Insurgency, deadline and matters arising

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By Sani Adamu, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, recently observed that the military had “technically’’ met President Muhmmadu Buhari’s deadline of Dec. 31 to subdue the activities of Boko insurgents.

He noted that the military had also been able to demean the capability of the insurgents to annex territories.

In the light of this feat, analysts observe that the swiftness of the Nigerian military to drag the Boko insurgents from their hideouts in Sambisa Forest is heart-warming.

Speaking at an interactive session with editors in Lagos recently, the minister also said that “the war against Boko is largely won’’.

Mohammed maintained that his views were premised on what he saw when he led a group of 33 journalists from both local and international media to the hotbed of the insurgency — Maidguri, Konduga, Kaure and Bama.

“I have been having a series of meetings with various stakeholders, including the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Nigerian Guild of Editors, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists, Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria, Radio, Television and Theatre Arts Workers Union and Civil Society Organisations.

“The meetings are all geared at ensuring a more effective and seamless communication between the government and the people, which is key to the success of any democracy, as well as forging a mutually beneficial working relationship in the interest of Nigerians.

“The biggest security challenge we face as a nation today is the Boko insurgency that has left thousands dead and injured, displaced more than two million people and crippled the North East, both economically and socially, with a ripple effects felt across the nation.

“You will agree with me that the Buhari administration hit the ground running in tackling the insurgency.

“He first relocated the military’s command and control centre to the theatre of war in Maiduguri and raise the morale of the troops through enhanced welfare and the provision of the necessary fighting tools; and then rallying sub-regional, regional and global support for the war.

“Today, I can report that the war against Boko is largely won. I can confidently say this because just recently, I led a group of 33 journalists, from both the local and the international media, to the hotbed of the insurgency.

“Let me remind you that, until just four months ago, Bama was the headquarters of the self-declared Caliphate of Boko Haram.

“It was the war’s ground-zero, from where the terrorists called the shots, collected taxes and dispensed jungle justice.

“The palace of the Emir of Bama, whom they sacked, was their operational headquarters. Also, Konduga was attacked several times by the insurgents who wanted to use it as a staging post to attack Maiduguri,’’ he noted.

But according to him, today, the entire more than 70-kilometre stretch from Maiduguri to Bama and all the way to Banki are in the control of Nigerian soldiers.

“Our soldiers’ presence can be felt every few metres along the road that skirts the Sambisa Forest.

“Based on what I saw during my trip to the liberated areas of Borno and the briefings I received from the Chief of Defence Staff and the Theatre Commander, I can confidently inform you that our gallant military has largely met that deadline.

“They have so degraded the capability of Boko that the terrorists can no longer hold on to any territory, just as they can no longer carry out any spectacular attack,’’ Mohammed observed.

Explaining why the insurgents are still carrying out suicide bombings and killing of people, the minister said that it was part of the nature of insurgency anywhere in the world.

“Unlike a war between two armies, an insurgency never ends with an armistice; even in countries such as Colombia where insurgency was supposed to have ended decades ago, attacks still happen,’’ Mohammed stressed.

To complement the efforts of the military, he said that his ministry had begun a nationwide national security campaign to raise public awareness on the need to support the military to stamp out the remnant of the insurgents.

“In this time of war, you (media) cannot afford to be neutral. Yes, you must remain professional at all times, and we are not asking you to do anything less, but you must also act in the national interest always.

“Boko is dispersed and largely defeated. The insurgents are hungry, they are sick and they are desperate and will clutch at any straw, don’t let us prop them up with our reports,’’ he cautioned the media.

Also, Buhari stressed in a recent interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation that his administration had technically won the war against Boko Haram.

“I assure you we haven’t failed. Adamawa, Yobe are free from Boko Haram; so, I think technically we have won the war because people are going back to their neighbourhoods.

“Our major problem now is rehabilitation, but the Boko Haram, as an organised fighting force, has been dealt with,’’ Buhari said.

In the same vein, Abdullahi No-Sweat, a 78-year- veteran journalist, who in the early 60’s and 70s lived and experienced similar non-conventional wars in places such as Vietnam, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Algeria, applauded the military for routing the insurgents from their stronghold in Sambisa forest.

No-Sweat, who in 1983, was persuaded by former President Shehu Shagari to return to Nigeria from Afghanistan, insisted that “anyone who knows the intricacies of fighting ideologically-motivated wars would have no reason but to commend the Nigerian military in the last few months.

“Routing the insurgents from their operational base in Sambisa forest in an unconventional war is legendary.

“The United States which initially ruled out negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan later entered into a dialogue through President Hamid Kharzai of the country.

“It will also be recalled that in 1979, the now-defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics pledged never to negotiate with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.

“But at the end of the day, the Soviets were forced to withdraw from the country after 10 years of intense fighting, so, fighting insurgency is a very difficult task’’.

He said what should preoccupy the minds of Nigerians should be how to effectively engage the traditional institutions to play their roles to fish out strange characters in their various communities.

“President Buhari has discharged his constitutional role of providing security to protect lives and property of Nigerians.

“The military has also discharged its constitutional role of defending the territorial integrity of the country.

“But the traditional rulers must think out of the box. Boko elements live in communities, in villages, in towns, in cities and in neighbourhoods.

“In the past, no one lives in a community without the knowledge of the emir or heads of wards, villages and districts across the entire northern region.

“So, the traditional rulers have a role to play to complement the efforts of the military and other security outfits,’’ No-Sweat said.

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By and large, observers insist that irrespective of the feat achieved by the military, government must not ignore other options, including granting amnesty to the repentant insurgents.

Mr James Bamidele, a social analyst, observe that if granting amnesty to the repentant insurgents will stop bombings and killings to guarantee sustainable peace, the government should consider it.(NANFeature