Millions of Nigerians are greatly distressed over Boko Haram’s execution of the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Michika Local Government Area, Adamawa State, Rev. Lawan Andimi, not only for the act itself but also for the national sense of impotence it signified. This sense of frustration is shared among Christians and non-Christians alike in a week it also transpired that the Christian girl who had refused to renounce her faith, Leah Sharibu, and who has been in Boko Haram’s captivity as sex slave now has a baby for ‘a Boko Haram commander.’ And a day before Pastor Andimi was beheaded, another Christian cleric, Pastor Dennis Bagauri of the Lutheran Church, Mayo Belwa, also in Adamawa State, was also killed.
Indeed, in the last month or so, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), the extremist splinter group of Boko Haram, boasts of having beheaded 10 Christians on Christmas Eve, and an 11th victim was shot to death by someone who, in a video, looked like a 10 year-old boy. ISWAP terrorists say they are killing Christians as a reprisal for the killing of the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levante, (ISIL) Abu Bakr el-Baghdadi by the United States along with Abu Hassan al-Muhajir in Iraq and Syria.
Pastor Andimi was kidnapped on January 2, 2020 and on January 5, he appeared in a Boko Haram video pleading to his church brethren, the Adamawa State Governor, Ahmadu Adamu Fintiri, and the Federal Government, to intervene to save his life. Negotiations with the terrorists were said to have been started with Boko Haram asking for 2 million euros, about N800 million, while the terrorists were offered N50 million, which they apparently rejected. They kept up the pressure on the pastor’s wife and actually informed her that her husband was going to be beheaded on Saturday, January 18, a threat they carried through two days later.
The Adamawa State Chairman of CAN, Bishop Dami Mamza, disclosed that negotiations were still going on when the pastor was killed. He was an ordained minister of the Ekklesiyan Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). A Nigerian soldier was said to have been killed with him. The Jesuit Review reported that the pastor’s murder is only the latest in a surge of attacks. On January 19, Boko Haram ambushed two separate Nigerian Army patrols, killing and abducting a number of soldiers. They had ambushed a bridal party on December 27, killing Martha Bulus, a young bride set to wed on New Year’s Eve, and her friends.
President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the killing as cruel, inhuman and deliberately provocative and promised that the terrorists would pay dearly for their blood lust. He vowed that they will be comprehensively defeated by the Nigerian armed forces. He urged all nations of the world to end all support for Boko Haram and the ISWAP.
Nigerians are clearly distraught on Andimi’s fate and are showing signs of helplessness. That Boko Haram would reject a N50 million ransom and proceed to behead a Nigerian pastor shows the country is in a bad position in relation to the balance of forces in this 10-year-plus war. The Federal Government’s body language and the recent aggressive attacks of the terrorists are indications that the war is not going well.
This observation is not new and dates back to 2015 when President Buhari came to power riding a crest of optimism and the outpouring of support to finish off Boko Haram. Seven months later, on Christmas Eve of 2015, the President announced on the BBC that Boko Haram was “technically defeated.” He confidently declared: “Technically, we have won the war. Boko Haram has reverted to using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), indoctrinating young guys. They have now been reduced to that because people are going back into their neighbourhoods. Boko Haram as an organised fighting force, I assure you, that we have dealt with them.”
However, later developments have shown that the President was wrong in his conclusions. Thus 10 years into the war, the Defence Headquarters is now appealing to the world to help it decipher the source of funds for Boko Haram and ISWAP. For many times, the terrorists have surprised and got the better of our forces. The most fundamental information about the war – supporters of the enemy, the source of his arms, his political support – is unknown. This is why Nigerians are now despondent over Boko Haram. The Federal Government seems to live in denial instead of admitting that the war has become intractable with no light seen at the end of the tunnel.
We need international help. But we need to know how that help can be used by knowing who the enemy is. There is talk about political settlement, which is excellent. The question is: with whom? The Federal Government should hold a major war council and review everything about the war against Boko Haram.