Monday, 29 September 2014

Boko Haram: Two Shekau’s Down; Who's Next?

By now, the Nigerian military should be picking up a few useful insights into guerrilla warfare, which is going to be the preferred face of armed confrontation in the foreseeable future. During the conflict in the Niger Delta between the militants and the Nigerian Armed Forces, the militants used two names to issue public statements and threats: Jomo Gbomo and Cynthia Whyte.

Gbomo has fallen mute since the 2011 Independence Day bombing in Abuja, when the leader of MEND, Henry Okah, was apprehended and put on trial in South Africa.

It is Cynthia Whyte that is still talking any time MEND or those parading with the name issue a threat or claim responsibility for some mishap in the Niger Delta to prove they are still active even after five years of the Amnesty programme.

Boko Haram under its founder, Mohammed Yusuf, was not more than its predecessor jihadist anarchists led by Maitatsine and “Musa Makaniki” in Maiduguri and Jimeta, respectively in the 1980s. But when he was captured and killed and the original Abubakar Shekau emerged, Boko Haram assumed the toga of a full guerrilla outfit, feeding off sumptuous funding, floating arsenal of the deposed Muammar Gadhafi armoury and internal sabotage in the military and government by Boko Haram acolytes.

    When the military announced it had killed the original Shekau, Boko Haram mimicked the Niger Delta militants and brought out another bearded figure, which it said, was Shekau, to portray that the military was lying...
Unfortunately, most Nigerians chose to believe Boko Haram rather than the army fighting to protect them. Even the media stopped putting punctuation marks after the name of this upstart impostor. The military did not help matters because during the reign of Shekau II, a number of events took place to deflate the confidence Nigerians had in them. The Chibok girls were abducted in the most bizarre manner, with the insurgents making the Borno State and Federal Governments look like common idiots. Boko Haram struck and overran some military and security facilities, killing officers and seizing arms and logistics.

Mutinies took place and soldiers shot at their commanding officers, which led to a court martial. The Minister of Defence, Alhaji Aliyu Gusau, threatened to resign over quarrels with Service Chiefs, and Nigerian troops sent to the war front often fled in the face of Boko Haram assaults.

In the streets, we fought one another on political party or ethno-sectional basis. All these reinforced Boko Haram under Shekau II and emboldened them to storm out of their hiding places in Sambisa Forest and start seizing territories to plant their comical “Islamic Caliphate” pennants.

The Nigerian Army must have realised that guerrilla warfare is more about brains than brawn. It is a mind game. Boko Haram under Shekau II fought us with deft application of mind game, and surged forward. It also took a commonsensical use of wits to snare Shekau II to his end.

Our soldiers captured some Boko Haram fighters in the battle of Konduga. They forced them to stage a false victory celebration and invite Shekau II to come and officiate. They laid an ambush and wasted the bastard. The tide of public opinion has now changed. Nigerians now believe the Army more on the death of Shekau II. Boko Haram fighters have lost their nerve and are surrendering.

We must keep chasing them right to the gates of hell, as US Vice President, Joe Biden would put it. The war has just gone into a new phase. It may not end tomorrow. Guerrilla wars never end that easily. Unless we press our advantage, Shekau III is likely to emerge. Boko Haram is already using their media acolyte, Ahmad Salkida; to deceive the public by saying Shekau is “alive, hale and hearty”. This simply means, “get ready for Shekau III”.

The killing of the two Shekaus is like cutting off a hydra’s head: it will simply grow another unless you stamp it out conclusively. This we must do, by standing together with our armed forces.

By Ochereome Nnanna for Vanguard

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