Understanding Olonisakin’s Recent Visit to Borno

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Emeka Nwapa
The recent working visit of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Gabriel Olonisakin, to Maiduguri again established two things: one, that Nigeria’s sovereignty remains intact in the North-east; and two, that even as the nation savors the excitement over the Nigerian military’s successful degrading of the Boko Haram Terrorists, it is not time yet for Nigerians to drop the guard and scream Hurray!

Understanding these facts arising from the operational visit of the defence chief to Borno, arguably the nation’s worst-hit theatre of conflict where our indomitable troops unquestionably maintain effective control is necessary to properly contextualize the current story-line of a seeming Boko Haram resurgence that may have created fears in pockets of the public that the anti-terror war is far from being over.

Away from the recent ambush and suicide attacks by the extremist group on troops and civilians some of which were foiled, truth is that nothing on the ground suggests they are back in full force. Not so.

The military have contained and reduced the activities of the insurgents to hold territories and launch attacks as before. The recent attacks are propaganda maneuvers to mask their weakness. Not with the widely-acclaimed excellent credentials of our military. This is the message of the defence chief’s trip to Borno, the epicenter of the anti-insurgency operations in the North-east.

The CDS took the opportunity of the working tour, with the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, and top military commanders to see the troops appraise the operations vis-à-vis the overall goal of safeguarding the country in line with his vision: to ensure a well motivated, trained and equipped Armed Forces that is responsive to national security commitments.

He launched Operation Rescue Finale to symbolize that the anti-war curtains were going down in Sambisa forest, following it up with the release of a new list of 55 wanted Boko Haram terrorists including Abubakar Shekau, a Boko Haram leader. So far, 353 terrorists have been declared wanted.

He said the military has opened a window to the terrorists with Operation Safe Window as a safe-landing platform for Boko Haram insurgents who wished to repent and forsake terrorism to join the rest of the society in peace, explaining that the list was in continuation of the military’s message to the public to collaborate with it to defeat the insurgents.

‘’With this launch of the additional list of wanted terrorists, it is hoped that the public will collaborate to identify the wanted Boko Haram insurgents wherever they are, I urge all to facilitate in tracking them down for the good and development of the country’’, he said.
Buratai gave symbolism to the charge by the CDS, saying that the launch of the new list was to draw the attention of the civil populace to the grim challenges of terrorism, emphasizing the need for the people to always provide useful information to the military on the whereabouts of the wanted persons.

Promising adequate protection for the informants-which is usually the fears of many, Buratai pledged that good-spirited members of the public have nothing to fear as they will be treated with utmost secrecy and confidentiality.

He appealed to the sentiments of the troops saying, ‘’The Nigerian army and indeed the military, as the symbol of our nationhood, is determined to eliminate the remnants of the insurgents. We will never allow the repeat of the past bloody havoc wreaked on the populace by the insurgents nor will we be discouraged when we suffer casualty through the insurgents’ ambush. The whole nation is behind us as well as the President’’.

If the import of the declarations by the cerebral military top brass led by the CDS, Gen. Olonisakin is lost on the rest of us, it is not lost on the Boko Haram terrorists who have proved that they understand the psychology of war rhetoric through suicide and ambush attacks on troops and soft targets to grab headlines in the media to gain mileage.

They believe whatever advantage they lose on the field of combat they can gain in the publicity of their attacks on media platforms often given free of charge to undermine the broader battle against insurgency. Studies have shown that this is the way of terrorists and insurgents even when they are in the middle of talks and negotiations of any kind for ceasefire or settlement.

It is worth recalling here that until Al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden was eventually hunted down in 2001 in Pakistan and brought to justice as America’s most wanted person, the United States’ defence and military forces did not drop their guard just as they constantly and consistently posted on the average American consciousness the message that America will not know peace until bin Laden was brought down. This is the message by our military top brass.

But has America known peace? This is a topic for another day. However, it is a fact today that the American authorities, on behalf of the American people ensured that the message went out and resonated in the terrorism world. This is the context within which the current situation in North-east vis-à-vis the efforts and strategy of our defence and military forces should be viewed.

The talk therefore, of a possible resurgence of Boko Haram in the light of casualties arising from a seeming upsurge in the tempo of enemy ambush and suicide attacks tends to confer false credentials on the capacity of the terrorists that could cause fear and apprehension in the minds of the public.

This is the terrorists’ trap which must be carefully avoided at this critical stage of the anti-terror war. If they have lost the battle in the field of combat, they must not be allowed to win the war in the minds of the people otherwise we run the risk of self-defeatism.

Nobody is under the illusion that the militant group does not pose danger but it is on record that over 20,000 of its members have been killed, captured or surrendered as a result of the mortal bombardments by our courageous troops. To accord them the fame they do not deserve amounts to dancing on the graves of our servicemen who sacrificed their careers and lives to keep the nation safe, stable, secure, united, peaceful, progressive and violence-free.

Dr. Emmanuel Onoja, a scholar whose doctoral thesis was on the ‘Imperative of Military Operations in Combating Civil Disorder in Nigeria’, observed that the Nigerian military has creditably acquitted itself very well in effectively quelling civil disorder and other forms of armed conflicts in the country and has moved from the last to the first in the nation’s line of defense.

Perhaps lending credence to Dr. Onoja’s submission, the Chief of Defence Staff was once quoted at a public lecture recently as saying that the military had to readjust its training programs to incorporate maintenance of internal security emphasizing that citizens should play their roles in promoting national security and stability.

Gen. Olonishakin theorised that the gamut of security involves the citizens who should play complementary roles to ensure effective homeland and internal security, contending that they could assist security services by divulging useful and timely information to promote peace, law and order in the country.

“No single arm of the security agencies can secure the nation alone. We suggest a more coordinated response by security outfits and the involvement of the citizens in tackling our growing security problems”, he said.

Malam Tukur Musa Tilde, National Coordinator, and Mr. Emeka Nwapa, Chief Media Strategist respectively, of Concerned Professionals Congress, CPC, a civil advocacy platform promoting good governance while speaking to reporters in Abuja, praised the military for its many accomplishments in the North-east.

‘’It is exciting that our military has always risen to various internal security challenges in the country. We are excited that the Chief of Defence Staff and his team have come up with effective strategy suitable for addressing the various armed conflicts in the country. We believe that the situation in the North-east is under the combat control of our troops’’, they said.
They noted that Gen. Olonishakin and the service chiefs have worked tirelessly to turn the tide against insurgency in the North East, rescuing territories and an entire Emirate of Bama whose Emir had to run for his life.

Troops’ morale is now very high. Nigerians and the entire global community have applauded the military for the successful battle against terror which has steadily decimated the Boko Haram terrorists such that they now lack the capacity to directly confront our troops or hold territories at will. Today, they are fleeing in different directions.

Over 20,000 hostages comprising men, women, children were freed from Boko Haram with over 10,000 territories and communities liberated. Over 20,000 Boko Haram members have surrendered. The operations may not be over yet but certainly these are indicators that the nation is not far from Uhuru.
–Emeka Nwapa, a journalist and public affairs commentator, sent this piece from Abuja.steveobum@gmail.com