Who Is Winning Or Losing The War Against Terrorism In Nigeria?
President Muhamadu Buhari has remained consistent about his stance that Nigerian military and by extension his government is winning the war against terrorism by chasing the dreaded terrorist group, Boko Haram, BH, out of all the local government areas hitherto under their control except the mysterious Sambisa forest.
He reiterated that position during his recent trip to the United Kingdom, UK, where he spent his first official vacation since taking over the reins of government on May 29, last year.
Contradicting Mr President, the Senator representing Borno central district, Baba Kaka Gabai, whose constituency covers the location of a recent BH suicide attack in Dalore Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs camp, says government forces are only in full control of three local government areas with both the terrorists and Nigerian military sharing the rest of the territories in north eastern states of Nigeria fifty percent, 50%, apiece.
Although the state governor, Kashim Shettima and Ali Ndume, another Borno state senator have denounced the senator’s exposition, given the spate of terrorism related killings that are still ongoing with 65 deaths in Dalore, another 50 victims in Dikwa, and 30 in Damboa since February 8th.
Considering the recent grumbling by soldiers in the war theatre that their emoluments are not being paid as at when due, there is no doubt who the Nigerian public believe because, as the saying goes, there is no smoke without fire.
The intriguing thing about the continued goofs and gaffes of the current administration which rode into power on the back of change is that it need not have pissed off the electorate so soon, but unfortunately the litany of missteps are so much that they are generating too much negativity, which is now casting a dark cloud over the regime too soon.
Take for instance the setting of a target date to end BH insurgency in the north eastern part of Nigeria by the end of last December 2015.
Each time the military and by extension government boasts about deadline to wipe out BH, the terrorist group gets more vicious in its bid to put a lie to that boast by government.
Unfortunately, every time BH asserts itself to counter the notion that it had been decapitated, scores of innocent Nigerians pay the ultimate price of losing their lives simply because government is engaging in, for lack of a better nomenclature, loose talk.
Most Nigerians consider such actions on the part of government as reckless, especially since it is a sort of death sentence for innocent victims and therefore a wrongheaded policy which is reprehensible and attracting public odium to the Buhari administration.
For instance, the last claim by government that all the local government areas hitherto under BH control have been recovered inspired the recent suicide bomb attack in IDPs camp in Borno state resulting in the avoidable loss of scores of souls.
Clearly a battle of supremacy between government and terrorists is going on and frankly, government forces are not winning in the manner they would want Nigerians to believe because one successful suicide bombing activity casts a dark spell of despondency over the inhabitants of the territory under siege and that overshadows all the recovery of territories being claimed by government forces.
Much as l have tried ,I’m yet to phantom government’s bellicosity and belligerence on the matter of continuous negative propaganda against our country nearly one year after the APC changed places with PDP as Nigeria’s ruling party.
l have consistently harped on the negative value of boasting about victory over terrorists who are constantly changing their strategies and raking up muck about Nigeria and Nigerians through unguarded utterances by the authorities. Time for propaganda is gone by as the next election circle is at least 40 months away, so authorities should face reality and apply more tact to war against terrorism.
Disappointingly, it would appear my appeal has been to no avail hence the recent anti govt campaign in the social media with hashtag ‘#I’m a Nigerian, l’m not a criminal’ which was in protest against an alleged statement by Mr President criminalizing Nigerians in an interview with a Uk Daily newspaper, the Telegraph, went viral.
In an article “Nigeria In The Eyes Of Donald Trump’s Storm” widely published via online and mainstream media platforms, I made a case against denigrating our country by announcing to the world that Nigeria’s economy is comatose instead discussing the definitive plans to revive the economy in the face gloomy global perspectives. In another article ” Lai Mohamed : To Inform Or Inflame” l repeated the plea that our information managers should burnish Nigeria’s image and not tarnish it by packaging all the warts and throwing same out into public arena.
There is an aphorism that goes thus: ‘Don’t wash your dirty linens in public’ That philosophy is very apt and underscores the case that I’m trying to make by stating that our leaders should stop packaging the wrong things about Nigeria into capsules that our traducers would later convert to missiles that would be lobbed at us a grenades.
For those of us that are familiar with the holy bible, allow me apply a biblical analogy to further drive my point home. As you may recall, Mary the mother of Jesus got conceived while she was married to Joseph the carpenter who ‘knew not’ Mary.
In other words, Mary was not put in the family way by Joseph. Had Joseph rushed to the public arena to announce that he was not the one that impregnated his wife before he was informed by the Holy Spirit that the conception of Jesus was through the Holy Ghost, Mary would have been ridiculed and embarrassed.
Self restraint in the manner that Joseph, the carpenter did in the bible is exactly what I’m advocating.
The presidency need not have waited until the recent clobbering in the social media by gladiators to learn the lessons that we can’t afford to denigrate our citizens in public, no matter their ‘sins’. There is an idiom in Agbor dialect that goes thus:”When a king picks up his staff of office to strike a recalcitrant subject, palace courtiers would commit murder because the fellow who offended the King would be ‘dead meat’.
Unable to keeping ignoring the hue and cry trailing his offending comments in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, the presidency was forced to release a statement explaining that Mr President’s statement was misunderstood and misinterpreted.
The situation reminds me of the popular wise crack ‘Its too late to cry when the head is off’.
On the thorny issue of setting targets to vanquish BH terrorists, a lesson or two could be learned from the USA. It may be recalled that after the fall of Baghdad during the second gulf war, then USA President, George W Bush mounted an armored tank, from where he proudly proclaimed that the gulf war had been lost Saddam Hussein and won by the USA.
As it turned out, Bush was off the mark because the dreaded Saddam Hussein army only melted into the bushes around the Euphrates River to re-emerge later as guerrillas that tormented coalition forces in a protracted war until President Barack Obama eventually tracked and killed, the elusive Al Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden.
For sure, nobody expects governance to be flawless but we live in a global society that is interconnected with events happening in far ends of the works being known in a matter of seconds in the other end so it should not be difficult to learn from experiences of other leaders in other climes and align our thoughts and actions accordingly.
Right now, it breaks my heart that there is so much dissonance in communication, too much discordance in co-ordination and very little focus on delivering on the lofty promises made by APC to long suffering Nigerian electorate.
***Magnus Onyibe is a development strategist, Futurologist and former commissioner in Delta State and alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.