Tukur Buratai
Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Major General Tukur Buratai

Eddy Odivwri

Before anybody accuses me of being unpatriotic and unappreciative of the “great works” our gallant soldiers are doing in the North east, properly described as “theatre of war”, let me declare that I strongly appreciate the sacrifices the soldiers and other military personnel are making. I am aware of several families who have lost their loved ones in the war front which the North east has become. I recall that about two years ago, a family friend who was operating one of the machine guns at Gashua when the terrorists struck, narrowly missed the bullet as many of his colleagues fell to the bullets of the terrorists. His wife and mine immediately went into “all night’ prayer session to spare the man. Thankfully, he survived the hail of bullets that night. And few months after, he was posted out for an international duty, to our collective relief.

So, I am quite conscious of the anxiety, tension and uncertainty that exists in the homes of soldiers in the theatre of war.

But having said that, how do we explain that 11 full years on, the entire line up of the trained Nigerian military is yet struggling to keep at bay those that were once described as rag-tag insurgents. Eleven years running, there is even no clear hope when this running war will end. The facts that beset us everyday belie the claim that the Boko Haram terrorists have been “technically defeated”. How? Technically defeated and it keeps striking successfully and killing our soldiers and unarmed civilians every other day? Just last Monday, Boko Haram struck again, at Auno village near Maiduguri, the Borno State capital and killed 30 people who were stranded on the road, even though the soldiers claimed it was just 10 people that were killed. But there was no dispute on the number of vehicles burnt: 18! So how did just 10 people drive 18 vehicles?

So we are worried that this war has gone on for too long. The moments of victory are rather episodic. All else to the contrary is mere propaganda. Even the Nigerian civil war lasted just 30 months.

Many have also argued that some tinge of sabotage has helped to make the war drag on endlessly. The belief is strong that certain persons are benefitting hugely from the continued state of disquiet and insecurity in the north east, especially as they control the funds and resources being expended by the government in prosecuting the war. If the war ends today, that funding source ends. But is it not better to live in peace with no wealth to splurge on than mass up huge wealth when there is no peace to spend same or even lacking the assurance of life?

The recent interview of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt Gen Tukur Buratai claiming that Boko Haram has been defeated and what the army is battling with now is just criminal bandits, does not make sense. All Boko Haram members are bandits even though all bandits may not be Boko Haram members. Their operational modus is practically the same thing.

Whatever it is, they are criminal elements of the society. The security forces have an abiding duty to deal with them and quell them. We have not seen the enduring victory in this sense.