Following President Muhammadu Buhari’s definitive pronouncement on December 22 last year that the troops of the Nigerian military’s Operation Lafiya Dole had captured Boko Haram’s camp in Sambisa Forest, many did not think that bringing the terror gang to its knees was possible in less than 18 months after the president officially assumed office to fulfill a campaign pledge to trounce the terrorists.
Even as the military high command still keeps its eyes on the ball, it remains a fact today that the sect is in complete disarray. Every inch of Nigeria’s territorial space is free, courtesy of the resilience of the
Armed Forces of Nigeria under the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, whose remarkable leadership has virtually changed the focus of the armed forces in a way that has turned the tide against terrorism and insurgency in the North East thereby re-positioning Nigeria’s image in the comity of nations.
And what is more? The military’s battle against terror has sufficiently degraded the structure of the Boko Haram terrorists such that they now lack the capacity to directly confront the Nigerian troops or hold territories at will.
It is to the credit of the CDS as well as to the energetic Chief of Army Staff, COAS, Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai and the Chief of Air Staff, CAS, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar that the Theatre commanders of Operation Lafiya Dole in the North East worked very hard to restore security and stability in the region. Over 20,000 hostages comprising men, women and children were rescued while over 10,000 territories and communities were liberated from Boko Haram. Many of them have since returned to their ancestral roots to continue with their lives.
To make matters worse for the sect, over 10,000 battle-tired Boko Haram members have surrendered. At press time, more are still surrendering in droves, no thanks to the relentless heavy bombardments by the professional Nigerian troops whose morale are very high today.
The operations may not be totally over yet but certainly these are key indicators that the nation is much far from the situation before July 2015 when a huge rate of desertions and troop casualties arising from cases of armed attacks, killings, maiming, abductions and missing in actions were very high.
The situation today is however different. The hitherto low morale of the troops is now high. The rate of casualty, by credible accounts, has reduced from about 500 per cent to 10-20 per cent.
It is this scenario, according to Mr. Emeka Nwankpa, the Chief Media Strategist of Concerned Professional Congress (CPC), a civil advocacy group mobilizing support for the Nigerian military. Maintaining that it is a war they dread to lose, he believes that the Boko Haram terrorists consider their eventual loss of the war as a hard pill to swallow.
Add that pain to their inability to hold any territory after getting deadly blows from the energetic Nigerian military, their frustration is better imagined not minding that some officers and men lost their lives at the field of battle.
He said that increasing reports of more hundreds of Boko Haram members surrendering willy-nilly to embrace the military’s de-radicalization and rehabilitation program code-named Operation Safe Corridor have unsettled the leaders of the sect hence their resort to desperate moves to cut through the gathering haze over their survival.
From hit-and- run suicide attacks to multiple detonated bombs on soft targets, he said that the sect seeks to gain relevance through media publicity thereby creating more fear in the minds of the public and sending wrong signals about their self-claimed invincibility.
Not only have the troops contained and restricted the activities of the sect from about seven states- Adamawa, Borno, Yobe, Kano, Gombe, Kaduna and Bauchi to one-Borno State, the epicenter of the war against terror, they have succeeded in containing them to such an extent that the sect has been forced to go to the ridiculous extent of recruiting minors at every opportunity to carry out their dastardly acts.
In the recent time, the University of Maiduguri has witnessed some attacks prompting many to begin to wonder why the sect has resorted to bringing the academic institution under its radar.
Malam Baba Kasim, the North East Regional Rapporteur of the Concerned Professional Congress, CPC, believes that since the capacity of the sect has been thoroughly degraded to the point that they can could no longer attack and hold territories to impose their brand of Islam and influence the lives of the people, resorting to attacks on the University of Maiduguri remained the most attraction option.
‘’Don’t forget that they are preaching against western education, the university remains the strongest edifice of western education.
Therefore, by carrying out such attacks within and around the university is capable of creating maximum fear and apprehension in the minds of the people in the academic community.
‘’Their aim, in my opinion, is purely propaganda-driven. This is the strongest weapon employed by terrorists. I suspect that their motive is to create so much fear in the people to the point that the people will be so scared to carry out their normal activities, a situation that may force the authorities to close down the school.
‘’Once that happens, the terrorists will go to town to claim that they have forced the authorities to close down the school. That should not be allowed to happen otherwise the publicity that such an action could attract will send the unintended signals that the terrorists are winning.
The effect of such propaganda, according to security experts, does not augur well for the overall counter-terrorism strategy. It could go a long way in undermining the success of the war against terror in the North East. Fortunately, this has not been able to change the popular narrative within and outside the country that the back of terrorism and insurgency has been broken in the North East part of Nigeria to such an extent that top members of the sect are now renouncing in droves.
Suddenly, the media had become frequently awash with reports, backed with copious pictorial evidence, of top high-profile Boko Haram commanders willingly deserting their hideouts and surrendering themselves to 120 Task Force Battalion at Goniri. The reports on the serial surrender by the terrorists are being recorded in quick succession almost on weekly basis.
The ex-Boko Haram members said they abandoned terrorism due to unbearable hardship and realizing that that had been misled all along by former leaders. They stated that they were also erroneously misinformed and brain-washed about Islam, the Nigerian military and the society generally.
‘’Really, I don’t know how I got myself involved in this. They promised that terrorism is the only way we can have our life’s desires met. They first came with money saying that our problems are over once we join them. Life in the bush has become unbearable, I can no longer continue. We were told that the soldiers will kill us if we surrender but what I’m seeing here (Goniri) in the hands of the military if different.
They are treating us with care, love and respect.‘’I just pray it will continue like because I can’t believe what I’m seeing.
The people are friendly and humane. I just feel bad that I have been involved in this Boko Haram. I will volunteer myself go back and get the others still in the bush. I appeal to the others still in the bush to come out. Life is far better out here’’, said one the repentant ex-Boko Haram member whose name was given as Abu Faskari.
Sources said that they were being kept at a military facility near Maiduguri where they are going through intensive de-radicalization and rehabilitation programs under auspices of an initiative by the Defence Headquarters code-named Operation Safe Corridor.
The CPC’s media man, Nwankpa, in a statement in Abuja said it will quicken the peace process and boost ongoing reconstruction efforts in the North East, describing it as novel, bold and courageous capable of inspiring hope, strengthen faith and restore confidence among Nigerians in the unity, stability and indivisibility of the country.
It stated that the move by the military high command to de-radicalize the sect’s repentant ex-combatants will offer them another great opportunity to turn a new leaf and contribute to national growth and progress as well as advance the frontiers of humanity.
It expressed regrets that the sect had done incalculable but avoidable damage to the destinies of several innocent persons, families, institutions, communities and careers in the past years of terrorism and insurgency, pointing out that the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) under the present leadership of the Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Abayomi Olonisakin deserved accolade for the excellent initiative.
‘’The Defence Headquarters deserves commendation for successfully galvanizing the professionalism, patriotism and gallantry of the Nigerian troops in alliance with other security forces in the country to degrade the capacity of Boko Haram terrorists in the North East thereby setting the stage for increased global interest in the general re-building of the North East region,’’ the group said.
The group noted that Liberia and Sierra Leone were instances of countries with worse cases of felony, crime and criminality committed by citizens against their state and fellow citizens yet today they live in peace and harmony because the ex-combatants willingly surrendered to undergo de-radicalization and rehabilitation programs that prepared them for re-integration back into the society.
The group praised the courage exhibited by the repentant terrorists in renouncing and denouncing terrorism, pointing out that they should not relapse into self-pity since it is no longer news that many of them were either drugged, deceived or coerced into the activities of the sect.
The group expressed confidence in the ability of the military to do the needful in line with international conventions and charters to re-integrate them back into the society to live their normal lives again, pointing out that the gesture will generate greater confidence in the few remnants of the sect’s members that are still in the bush as well as present the country in a better light to the outside world.
Opinions are unanimous that President Buhari’s government deserves praise for creating the opportunity for the people of the North East to embrace peace again after almost seven years of heart-rending violence by the evil sect. Defence experts are particularly satisfied that the president galvanized the Nigerian military by carefully selecting the present crop of tested, focused, highly committed officers who have given their all to ensuring that peace returns to the region after containing Boko Haram.
They observed that when he assumed office on May 29, 2015, the President left none in doubt about his determination to halt the degenerating internal security challenges in the country especially the Boko Haram menace. He wasted no time to assemble the crack war team with a clear mandate and timeline to wrap up the counter-terrorism war by December last year. They did not miss the target.
As defense helmsman, Gen. Olonisakin set out on a vision: to ensure well motivated, trained and equipped Armed Forces imbued with a high sense of responsiveness to national security commitments, an agenda that built a process that has successfully contained the hydra-headed security challenges across the country.
General Olonisakin and the service chiefs have tenaciously embraced President Muhammadu Buhari’s vision of a safe, stable and a well-secure nation where the citizens are free to move and do business freely at any time.
Not only did he make security an issue during his campaigns across the country, he matched word with action at his official inauguration ceremony when he directed the immediate movement of the military command centers of the counter-insurgency operations from Abuja to Maiduguri, the epicenter of battle to prove that he indeed meant business. He then undertook a series of strategic sub-regional diplomatic shuttles to Cameroon, Niger and Chad and met their presidents. He also ensured the immediate payment of Nigeria’s monetary commitment to the Multi-national Joint Task Force Not long after, the situation began to change for the better as captured villages, towns, territories and an entire Emirate of Bama whose Emir had run for his dear life, were completely rescued. About 27 local government councils in Borno State alone under the terrorists’ firm grip regained their freedom and stopped paying taxes, levies and rates imposed by the sect. It was sunset at dawn.
Gen. Olonisakin’s goal geared towards ensuring well-motivated, professionally-trained and strategically-equipped Armed Forces that is responsive to national security commitments has boosted the synergy, intelligence and information-sharing strategy of the administration.
Defence analysts reckoned that he first ensured that his team comprising the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai, the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok E.Ibas and the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, embraced the idea thereby allowing it to cascade down the rank and file of the military.
They said this formed the fulcrum of the Nigerian military’s counter-terrorism strategy that brought down Boko Haram’s stronghold in the North East as well as the militancy and other security threats in the Niger Delta and other parts of the country.
It is to the credit of the CDS as well as to the energetic COAS, Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai and CAS, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar that the Theatre commanders of Operation Lafiya Dole in the North East have worked tirelessly to stabilize the once-troubled region where over 12,000 captives comprising men, women, children and the elderly were rescued with over 10,000 territories liberated from Boko Haram.
Dr. Emmanuel Onoja, a defence scholar whose thesis dwelt on the ‘Imperative of Military Operations in Combating Civil Disorder in Nigeria’, observed that the Nigerian military has done very well in effectively quelling civil disorder and other forms of armed conflicts in the country thereby moving from the last line of defence to the country.
The scholar observed that the military leadership has displayed immense capacity to degrade Boko Haram as a means of preparing the North East for a speedy return to peace and normalcy to enable the displaced people return to their ancestral homes.
A Warri-based defence analyst, Dr. Fynecountry Baribote noted that the emphasis on inter-agency synergy by the CDS as a war-time strategy has helped the military and other security agencies to successfully fight insurgency, terrorism, militancy and other forms of crime and criminality that pose grave threat to national unity, peace and stability in the country