Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Honourable Minister of Information was recently quoted as saying that Nigeria has ‘technically’ defeated Boko Haram. This was to be a denouement to the December 2015 deadline that President Muhammadu Buhari gave the Nigerian Army to conclude its war on Boko Haram code-named ‘Operation Lafiya Dole’.
As expected, his remarks have drawn a lot of stick from a critical section of the Nigerian public. They cite the spate of recent bombings as a pointer to the fact that Boko Haram is far from being defeated. A total of 64 persons have lost their lives in different suicide attacks/fire-fights with the army since Lai Mohammed’s statement.
The Honourable Minister must have thought of encouraging the victims who are mostly in Internally-Displaced Persons’ (IDP’s) camps across Nigeria. He must have thought of scoring one over the bloodthirsty insurgents and thereby gaining a psychological edge over them. Lai Mohammed must be thinking of portraying the Buhari Administration as acting true to its words. However, it has met with widespread criticism that it was capable of emboldening the remnants of the decimated group to go on murderous binges if only to prove a point.
To be fair to the man, I believe he is doing his honest duty. He must have read a lot about George Aiken, Republican Senator of Vermont in the US Senate who said in the wake of the interminable Vietnam War in 1968 that:
“The United States could well declare unilaterally…that we have ‘won’ in the sense that our armed forces are in control of most of the field and no potential enemy is in a position to establish its authority over South Vietnam”.
In other words, Aiken urged President Richard Nixon to declare victory and bring the troops back home.
Nigeria could well declare that Boko Haram has been defeated, whether ‘technically defeated’ or (as Lai Mohammed reframed it later) ‘largely defeated’ is immaterial. However the Minister should go on to finish with Aiken’s suggestion that:
“Such a declaration would herald the resumption of political warfare as the dominant theme in Vietnam”
In our own case, such declaration that came from the Minister should be followed by a political cum economic action plan that will restore the once glorious and peaceful North East of Nigeria to its pristine state pre-insurgency.
I do not kid myself that this is going to be a mean task. Nigeria’s financial resources have dwindled miserably since the fall in price of oil in the international market. Our oil receipts which account for about 75% of our national revenue have fallen by about 67% in the Third Quarter of 2015. This means that government is short in funds to prosecute critical developmental projects. The government has to rebuild several social infrastructures like schools, health centres, roads, water and electricity.
Going pari passu with these physical amenities, is the need to de-radicalize the youths in that region. This is not just by teaching them correct values according to the tenets of their faith, but by also meeting the need for self-actualization in their lives. Jobs have to be provided after meaningful education is given.
Entrepreneurial abilities have to be awakened in those that are so inclined while social support must be guaranteed for the vulnerable groups. By vulnerable groups I mean pregnant women, children, the elderly and the physically-challenged.
The primary purpose of government is to ensure the welfare of the people. When this is achieved, even the people themselves will rise up against insurgents.
One area of concern has been the attitude of our neighbouring countries. Apart from Cameroon which has taken the war to the insurgents, I learnt Chad and Niger Republic are pussyfooting because they see this war as a way of turning Nigeria into a cash-cow to be milked as much as possible.
The Nigerian Government must have realised this hence the decision to go all out against Boko Haram.
Information management, which Lai Mohammed is in charge of, must be top-level. There should be no attempt to play to the gallery. Propaganda should be limited to the war front. When it comes to informing Nigerians, a true account of events must be rendered. The government must do all in her power to rally all Nigerians behind her in this war so that everybody would be pulling in the same direction.
Lastly, perhaps this insurgency war would not have lasted this long had the $2.1billion arms scandal had not happened. It means our troops would have got all the equipment they needed and they would have given Boko Haram a sound beating a long time ago. This is why the trial of the suspects in the scandal must not be trifled with. It must be decisive and conclusive and everyone found guilty must be made to face the full weight of the law. That is one way by which our nation can show that we appreciate the supreme sacrifice made by the dead.
May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Omi Tuntun, Igba Otun.
Kehinde Ayoola JP,
29th December, 2015