Boko Haram: It’s Time to Seize the Momentum


In spite of the palpable difficulty in containing the spread of terrorism in the North-east part of the country, there are recent openings the federal government could seize in larger and collective interest, writes Olawale Olaleye

The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-General Tukur Buratai, didn’t say anything new when he said recently that the fight against terror was not over yet. Although he tried to maintain the propagandist stand of having technically defeated the terror group, he had only confirmed to a very large extent, what a majority of Nigerians had come to accept as the truth as far as the fight against terror is concerned.

Buratai, who spoke recently while declaring open the 19th Combat Service Support Training Week at the Command Guest House, Bauchi, through his representative, the Chief of Logistics, Army Headquarters, Abuja, Major General Rogers Ibeh Nicholas, said although the Nigerian army had recorded tremendous successes in the counter-terrorism operations in recent time, there was need to consolidate the gains to prevent the terrorists from regrouping or re-strategising.

Not long after, the news came that the two factions of Boko Haram might be ready for talks with the federal government. Abdulkadir Abubakar, a former commander of the group, gave this indication. Also known as Abu Muhammad, Abubakar was the chief intelligence officer of the terror group and one of its top commanders, until his arrest in June by the military in Buni Yadi in Gujba Local Government Area of Yobe State.

Speaking to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) at his cell in Maiduguri, Abubakar said the Albarnawi and Mamman Nur factions of Boko Haram were willing to dialogue and co-operate with the government to defeat the most visible leader of the group, Abubakar Shekau, whose capture, dead or alive ultimatum issued by the military high command expired last Wednesday and who had been the major obstacle to peace, since the insurgency began in 2009.

Abubakar said Shekau was not willing to surrender due to his highhandedness and that the unfortunate part was that the government and military authorities had accorded priority to dealing only with Shekau.

“Albarnawi has indicated interest in dialogue with the government to end the insurgency and provide a lasting solution to the crisis. Albarnawi discusses this with members of his circle. And I can assure the government that he would co-operate to achieve peace. The two factions are willing to co-operate with the Nigerian government to defeat Shekau,” he said, insisting that the groups were predisposed to a peaceful resolution of the eight-year-old crisis.

Abubakar, who claimed to have undertaken various espionage missions and provided intelligence to the insurgents, which enabled them to hit a long list of targets also confessed to leading the abduction of 276 students from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, as well as the massacre of students at Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, where over 20 students were murdered.

He also claimed to have been involved in other attacks on schools in Maiduguri, Damaturu, Postikum, and Mamudo but expressed his willingness to give the military useful information to crush the insurgents and arrest Shekau.

“I am co-operating with the military and I am ready to provide information on the whereabouts of Shekau. Shekau has left his enclave in Sambisa and moved deep into Mandara mountain. I know the area where he is hiding and willing to provide a guide to the military. The intensified military offensive has weakened Shekau’s position and that of the other groups,” he added.

While it is arguable that the military might have allowed Abubakar to give out too much information that would ordinarily have been useful in their intelligence gathering and management, these developments have provided clear opportunity for the military to once again decide on what it plans to do next as far as the fight against terror is concerned.

Although it is the view of war analysts that the use of carrot and stick was good, the trend the world over now is “talking to terrorist” as the way forward. But curiously, such approach is not what authorities celebrate or make public. This is why the disposition of the military to Abubakar dishing out as much information defeats intelligence predisposition.

Not only is such an approach counterproductive, it may not be out of place for those who usually think it is a ploy by the intelligence community to tip off the other parties by putting out so much information, knowing full well that they would pick the necessary from the cocktail of information and restrategise.

But it is always cheering to share the news that the war against terror is promising, however approach has always been the problem. The not-so-smart and crude use of force alone have proved time and time again to be ineffective. But the openings have provided themselves almost unsolicited, only for the authority to see them and cash-in.

These days, dialogue and negotiation as crisis resolution tools can prove to be effective than anyone could imagine. Too many losses have gone into the use of force alone and that is no longer advisable when there is an approach that could save cost, reduce losses and give result. This is why government must seize the momentum and let it count.