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Boko Haram: Separating facts from fantasies

Senator Baba Kaka Bashir Garbai (Borno Central) may have literally stirred the hornets’ nest in his recent submissions to the media which raised fundamental questions…

Senator Baba Kaka Bashir Garbai (Borno Central) may have literally stirred the hornets’ nest in his recent submissions to the media which raised fundamental questions on what may be described as the premature declaration of victory in the military engagement to rid Nigeria of the Boko haram insurgency.
Given the sensitive nature of issues relating to the war against Boko Haram, Senator Garbai’s objective assessment of the current situation on the ground runs the risk of being misunderstood. In fact, Governor Kashim Shettima’s reactions on the issues raised by the Senator on the Hausa Service of the BBC are reflective of the misunderstanding of the import of the Senator’s contention.
The fact of the matter, which the Senator seems to be saying, is that, though a measure of success has been recorded in the military campaign to defeat Boko Haram, the declaration of victory as the Presidency and the military top brass have been doing of recent could amount to an exaggeration of objective reality.   
There is certainly, no doubt that the war to rid Nigeria of the menace posed by the militant and terrorist activities of Boko Haram has in recent times enjoyed the seriousness and support expected of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Indeed, since the advent of the incumbent administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari,  it obvious that there has been no more hiding place for Boko haram and its deadly activities that have caused numerous cases of death and destruction to the people of the North East region.
The people of Borno State in particular, and the north east geo-political zone and Nigeria in general, would remain ever grateful to President Muhammadu Buhari and his Military and Security chiefs led by Lt. General Tukur Y. Buratai for their efforts to defeat Boko Haram. We make bold to state that but for the commitment, dedication renewed vigour and sacrifices made by the Nigeria Armed forces since President Buhari assumed office, what is now known as north east Nigeria may have been overrun by Boko Haram. However, thanks to the gallantry and bravery of our armed forces, Boko Haram has suffered serious setbacks in their evil design of transforming our country into a theatre for their murderous ideology. This much must be acknowledged and appreciated. Of course, thanks to the effort of the Nigeria Armed forces, most of the areas hitherto captured and controlled by Boko Haram have been liberated though it is obvious that much still needs to be done.
However, much as we appreciate the Federal Government’s successes in the war against Boko Haram, it is equally our belief that it is too early to declare victory in the war to rid Nigeria of the terrorist group. We need to be careful against winning the battle and losing the war at the end of the day.
That is why utterances from Mr. President and his service chiefs who tend to give the impression that Boko haram has been defeated have become a source of great concern. These utterances, in our view, are capable misleading Nigerians or to say the least, presenting a picture that is contrary to what actually obtains on the ground. The unfortunate consequence  of all these may be the reduction of the tempo in the war to free our people from the bear hug by Boko Haram which has caused thousands of human casualties not to talk of the social dislocation and destruction of the regional economy.
It could be stated with little fear of contradiction, that the military has “liberated’’ many areas hitherto controlled by Boko haram. It should however be stated, as well, that the places liberated mostly consist of urban centers such as local government headquarters like Dikwa, Bama, Gamboru Ngala, Gwoza, Askira etc.
The same cannot be said about the villages and bushes surrounding the ‘liberated’ areas where, Boko Haram gunmen are still calling the shots unchallenged. It is, in our view, also not entirely correct to state that Boko Haram is not in control of any local government area of Borno state. The facts on the ground show that at least 2 local government areas namely Abadam, and Kala Balge are still under the control of the terrorist. This may be so because after their initial liberation, the army retreated thereby allowing the gunmen to regroup and stage a comeback to the areas and continued with their deadly activities.
Indeed, Senator Garbai was not exactly far from the truth in his assertion that out of the 27 LGAs of Borno State, only about 3 could be said to be free from Boko Haram gunmen.
It may interest all that care to know that up till now the roads from Maiduguri to Biu or Damaturu to Biu are still no go areas for civilians, except maybe, soldiers.
In southern Borno, it is simply suicidal to stay around places like Gur, Buratai, Kimba, Sabongari, Ngulde and surrounding communities as the Boko Haram gunmen are still hiding in the bushes ready to pounce on unsuspecting people. The same applies to places like Dikwa, Bama, Gwoza and especially Konduga LGA which houses a large proportion of Sambisa forest. Though the towns are said to have been liberated, the entire surrounding villages including the Sambisa forest itself are still home to many Boko Haram bases. Indeed, if the truth must be told even Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, cannot be said to be entirely free from the security challenges posed by Boko Haram.
This critical analysis of the war being waged by the Nigeria Armed forces against Boko haram is not, by any means, an attempt to rubbish the achievements recorded so far but a call for more action to defeat the hoodlums. It is obvious that more needs to be done to eliminate the menace of the Boko Haram insurgency. In practical terms, this translates into the deployment of more troops and military hardware to flush the hoodlums out of their hiding places. It is simply not enough to liberate the towns while the gunmen are allowed to operate freely in the bushes where they plan attacks against innocent villagers as was the case in Dalori village where over 85 people were recently killed. Similar incidents are bound to re-occur as long as the Boko Haram is not rooted out and effectively dealt with.
Of recent, there have been talks of resettling the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in their respective villages on the assumption that peace has returned to their respective areas. This is a good idea as it may mark the beginning of the end the ordeal being faced by the IDPs. It needs no restating, however, that the success of the resettlement programme for the victims of Boko Haram rampage is these areas depends on the expulsion of the gunmen entirely and the return of complete peace in the rural areas. And real peace is not mutually exclusive to the total and final defeat and eradication of the hoodlums from towns, villages and bushes in general. Anything less than that will only make the returning IDPs sitting ducks for the Boko Haram gun men to pick at will.
If the story of what the situation in Abadam and Kala Balge, where the bandits returned after the military left is anything to go by, the fate of the returning IDPs with Boko Haram gunmen still in lurking around is predictable.
In the final analysis, the point being made is that the alarm raised by Senator Baba Kaka Bashir Garbai should be considered as a timely wakeup call on the federal government and the Armed forces to re-double their effort towards the total defeat of Boko Haram.
The Senator’s observations should be taken in good faith rather than dismissed as a case of crying wolf where none exists.
Though some success has been achieved on the war against Boko Haram, it is too early to shout Uhuru or sing victory songs. This should be reserved for the future. For now, the struggle against Boko Haram must continue until victory is fully and finally achieved.

Maina writes from Kano and can be reached at [email protected] 

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