It was getting late by our own local standard here and I discovered that my coffee drink was exhausted. I needed some as I had become addicted to taking this, a situation my wife did not buy. Being a medic, she lectured me on the dangers of excessive coffee taking, but my response remained the same – I like the aroma.
In Maiduguri, the dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed on the city for some time now, as a result of the onslaught of Boko Haram insurgents, is still in force with hours varying from time to time, depending on the prevailing situation.
Presently, it is 9:00pm to 6:00 am. However, as peace has substantially returned to the state capital, strict adherence to the time frame of the curfew has been relaxed, though there has not been an official announcement lifting the curfew. Notwithstanding, one observes some overzealous security personnel in the name of enforcing the law, arresting some culprits for breach and subjecting them to one punishment or the other, including, in some instances, ‘milking’ some cash from them.
As I try to be ‘a good boy’ and try most times never to have any brash, especially with security personnel, some who could be rash and uncultured cannot but step on your toes. I left for the Shopping complex nearby in Maiduguri this fateful day to beat the curfew deadline in search of coffee. Luckily, I met the owner, his wife and anther woman that I later discovered to be an in-law to the owner of the shop. They were enmeshed in a discussion not in tune with my hurried self. Becoming inpatient, I rudely interrupted their discussion, saying, ‘’ Oga are you ready to answer me?’’ The three looked instantly at my direction, the owner and the wife recognising me, a regular costumer, were full of apologies. The man told me that they were contemplating whether to relocate as a family outside Borno or send their children first to other educational institutions outside the North East, as the incessant Boko Haram harassment through endless gunshots and suicide bombing had created more than nightmares. The wife echoed, “Today, Gbum, Gbum, tomorrow, tata, tata, yesterday suicide bombers. I am hypertensive and if I will die, let my corpse be with my people.”
Then my mind went a few days back while at a computer centre when we heard a bomb blast and one of us retorted, ‘Oh, no! This is not the music we want.’ This is the daily life of uncertainty and hopelessness of the people of Borno in particular, the epicenter of the insurgency where everyone is a moving corpse.
The terrorists have invested in Nigeria and Borno in particular, deaths, blood, and sorrow of unimaginable magnitude. Boko Haram is still on the prowl, taking the centre stage as the current deadliest terrorist group in the world.
And here comes again to my mind the poser or question asked in The Point newspaper (June 16-22, 2017 edition), ‘Boko Haram:…All said, when will it be interred?” This is the caption to the cartoon carried on page 11 of the paper and this informed this piece. In the cartoon, there is a ghost-like figure in a coffin, half closed. Behind the coffin are images of two people side by side and one of them was tagged ‘FG’. The cartoon spoke volumes and the question asked was a soul-searching one, food for thought, heart-pricking, probing, prodding and challenging. And looking at the entire scenario, for now, I am at a loss as I am bereft of an immediate answer as to when that coffin contained in the cartoon will be permanently closed or sealed with the ghost therein nailed forever and by implication, the final interment of Boko Haram.
The Nigerian Army, like the entire Nigerian Society, has been misinformed, leading to mistrust. Nigeria went to war without good knowledge of the enemy. If basic supplies were not given to the army, how come 70 per cent of Boko Haram arms and ammunition comes from the looted armoury of the Nigerian army? It is a problem of strategy
My fear stems from several angles or points. There are, for example, inconsistencies in the military operations. Today is victory, and tomorrow a loss seems the norm. The morale and confidence of the people in the military is high today only to be deflated tomorrow. One sleeps with two eyes closed one day only to keep vigil of nightmare the following day. It is a combination of phobia of fear, despair and hope. The military is the last line of defence against the terrorists and must be so in theory and practice to have the confidence of the people.
This reminds me of the reported view, sometime back, of Ahmad Salkida, a Borno- born journalist said to be a close ally of Boko Haram, who is on a self-imposed exile to the United Arabs Emirate, who argued that the Nigerian Army went to war with Boko Haram without the adequate knowledge of the enemy.
According to him, although there is corruption in every facet of the Nigerian society, Boko Haram could not have been better than the Army in terms of training and hardware.
“The Nigerian Army, like the entire Nigerian Society, has been misinformed, leading to mistrust. Nigeria went to war without good knowledge of the enemy. If basic supplies were not given to the Army, how come 70 per cent of Boko Haram arms and ammunition comes from the looted armoury of the Nigerian Army? It is a problem of strategy,” Saikida argued on Twitter.
According to him, there were many mistakes committed by the Federal Government in 2014. The Federal Government once claimed that Shekau was killed. Besides, the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshall Alex Badeh, declared a fake Boko Haram ceasefire. They also wrongly told us that the Chibok girls would be freed.
“Nearly all assessment of the conflict in Northern Nigeria was wrong and repeatedly, the nation was caught unawares. The endemic misinformation and worst of all, blame games by the Nigerian leaders clearly showed failure of intelligence.’’
He advised the Federal Government and the military authorities to learn from the mistakes of past years with a view to staging a successful anti-terror war. The authorities, Salkida pointed out, must learn to respect and protect those willing to volunteer security information that could help government troops in their operations.
In the same vein, the allegation of the military against some groups, especially politicians in the North East and Borno State in particular, of attempts to frustrate the efforts of the military in ending the insurgency for their selfish ends, is far from being a plus for military operations. Same is the reported unpatriotic attitude of some security personnel who for selfish purposes, are working against the success of the military. What of the disposition of some dubious Non-Governmental Organisations reported to be agents of Boko Haram, as well some landlords and hotel owners who now find a goldmine in the continued terror war as their houses and services would always be ready-made haven for personnel of the NGOS?
The combination of all these negative forces or tendencies makes the fight against Boko Haram a herculean task.
*Izekor, a journalist, public affairs analyst, is a member of the Board of Advisers of The Point.