Subterfuge. Propaganda. Lies. All have a date with truth. The truth is inexorable; it will always extinguish lies and propaganda. Nigeria’s ‘’successes’’ in the war against Boko Haram have been largely propaganda. Since 2015, when the Buhari administration declared the insurgents a conquered group, the combat campaign has been oxygenated by lies and half-truths.
In March, 2020, about 70 soldiers, including a major and three officers, were killed in an ambush by Boko Haram insurgents.
The troops, on operation Ayiso Tamonuma, plodded into an ambush as they trudged into Goniri area in Yobe, and were trounced by the insurgents who “wiped out the entire artillery company”.
As I previously wrote, since 2018, Boko Haram has redirected its onslaughts on military assets and soldiers, even while it still afflicts the non-combatant population. In December 2018, the insurgents pulled a blitzkrieg on military formations in Baga, Borno state, sacking the headquarters of the multinational joint task force and taking over the place. The group steadied its offensive on military holdings, killing many soldiers, weeks after.
At least, 18 soldiers were killed in an ambush on Maiduguri road on December 26, 2018, in one of Boko Haram’s mortal sallies. The group also persisted in inflicting attritive damages on the civilian population in the north-east. The killings and destruction never let up; in fact, they took an upward trajectory since the current administration said the insurgents had been technically defeated.
I recall how Tukur Buratai, Nigeria’s army chief, responded to these tragedies. He described the attacks as the ‘’last kick of a dying horse’’. Again, I wonder why this horse is not yet dead.
On January 7, a driver attached to Olusegun Adeniyi, commander of operation Lafiya Dole, was killed in a derring-do attack by Boko Haram insurgents on the commander’s convoy.
The insurgents attacked Adeniyi, a major-general leading the war effort, who was on his way back to Maiduguri after a visit to Jakana in Borno state, where they had strafed earlier.
I believe if there is anyone to be heard on the Boko Haram war campaign, it is General Adeniyi. He has had a close shave with death from attacks by the insurgents multiple times. He leads his men not from a secured fortress, but from the front.
On Tuesday, the army leadership announced the removal/redeployment of Adeniyi just a day after a video in which he was seen bewailing Boko Haram’s blitz circulated on social media.
In the video, obviously communicating with a superior officer believed to be Buratai, the war general discharged lamentations of how Boko Haram is superiorly-armed, even while assuring the army chief that the troops are not running away.
“I’m standing here with sector 2 commander. The armed helicopter has just come over our head. The instruction I gave them, anything moving they should engage it because most of my gun trucks are not moving,” Adeniyi said in the recording.
“Like I said earlier, we are with the leading embrance; three battalion are fighting and deployed, nobody is running.
“But what we have here, I will give you some estimates to guide your good decision, sir. Boko Haram has fired more than a hundred mortal bombs at us; they have fired more than 80 to 100 RPGs (rocket propelled grenades) at us in addition to more than 8 to 10 gun trucks from every side since yesterday.
“We have not run, and the soldiers are not misbehaving or disobeying orders. We have casualties; I will come and see you in person on what we need to do. But we are not running.”
Pointing at a broken-down military vehicle, Adeniyi continued in his kvetching: “That’s one of our MRAP’s (mine-resistant ambush protected) tyres that ran flat after bullet touched it. We have used more than 20 MRAP tyres here. That’s another one, sir. We have changed close to 250 Hilux tyres due to the terrain. This is what we are facing.”
He could also be seen consoling a sobbing soldier in an ambience that reeks of despondence, fear, tears, sorrow and blood.
Really, General Adeniyi’s wailing confirms what many Nigerians have always suspected about the insurgents and the war. His removal could be tactical, but I believe it is more of retribution for speaking up or for his lamentations getting leaked to the media than any other reason. We live in a society where the bearers of truth are beheaded, most especially under the Buhari administration. Government run on lies. If you have no capacity to lie, then you cannot be in the regime. But the truth is we cannot win this war by propaganda, by asking the media not to report facts and by the arrogance of the military leadership.
The reason some Nigerians are doubtful of the government’s claims on the war is because they have always been fed lies. No trust exists between citizens and the leadership. When the leadership begins to prosecute the war with some modicum of transparency and accountability, Nigerians may begin to support the war effort. And the government needs their support to win this combat.
Let me end with my quote from a previous article: ‘’Boko Haram is an enterprise. The wheel of the war must be kept spinning for the profiteers and racketeers of blood. The insurgency has raged on for more than a decade. And when it appears the vestiges of the insurgents are finally being erased, they rise again like the phoenix from the ashes – to become stronger, more coordinated and more ubiquitous. It is grand delusion to assume that the machinations of these deviants do not have insider abutment.’’
Lies have an expiry date.
Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.