By Esther Okpabi
Boko Haram Terrorism (BHT) is war on Nigeria. Let us not pretend or deceive ourselves. And it is a war which raged and sapped the living juice out of Nigerians uncontrollably for years before the ascension of the “change” administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. We cannot contest this fact.
Terrorism combat undoubtedly is the world’s deadliest warfare. I know, the United States of America (USA) with all its sophistry in military equipment and personnel has spent the last 16 years prosecuting the anti-terrorism war in Afghanistan and Iraq. We are still living with the reality of America to completely overcome the 9/11 terrorists attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC) and the Pentagon House, which killed over 3,000 persons. But its just a mere three years under the Buhari Presidency.
But this no nonsense country is still anticipating its day of final victory against Islamic State Militants (ISIS) and the other splinter terror sects like the Taliban. None of us is in contention about the huge casualty of both civilian and military personnel, incidental to such wars and the associated destructions. Most times, terrorists target military formations or ambush on convoys and could be lucky to have a field day.
I know every soldier desires to fight a battle and come out triumphantly, with his life intact to enjoy the beauty of victory. But we must also realize that casualty on the side of troops in any war is expected. There is nothing so strange or abnormal about a soldier paying the supreme price in the course of a war, anywhere in the world. A Soldier is always a hero because of his first decision to live for his country.
Such unfortunate and tragic deaths of soldiers in battle do not in any sense convey the feeling of incompetence, incapacity or defeat of troops. Troops are rather animated to greater determination and performance, stirred by the feeling of vengeance against enemies.
In Nigeria, we are a people neck-deep in the act of politicizing everything under the sun. So, when I read some politicized commentaries from some of our analysts on the Boko Haram terrorists ambush on a military convoy at Boboshe village in Bama LGA , Borno state in the Northeast, I became downcast.
Even some media houses were unconsciously conscripted into this mess, as they deployed uncomfortable adjectives in describing the incident, which I sensed as serving the purpose of emboldening insurgents. A media house alluded to the attack on the Nigerian military as “… suffering huge loss in the battle with the insurgents.”
The lexicon is a strong stroke Nigeria. It’s also very unpatriotic. We must understand that the ambushed military convoy, in the purported attack had soldiers responding to intelligence reports of terrorists converging at the Maiduguri-Konduga-Bama road. Should we under any rationality, celebrate the victory of insurgents over us or the fate of our soldiers reverently?
As a people, we have grappled with the cancer of sabotage and betrayers in our national life. Even the military is not insulated from such abuses and there is no denying this fact. Sometimes, it’s difficult to beat the racket of the masked undertakers and it happens everywhere. It’s unfortunate that our soldiers fell into the trap of the terrorists. But our prayers are with them.
What I have found difficult to reconcile is the emotional reactions from some Nigerians, including elder statesmen and it’s near celebrative tone. It’s not clear to me what we stand to gain, when others tend to jubilate, as we lose troops to insurgents.
It’s nothing, but politics, which is laced in the tacitly selfish propaganda of a Buhari Presidency failing on security and so not, good enough as the Commander-In-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces. This is utmost shame to us.
This is completely misplaced and fundamentally untenable in sane climes. America has lost thousands of troops in the prosecution of the anti-terrorism conundrum in some Middle East countries.
But I am not aware Americans have perceived the deaths of such troops as the incompetence of its Service Chiefs, the troops or the incapacity of any of its Presidents who occupied the White House, at any material time, while the tragedies occurred and lasted.
Can I appeal to Nigerians for once, to think straight and disrobe ourselves of partisan garbs and assorted sentiments of local politics?
Let me give some little insights, on the possibility of terrorists gaining grounds, once in a while, on military formations or troops, outside of our clime, as recent as early 2018.
In the January 30, 2018 edition of the FP, a US online publication’s report anchored by Dan De Luce, with the caption; “Before Trump’s Speech, More Bad News From the Afghan Front;” it chronicled and summarized the American efforts in battling insurgency in Afghanistan in the past 16 years.
The report recounted America’s sojourn in that country since the 9/11 terror attacks, and with over 100, 000 special US forces in 2001 and with a current 15,000 troops on ground at the time of the report in 2018.
The report succinctly expressed the difficulties of suppressing terrorism with these words, “Despite a threefold increase in U.S.-led airstrikes compared to last year, the Afghan government has not managed to gain back control over more of the population. Civilian casualties overall have increased 13 percent, and casualties are up for U.S. troops as well.“
And there are several instances of such attacks which either killed soldiers in combat or attacks on military formations, which space cannot permit me to recount conclusively.
In The New York Times on January 29, 2018, a report by Helene Cooper with the caption, “Attacks Reveal What U.S. Won’t: Victory Remains Elusive in Afghanistan,” posted that “ Three strikes over the past two weeks have killed 128 people, mostly civilians, in Kabul, the Afghan capital, alone. The latest came on Monday, when Islamic State militants stormed an Afghan military training base, killing at least 11 soldiers.”
Terrorism warfares are not easy combats anywhere. I feel it smacks of politicization of Boko Haramism, for some Nigerians to deliberately refuse to appreciate the efforts of the Buhari Presidency in curbing terrorism for the respite of today.
Again, what did CIA director, Mr. Leon Panetta tell the then President Barack Obama after al- Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad cave in Pakistan? He said in a BCC news interview on May2, 2011 that “Qaeda would “almost certainly” try to avenge the casualty of Bin Laden.”
And that’s where Nigeria is at the moment over its war on terrorism. Boko Haram insurgents are angry at the guts of the Nigeria Army in dwarfing their might. They are out on revenge mission and that’s what we saw in the Boboshe terrorists ambush on the military convoy. This should ordinarily not be enough reason to stimulate emotional responses from Nigerians, who share empathy with insurgents on revenge mission.
The Boboshe incident wasn’t even the usual Boko Haram attacks we know in Nigeria. It was one isolated incident by the terrorists, who are clearly unhappy with the Nigerian Army in particular, for their bulwark on Nigeria and ending the sects reign of impunity and terror in the country in the last three years.
As Nigerians, we must not forget that President Buhari promised the nation upon assumption of office that he will crush terrorism in the country within the first one year. He has done it. Through fatherly blessings, he indemnified a war veteran, Lt. Gen. Buratai who took the message to the insurgents. Today, Boko Haram has become history in Nigeria.
A Nigerian in the furnace of terrorism, Alhaji Mushak Bello is full of excitement for sighting his Zari village in Mobbar LGA of Borno state after years. Another afflicted Nigerian in Numan LGA of Adamawa state, Alhassan Maishai also conveyed similar feelings and he is very appreciative of the efforts of Chief Of Army Staff (COAS), Gen. Buratai and the troops he leads. These songs of glory and joy have resonated in other parts of the Northeast and Nigeria.
I have no reason to doubt about their competence to sustain this victory and keep the tempo high and mighty for me and every other Nigerian. The Army knows, much of security of the nation depends on their determination in warfare. And I bet you, under Gen. Buratai, they are leaving no stone unturned to achieve the final victory over insurgencies for Nigerians.
Okpabi a researcher writes from Nile University of Nigeria, Abuja.