In November and December 2014, I wrote two pieces on the Boko Haram Insurgency. The first article was entitled, Now that Boko Haram is World’s No. 2”. The article was written after the deadly sect was listed as the World’s second deadliest terrorist group. The second article was entitled, “ Sorry, Boko Haram, time to change tactics”, written after several weeks and monthsof bloodletting and exasperation that the nation seems not to have answers for the atrocities of the sect. About six years after, the articles are being reproduced again in view of the resurgence of the deadly sect. Can we say things have really improved? For how long are we going to continue with the bloodletting in the country? If as a nation, we cannot win this war, can we simply request for assistance from nations that have experience in the fight against insurgents and terrorists? Technology has improved tremendously, why not exploit this in the anti-terrorism fight.
For most discerning Nigerians, the war against Boko Haram has not really started, though the Nigerian leadership would say otherwise. And I am not sure the war would really start notwithstanding what the military authority would want us to believe. It is not that soldiers are not in the theatre of war. But what has been the result of the military effort. On a daily basis, we are assaulted with pictures and reports of people moving from their communities to areas they consider safe. As at today, there are some communities still under Boko Haram. And let us not forget that we still have over 200 Chibok girls in the custody of the sect.
So going by the result posted so far, the military has not distinguished itself in this war. Most Nigerians are finding it difficult to accept that the military can deal decisively with the menace. Thus it was not really a surprise when the news broke that Mubi which had been captured by the sect was retaken by local hunters, a feat that was impossible for the ‘professional’ Nigerian Army to accomplish. Though it was said the task was achieved with the help of the Nigerian Army, but the role played by the army was not stated. The military has not equally come out to state the role it played in the battle.
What kind of support did they give? Who led the attack? Was the attack led by one of the hunters or an army officer? One was thus left wondering how this feat was achieved. We have seen pictures and video recordings of the Boko Haram fighters surrounded by death-dealing arsenals which have enabled them to put our soldiers on the run, with some of them taking refuge or as the military would call it, tactically withdrawing into neighbouring countries of Cameroun and Chad.
So I started imagining how the local hunters performed the ‘miracle’, because it is nothing short of a miracle. I imagine the local warriors with their cutlasses and swords, grazing sticks, charms and amulets tied round their waists, taking on the insurgents and recapturing the town, with soldiers providing the rear support. The image being painted here may seem outlandish, but I hope I would be pardoned for this because I cannot wrap my mind round the fact that the hunters could be as equally equipped as the Boko Haram and even our professional soldiers. Thus the people in those states being tormented by the insurgents should quickly organize all their hunters to confront Boko Haram and not wait on the Nigerian Army. It is not as if I have anything against the Nigerian Army but it is indeed a shame that the army is finding it difficult to fulfill its constitutionally assigned role and had to rely on local hunters. What became of professionalism? Or is it the case of pepper soup drinking as alleged by former Lagos police spokesman, Alozie Ogugbuaja some years back, that has taken the sting out of our military? What this implies is that the army or the federal government lacks the capacity to protect Nigerians.
Have we ever bothered to find out the casualty figure among the local hunters. Who compensates their families for the loss? Are they being paid salary the way our soldiers are being paid? How are they organized? Is it not even possible for Boko Haram members to infiltrate their ranks? These are questions that should bother every Nigerian and the political and military leadership.
But the major issue today is not even about the occupation of one part of the country, but the recent revelation that the sect has become the world number two terror group. According to a Reuters report on Tuesday which quoted the Australia and the United States-based Institute for Economics and Peace, the sect is now second to Islamic State, another terror group in the Middle East.
The meaning of this is that the Nigerian insurgents have overtaken the Taliban and even al Qaeda in violence. How did we come to this sorry pass? Since the sect began its operation about five years ago, why has it been difficult to decisively tackle them? Looking at the budget since 2009 till date, defence has always taken a lion share of the budget and till date, about $32billion has allegedly been spent in the fight against terror. So if we are spending so much, why do we continue hearing that our soldiers are ill-equipped? Even with personnel cost, there should still be enough to procure arms and equip the army, so how has the money been spent?
What about the national assembly committee overseeing this sector, should they not perform their oversight function better especially at this period when we have this major issue in the country.
The Boko Haram insurgency should not be seen as a Jonathan, northern or North East problem. It is a Nigerian problem and the earlier we see it that way the better. I recall that during the World Economic Forum on Africa in May this year, the major concern was the insecurity in the country, thus depriving the country the opportunity to showcase its economic growth.
The North East is especially in dire strait as no economic activity is taking place. People and businesses have relocated, gradually turning that part of the country into a desolate, no-go area. The election is just around the corner, are we sure there would not be an escalation in violent activities. For how long shall this continue?