It is now almost 20 years since the name Boko Haram first hit the headlines and became part of our vocabulary. The leader of the terror group, Abubakar Shekau, has evaded capture, or so we were made to believe since he assumed control in 2002. Until reports surfaced last month of his demise in a battle between the two major ravaging Jihadist groups operating in the northern part of Nigeria. Boko Haram and the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP).
According to publications, to avoid ceding power or pledge allegiance to the rival group, Shekau reportedly committed suicide.
Before his death, the Nigerian military has been clumsy or willfully impotent in curtailing the influence of Boko Haram for close to 20years. From the remote Sambisa forest, the terrorist sect wreaked havoc across the country’s northern region carrying out its savage killings with impunity. Its leaders posted videos on social media gloating about the group’s achievements.
For two decades, the militant group has remained a significant security threat to the country, making a mockery of the Nigerian Armed Forces, which has woefully failed to curtail the spread. With the Armed Forces records of regional hegemony in the Congo crises, the Sierra Leone civil war, and ECOMOG peace-keeping force in West Africa, this once impressive military has been wholly powerless and incapable of penetrating the ranks of Boko Haram, let alone arrest or kill any of its leaders. Yet, a rival group from the Lake Chad basin was able to bring an end to Shekau’s reign of terror in one invasion now famously known as the Battle of Sambisa Forest.
During a power tussle, ISWAP, headlines reported, surrounded Sambisa in an attempt to remove Shekau. In the ensuing battle between the two groups, Shekau reportedly detonated a suicide vest, killing himself and an ISWAP commander during a supposed surrender negotiation.
With the death of Abubakar Shekau, ISWAP has now absorbed Boko Haram, making the former more effective and lethal.
It is important to note that the Sambisa forest, located in Bornu State, is a mere 60km (37Miles) distance southeast of Maiduguri, the state capital. The forest is roughly one-third the size of Lagos state. The smallest state in Nigeria.
In contrast, the Nigerian armed forces comprising the Army, Navy, and Air Force make up about 120,000 active personnel and approximately 80,000 paramilitaries, equipped with 355 Combat Tanks, 2000 Armored Vehicles, 65 Self-Propelled Artillery, 339 Towed Artillery, 59 Rocket Projectors, 8 Fighters Interceptors, 41 Helicopters, and 15 Attack Helicopters. According to recent data compiled by Global Fire Power.
Yet, with all its air and ground power, the Nigerian Armed Forces failed to root out an unconventional militant group roaming around with AK47s in pickup trucks terrorizing locals.
What the Nigerian armed forces failed to execute in 20 whole years, ISWAP, a guerrilla terror unit that engages in asymmetric and primitive warfare preying on defenseless people, accomplished in one battle.
In all likelihood, the leaders of ISWAP should be the Generals in command of the Nigeria Armed Forces.
As if the public desire more exasperation from this soldierly ineptitudes, in an audacious barefaced manner, the administration impenitent Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, in a “Baghdad Bob” style, went on television to crow about how the country’s counterintelligence was brought to bear in the capture of one unarmed fleeing separatist agitator named Nnamdi Kanu. To come to answer for the crime of skipping bail and other bogus charges.
It is puzzling to note that a government willing to squander resources to capture one man hopping from one international border to another, who poses no threat, cannot muster or deploy, even if it means using the entire armed forces to curb the more severe and imminent danger prowling within the country’s borders.
Yet, the entire northern region of the country continues to suffer under extreme violence and prolonged cruelty melted by emboldened terror groups bent on installing an Islamic caliphate. Now the mayhem has spread across the country.
In a world where Boko Haram and ISWAP are allowed to roam free uninhibited, and with impunity in Nigeria, Nnamdi Kanu is not permitted to do the same in distant foreign lands some 5000 miles from the borders of Nigeria. A case of different strokes for different folks courtesy of the Buhari government.
Which one of these is a threat? Nnamdi Kanu and his protesting IPOB organization calling for a referendum? or Boko Haram/ISWAP responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Nigerians and the kidnapping of more children than any notorious group in the world?
As apparent as the answer may be to any reasonable person, it is not to the ruling powers in Nigeria, leaving many to conclude the existence of a motive in maintaining the status quo.
It is seemingly not a case of ineptitude or inability to secure a wilderness one third the size of Lagos State but a markedly turning of a blind eye. Pretending to fight an insurgent but in reality directing a conspiratorial wink at the terror groups?
The logical verdict in the minds of many is, it is either the Nigerian armed forces is an absurd shaggy-dog story or its entire campaign against Boko Haram is a charade, a systemic and malicious attempt to preserve terror, banditry, kidnapping, and to keep Nigeria in a perpetual state of chaos until a distressingly terrible end is achieved.
And for those who think that the capture of Nnamdi Kanu is about the rule of law or the bringing of one fleeing accused man to justice, your credulity has morphed to being active accomplices.
You have become a willing collaborator in the continued ruination of the Nigerian state. All reasonable citizens and true friends of Nigeria should have no problem piercing this deceitful veil, see through the imposing facades and bare the shenanigans of this administration. After doing that, then contrast the arrest of one man howling on radio and social media from a foreign country to the terror and mayhem ravaging within.
If you do that honestly and candidly, you will find out that the elaborate thin veneer put out by this administration against Boko Haram does not adequately mask their real intention vis-a-vis the stability of Nigeria. And it contrasts strongly with the severity of the tribal, political, and religious hatreds fermenting between the north and the south, which this president has helped to foment.
From the look of things, It appears this Buhari government has undeniably picked sides. But only time will uncover his intricate and yet well-executed mendacity.
LaBode Obanor is a financial expert at Banor Associates in New York area