Boko Haram – The New Worst Case Scenario
Back from a recent trip to Yobe State, in the Northern area of Nigeria and looking out of my window with a warm cup of cocoa, I vaguely recall how, in 2011, the Federal Government said they will take care of and more or less obliterate the Boko haram “issue” before the worst case scenario occurred. This was not what I saw when I was home. Three years on, state of emergency, curfews and plenty of adverse obliteration later, the worst-case scenario with Boko Haram is slowly, sadly but surely now upon Nigeria.
On a blurry Sunday morning at Wellington fresh from my trip to cover the happenings in the Yadi Gujba area of Yobe state, I’m sitting at my computer, warm cocoa in hand, pondering my latest trip, images of hopeful faces strewn with faces that have known so much sorrow, the synonymy is strong, when my mobile rings. My Op-Editor, is frantically describing to me what sounds like a strangely unexpected event, a Boko Haram attack near the Aso Rock Villa – Nigeria’s official presidential residence.
Reports on the event are mostly unverified, crux of which includes the fact that detained Boko Haram members, attempted a break out of a State Security Services facility (known as the yellow house) this morning, there was a lot gunfire exchange and casualties are yet to be identified. One eyewitness report states that the shootout lasted for well over 3 hours, with soldiers stealthily able to bring the situation under control. An eyewitness, identified as Yoosooph, gathered photographs below.
Not surprisingly, the Department of State Security services released a statement earlier this morning, confirming the attacks and playing down the issue, stating that the security forces had the matter under wraps within moments of the shootout. Well, besides the fact that I would have expected nothing less from a high-ranking official/spokesperson of any government agency, I’m concerned with the level of which the incident was played down. There are two facts – firstly there was a shootout, which lasted for hours, and secondly there was an attempt at breaking out which required reinforcements from the armed forces to contain. These two incidents are not distinct and separate, they come together to raise vital questions on how the war on Boko Haram is being fought and the audacity of the group for a fraction of its insurgents to attempt a breakout so close to the presidential villa. If panic was what the DSS spokesperson attempted to subvert with his statement, then a good look at the current affairs might just change his mind.
In November, 2012, the serving Chief of Army Staff, Lt-General Azubuike Ihejirika confirmed that 3000 people had been killed since the Boko Haram insurgency began. That was 2012, a mild year and a half later and the numbers of deaths has almost doubled with the Government eventually forced to declare a blanket state of emergency in the affected states in May, 2013. As a result of the curfew, and tactical military operations in the areas of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states (all in Northern Nigeria), the military confirmed in a statement that the areas had been brought under control.
A video released by the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, in the wake of the curfews and clampdowns was a fierce backlash, claiming that the military had not won the war. The military called this bluff and in August 2013, the Joint Task Force released a statement “sort of” claiming but not really claiming in a sort of way, which largely remains unclear to this day, that Shekau had died from multiple gunshot wounds sustained in a gun battle. It was a victory celebrated with one hand on the holster by people who could not verify the news and same news was greeted with absolute disdain by residents who had lost families, loved ones, and livelihoods from continued Boko Haram attacks.
After a string of unbelievable violence, which included the massacre of over 140 villagers in a Northern village called Izghe and the brutal murder of 29 young teenagers in a Federal Government College in Yobe, there was sauce to go with the eggs on the military’s face when a video of the deceased Shekau appeared and he claimed responsibility of all such attacks.
The military were quick to distance themselves from any claims that he was dead and the already bloody puzzle, re-emerged with such brutal candor, it smacked of ridicule.
The events in Abuja this morning, the recent incident at the Giwa barracks and the government’s emergency meetings with Foreign state governments and security agents, makes a bold statement – we underestimated the insurgency, failed to tidy our house and now the worst case scenario is here. Ticking off Boko Haram’s continued problems, as one of the present government’s failures will certainly solve nothing. Finger pointing in fattened coats while hundreds of citizens are slain everyday is mostly what has brought us to this point and has brought me to my computer with what is now, very cold cocoa.
The funding of the Islamic sect is yet to be determined, and certain officials describe tracing funding as being ghoulish. This confuses me; the simplest way to catch a criminal from the 80s was to follow the money….so why does it seem this particular group keeps running across our blind side? The recently organized national debacle of a conference failed to answer any questions and more attacks only create a backload of questions.
Is our military inadequate? Are the insurgents better paid and better equipped? Is their belief in the absolute destruction of every thing Nigeria, stronger than our belief in Nigeria? The problem may stem from a string of ill decisions, poor propaganda and a lackadaisical approach that has unfortunately been indefatigably repelled by Boko Haram, whatever it is, we the masses will observe, hope, and pray, that the situation is on the verge of a turn around.