against the faith-based sect and focus on pragmatic approaches to confront and bring the sect to its knees.
Rather than attempting to befuddle and manipulate the public through linguistic theatrics, the federal government should give more than superficial focus on the challenge to national security the presence of Boko Haram has continued to pose to Africa’s acclaimed largest economy.
Combating Boko Haram must attend a new vim: professional not populist and political. Instead of dwelling mostly on the prosecution of those that mismanaged and misappropriated arms deal funds, we think albeit without lending support in any form to those found to have misapplied funds meant to purchase weapons to fight Boko Haram, that efforts need be concentrated on drastically curtailing the menace of the sect in the North East.
The savagery of Boko Haram on the national psyche is evident in the huge numbers of Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, estimated at about 3million and the massive economic destruction to the Northeast region. Only recently, the cost of rebuilding the ravaged north-east was put at N3trillion of tax payers’ money.
Aside from the physical and material destructions visited on the people of the states where Boko Haram has concentrated its activities, the psychological trauma, economic dislocation and the huge untrained population arising from the destruction of schools and other established institutions, especially for the socio-economic upbringing of children, portend great danger for the country in the next decade.
Clearly, this is no time for rhetorics; but a crucial period to re-appraise and re-align our national security priorities, adopt proactive approaches to enliven responses to national security challenges, buoy up security operatives and limit political considerations in tackling core matters bordering on national integrity and sovereignty.
The Federal Government must galvanise both the military and the general public not against the undoing of the past administration but for a collective resolve to confront morally and physically acts which provide oasis for insurgence to flourish.
In these ways, sensitivity to national consciousness and security will be seen and held beyond the confines of government.