President Buhari delivered to Africans the best holiday news in a long time. In a statement, he said a military campaign had culminated in the “final crushing of Boko Haram terrorists in their last enclave in Sambisa Forest.” He further said, “the terrorists are on the run, and no longer have a place to hide. I urge you to maintain the tempo by pursuing them and bringing them to justice.”
This is news everyone should celebrate but there is a problem. President Buhari and his administration has misled everyone before and his credibility is one to doubt. Why should anyone believe that Boko Haram has been crushed now?
A history of misrepresentations
President Buhari has been overzealous with any good news on the war against Boko Haram, sometimes even exaggerating the news. RFI says, “the government in Abuja, and the military, have previously claimed victories against the Islamic State group affiliate. But access to the epicentre of the conflict in Borno state is almost impossible, making independent corroboration of official statements near impossible.”
The Buhari administration always had pressure to exterminate the Boko Haram threat. In August 2015, Buhari visited Benin where he assured that country that Nigeria would defeat Boko Haram by the end of the year. Premium Times says he then made a similar comment when he administered the Oath of Office on newly appointed service chiefs only two weeks later. He highlighted the need to “end these insurgencies within three months”. In the December of 2015, the Buhari administration reported back to the public through the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed. Mr Mohammed said, “Today, I can report that the war against Boko Haram is largely won.” He added,” They (the military) have so degraded the capacity of Boko Haram that the terrorists can no longer hold on to any territory just as they can no longer carry out any spectacular attack.”
Such bold words to use and yet Boko Haram continued to attack and to hold on to territory. Interestingly, after claiming that the Nigerian army had technically defeated the terrorists in December 2015, 50 people were killed only 48 hours later. That did not shame the Buhari administration into silence. Many areas in Borno State were held by Boko Haram as confirmed by residents of the area to Africa Check. Interestingly, Buhari and his team continued with the tired rhetoric of their great victory well into 2016 and now at the end of the year, they claim they crushed the terrorists. Why would anyone believe this government when it has lied through its teeth about the same thing before?
Hope for the future
At this point, what the world should hope for is a more subdued Boko Haram presence in Nigeria not an abrupt end to attacks. At least this time, Buhari delivered a carefully worded statement that said, “I, therefore, call on all Nigerians to cooperate and support the Nigerian Armed Forces and other security agencies by providing useful information that will expose all the terrorists hiding among the populace.”
There are possibilities of further suicide attacks from within settlements and the Nigerian government is aware of that risk. For the first time, it seems Buhari and his team are in touch with reality. The victory in the Sambisa region is part of the drive against the terrorists but not the ultimate victory. There is still a lot of work to be done. For starters, some of the Chibok girls are still missing and according to Buhari’s inaugural speech, victory is finding them and returning them home. Until now, Nigeria’s work against the militants may have been undermined by an overzealous government, too keen to impress the outside world. The government’s need to impress has seen it cook up outright lies and exaggerate certain facts just to look good. Hopefully, this new accomplishment will not again be undermined by ego and overexcitement. It is high time the Boko Haram menace became history!