The Islamic State (IS)-affiliated, Nigeria-based militants continue to levy devastating destruction, particularly upon communities in the region where they once controlled a swath of territory the size of Belgium. In its six-year history of military offensives, BH has murdered upwards of 15,000 people, primarily targeting Christians who have faced slaughter, forced conversion, kidnapping, and rape, more than any other section of Nigerian society at the hands of the terrorists.
Is This What Winning Looks Like?
Enter President Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim in his first year as Nigeria’s Commander-in-Chief, who won the office largely on promises that he would defeat BH and bring peace and restoration to Nigeria’s north.
Since his inauguration, BH has killed nearly 2,000 people, according
And yet, Buhari holds to the audacious claim that BH is “technically defeated,” he told
the BBC in an interview released December 24.
“Boko Haram as an organized fighting force – I assure you – we have dealt with them,” Buhari said.
Buhari bases his bold assertion on how BH has largely shifted tactics away from traditional structured assaults to guerilla tactics, using suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
“BH has reverted to using IEDs, indoctrinating young girls from fifteen years and going to explode churches and mosques and marketplaces and motor parks. They have now been reduced to that,” he said. “Articulated conventional attacks on centers of communication and populations in towns and so on… They are no longer capable of doing that effectively. So, I think, technically, we have on the war,” he added.
Over the past week, BH has seemingly resolved to challenge Buhari’s declarations of victory. Militants have staged not only successful suicide attacks in Madagali, killing 30 people, according
to the Washington Post, but have also invaded and burned an entire village, murdering 16 people, according
to the Christian Post. Eyewitnesses to such attacks have spoken of sophisticated coordination and BH’s usage of heavy military-grade weaponry, such as rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).
A Political Game
Back in August, Buhari set a deadline
that by the end of December, BH would be totally defeated in Nigeria. He has since declared that the benchmark is only “a guide,” and “open to modification,” according
to the Nigerian newspaper Vanguard.
Suddenly, as the deadline approaches merely days away, Buhari is changing the conditions of victory in order to save face and maintain his veneer of being Nigeria’s savior from the Islamist insurgency.
Ground contacts in northern Nigeria told International Christian Concern (ICC) that BH has always operated like secret terror franchises and that guerilla tactics should be viewed as more of their normal calling card, than as evidence of victory.
“The use of IEDs and suicide bombings have always been among BH’s warfare styles. If this is still happening, then BH is still active,” one source told ICC.
“What does the President mean by ‘technically defeated?’ These styles are technology driven, aren’t they? BH had clearly demonstrated in the past that it works in cells,” the source questioned.
Buhari’s hubris stands as a tired and played-out strategy which he has employed that he once criticized when his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan tried to count victories against BH.
“”I’m very hopeful that it will not take us more than a month to recover the old territories that hitherto have been in [Boko Haram’s] hands,”
Jonathan once said
Sound familiar? Except Buhari’s claims carry a much more definitive posture.
“I assure you, we have not failed,” he said.
Yet, how can victory be declared while weekly death tolls remain in the triple digits? BH has simply returned to its roots, a franchise-based, deadly terrorist threat proving themselves no less capable of perpetrating mass murder and destruction than ever before.
“While it’s a positive development that territory has been regained, it’s by no means a sign of BH’s defeat,”
Africa crisis aid expert Ryan Cummings told
“The fact that the group can still operate within populated urban centers such as Maiduguri is in itself alarming, because it means that the Nigerian government has yet to establish local intelligence networks that one needs to counter an insurgent group that is operating in an urban environment,” he added.
In the face of such continued horror, Buhari looks more like a floundering politician than the stalwart military commander that won him popularity across Nigeria.
Christians Still Vulnerable
While Buhari makes statements, the reality on the ground remains incredibly dangerous, especially for Christians who have endured targeting and horrific trials.
“Attacks in the villages most times do not get to make the news media. The security situation [and] atmosphere in the most vulnerable areas [are] still unsafe,” local sources told ICC. “The colossal damages and destructions left on the trail of BH remains a huge concern for survivors from those areas severely affected by the attacks,” the source added.
Heading into 2016, Buhari still faces a mountain of security challenges, whether he will admit them or not. While BH continues to show itself a formidable threat to Christians and Muslims alike, the Nigerian government has done little to also address the present ethnic cleansing of Christians across the country’s “Middle Belt” region.
Since August, Nigerian contacts in Plateau State tell ICC that Christian farming villages in Barkin Ladi, Riyom, and Jos South Local Government Areas (LGAs) have suffered more than 10 devastating attacks by radical Fulani herdsmen. World Watch Monitor also reports
more than 1,100 Christians killed in Taraba State, alone, in 2014.
Time has longed passed for Nigerian politicians like Buhari to return to honesty about the continual dire crisis that the country faces because of BH, its terror cells, and the radical Fulani herdsmen devastation.
Celebrating true progress can provide important morale boosts for populations racked with suffering. However, rather than touting hollow, self-aggrandizing declarations of victory for political gain, Buhari should press further on toward the reason why Nigeria elected him: to finally and fully defeat radical Islamist terrorism.