The Fall of Guzamala: Beyond Rhetoric and Political Expediency

 

The Oasis Reporters

September 10, 2018

The Boko Haram insurgency has not been defeated or degraded beyond ability to strike as the confusion in Guzamala portrays.

Contrary to the Government claims, including a recent statement by President Muhammadu Buhari in China, that Boko Haram has been degraded, the facts on ground prove otherwise. Boko Haram is still active and the earlier we accept this fact, the better for all of us. The daring attacks and high casualties on the side of the Nigerian military in recent past is a clear testament to this fact. Unlike in late 2016 and 2017 where we were attacking and routing insurgents, they are now the ones attacking our troops.

I have keenly followed the pattern in the last one month. It is either they are attacking one military base or another, or they are laying ambushes for our troops. That is not the quality of a degraded group.
Some of us have observed for long, the media blackout on the insurgency in the North East, since the beginning of this administration. It is understandable! With new security challenges all over the country, it is not wise to give terrorist free publicity. That is what we are repeatedly told. Also, unlike when APC were in opposition and gleefully shared news of attacks and made political capital out of the insurgency, the present opposition seemed more concerned with raising questions on the herdsmen killings in the Middle belt. Thus, Nigerians have assumed or accepted that Boko Haram has been technically defeated or degraded.

However, reports from foreign media and the audacious abduction of Dapchi school girls rubbished the government’s position. Thereafter, the narrative changed to, unlike in the past administration where Boko Haram had control of a large size of LGAs in Borno, the group’s capacity to annex Nigerian territory has been degraded. To me, it is an admittance of failure. The APC didn’t promise to stop Boko Haram capacity to hold territory but to end the insurgency. During the six weeks Operation Lafiya Dole push, before the 2015 elections, most of the LGAs under Boko Haram control were liberated. In that election about six hundred thousand people voted, contrary to fears prior to the election. So, preventing insurgents from holding territory isn’t an achievement to flaunt. It started in the last administration. What we need now is to put a stop to the insurgency. That is the ultimate goal.

Furthermore, I have read reports to indicate that even the period of the so-called technical defeat was occasioned by the fracture and factions in the leadership of Boko Haram and unfortunately we were not able to capitalise on it to finally disseminate the group once and for all. Also, pundits believe the renewed resurgence is due to the Al Barnawi faction gaining strong foot, due to its recognition and union with ISIS, and cash from huge ransom for both Chibok, Dapchi and other recent kidnaps. However, the govt has repeatedly denied paying ransom.
Recently the only Dapchi captive who was not released, Leah Sharibu, and other aid workers pictures and audio messages were shared by the group, in what was viewed as a way of telling the Nigerian authorities that they are alive, in what is seen as a negotiation to release them on ransom. Civil societies and concerned Nigerians have asked the government to do everything to release the girls.
While the government focused more on political capital from the seeming success, the group reorganized and regrouped and seemed to have started a campaign to regain lost territory.

Miss Leah Sharibu, still in Boko Haram Islamist den of captivity on account of her faith and refusal to renounce Christianity for Islam.

It is time to focus more attention on this insurgency and go beyond rhetoric.
For example, In late 2017, while the Army and government claimed no territory was under Boko Haram control, the UN refuted it and said they still had presence and control of 3 LGAs which prevented aid workers from assessing those areas.
In August 2018, Reuters reported that the Nigerian government are ‘forcing’ IDPs to return to Guzamala LGA. Yes! The same LGA Boko Haram just captured.
The report stated that the IDPs protested the directive of the government to return home but they were threatened that aid will be stopped if they didn’t return. The UN also warned against the return but the govt remained adamant. The report alleged that, the reason for the directive was political; especially as election are close, so as to show that the war is being won, by pointing to the fact that IDPs are returning home, and to enable IDPs to vote in primaries scheduled for September and October and in the general elections.

Guzamala is strategic! It was a Boko Haram stronghold. In 2014, Boko Haram killed hundreds of our troops in Gudumbali in Guzamala LGA in a surprised counter attack. While inaugurating a cenotaph in Gudumbali in July 2018, Lt General Buratai, Chief of Army Staff, attested to this fact. He had earlier assured the people in June that the town was safe and enjoined others to return home.
Unfortunately, the recent attack and fall of Guzamala gives credence to the Reuters’ report and UN warnings.
The question to ask now is: Did the government return the internally displaced persons, IDPs back to Guzamala for political reasons or was it an altruistic act based on the assessment of the situation despite UN warnings and the IDP scepticism?
Whatever the answer will be, it is now visible to the blind and audible to the deaf that Boko Haram is neither degraded or technically defeated. They are active and now have the capacity to easily capture Nigerian territory similar to the experience during the heydays of insurgency in 2013 and 2014.

At this juncture, all hands must be on deck. The President should lead from the front now. Despite the distractions of the coming elections, security in the North East should be a major priority now if we are desirous of peace in the region. The government should stop using rhetoric to undermine the insurgency in the North East. It will not work; it will only embolden the group to expand their hold on Nigerian territories. Now is the time to act and do more. The threat is real! They can start by deploying all arsenals to liberate Guzamala and other Boko Haram strongholds. Let’s us take the war to the insurgents instead of allowing them to attack us first.

Finally, let me commend our gallant troops for the sacrifice and courage. It is not easy. I have lost good people I know to this war. I have others still fighting in the war front. The combatants are the true heroes and patriots. We will continue to write and talk so that the government will do the needful to make their job easier. May their sacrifices not be in vain.
May the soul of those killed in the latest attack rest in peace. I wish that LGA is liberated soon.

God bless Nigeria.

 

Written by Harry Omoakhia, pharmacist and public affairs commentator.

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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