–Ex-Army General, gov, cleric warn
By OMONIYI SALAUDEEN and TIMOTHY OLANREWAJU, Maiduguri
As the Federal Government continues to bask in the euphoria of the success of the military offensive against the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeastern part of Nigeria, a former Chief of Defence Staff, General Alani Akinrinade (retd), has raised fresh alarm over the likelihood of possible resurgence of the dreaded sect.
The warning is coming on the heels of the speculation of a split within the sect following the supremacy contest between its elusive leader, Abubakar Shekau and the emerging Sheikh Abu Musab al-Barnawi, who has claimed responsibility for some recent attacks. While noting that the relative success achieved by the Buhari administration in its determination to rout the insurgent was commendable, Akinrinade, a war veteran, warned that though the sect may be lying low now, it has the capacity to regroup and wreak further havoc notwithstanding the relative calm atmosphere in the ravaged states in the Northeast. He said in an interview with Sunday Sun: “You know very well that Boko Haram insurgency is one of the worst killers in the world today. And it is still going on. If you in the media are not reporting it correctly, maybe because you are not too free in the area. I am sure, they are still there. They say those who fight and run away, live to fight another day. They are prepared to take three months holiday because nobody is paying them, nobody has given them a task to complete and nobody told them there is a time bar in all these things. So, they can afford to hide their weapons, go to the society, spend three months and go back to war because we have not bothered to remove the reasons why all these troubles are there.
Akinrinade, who traced the genesis of the insurgency and other separatist agitations to bad governance, urged the Federal Government to do the needful by making the states and local governments accountable to the people in their respective areas of jurisdiction. The only way to do this, he said, is by ensuring power devolution to the constituent parts. “Bad governance is a major reason for all these things. They don’t see that they are the architect of their own fortune. They are looking somewhere else far away. They believe that their misfortune is coming from Abuja. They don’t know that their misfortune is coming from their own local government and state government. Who are they fighting? They are fighting the Federal Government. What is the relevance of the Federal Government to my village? None,” he declared.
The former army chief predicted that the economy may nosedive further, if the war is allowed to persist for too long. “If they tell us the truth, we must be spending 50 percent of our earnings on containing the raging agitations everywhere. There is war everywhere. If we don’t restructure, we will get poorer than we are now. Maybe then our eyes will open to know that there is no central government in Abuja that is going to do any magic to pull us together. I hope we are sensible enough not to allow anybody to just walk away because it is quite possible now,” he said.
In a similar reaction, a Catholic Priest and Director of Social Communications of the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri, Fr. Gideon Obasogie, said the claim that Boko Haram had been defeated by the military may be exaggerated, adding that the terror group may be “tactically” defeated but not dead.
His words: “I am afraid to say Boko Haram is dead because no one has got the numerical strength of the insurgents so as to tell us formally there were 100 Boko Haram and now the military has flushed out 90, hence remaining 10. It is quite good to be very hopeful and not to instill fear in the minds of people. But to say that Boko Haram is dead is an over-statement.
“Perhaps the claim that Boko Haram is dead could be from the point view of military operations. Therefore, to me it is better to say Boko Haram has been tactically defeated,” the cleric told Sunday Sun in reaction to the claim that Boko Haram is dead.
He maintained that the true death of Boko Haram insurgency would mean all major highways like the Maiduguri- Bama road shut down in the wake of frequent attacks by the terrorists would be free for commuters.
“There should not be military escorts while commuters ply Maiduguri-Biu road via Damboa. We shouldn’t be seeing IDPs in camps within Maiduguri because the people would rather want to be at home. Journalists are not yet reporting situation live from Bama, Pulka , Baga, Mallamfatori and Diffa (Niger Republic). So, Boko Haram is not dead until it is completely exterminated,” he stated.
He said the insurgents were still around in the bushes and fringes, stressing that they pose real threat to the society. He said the recent attacks on humanitarian workers of the United Nations agencies while returning to Maiduguri from liberated Bama town after delivery of aids accentuated his position that Boko Haram could still threaten the emerging peace.
He, however, lauded the efforts of the military and other security agencies for “a heightened offensive against the insurgents/terrorists and for putting back the arms of the unjust aggressor,” urging them not to relax on their oars. He asked Nigerians to constantly appreciate the “huge sacrifices” paid by many officers and soldiers as well as personnel of other security agencies to ensure the terrorists’ expansionist agenda was curtailed. He said this was necessary as Boko Haram may not be coming out in a ‘commando fashion’ to lay siege to communities in the Northeast but may be planning evil act somewhere judging from its antecedents. He appealed to the authorities, military and security agencies to ensure that Boko Haram do not regroup to return again in any parts of the country.
A similar appeal was also made by Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima last week while inaugurating the State Pilgrims Welfare Board and Islamic Preaching Board. Shettima had urged the Federal Government and Nigerians to learn from history, noting that the chronicles of Boko Haram indicate the group could resurrect each time it was defeated. He had warned against allowing a repeat of tragic history in the fight against Boko Haram.
“While we celebrate the successes of the Nigerian military and other security agencies in the fight against Boko Haram, we are not paying attention to history. Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. If we cast our mind as far back as 10 to 13 years ago, we will realise that Boko Haram has got the history of being defeated, going underground only to regroup again.
“When Boko Haram launched attacks in Kanama in Yobe State in December 2003, they were defeated by the Nigerian military but they went underground and regrouped again and resurfaced.They disappeared in 2004 only to resurface somewhere in Panshekara in Kano State in 2007,” he said in Maiduguri last Thursday.
He also recalled that Boko Haram was defeated by the military for the third time but the insurgents regrouped through another name in 2009 – Yusufiyya movement – believed to have been founded by Mohammed Yusuf, who was killed in the aftermath of the July 2009 insurrection. He said the group had mass followership in Maiduguri, Bauchi and Potiskum. “They were again outrightly defeated only to resurface again in December 2010. When they were chased out of Maiduguri, they resurfaced in Sambisa forest and created many camps in some local governments,” he said. He maintained that the group had a tradition of firstly presenting itself as a loving and caring religious group to the Muslim community to lure unsuspecting young followers only to manifest its terror tendencies after gaining ground.