Buhari: Was declaring victory over Boko Haram too hasty?
When it comes to Boko Haram, declaring victory after a few fatal blows shouldn't be the way to go
Boko Haram has just struck.
The Borno State Police command has confirmed that the terrorists detonated a bomb in the Kasuwan Shanu area of Borno State in the early hours of Monday.
Early reports suggest that the casualty figures were minimal–only the suicide bombers lost their lives, according to Police.
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But that’s another indication that Boko Haram hasn’t gone away–won’t go away just like that.
In his Christmas Day message to Nigerians, President Muhammadu Buhari said the terrorists have been chased out of their Sambisa Forest base and declared victory over the savages.
In the President’s words: "I am delighted at, and most proud of the gallant troops of the Nigerian Army, on receipt of the long-awaited and most gratifying news of the final crushing of Boko Haram terrorists in their last enclave in Sambisa Forest.
"I want to use this opportunity to commend the determination, courage and resilience of troops of Operation Lafiya Dole at finally entering and crushing the remnants of the Boko Haram insurgents at “Camp Zero”, which is located deep within the heart of Sambisa Forest.
"I was told by the Chief of Army Staff that the Camp fell at about 1:35pm on Friday, December 22, and that the terrorists are on the run, and no longer have a place to hide. I urge you to maintain the tempo by pursuing them and bringing them to justice.
"Once more, congratulations to our troops and all who, in one way or the other, contributed to this most commendable and momentous effort. May the Almighty continue to be with you".
Are congratulations really in order at this time, seeing that Boko Haram is still capable of mounting attacks like we just heard?
Should we be declaring victory when we know Boko Haram is still capable of striking soft targets at will?
Where’s the dreaded Shekau (who has been declared dead numerous times only to reappear in videos) or his body doubles?
Army Chief Tukur Buratai also says Boko Haram has been defeated.
The problem is that the Army declared Boko Haram defeated in February, August, November and December.
The Army has declared Boko Haram defeated every other month of the year, only for the terrorists to hit more soft targets the following week or month.
We understand that war is part psychological and part physical. Declaring victory over Boko Haram before they are actually defeated can help the troops win the war and undermine the resurgence of the terrorists.
A psychological blow can be just as devastating as a physical one. It’s the Art of War 101.
But is it also possible that the military top brass and the Presidency are hasty with their victory celebrations? Is it possible that the APC–which has congratulated the President for defeating Boko Haram–is in a haste to score a political point?
Yes, Boko Haram has been sufficiently degraded as a fighting, rag-tag force.
Yes, under Buhari’s leadership, Boko Haram has been dealt devastating blows–the kind of blows the Army under Goodluck Jonathan couldn’t deliver because the top brass was stealing the money meant to arm the troops.
But until the entire North East is free from sporadic bombings every other month, it appears pretty premature to say we’ve won this war.
Until the folks in North Central and North East Nigeria can sleep with both eyes closed, we haven’t really won this war in the truest sense.
Guerrilla wars can drag on for years. The real victory will be not to take our eyes off the ball at any stage of this war.
Until we’ve reconstructed the war torn North East in such a manner that folks in the region can return to their livelihoods without fear of being hit by bombs or bullets, we should tread carefully with this incessant victory declarations and celebrations.
Even Buhari famously said that until all the abducted Chibok Girls and other Boko Haram captives have regained their freedom, we shouldn’t say we’ve won this war.
Caution, people. Caution.