One needs not reenact the story of David and Saul in the Bible to find a modern day version in the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai. As the holy book recounted it, after exceptional exploit at war the people chanted ‘Saul has killed his thousands, but David has killed his tens of thousands!’. The people singing were certainly not intent on belittling the achievements of Saul, who was David’s boss (and later predecessor) at the time, the lyrics were borne out of the exhilaration of being from occupation forces that had terrorized them continually prior to David’s exploits.
Nigerians were similarly terrorized by Boko Haram prior to the coming of President Muhammadu Buhari, who appointed Buratai as Army Chief. The war on Boko Haram’s terrorism had seen significant tactical changes that have yielded positive results since the inception of the Buhari’s administration. From holding almost the whole of Borno state, Boko Haram has today been reduced to a band of fanatics using abducted schoolgirls as human shield and bargaining chips having been confined to Sambisa forest by sustained military campaign against their insurgency.
Resources meant for weapons are now being properly utilized for same, welfare of troops is now of paramount importance and we now boast of an Army Chief who stays in the battle field with his soldiers to do the battle. Everything about the campaign on terrorism has changed from the old orders with both international and local commentators now acknowledging the achievements of our military. Same way Boko Haram fighters also acknowledge now that they dared a sovereign state with their insurgency so they dare not anymore take the fight to the Army and when the fight is taken to them they flee.
They still stage hit and run attacks on defenseless villages but they are no longer able to move around confidently with the kind of militarized convoys that once easily overran military and paramilitary barracks in the days of the Jonathan presidency. It was such convoy they were able to deploy with ease in capturing schoolgirls from Chibok. A repeat attempt of such depravity today will end badly for the terrorists as not one of them will return alive to whatever camp they mobilize from.
Nothing mirrors the finality of Boko Haram being in its death throes as the video they released of their captives, which security analysts have put down to the fighters making one last desperate push to halt further military attacks. They practically dangled the girls as their pawns in the face of us all. Who will think of a daughter in this harrowing situation and not immediately accede to the requests of even the devil? Of course the militants twisted the knife in the heart of parents by getting the girls to recount how some their colleagues have died in ‘military raids’, which underscores the group’s desperation not to come under any further attacks.
A further change that has come since the change of baton of the Army leadership is that Boko Haram, whose spokespersons have that chronic reputation of taunting the entire nation, have altered course to no longer maintain that role within its ranks. The life expectancy of anyone occupying that position became so short that not much is heard about it anymore. Boko Haram has instead resorted to using outsourced spokespersons that use the cover of professionalism to distribute its messages on social media with the certainty that a section of the mainstream media will amplify their desire as they unknowingly compete to outdo each other in becoming the terror group’s mouth piece.
But even with this, the atrocities that the world has become aware of as people get to know more about the sick outrage Boko Haram fighters committed in areas they were driven from, social media platforms have blocked the accounts they use for promoting their evil.
So whether it is abducting innocent children and women or taunting the world about a supposed helplessness in stopping Boko Haram’s horror, the appointment of General Buratai has ended what initially gave birth to the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) campaign. The hamstrung army under Jonathan, which lacked vision, tact and courage to confront the terrorists, is now history.
The Chibok Girls, who are symbolic of Boko Haram’s penchant for abductions, might not have been freed yet, but several others whose abduction did not make world headlines have been freed and reunited with their families – they number in their thousands.
These are realities that the present handlers of BBOG must appreciate and cooperate with the authorities towards defeating terror and rescuing the girls. There is nothing to be gained in metamorphosing into a willing tool for distracting the Army or the government since this is what its recent activities amounted to.
Even as BBOG begins to appreciate what has changed in the time the current order has been in place, it must also undertake a retrospection to see what has changed about it. To outsiders, many of those that were BBOG’s conscience and think tank have moved to other things even though they continue to make contributions from the where they are now. This possibly explains a recent deviation that saw its convener, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili foray into recruitment issues simply so she can fire a salvo at the government.
Such trend of belligerence has made even the parent’s of the Chibok Girls distance themselves from the latest BBOG march as revealed by their leader, Yakubu Nkeki, who indicated that antagonising people is not the way to go about securing freedom for the girls. So BBOG and its leaders should be begin asking themselves why they are yet to change their approach and strategy if the girls’ return is what is genuinely driving their campaign and not some personal political agenda.
****Kolawole PHD, a University lecturer writes from Keffi.