Mallam Kasim Baba Al-Kasim is the North-East Regional Rapporteur of a civil advocacy group, Concerned Professionals’ Congress (CPC). In this interview with Juliana Agbo, he alleges that fifth columnists, including some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating in the North-East benefit from activities of Boko Haram and frustrating the counter-terrorism operations of the Nigerian military.
How do you see the North-East region right now, are we where we ought to be?
It is obvious that we are not yet where we should be. But we thank God that today we are definitely out of where we used to be. Don’t forget that before President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office, much of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States were under insurgency but today, normal life has returned to the North East region, thanks to our gallant troops of Operation Lafiya Dole. The efforts of the Nigerian military have restored our hope of peace, security and stability. We owe them a debt of gratitude for paying the supreme price. The President dwelt on this in his recent Independence Day broadcast. He promised to address the critical needs of troops in the various military operations across the country. He said that there had been a steady improvement of security in the North East. This goes to show that the fight against terrorism since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in 2015 has been outstanding and phenomenal. His diligent selection of the present crop of highly professional and patriotic service chiefs led by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin and the service chiefs is amazing. You will agree with me that the CDS-led team, employing synergy, intelligence and information sharing, has left none in doubt about their resolve to secure and stabilize the nation. We must stand with them. We could have since lost the entire North East to Boko Haram if the present political leadership under President Muhammadu Buhari did not emerge. There has been a steady decimation of Boko Haram terrorists. They no longer have the capacity to directly confront our troops and hold territories. What you see today as suicide attacks on soft targets in markets, mosques, motor parks, public buildings, etc, are the last kicks of a dying monster. Today, they are degraded, decimated and fleeing in different directions.
But why is this war on terror getting intractable, is there no end in sight?
Let’s start by considering the situation before May 2015 in Borno State alone where 27 LGAs were under Boko Haram. Morale among the troops was very low. Today our military has turned the tide. The key performance indicators are there for all to see. Our military has reclaimed every ground in the three states of the theatre of war. Boko Haram has been effectively contained and dislodged. Over 30.000 men, women and the aged have been freed from Boko Haram while over 10,000 territories were liberated. Over 10,000 battle-tired Boko Haram members who surrendered have undergone rehabilitation and de-radicalization under the Operation Safe Corridor initiated by the CDS. There is no resurgence of insurgency anywhere. The recent isolated attacks in Gudumbali and Damasak were immediately repelled by our troops. This is vintage Boko Haram propaganda laden with a false narrative to spread fear and panic. We must realise that what had always been playing out is a battle of narratives like what happens in every battle against terrorism. The side with the superior narrative takes the day, not necessarily due to who wins at the battle front. Many Nigerians seem not to know that Boko Haram’s narrative dictates what they want us to believe. They divide us along ethnic, regional, religious even political lines whenever it suits them. Another issue is that everybody sees the fight as a fight for the military alone. That is why the media usually brings Boko Haram to the status of the State in the way the sect’s activities are reported thereby making them look larger than life. We must know that publicity is oxygen to terrorism. The reports on Gudumbali and Damasak had gone viral even after our troops had successfully repelled the terrorists and taken the locations within seconds. Obviously, there are collaborators and fifth columnists involved. There was no way anybody would know the details of the attacks if not privy. Reporters may actually be working for Boko Haram knowingly and unknowingly especially where they glamorize Boko Haram’s activities in their reportage. These are some of the reasons that appear to make the war on terror protracted and intractable. The Nigerian people must know that this is not a fight for the Nigerian military alone. The current low involvement of the people shows that they don’t realise that the entire nation is in a state of war. We must not allow the terrorists divide us. We must stand in solidarity with our military and security forces. This is the only way to go. We are still standing today as a nation because our service men are paying the supreme price to keep Nigeria safe, secure and stable.
Are you saying that insurgency no longer poses challenge to security in the North East?
Yes, insurgency no longer poses such challenge because our military and the other security forces have broken the back of Boko Haram. The decimation of the dreaded Boko Haram sect is no longer a myth but a reality, courtesy of the Armed Forces of Nigeria under the excellent leadership of the current CDS, General Olonisakin and his patriotic team. We owe a special debt of gratitude to President Buhari who carefully selected this team to actualize his resolve to bring the terrorists to their knees with the fall of Sambisa Forest on December 22, 2016. But for them, we would have since lost the North East where Boko Haram no longer has the capacity to re-group and launch organised attacks except the isolated suicide attacks on soft targets. To that extent, the defeat is a promise kept. Rescued captives are now returning to their liberated communities. Thanks to all our service men. I must emphasize that we must rally round our defence forces to eliminate the remnant of the terrorists. We must act together because a nation, acting together, wins a war. We must not allow certain interest groups like the Amnesty International to divide us. Amnesty International has always been too soft in condemning the criminal activities of Boko Haram. In a way, they embolden Boko Haram and undermine our national security. This is unacceptable to us. The several NGOs being sustained by international donors are also complicating matters in this fight. They make false and unsubstantiated claims of human rights abuse to demoralize and frustrate our troops from making headway. They don’t want the war to end so they don’t condemn Boko Haram attacks. Go to Maiduguri today, the NGOs have booked all the hotels and guests houses for 10 years or more. Ironically, they enjoy the peace created by the same military they vilify. They want Nigeria to continue this fight for 10 more years. If you don’t make proper hotel arrangements before going to Maiduguri, you will be stranded because the NGOs have taken over the hotels. That is the tragedy of the situation.
So where do we go from here?
What is important now is for all Nigerians to give maximum support to the armed forces and other security and law enforcement agencies to keep the country safe, secure and stable. We all have critical roles to play. As citizens, we have complementary roles to play in the security chain. We have to be more vigilant in our various neighbourhoods. We must volunteer useful and credible and timely information to security agencies about strange movements around us. Nigeria is blessed with a military with the spirit and soul to defend the country. There has been insufficient civilian support to our military. It is sad that some Nigerians don’t even bother when military personnel are gruesomely killed in action. Take for example the sad event of September 7, 2018 in Plateau State where three soldiers attached to Operation Safe Haven died during the renewed tension in the fragile State. Sometime in March this year, eleven young soldiers who had just completed their training and deployed to Kaduna State as Special Forces to combat the banditry around the Birnin Gwari axis were ambushed and brutally murdered. We had expected many Nigerians especially the political class to condemn these ugly incidents. This is a sad and frightening dimension to the whole subject of the patriotic efforts by the military to foster security, stability, peace and unity across the entire country. Our heart-felt condolences go to the families of the fallen heroes. However, we have absolute confidence in the capacity, understanding and resilience of the Gen. Olonisakin-led Armed Forces to do the needful especially as the nation enters another election cycle ahead of 2019.
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