In truth, there is neither a resurgence of Boko Haram nor the reoccupation of the same territories from which the terrorists have been flushed out. Thankfully, no less a personality than the President himself, supported by the Governor of Borno, has debunked the claim that Boko Haram is still holding on to territories.
Despite the best efforts of the government to keep the citizens safe, the recent attacks did not come totally as a surprise. When we launched our National Security Awareness Campaign last December, in part to rally the support of Nigerians for the war and to sensitize them to be more vigilant, we did warn that the terrorists would resort to attacking soft targets, which are highly vulnerable places like motor parks, entertainment and worship centres, markets, etc. We then stepped up our public enlightenment campaign as part of efforts to ensure the safety of our citizens as well as their property.
Unfortunately, the rump of the terror group has managed to detonate some suicide bombs and unleash their terror on some vulnerable communities and IDP camps, leading to loss of lives and destruction of property. We strongly condemn these mindless attacks on innocent citizens and commisserate with the families of those who have been killed or injured in the attacks.
Irrespective of the frequency and viciousness of these attacks, which are bound to taper off with time, I can confidently say they do not represent a resurgence of Boko Haram, and I will explain that in the course of this article. But first, let me appeal to all concerned not to say or do anything that will demoralize our gallant men and women in uniform, who are daily fighting – and sometimes paying the supreme price – so that we can all be safe. Having travelled to the theatre of operations myself, I have seen the huge sacrifices of our military. They deserve nothing but our undiluted support. This is the best form of appreciation we can show them at this time. Anything else is counter-productive. Commendation, not condemnation. Support, not second guessing. That’s what we owe the gallant troops.
As I said earlier, the current attacks by the degraded Boko Haram will not surprise anyone who is conversant with the ebb and flow of insurgency. During the immediate period after an insurgency has been degraded, the fact that terrorists are dispersed into the community is often followed by an upsurge of terror attacks in the form of suicide bombing and sabotage of critical facilities. Activities during these period are often carried out within population and against soft targets or vulnerable groups. There is often apprehension in the community that terrorism is getting worse, even though, in reality, insurgency has been weakened as a cohesive terror force. This is the current phase of insurgency in the country.
This Administration is not unaware of this development and is taking appropriate measures, in line with global best practices, to ensure an effective response. These include the strengthening of intelligence and security, especially in the affected communities and the IDP camps, and the stepping up of the reconstruction, rehabilitation and resettlement efforts. While these efforts are going on, the government enjoins members of the public to be vigilant, security conscious, and to cooperate with security agencies by providing information on suspicious and strange objects, activities and persons in their communities. By doing these, we will be denying terrorists a safe haven and the opportunity to carry out their atrocities.
It is important that we explain further to our compatriots that the recent spike in suicide bombings and attacks on vulnerable communities are not unusual at the phase of insurgency in which we are now, which is the phase in which the insurgency is defeated or degraded by the military. As we have said many times, insurgency is not a classic warfare, and the guns will not fall silent overnight.
For better understanding, one must recogize the different types of the termination of insurgency. One involves a situation in which the insurgents succeed, in which case the group subdues the government and society, imposes its will and re-organizes the economic and socio-political structures of society accordingly. The insurgency in Iran that brought the current regime in the country to power is an example. When this happens, the insurgency is often christened as a revolution by the victorious insurgents. There is also the negotiated settlement, including amnesty for insurgents. Examples abound in some South American countries like Guatemala, and to an extent Eastern and Southern Africa where previously recalcitrant colonial or apartheid regimes had to negotiate with anti-colonial and anti-apartheid movements. And then there is the phase in which the insurgent group is defeated or degraded by the government, which is the current experience of Nigeria.
Each of the three types has long-term consequences. However, none of them provides immediate cessation to terror attacks, as evident in cases like Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Iraq, Lebanon and other countries that previously recorded insurgency. Terror attacks and activities in the form of suicide bombing, sabotage of infrastructure and propaganda often continue for years after the cessation of mass insurgency.
In the past nine months since the advent of this Administration, Boko Haram insurgents have been considerably decimated as a result of coordinated and unrelenting efforts by the military. The Administration has also succeeded in galvanizing our neighbouring countries and the global community, including major powers, towards the defeat of insurgency and the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the communities and population most affected by terrorism. Boko Haram has been dislodged from its occupied territories; thousands of its captives have been set free; its capacity to operate as a troop moving in convoy of vehicles and motor cycles to launch attacks on communities and military formations has been neutralized. In essence, the insurgents have been effectively denied territory or sanctuary and are now in disarray.
Scattered, demoralized and hungry, they have resorted to terror tactics available to a degraded and defeated insurgent group. The fact that they occasionally operate in a few local governments does not equate to holding and controlling territories. We must make that distinction.
As our military continues its relentless efforts to keep us safe, let our media, which has played a major role in keeping the people informed about the war on terror, deny Boko Haram the oxygen it needs to cling on to life – which is publicity. Let us get the news of the terrorists’ cowardly attacks against defenceless citizens off the front pages and away from the headlines. Let all of us, Nigerians, give our total support to our gallant troops and be vigilant, while also taking ownership of the war so that, together, we can clear our communities of the remnants of the terrorists.
Minister of Information And Culture
16th February, 2016