By Tarkaa David, Abuja and Francis Okoye, Maiduguri
Emerging developments in the Boko Haram camp has shown that the military is close to winning the anti-terrorism war as the leader of the insurgents’ group, Abubakar Shekau, has cried profusely in a new audio tape for the protection of Allah against the firepower of the Nigerian Armed Forces and sought negotiation with them.
This follows the military’s renewed offensive and a series of successes against the Boko Haram terrorists on the fringes of Lake Chad.
In the tape, which was interpreted from Kanuri language yesterday by his kinsmen in Maiduguri, Borno State, who know his voice very well, Shekau sought the protection of Allah against the “devilish act” of the Nigerian military.
He admitted that they (jihadists) were facing difficulties in this Holy Month of Ramadan.
Shekau said: “If it is the devilish act and wickedness (of the Nigerian military), may Allah protect us from their evil. Oh Allah, keep us firm on your religion. We are poor things who know nothing, oh our Lord, Allah.
“We deserted Izala people to practice your true religion; we abandoned Tijjaniyya people to practice your true religion; we deserted the Shiites to practice Your true religion; we forsook our parents, uncles and aunties to practice your true religion.
“It is because of your religion that we placed knife on your servants’ necks; but today, they are trying to change us from one thing to another. Oh Lord, have mercy upon us under (the blessings) Ramadhan; Oh Lord, have mercy on us under (the blessings) of Ramadhan (crying profusely).
“Oh Allah give us victory over our enemies. Oh brothers, for Allah’s sake, obey Allah and help me with prayers. This does not mean I am angry.
“May Allah keep us firm on the Qur’an. Allah knows best. Peace and blessings be upon the Prophet of Allah and all thanks be to Allah,” Shekau sobbed.
In a reaction to the audio tape, Bulama Bukarti, a human rights lawyers and conflict analyst who has studied Boko Haram for over a decade, said that “this is the first time we heard Shekau cry in this way.”
According to him, the clip suggests that something terrible was happening to the Shekau’s faction of Boko Haram.
“The Shekau we are used to is a bombastic, ruthless gangster that ridicules, mocks and chortles at his victims. This audio is quite unusual. It suggests that the group is under immense pressure that threatens its existence. Anything that will make Shekau sob must be a serious existential threat and I think it is the Nigerian Army’s ongoing onslaught.
“The army has been releasing news and photos of their successes and Boko Haram itself has lately been releasing eulogies to dead fighters. That is what made Shekau wail in this audio. He thinks it is hard to survive this one,” Bulama said.
He, however, noted that the audio does not suggest that the Boko Haram leader was surrendering and seeking negotiation.
Bulama said: “But make no mistake that he will back down, he will not surrender. He would rather die fighting. As the audio indicates, he is as committed to his cause as ever. And history has taught us that Boko Haram is capable of weathering storms and bouncing back from serious defeats. Therefore, I suggest that the Nigerian Army should push on; it is not time to relax. It is time to do even more.”
Some residents of Maiduguri, who spoke to LEADERSHIP on the development, attributed the frustration of the Boko Haram leader to the recent onslaught against the insurgents by the Nigerian military from both air and land operations .
They said that the outcry from the dreaded Shekau was an indication that the military was serious about the fight against the terrorists.
To elder statesman, Alhaji Ahmed Ashemi, what Shekau has demonstrated in the audio clip was a cry of a defeated group which can no longer sustain themselves against the fire power of Nigerian soldiers.
”Ashemi said: ”I have not heard or seen the video but I have read about it. Honestly, I must say that the Nigerian Military is now more serious in the fight against Boko Haram than before. The fire power of the Nigerian troops is indeed rattling the terrorists who are now losing grip of their base.
”We have heard how many of the Boko Haram commanders have been killed , how the terrorists’ camps have been in disarray, and again, the terrorists source of funding is dwindling, so they are really facing a serious challenge.
”Remember that with the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the entire world, most of their funders are grappling how to survive after the pandemic is over. So now that the economy of the terrorists is strangled, in addition to the heat on them from the Nigerian Military, the only option left for them is to surrender to the authority,” the Elder statesman further said.
Ashemi added that this is the right time for the military to go into final onslaught and knockout the remnants of the insurgents and make their leader, Abubakar Shekau to either surrender or be killed.