Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan, a third in a succession of non-soldier elected Presidents since 1965, seems overly optimistic about the fire power of his troops. The military had offered a full combatant response to the lingering terror activities by the Boko Haram, a position approved by the President, now bugged down by outright war against the terrorist band.
Following the scenario he was offered by the military, the President once assured Nigerians that the insurgents would be routed within six months now his troops are fighting hard to contain the radical terror gang. Last May, in adherence to the position of the military, he declared a state of emergency in affected states.
Five months into the emergency rule in three north east states, both sides have been served a heavy dosage of casualty. The sect, fighting with renewed energy and ruthlessness maintains that its doctrine abhors any form of representative government and that it would continue to fight whether or not a Christian was in power in Nigeria. To the credit of the military, most members of the elite Shura leadership council of the terror sect have been taken out.
This is clearly a setback for the sect that, before May, was at the verge of declaring over 20 local government areas of Borno and Yobe states, its official territory, effectively excising the strip from Nigeria. Geographically, the territory is weather stricken, desert land. But strategically it had the potential of robbing Nigeria access to its border with Niger, Cameroun and Chad republics.
A trusted source within the sect said Boko Haram has received assurances from al-Qaeda and from other international Jihadi brothers of material and human support. The sect planned to boost its militants by compelling youths and men that are fit, to take up arms or risk being killed.
Nigerians are beginning to credit the Federal government with the good judgment in sending in the soldiers given that the sect’s armaments have been wholesomely destroyed and narrowing its terror activities to the fringes of two states.
A trusted inside assessment of the impact of the military action reveals that at a point, the military had taken out a substantial number of the leadership of the sect thereby isolating its leader, Shekau. Had the military pushed further at the point, Shekau himself might have been taken out. But he got a respite as the military looked over its shoulder, ensuring that Shekau embarked in a rebuilding process.
It is believed that Shekau has appointed a new Shura that is said to be made up of younger, more radicalized hot heads unlike its predecessors that were Shekau’s peers and often brought his judgments to question. Creation of military backed vigilantes, a group of youths eager to reclaim their communities, counts among the ‘success stories.’
Shekau, who has a $5 million prize on his head by the United States Government, highlighted how consciously he holds his position as an important channel in spreading terrorism across West Africa. In a recent video he released on the 25th of September and later in October this year, he dismissed claims by the military that he was dead, admitting ordering the murder of over 40 students and vowed to continue fighting.
Nigerian authorities seem uninterested in addressing the real fuse that feeds the insurgency. For instance, Boko Haram that refer to themselves as Ikwan have robbed banks, bullion vans, and businesses undetected till date, a model believed to have been “commended by Al-Qaida,” said a Munzir, cautioner and senior commander. The Munzirclaimed in an exclusive interview with this writer that the sect had amassed through robbery a handsome war chest of N500 million, enough to buy stockpile of arms from black markets spread across Africa and “the Libyan civil war may have given militants groups in Africa’s Sahel region like Boko Haram and al Qaeda access to large weapons caches” said a January 2012 UN report.
Shekau has succeeded, according to sources, of investing and utilizing these resources and other donations Boko Haram receives from likeminded Jihadis from different parts of the world including al-Qaeda unobserved by Nigeria’s intelligence formations. “Shekau does not involve the Shura apart from himself and a handful of his body guards when it comes to money” said a trusted source
Shekau now makes the vigilantes in northern Borno the prime focus of his sect. so far; “several vigilantes in the villages are silently working for him, and he plans to take his campaign against the vigilantes to the city of Maiduguri” said a source.
Equally worrying but rarely reported is the ransoming of communities with tax, extortion and “low profile but rewarding kidnappings.” There is also the issue of forced marriage of teenage girls, where parents are left with no other option but to oblige when armed militants seek the hand of their daughters.
Such marriages are mostly short-lived, leaving teenage girls pregnant with babies that will never see their fathers, worsening the frightening poverty levels in the area. Islamic scholars can only lament, describing the practice as part of the atrocities of terrorism the villagers have to put up with, to remain alive.
Another nerve-racking revelation from sources within Boko Haram claimed that the military’s extraordinary efforts to end the violence and bloodletting served by the sect’s terror brand has been nothing but mostly brute force when raiding hideouts or camps close to communities, even when some of the intelligence originates from the same villagers. “soldiers are not restrained to attack even with human shield.”
These residents are confused both by the shocking mass murders of Boko Haram and acts of impunity and coldness by the military. Millions have lost the opportunity to provide daily sustenance for their families, and for these people government MAY win the war but likely not their hearts.
For these villagers and fellow Nigerians, a sign of victory may be if government takes to construct hospitals, sink boreholes, construct access roads, support irrigation and offer them relief materials. That way government will create an army of citizens.