Since the foundation of Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād commonly known as Boko Haram in 2002, the alleged execution of its leader, Mohammed Yusuf, on 30th July 2009, and the insurrection of the Boko Haram in 2010, Nigeria, especially northern part of it, has witnessed large-scale religious unrest, and waves of terrorism. The terrorist group has attacked prisons, bombed Churches, Mosques, event centres, government facilities, and other sundry structures. To date, tens of thousands of people have been killed, over 2 million people displaced, and painfully billions of naira worth of resources have been expended, not only in funding the military in waging war against the terrorists but also in rehabilitating the refugees and providing relief to them. Nevertheless, the scourge of Boko Haram seems unending, and it is sapping the country’s wealth, human resources, and military efforts.
To win the Boko Haram insurgency, improvement in the current military strategy and intelligence is essential. The Nigerian government needs to declare total war against the Boko Haram fighters. The containment approach may not achieve the desired result. The containment tactic was ineffective when the League of Nations adopted it for the Nazi government in Germany. Rather, such policy provided the Nazi government with the opportunity to boost its military and invade neighbouring countries, especially France on the 10th of May 1940. One may recall that when France and Britain declared war on Germany; for eight months, they were stuck on the borderline with less commitment to invade Germany on a large scale. It was as a result of that period of inactivity called Phoney war or Sitting war, that the elite military forces of Germany suppressed the Allied forces until they were finally humiliated out of the French beaches on 4th June 1940 in what was known as Dunkirk evacuation (Miracle of Dunkirk). If the German military could successfully push and surround the combined French, British and Belgian forces in less than twenty-four days, there is no reason the Nigerian military cannot achieve the total defeat of Boko Haram in less than six months.
If a good soldier does not know why and what he is fighting for, he is unlikely to fight with great determination to win a war. In essence, a good soldier requires conviction and motivation to achieve the desired objective. For instance, the German soldiers were extremely determined to win the 2nd World War, due partly to their obnoxious racial superiority indoctrination; and majorly to the ineffaceable humiliation they experienced in 1919, during the Treaty of Versailles, after the 1st World War. Similarly, during the Nigeria Civil War, for two and half years, the Biafran soldiers fought with willpower against the Nigerian military, owing to the deep belief that they were fighting for survival, self-determination, and liberty. Shaka the Zulu, Fidel Castro of Cuba, North Vietnamese, and others fought vigorously in campaigns against subjugation, due to the willingness to win, survive and regain dignity. Boko Haram has a senseless objective that requires a dynamic method to crush it.
To win the Biafran military during the Nigeria civil war, the Nigerian military had to invade them strongly, with the 1st infantry division from the north, 2nd infantry division from the West, and 3rd infantry division from the South. With the tactical encirclement, the Biafran nation was denied land and sea access to external contact and relied majorly on her ingenuity, inventiveness, and charity organizations. Such tactics and strategies need to be replicated in crushing Boko Haram. Limited military actions may not achieve the purpose, since the Boko Haram fighters, to achieve their purpose, use crisscross tactics, that is, dodging open confrontation with the Nigerian military and attacking swiftly soft targets for food, arms, sabotage, and kidnapping for ramson. Nigeria needs a super tactical military offensive against Boko Haram. The assault of the Nigerian military through land and air on the enclave of Boko Haram should be swift, ferocious, and aggressive, to disorganize, disorientate and deny them maneuverability and routes to escape. This is important because, during the Second Punic War, due to the poor coordination of the Roman army, Hannibal of Carthage (247-183 B.C), one of the greatest generals ever lived, managed to escape when he and his troops were trapped in a narrow valley by the Roman soldiers. Such a lost opportunity by the Roman military nearly resulted in the capture of Rome by General Hannibal.
The Encirclement Strategy will blockade the insurgents from retreating to Niger or Cameroon, where they could reorganize and launch more brutal attacks. The blockade should be strategic, to cut off the terrorists’ chain of arms supply. For example, during the American Civil War that lasted between 1861 to 1885, to defeat easily the Confederate led by General Robert Edward Lee (the Commander of the Confederate States Army), the Union blockaded “189 Confederate harbours and river mouths along 3500 miles of coastline.” Boko Haram should be squeezed to fight till the end or surrender unconditionally. The efforts of the Nigeria Air Force should be redoubled in destroying Boko Haram’s arsenal, artillery, gunship, and logistics vehicles. As the military whittles down the areas occupied by Boko Haram, retired military personnel and paramilitary should be gainfully engaged and armed to secure the areas captured, and possibly, resettle the security-conscious refugees. Sequel to that, with the government and citizens’ support, an attractive incentive will be given as an assurance to the patriotic and fearless soldiers at the war front. Nigeria needs to take a leaf from the motto of the British Special Air Service (SAS), which says: QUI AUDET ADIPISCITUR, meaning WHO DARES WINS.
You win a war when you dare with credible intelligence, thoughtful strategy, sufficient weapons, reliable commanders, and committed fighters.
It is possible to defeat Boko Haram within 6 months if the Encirclement Strategy is adopted. What it takes is for the Nigerian government to redouble its efforts, commitment, and determination. The blame game should be stopped forthwith, and the soldiers should be encouraged. If Chad could defeat Boko Haram, Nigeria should. It was widely reported that, after Boko Haram invaded Chad and killed 98 Chadian soldiers on 23rd March 2020, it took the declaration and decisiveness of President Idriss Deby of Chad, between 31st March and 9th April 2020, in Operation Colère de Boma, to defeat and push Boko Haram deeper into the Sambisa forest in Nigerian territory. The area, in the pre-colonial time, was part of the Kanem Bornu Empire, which the terrorists are conversant with.
Many accounts have shown the gains of nations fighting decisively against their enemies. At the Battle of Lepanto on 7th October 1571, Pope Pius V did not rely only on prayers and hope to win the Ottoman Empire fleet in the naval battle, he fought gallantly with his fleet of Holy League. Similarly, during the Napoleonic Wars, at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805, the British Royal Navy, led by Admiral Horatio Nelson, defeated decisively the combined French and Spanish fleets in a battle that crowned the British, the champion of the sea – naval supremacy they enjoyed for more than 100 years. More still, at the Battle of Leipzig or the Battle of Nations that lasted from 16th to 19th October 1813, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was partially defeated but not crushed. It took the Battle of Waterloo on 18th June 1815 for the indefatigable Emperor Napoleon to be defeated once and for all by the combined forces of Duke of Wellington and Field Marshal von Blücher. Likewise, until the total defeat of the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka on 17th May 2009, the separatist group had fought and terrorized the Sri Lanka government and nation. It was not until President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka took the bull by the horn that the Tamil Tiger of Tamil Eelam was finally defeated after years of indecisive battles. It is still fresh in mind how a terrorist organization (Daesh or ISIL) led by Abubakar al Baghdadi, on 29th June 2014, exploited the weakness of the Iraqi army and instability in Syria, to found an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which started from Aleppo area in Syria to Diyala region in Iraq. ISIS was defeated on 26th October 2019 after the committed Iraqi military supported by the Iranian government, and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) supported by the US military, engaged in a coordinated encirclement offensive. Added to that, the Sahel region of Africa would have been a haven for terrorism but for the combined efforts of the French, United States, and African nations’ militaries in curtailing the extremists’ activities, especially in Mali.
Boko Haram has a retrogressive objective, which has no bearing on the socio-political and economic harmony and tranquility of Nigeria. The battle against the Boko Haram has become a sore which no patriotic Nigerian should ignore. Many Nigerians have lost loved ones, selfless soldiers, and armless civilians, in the senseless war sparked by Boko Haram. Allowing Boko Haram to live and endure could encourage other fanatics to morph into stronger terrorist organizations, which could overwhelm the country, Nigeria – which is currently battling with Herdsmen/farmers clashes, bandits’ nightmare, kidnapping for ransom, cattle rustlers, IPOB’s clamour, economic recession, Shia pressure, endSARS effects, coronavirus pandemic, ethnic tension, to mention but a few. The offensive against the terrorists should be selfless, relentless, fierce, under the sun, in the rain, until victory is achieved.
Mr Chidozie Okigbo