THE WAR AGAINST BOKO HARAM

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Sonnie Ekwowusi argues that the war is far from being won

The Chief Army staff, Lt. General Tukur Yusuf Buratai said last week that the army had defeated Boko Haram insurgents and now “facing the challenge of terrorism”. If Buratai was correctly quoted, I am yet to fathom why he decided to embark on such semantic somersault. Who does not know that the barbarians murdering and mowing down Nigerians in the North-East and other places are known as either Boko Haram insurgents or Boko Haram terrorists? There is a certain correlation between terrorism and insurgency.

Terrorism is one strategy that those who engage in insurgency employ to press home their demands. In fact the murderous activities of Boko Haram are not different from terrorist activities. So if Buratai says that the army is now “facing the challenge of terrorism” he is also indirectly affirming that the army is currently facing the challenge of Boko Haram insurgency. In any case, while Buratai was at THISDAY and ARISE news Channel claiming that the Buhari government had defeated Boko Haram insurgents, President Buhari was in far-away Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian Capital last week,(just a day after Boko Haram terrorists had attacked a village in Auno, near Maiduguri in Borno State, killing 30 people and destroying property and vehicles) admitting that his government had not defeated the Boko Haram insurgency and reaffirming his government’s resolve to crush them. So, between Buhari and Buratai who is saying the truth?

It is sheer self-deceit to be playing with words over the difference between the Boko Haram insurgency and terrorism when it is public knowledge that Boko Haram is continuously decapitating the rest of the North-East and other places. What should be uppermost in the mind of Buratai is the protection of lives and property of the citizenry not whether or not his army has defeated Boko Haram insurgency. No day passes in Nigeria without hearing that certain gunmen or bandits, kidnappers or Boko Haram terrorists had maimed, kidnapped or murdered or raped some Nigerian men and women especially Christians in Borno State and Southern Kaduna. Can you imagine that on Valentine Day last week certain gunmen abducted Rev. Father Nicholas Oboh, yet another Catholic priest serving at the Uromi Catholic Diocese, Edo State?

Given the upsurge in Boko Haram atrocities in the North-East and other places in the last three years, it is obvious that contrary to his pre-election promise in 2015, President Buhari lacks the avowed determination to dislodge Boko Haram. All the government’s braggadocio and grandstanding are but a ruse to win undeserved public sympathy. More importantly, there is no difference between Boko Haram and the Nigerian army. Boko Haram has infiltrated the army and the army has infiltrated Boko Haram. An army divided against itself cannot stand. Buhari cannot defeat Boko Haram because the insurgency in Nigeria is aimed at islamization of Nigeria.

Islam spreads through violent killings of the so-called infidels such as we are witnessing in North-Eastern Nigeria and other places. Contending that the objective of Boko Haram is to enthrone an Islamic dominance in Northern Nigeria, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah persuasively argues, and I agree with him, that there is no difference anymore between the Buhari government and Boko Haram except that the latter uses bombs to achieve its objective. To corroborate the assertion of Bishop Kukah, last week some soldiers at the war front in the North-East expressed their anger against President Buhari over his release of over 1, 400 “repentant Boko Haram” terrorists. The Borno State Commissioner for Information is also angry. He is angry that the so-called “repentant Boko Haram” members have gone back to Boko Haram terrorism. He also said that “a lot of soldiers are not happy about this ugly development.

According to one Nigerian soldier, “We were at the Maimalari barracks when some of these Boko Haram people were released. The authorities are releasing them, but Boko Haram are killing soldiers that they capture. This does not make sense to us at all. We continue to sweep across the bushes to flush these people out, and then the government will release them. Does that not amount to wasted efforts?” Another soldier said, “You wonder why Boko Haram members are on the increase? When we arrest them and bring them here, some top people would come and start negotiating their release. But, I will tell you some of these so-called suspects are returning to the bush and they were never repentant.”

I am not surprised that the Buhari government is offering amnesty to the so-called “repentant Boko Haram” people. Neither am I surprised that the government is releasing many of them. Mind you, in June 2013 the then Presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Major General Muhammadu Buhari faulted the Jonathan government for clamping down on Boko Haram Islamic insurgents. It is doubtful if President Buhari of today has ceased from being the Major General Muhammadu Buhari of 2013. Last Sunday we found ourselves surrounding a top-ranking officer in the Nigerian army, and he wasted no time in telling us about his experiences in the army – in the ECOMOG Forces, in Sudan and other countries. At a time one of us asked him about Boko Harm and the bloodletting in North-Eastern Nigeria. Spontaneously he said, “Boko Haram can end today if the authorities want…the Nigerian military is respected across Africa for their prowess. I was in Sudan, and you can see what the Nigerian soldiers did there. So the Nigerian army is competent except that the authorities don’t want Boko Haram to be flushed out. You see the Abati Barracks in Ojuelegba, Surulere. As small as that Barracks is if the soldiers there are supplied with the right ammunition they will defeat Boko Haram in one day. There was a time in Maiduguri that my unit saw Boko Haram massacring some Nigerians in a place not far from where we were, and we couldn’t do anything because we did not have the right weapons…If they want Boko Haram to end tomorrow it will end. The problem is that there are many people benefiting from Boko Haram killings. Even in the army some soldiers are collecting huge monthly Boko Haram allowances. So they know what they are doing. They don’t want to stop the Boko Haram killings.”

We all left in mournful silence.