Nigeria: General Buratai and Quest for Victory Over Boko Haram

16 February 2020

While the Boko Haram insurgents hit soft targets, the Nigerian military has continued to push to stop the terrorists. Recently Nigeria's Army Chief, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, optimistically declared that the military has won the war against insurgency as the Boko Haram militants do not control any territory in Nigeria again.

Gen. Buratai had attributed what is happening in the North east currently as vengeance and criminality. Hear him: "What is happening now is just criminality. Since last year, we have not given them any respite. They are now blocked.

"They no longer have access to foods; their movements are constrained; they no longer get the fuel they needed easily because we have strangulated them. They are now in depressed state; so, they go out with vengeance to attack commuters to abduct individuals and targeting certain religious persons just for their propaganda."

That is the present reality of the story of Boko Haram in Nigeria today. But those not placated with such assurances or have not even bothered to look at the reality on counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria are excited to dismiss it. But it is normal in the character of homo sapiens. Odd news spread faster and with the speed of a tornado. But good news does not fly. It does not fascinate people. It is unenthusiastic to many ears in spite of its visibility. It's a universal innate human problem which does not bow to race or creed.

That is even evident in media reportage of the Nigerian Military's counter operations to quell the several insurgencies and insurrections in the country. Each time news of Nigerian troops resounding and victorious exploits against Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists is played in the media, its usually from official military sources.

The media is uninterested about the good tidings of troops or their country's triumph against terrorists. But the same media eagerly scoops and publishes the odd news about Boko Haram terrorists successful attacks on troops or annexation of territories. They reel out fantastic figures or unverified facts and rush to the press, quoting unconfirmed sources. Without named attributions, the news stories still make headlines. But ironically, they hardly devout this energy in reporting the positives of the counter-insurgency operations.

It is obvious that insecurity has heightened in Nigeria in the past months. A tamed, decimated and defeated Boko Haram insurgents were suddenly enlivened by ISIL's Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists from Iran. Generally, Nigeria's experience is replete with accentuated insecurities in the year preceding and during every general election year. Political hawks and politicians with overzealous political ambitions infiltrate and pollute the serenity of the country with terrifying quantum or proliferation of illicit arms and ammunition. And 2019 had its fair share of such incendiary actors.

And on the terrorism front, similar changes were noticed in confounding resurgence of terrorism. The battles between these terrorists' sects and the Nigerian troops have been tough and engaging. Boko Haram/ ISWAP terrorists have been insistently desirous to erode the gains the Nigerian Army has recorded over the last four years by their embarrassing repression. Insurgents desperation to retake reclaimed territories of Nigeria's sovereignty is high. But the resistance of Nigerian troops has equally been stiff, unbreakable and sustained.

Terrorists have been unable to discharge their mandate of annihilating liberated Local Government Areas in the Northeast. Both sides in the counter-terrorism warfare have incurred human and material losses in magnitudes that cannot be ignored. The struggle is consistently fierce and tough. But Boko Haram/ISWAP have longer hours of wailing in defeats and debilitating crushes of their might by soldiers.

But hence the sense of humanity tends to tilt towards the odd and grotesque, the flashes of obscene news from the counter-insurgency operations seem to resonate louder. The news carriers embellish it so excitedly and, in a manner, you would think the Nigerian troops have been perpetual crying babies before terrorists in the battlefront. But its far from the truth.

Except that many Nigerians have no opportunity to visit the theatre of war in the Northeastern part of the country. The COAS and the ombudsman of the counter-terrorism operations, Lt. Gen. TY Buratai relocated to the Northeast to direct action at the frontlines when the battle became tougher. And he sometimes, personally led onslaughts on marauding terrorists. He is not a sit-come Army leader.

Ataifure is Secretary, Centre for International and Strategic Studies (CISS), Abuja.

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