Nigeria has experienced the largest surge in terrorist activities within the Northeastern region in the past decade. Initially posing as a movement to uproot corruption and injustice in the country which it blamed on ‘non-Islamic education’ and western influences, Boko Haram have displaced more than two million people, killed and injured tens of thousands and have also abducted and conscripted many more to join their ugly fight. Since 2011, they have conducted attacks on religious and political groups, local police, civilians and even military bases, threatening Nigeria’s territorial integrity and triggering a humanitarian crisis.
The Nigerian armed forces under President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration have gone head-to-head in intense combat with this belligerent jihadist sect Boko Haram. Due to the suppression of their powers and annihilation of its leaders by the military, the group has split into two factions, with the larger camp pledging allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in 2015, and was later renamed the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP).
The kidnapping of over 200 high school girls from their Chibok hostel in 2014 drew international attention to the threat that Boko Haram could be. The government at that time was unable to contain the notoriety the terrorist group had gained. When President Buhari contested and won the 2015 general elections, he vowed to crush the ‘godless’ sect and bring back peace and stability to the region and Nigeria at large. So far, over a hundred of those girls have been freed since his coming into office.
Today, the Nigerian Armed Forces with assistance from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger has pushed Boko Haram out of several provinces in northeastern Nigeria, weakening their warfare and ability to invade and capture more territories. Although the group still launches suicide attacks from time to time, and hits on soft targets, what was once known as the largest islamist militant group on the continent is now almost non-existent and stripped of its arms, resources and potency.
This is thanks to the incredible collaboration, improved welfare, newly acquired weapons and equipment of the Nigerian Armed Forces. It is no rumour that the new and reformed military campaign that the President launched at the beginning of his administration has been much stronger and better coordinated than ever under the leadership of this cohort of service chiefs.
While a cluster of public opinion and critics have been biased, and have not quite done justice to the reportage of efforts and intelligence put into the fight against insurgency over the years, it is still inevitable to talk about the downfall of Boko Haram and the drastic decline in insurgencies across the country and its neighbouring borders without giving our armed forces the flowers they deserve for the roles they have played in the war fronts.
They have made huge and incredible headways beating back Boko Haram and other terror factions with crackdown operations that have ousted them out of Maiduguri and other parts that have been long captured, without even sparing their forest hide-outs.
The military has employed several measures and has invested more in training, weapons, technological advancements and intelligence that have helped them execute successful airstrikes and regain territories. It has also supported the reintegration of former fighters, civilian militia, and those associated with insurgent groups and local-level social cohesion through programs designed to help individuals find their way back into civilian life, thereby reducing the likelihood of a return to violence or criminality and preventing the emergence of future conflicts. The endemic corruption that was once prevalent within our security forces has also been dealt with bringing back hope to our soldiers as well as boosting their morale like never before.
Boko Haram insurgents have been pushed to retreat into very remote forest areas as of now, forcing them to revert to earlier tactics such as relying on guerilla-style attacks and suicide bombings. The number of fatalities associated with the group has greatly declined, the number of attacks have been fluctuating and patterns of violence have remained largely inconsistent in the last five years. Adding to Boko Haram problems is that it has been split mostly due the killings of their top leaders and reclaim of weaponry under their jurisdiction, leaving the fighters powerless, helpless and in confusion.
So far, it is our armed forces’ single-minded determination to defeat the terrorists that has ensured that the safety of Nigerians is intact. However the truth is that terrorists, because of their methods, are not easily defeated. The military have proven their strength to be relentless and unwavering, with a sole mission to end Boko Haram and restore peace and stability to the regions that have been left in the dark since this insurgency began. Their determination isn’t the only thing that should be lauded; the expansion of tools and intelligence beyond securing quick victories to servicing and re-energizing Nigeria’s nation-building process is also commendable. There is no denying that they have given hope to millions of Nigerians who have been victims of the unrest or may have been shaken by the fear of attacks. We can only send them the best of wishes and keep them in our prayers as they wage on the war to make Nigeria stable again.
Akinloye James is the President of the Initiative to Save Democracy.