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Shekau and the futility of a failed war

By David Onmeje

The period since the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai relocated to the war front has been one of torment for Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād better known as Boko Haram, the sympathizers of the murderous group and especially its deranged leader – Abubakar Shekau. Far from the aura of invincibility that he has built around himself with the active support of propaganda deployed in his favour by his more highly placed sponsors, Shekau has unraveled in the last two months as someone who hates even his own men more than he hates the secularity of the Nigerian state, key basis of the decade old bloodletting that has been his trade mark.

A few points deserve mention in order to understand how Shekau’s refusal to give up his failed war will be his ultimate doom. Had he given up and surrendered or even declared an end to his pointless attrition against Nigeria, perhaps a case of mental incapacity could have been marshalled to persuade all concerned for a lesser reckoning for his evil. But as things stand, Shekau is due for the maximum punishment and humiliation possible for his failed war and it is not death, but being captured and the humiliating failure of finally realizing that his entire life and life’s undertaken have been failures.

First, the start of the insurgency was tied to exacting reprisal against security forces for the death of the group’s founder, Yusuf Mohammed, in custody. That coupled with a demand for the strict implementation of Sharia law created the impression that the acts of terrorism being promoted by Boko Haram may one day end on the dialogue table where the extremists could get some sort of concession – some had even argued that the terrorists should key into the Sharia rule already being controversially implemented by some states in the northern parts of the country. But when Shekau, in his psychopathic bent, began going beyond military and secular targets to attack churches and later mosques, it became apparent that the campaign of terror was more about satiating his bloodlust than it was about bringing about Sharia rule or avenging Mohammed Yusuf’s death.

Secondly, those who propped up Shekau’s Boko Haram as a political tool are since done with him and his group for several reasons. Ouroboros – the snake is eating his own tail and will eventually consume itself, Shekau had on several occasions turned on his own sponsors effectively cutting off the vital support he got from them. He is also known to kill his own followers on whimsy excuses like accusation of displaying cowardice in battle or betraying the movement, like those who hinted at taking up the offer of surrender were executed whenever they are found out before properly defecting. Nigeria’s francophone neighbours: Cameroon, Chad and Niger – which hitherto were playing the double game that allowed Boko Haram fighters flee into their jurisdiction after attacks in Nigeria have turned on Shekau and his hordes and it seems not even the pressure from France will allow these nations again embrace a snake to their bosom.

Those who ran propaganda for Shekau have tired of their craft. They had thrived at a time when their client was enjoying international support for his killing spree. Theirs was to help escalate the collective feeling of terror from Boko Haram attacks and to paint its demented leader as invincible. They have fallen silent when they saw the efficiency with which the Nigerian Army is decimating Boko Haram and are suddenly no longer able to sing the praises of Shekau or present Boko Haram as a parallel state in which they are prouder than they are in Nigeria. The same goes for the online cheerleading team that had persistently glamourized the acts of terror that Shekau’s Boko Haram committed.

Furthermore, the boost that the terrorists enjoyed in the Lake Chad Basin Region, whether as Boko Haram or the now irrelevant Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), fizzled out with the substantial dismantling of ISIS, Islamic State in the Syria-Iraqi axis with further disarrayed visited on its infrastructure with the killing of its most effective leader yet, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. ISIS extended support to Boko Haram as a way of making it a franchise that will facilitate its quest to dominate the world, an undertaking that was escalated in the year 2015 but one that has not evaporated with the destruction of the international terror group. A sane person would have reckoned with this development and be more realistic about an offer of surrender but not Shekau, who is too far gone in his insanity to realize that Boko Haram/ISWAP has degraded from being part of an international terror brand to being a local nuisance.

Also, the persistence of the Nigerian military seems to have outlived the dubious scheming of third-party nations like France, which have persistently funneled weapons, cash and training to Boko Haram terrorists in pursuit of their geo-strategic interests. The timeframes that such nations set for their objectives have been distorted by the unexpected resilience shown by the Nigerian military, which has achieved the impossible even in the face of crippling blockade of arms sales and other covert sanctions that are intended to prevent Nigeria from being able to deal with Boko Haram internationally sponsored terrorism. After series of incidents that expose the ignoble roles of countries like France and corporations linked to such countries, the appetite of these entities to risk further exposure as international sponsors of terrorism has made them scale back their support for Boko Haram.

Similarly, the NGO arm of Boko Haram have been rendered ineffective following their exposure and the connection of the links they mutually share. Amnesty International is one of such groups that hide under the theme “upholding of human rights” to provide cover for Boko Haram to operate, while it deploys its reports to incapacitate troops from effectively fighting terrorists through the constant dangling of accusation of rights abuses against them it also coordinates other NGOs to offer support that made Boko Haram into a deadly gang. Some of its partners are into steadily supplying food and provisions to the terrorists under the guise of preventing human suffering from hunger, others provide treatment to terrorists wounded in battle without alerting authorities to take them in for their crimes citing the protection of the terrorists’ human rights as excuse. Even more terrifying is the discovery that these NGOs made themselves into the intelligence gathering arm of Boko Haram by passing information to terrorists about troops movement, they get this information as part of security briefings that are meant to keep them safe by notifying them of impending operations against the terrorists.

It must be counted fortunate for Nigerians and unfortunate for Shekau’s Boko Haram that the Nigerian military finally resolved to do away with the political correctness that had allowed the identified terrorist advantages to thrive. In the wake of other events: the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the exposure of Amnesty International as a terrorists supporting NGO, the confirmation of the double standard of countries like France and the Chadian retaliation for Boko Haram betrayal of killing its troops, the Nigerian Army went all out to end the reign of terror in the Lake Chad Basin. The last two months of the resulting military operation have exposed Shekau as one that hates even his own men, someone who is violently prodding them to fight onto death while hiding in his burrows.

A Shekau who had clandestinely negotiated the possibility of his own surrender and safe passage into oblivion would not let his men surrender and end the war, not because he has any hope of regaining the upper hand in his failed war but because he is worried about losing the funds from his sponsors. He has continued to give his fighters and sponsors alike the false hope that he can keep his acts of terror going and wear the troops down by making the military operation drag into another dry season when the terrorists can cover greater distance without being bugged down by the elements. What he is rather succeeding at is sending his men to die in the hands of government troops. He keeps giving them false hope even though they are now guaranteed a journey into the great beyond instead of a return trip to their lairs each time they venture to the battlefield because General Buratai is on ground to supervise every single incursion of the troops.

The fear of Amnesty International no longer stops the troops from doing what the nation commissioned them to do. The NGO is no longer able to author fraudulent reports that absolve the terrorists of wrongdoing while indicting soldiers for fighting evil. Troops are thus able to go for the jugular each time they engage the terrorists. They did everything General Buratai wants in the government troops, what Nigerians want – killing as many terrorists as possible, rescue as many hostages as possible and making the entire northeast inconducive for terrorists. The result has been troops that made us proud, they have killed over 1000 killed in 60 days.

Alas, Shekua who is still in hiding in the Cameroonian Mountains, has continued his ineffectual bid to inspire his fleeing elements to keep fighting, without mentioning that what he now asks of them is a guaranteed suicide mission since the certain outcome for any fighter who heeds Shekau’s call is a bullet ridden and mangled corpse. Shekua hates his own men more than he hates the country to the extent that he keeps pushing them to go get killed even when he has lost over 3,000 of his fighters in a short time. Shekau may enjoy one more day of pushing his hapless fighters into suicidal battles but the only way the present configuration will end is the Boko Haram leader being in shackles as part of the Nigerian Army’s victory parade.

Onmeje wrote this piece from the United Kingdom.

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A prolific writer of about two decades standing experience
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