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Published On: Mon, Nov 17th, 2014

Insurgency: Is Boko Haram winning?

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COAS-Gen-Kenneth-MinimahBy Ochiaka Ugwu

There is no doubt that the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents are forming an enclave in North East unchallenged except from the local hunters who have temporally taken over the statutory duty of our almighty military that was adjudged to parade the best infantrymen in the whole wide world. Ironically, the military has once again failed to justify the trillions of naira spent on it as the terrorist group moving with the speed of hurricane is busy caving out caliphate in the region with little or no opposition from the Nigerian state.

The militants are displacing people out of the north thereby creating humanity problem due to millions of displaced persons it has left in its wake. But Boko Haram has never formally occupied towns and held swaths of territory showing that the group is not all that strong as we are made to believe, rather what the Nigerian state lacks is the will power to nip it on the bud.

Just last week, it was reported in many national and international dailies that Boko Haram has “tightened its grip” over a 1,200 square meters area of northeastern Nigeria. For the sake of comparison, this area is about the size of about three states in Nigeria.

It looks like Boko Haram’s strategy has been to destroy all signs of authority in the affected area, centered on the Gwoza local government area in Borno State and subsequently overrun the whole country.

It could be recalled that the dreaded sect members murdered the Emir of Gwoza, Idrissa Timta, who had publicly warned against Boko Haram sect. Boko Haram has also steadily carried out sustained attacks on villages in the district, burning the houses and killing hundreds of residents unhindered. Sometimes, it shows that most areas don’t just have any semblance of authority making them prone and fall easily under the hegemony of the sect members.

It was said that Boko Haram has destroyed government and traditional authorities in Gwoza, replaced it with its own style of governance and has established state structures akin to an Islamic enclave.

To insult our collective humanity as a people, locals trapped under Boko Haram siege have confirmed that black flag is flying in several villages under their control, while we boast of having the largest army in Africa.

Conflicts analysts have also said that the sect was highly equipped more than the conventional army as they use rocket-propelled grenades, night-vision goggles, pickup trucks with heavy machine guns, and satellite phones. The government’s Joint Task Force (JTF), which is a special force comprising the army and police units, appears unable to stop Boko Haram in the region as they were no match to them. That best explains why they always abandon their duty post when confronted with the sect members.

Fear and trepidation have enveloped many residents in the area as the only question in their lips is where is Boko Haram going next? They have taken over Hong a town few kilometers from Yola, the capital of Adamawa State. The neighboring town of Gombi is at the verge of falling as heavy war is raging on between the insurgents and the military now. Expectedly, with the capture of Hong the sect will be forced to attack Yola with the intent of taking it and dismantling the state structure.

Gwoza now serving as the headquarters of the dreaded group will provide the necessary ground that will enable the sect members to work out strategy on how to capture Maiduguri. The city was long the center of Boko Haram until 2011 when government forces largely cleared the city of its operatives. It now may be seeking to retake the city, which in 2014 had an estimated population of about one million and had suffered a great dose of bombing from the sect.

The once peaceful Borno State capital is gradually becoming a ghost of its former self with little economic activities going on to support life. It is hard to know how many people are there in Maiduguri however, since media and other access has been severely curtailed by the violence. Probably many town dwellers have gone elsewhere to search for a better life given the fact that violence has increased.

It has led to influx of internally displaced persons to the city who have fled Boko Haram attacks in villages. Facilities in these cities have been over stretched. Many large military bases have been successfully attacked by Boko Haram, though they did not attempt to hold it.

If Boko Haram were to take the region but God forbid, it presumably would be forced to establish some type of administration that will be at variance with a descent society were law and order should be the guiding principle. Controlling a large and complex city would likely require Boko Haram to move in new directions and that is why the military must hurt its moves towards achieving this.

Thank God that the just recently captured Chibok town has been retaken by a joint operation by Nigerian soldiers with a large number of members of a local vigilante force. The success of the mission offers some hope of further success against the insurgents. Upon this claim, many residents say the jihadists still have a presence in the surrounding villages and so the area is not safe forcing most residents to move to other parts of the country, fearing more attacks.

In the Mubi attack there is no doubt that the military threw caution to the dog when they abandoned their duty post on hearing the gun sound of the approaching Boko Haram invaders. It was then reported by a military source that efforts are being made to send in fresh troops to replace the fleeing ones and push out any militants that might have entered Mubi.

It is quite unfortunate that despite repeated threats and assaults on Nigeria and Nigerians by the sect the military are yet to permanently deal with these group of miscreants. There is need for the military to penetrate their ranks through intelligence gathering, to get hold of their tactics. People now believe the chances of finding a lasting solution to the conflict appears remote saying that killings and other atrocities show no sign of healing.

With limited strategic direction offered by a divided country and a disheartened, distracted leadership, mediators are struggling to cajole the nation’s battle-hardened militants into mending its ways.

And it is the ordinary Nigerians who say they are paying the price. Thousands of people have died in fighting and approximately 3 million of Nigeria’s 170 million people are displaced inside and outside the country.

We all know that peace cannot come from outside it must come from inside. The outside mediators cannot help in bringing peace to Nigeria unless we ourselves are committed to solve our internal war. The government has a great role to play by overhauling the traumatized military. This may not be easy now, but I am sure that this will surely go a long way in curtailing the insurgency that has polarized our country.


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