By Atadoga Atojoko
Since 2009 when the Boko Haram group began a violent campaign in Nigeria, hundreds of lives have been lost and millions displaced. The continued bombings, killings, kidnappings, and the destruction of properties by Boko Haram have become of great concern to the Nigerian government and the international community. The activities of Boko Haram have effects on the economy and the people.
However, the year 2015 marked the beginning of a fresh offensive against the group by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. On assumption of office, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed new service chiefs and relocated the military command center dedicated to the fight against Boko Haram to the northeast and probed past weapons procurement.
This move was hailed in many quarters as a proactive approach needed to decimate the Boko Haram terrorist group. And true to the postulations, the Nigerian Military gained ascendency over the Boko Haram terrorist group by reclaiming territories in Nigeria hitherto under the control of the group. The operational headquarters of the group in Sambisa forest was also taken over by the Nigerian troops, and this saw to the Boko Haram group settling at the fringes of the Lake Chad Basin region from where they regroup and lunch offensives in Nigeria.
The Nigerian Army also led search and rescue operations that led to the rescue of a large number of the abducted Chibok girls to the admiration of all and sundry. According to Abel Unwauba, a professor of military History in the Nigerian Defense Academy, he stated that the Nigerian Military was able to gain ascendency over the Boko Haram group due to the commitment of the political leadership in the country at the time.
He further opined that President Muhammadu Buhari got it right with the quality of Service Chiefs who hit the ground running, given the precarious situation of things on the ground.
From 2016 to date, the Nigerian Military has continually engaged the Boko Haram group and, to a large extent, was able to confine their activities to fringes of the Lake Chad Basin region. Their ability to carry out suicidal attacks in most towns and cities were greatly hampered by the various measures put in place and the robust security coordination by the hierarchy of the Nigerian Military. This much was corroborated by the avalanche of commendations that poured in, saluting the efforts of the Nigerian Military thus far.
The recent news coming from the Boko Haram camp is an indication that the Nigerian Military has indeed lived up to expectations as far as the fight against terrorism in Nigeria is concerned. That no Nigerian territory is under the control of the Boko Haram group is an indication that in no distant time the Boko Haram group would be history and normalcy would return to North-East Nigeria.
In some quarters, it has been stated that the Boko Haram group is seeking a pardon from the federal government in the attempt to lay down their arms. The implication of this is that indeed the Boko Haram camp is experiencing a leadership crisis under Abubakar Shekau.
According to Dr. Eugene Iwodi, a lecturer in the department of International Relations of the Obafemi Awolowo University, the fact that some top commanders of the Boko Haram group are seeking for state pardon indicates that the tide has changed and what is left is for the Nigerian Military to go all out in clearance operations.
Dr. Iwodi further opined that the number of deaths recorded in North-East Nigeria due to the insurgency from 2016 to date is a fraction of what was recorded from 2009 to 2015. He stated that for the group to enlist the support of organizations such as the United Nations for state pardon indicates that what is left of the sect is a highly demoralized group of people seeking a way out of their predicament.
This is where the political authorities in Nigeria must be given credit. The administration of President Muhammadu has done well in this regard by ensuring that the Military is up to the task with regards to neutralizing the threats posed by the Boko Haram group.
As it stands, it is common knowledge that the Boko Haram group has been neutralized. This much is evident in the series of overtures extended to President Muhammadu Buhari for a state pardon. It is also on the heels that some of the top commanders of the Boko Haram group have expressly stated that they no longer want to be a part of the group. The implication is that Abubakar Shekau is a lone ranger and there is little he can do but to surrender.
The Nigerian Military must be commended for achieving this feat. Worthy of mention is the Chief of Army Staff, who has been leading the troops from the frontline. This is especially so given the fact that this recent posturing of Boko Haram commanders is occasioned by the recent relocation of the Chief of Army Staff to the Theater of Operations and credited to be leading the onslaught against the Boko Haram group.
It is thus apparent that if this present tempo is sustained, the end of Boko Haram might be in sight. All that is required in this current circumstance is for the military authorities to intensify efforts towards the final decimation of the Boko Haram group. The disposition of the Chief of Army Staff is worthy of commendation. It is hoped that the tempo is sustained to bring to an end to the Boko Haram crisis.
The political authorities’ must also take advantage of this present situation of Boko Haram commanders begging for mercy to do the needful in the overall interest of the country and the families and relatives of those that have paid the supreme price in service to fatherland.
Atojoko is a counter-terrorism expert and wrote from Lagos.