‘A prophet has no honour in his own country’, is certainly a saying that is not applicable to Nigeria’s military, which has recently proven it can attract accolades from home and abroad.
Such accolades came from no less a person than the Edo State governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomole, who is not known to easily dish out commendation being a unionist that was accustomed to criticizing to make things better. His comments when he received Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) earlier in the year pretty much summed up what Nigerians that appreciate good works are saying about the military.
“We in Edo State appreciate the leadership that you are providing for the Nigerian Armed Forces and the Nigerian Army in particular. We watched you on television and we saw a very senior officer meeting his officers and men right in the battle field, sharing the dust, the sun and all the deprivations, the sort of thing you sometimes see in foreign countries. I think that you are leading by example,” Osiomole had said during that visit.
Fast forward to more recent days and the international dimension to that recognition came from a Bangladeshi Military delegation that lauded Nigeria’s military’s efforts at tackling Boko Haram insurgency. The country took things a step further by expressing willingness to adopt the Nigerian Armed Forces winning strategy to combat insurgency and criminalities in their country even as it admitted it has a lot to learn from the Nigerian military.
US Secretary of State, John Kerry, at his recent visit reveals the willingness of his country to support Nigeria’s military in defeating Boko Haram. An official on his entourage described it as “very strong commitments”. Coming from a country that once refused to sell weapons to Nigeria for fighting terrorists, citing abuses, this rapprochement speaks not just of military exploits that means the US wants to be part of Nigeria’s success story in combating terror but also shows that the current leadership of the Army has been able to conduct its operations in ways that conform with international standards.
Beyond the accolades however is the reality on ground. From whatever direction one wishes to review it, the Nigerian Army and the military in general have done well. They have repeatedly killed or neutralize successive Boko Haram leader, ‘Abubakar Shekau’ or its various clones.
The last of Shekau’s incarnation was ‘fatally wounded’ in an unprecedented raid by the Nigerian Air Force in which the Army confirmed that some key terrorists’ leaders were killed or fatally wounded. The body count of the terrorists’ loss was put in the range of 300.
The leaders confirmed dead from that operation include Abubakar Mubi, Malam Nuhu and Malam Hamman, while “Shekau”, was believed to have been fatally wounded on his shoulders alongside several of his followers.
Earlier in the month, troops of Operation Lafiya Dole accompanied by Civilian JTF foiled an attempt by Boko Haram terrorists on Yauri Community at the outskirts of Maiduguri city, Borno State in what has become symptomatic of the inability of the terrorists to stage spectacular attacks. That attempt cost Boko Haram five of its fighters in addition to losing a substatila part of its weapons captured by the troops, which recovered 2 AK-47 rifles, 1 General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG), one 60mm Mortar Tube, 1 Fabrique Nationale (FN) rifle, 2 Dane Guns, 2 AK-47 rifle magazines, 2 FN rifle magazines, 131 rounds of 7.62mm (NATO) ammunition, 31 rounds of 7.62mm (Special) ammunitions, a 60mm Bomb.
One can therefore understand when the Army says no more Boko Haram camps in the North-East as the terrorists have been decimated to a point where ongoing exercises are mostly mop up and thwarting attacks planned from outside the borders of Nigeria.
Buratai’s strategy of condensing and hinging the fight against terrorism and insurgency in the North-East on three things has paid off with the information available in the public space. The first goal, defeating the Boko Haram terrorists, has been accomplished to the extent that there are no longer Boko haram camps in the North East. This has made room for the second goal of facilitating humanitarian assistance, which is now ongoing. The thrid one, the restoration of law and order for good governance to take place, is also in progress.
These were possible as Boko Haram’s defeat means that all the areas its fighters were once grouped in have been cleared. As early as February this year, Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima declared that the terror group was not controlling any local government in the state. The situation became conducive enough for the state to order workers to resume in all the cleared local government areas.
The Army have also freed over 5000 persons – mostly women and children – once held captive by Boko Haram. This fact is however barely known as the Army focused on rehabilitating these people as opposed to exposing them to celebrity media coverage that would rob of them of their privacy.
The recognition coming General Buratai’s way, home and abroad, is therefore understandable when one comprehends the giant step the Army and by extension Nigeria’s military have made since he and his colleagues were appointed to deal with the security challenges Nigeria was facing.
Oshiomole, in his vintage self best sums the situation up when he said, “Yes, Boko Haram has not exactly disappeared, but there is no doubt that they themselves will in their own way appreciate that things have changed, that the Nigerian side is better. They no longer have that audacity, that impunity to move freely without fear.”
****Onyilo is the United Kingdom Convener, Nigerians in Diaspora Monitoring Group (NDMG) and contributed this piece from London.