While we are discussing President Buhari’s new cabinet, Boko Haram campaign of terror continues to run uncontrollably as they sack the towns of Gubio and Magumeri, adding to the general sense of terror and suffering in the affected areas of Borno and Yobe States.
President’s Buhari’s Boko Haram strategy, like that of his predecessors, is that of containment. That is, allowing Boko Haram to roam in ungoverned remote spaces and only push it back when it starts making further advance. They live in the misguided illusion that the problem will just disappear.
The problem with this strategy is that it serves Boko Haram well to the detriment of our own forces. With each stalemate, attack on Nigerian position or gain of territory, Boko Haram become more experienced, more ambitious and more emboldened.
On our side, our troops become more worn out, more disillusioned and less hopeful about bringing an end to this conflict so they can go back to their families. In time, the civilian population will lose confidence in the ability of the government to win the war or even protect them, forcing them to seek new ways of survival either by cooperating with Boko Haram or creating their own terror franchise.
The danger is the Boko Haram conflict is already becoming an industry, ran by the troika of the military on one side, an acronym soup of local and international NGOs in the middle and a beleaguered political leadership on the other side.
There’s the risk that some of these actors may seek to continue benefiting from the crisis and will do everything to postpone the chance of peace and longterm stability.
Yesterday, the president announced the creation of the ministry of humanitarian affairs. Even though this looks commendable at the surface, it is problematic in that it risks turning the ministry into another fat check for political actors in the name of fighting Boko Haram. Already, there’s the national commission for refugees and IDPs and the North East Development Commission, in addition to the already established NEMA and other relevant sister agencies.
The truth is, the present government, just like it predecessors, lack the strategy or the will to put an end to the Boko Haram conflict. Our military is under-funded and therefore ill-equipped, poorly trained and poorly motivated.
Above all, this administration has failed to stamp out corruption in the security sector, leading to poor utilization of the little resources at our disposal.
As our military is overstretched and struggling to put off fires in other parts of the country from Zamfara to Maiduguri, Benue to the South-East, the Nigerian police is becoming increasingly incapable of confronting emerging security challenges and keeping pace with evolving threats, leading to a rapidly expanding security vacuum that is leaving many communities on the verge of lawlessness.
Government needs to sit down and accept that its strategy is failing, that it is current approach is not strategically well-grounded. The solution lies in first accepting its failure, as they say, admitting to a problem is the first step towards finding a solution. The only language Boko Haram understands is that of military defeat, but military force should be applied in a way that does not inflict civilian suffering or any collateral damages.
It is only when it realize that it cannot win the war nor achieve its Jihadi utopia that BH can come to the reconciliation table. And local communities will only fully cooperate when they see obvious signs of Nigeria’s military superiority and victory.
That’s, our ability to deny Boko Haram any sanctuary, to flush them out of their safe havens, to prevent attacks before the occur and to quickly neutralize threats wherever they emerge.
This year, Boko Haram campaign of terror enters its 10th year, under the uninspiring leadership of 3 successive Nigerian presidents. Studies have shown that terror groups that manage to exist for 10 years will likely remain relevant for two more decades.
With the devastating climate situation around the Lake Chad region and its effects on the livelihoods of fishermen, farmers and herdsmen, the seeds of conflict in the next decade have already germinated.
By Ahmed Musa Hussaini