Interesting Article From A Sage

Note: I do not necessarily share the views of Prof Emman Shehu and neither did I seek his permission before republishing his article here (for security reasons) but I wholeheartedly agree with the basic premises of this magnificent work.

Fulan Nasrullah

Maj. Retd


By Emman Usman Shehu
September started with an ominous bang for this
country. Boko Haram insurgents over ran a town
called Bama, in Borno State. As usual, the
administration is trying to put a brave face on this
alarming development, forgetting that this is the
Information Technology Age, with diverse news
sources available to the citizenry.
There has been a spate of denials about the loss of
Bama. The official line is that insurgents suffered
heavy casualties and the assault was successfully
countered by the military. Yet the fact that in the
wake of the attack a curfew was suddenly imposed
on Maiduguri, gives a strong indication that
something is gravely amiss. Even the contradictory
explanations are enough indication that the
situation in Bama is not the way it is being
presented to the public.
To highlight the gravity of what is unfolding, it is
important to state that Bama is approximately 40
kilometres away from Maiduguri, the Borno State
capital. Once known as the “Home of Peace”, it
had a population of over one million before the
recent influx of persons displaced from surrounding
areas by the insurgents.
In the same way that Boko Haram evolved from a
bunch of religious zealots into a rag-tag guerilla
group, and eventually a deadly force of insurgents,
so has its overall strategy metamorphosed at an
alarming rate. Currently it appears to be at that
phase where controlling territory has become
paramount on its agenda. Hitherto the group
seemed content with violent raids on villages, and
attacks against the military in classic guerrilla
style. The emphasis at this point seems to be one
of occupation with Damboa, Gwoza and other
towns in Borno being taken over. The same tactical
acquisition is playing out in Yobe and Adamawa
Should Bama be fully under the control of Boko
Haram, it would mean that the only major towns in
Borno left under government control are Biu,
Kukawa and Maiduguri. One glance at a map of
Nigeria would vividly reveal what is happening to
the country’s territorial integrity within the North
It does appear that the one thing government has
done consistently since the emergence of Boko
Haram’s terror campaign, is to grossly
underestimate the insurgency and the major
objective of the insurgents. Boko Haram has never
hidden its desire to establish its own brand of
Shari’a in the country. No doubt it sounds like
some hallucination that a bunch of zealots cum
rag-tag insurgents would think it is possible to
take over a country the size of Nigeria.
But the people behind Boko Haram are not mere
wishful thinkers. Over and over again they have
demonstrated that they are intelligent, skillful and
operating from a carefully plotted template. The
image they publicly project of being illiterate serves
as an effective façade for underestimation. Behind
that deceptive mask though, the story is totally
The state they seek to create is a throwback to the
pre-colonial period when a different regime of
territorial configurations existed, especially in that
region. It is no coincidence that Boko Haram has
its tentacles in Cameroon, Niger and Chad. A bit of
history should be exquisitely handy at this point.
There was once a Kanem-Borno Empire covering
territory in today’s Chad and Nigeria, and extending
into parts of modern Southern Libya, Eastern Niger
and Northern Cameroon. As a polity, its dominance
lasted between the 11th and 18th centuries. While
theories of its origin are diverse, its interplay with
Islam is more specific especially during the reign of
Idris Aloma.
Borno’s decline, and the emergence of the Sokoto
Caliphate, made it a marginalised state. The
exclusion soon led to the adoption of the “more
violent Mahdism as it spread westward from
Sudanic Africa. A strand of Islam that encouraged
militancy and opposition to authority, this ‘menace’
school of thought preached that the Mahdi
(‘saviour’) would reappear in times of difficulty.
Muslims would be rid of oppression, the unfaithful
killed and Islam would triumph over evil, with
equity, peace and riches for all to ensure.” The
message has continued to reverberate with
sections of the populace from that time, through
Colonial rule and to the present dispensation.
It is a historical context that strongly influenced
those behind Boko Haram. The creation of a new
constituency that evokes a seeming Gold Age is a
major driving force. It is no mistake that the
established key players in the conglomeration
called Boko Haram (The Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnah
Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihaad of Abubakar Shekau,
Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnah Ahlis-Sunnah Lid-Da’wati
Wal-Jihaad of Sheikh Bukar Al-Barnawi, Ansorul-
Muslimiina Fii Bilaadis-Sudan led by Abu Usamah
Al-Ansori, and Haraktul-Muhajiriina wal-Mujahidiin
led by Khalid Al-Barnawi) are a representation of
the parts of the ancient Kanem-Borno Empire. The
recruitment of fighters has focused on the same
areas namely Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria.
Chad’s long history of instability has ensured that
there is a ready pool of experienced battle-
hardened conscripts. The underdevelopment in
Niger, parts of Nigeria and Cameroon, also offer
fertile recruitment grounds. The recruitment drive in
both Niger and Cameroon is only coming to light
because of the increased cross-border attacks.
Boko Haram’s sophistication became evident on
March 14, this year when it attacked the Giwa
Military Barracks in Maiduguri. It had given an
indication of its new capabilities in an earlier attack
on the Maiduguri-based Composite Group Air Force
base on December, 2013.
Bewildered, like most Nigerians by the audacity of
both attacks and posting the visuals on the
internet, Abiodun Ladepo took the pains to analyse
both video recordings. He raised questions which
he demanded President Jonathan should address to
his National Security Team. He observed thus: “The
Giwa Barracks attack is the single most humiliating
incident for the previously dreaded Nigerian Army. I
will forever be befuddled by the fact that for 24
whole minutes, the terrorists did not receive in-
coming, defensive fire from the army. In this video
( ), you
will not see the terrorists scampering for cover to
avoid incoming grenades or heavy machine gun
fire. It is as if they are attacking a compound
occupied by enfeebled Octogenarians. It is a
monumental embarrassment for our army.”
The embarrassment has continued with
orchestrated denials, including the “tactical
manouevre” justification of the Ngala-Gambarou
incident which security analyst Bridget Johnson
described as a historical first for Nigeria.
Despite the official position about Bama, an
independent source has described in graphic
military language how the insurgents used artillery
and armoured vehicles (including a BTR and
several Otokar APCs and ARVs) to launch a dawn
attack, eventually forcing over 300 soldiers to break
through insurgent lines and retreat to Maiduguri.
Most of the equipment are Nigerian Army supplies
which the insurgents had taken from armouries
that had been over run in previous attacks.
Whether Bama has fallen or not, there is an
imminent danger which can no longer be masked
with spin. What the insurgents have done in the
past few months is a tactical encirclement of
Maiduguri. An exercise that has included sacking
communities to stock up supplies, blowing up
bridges and even disrupting electricity supply to
Maiduguri. Steadily a noose of siege is being
created around the city.
There is a method to the seeming madness of the
insurgents. The fall of Maiduguri will not only
witness a horrendous carnage, but will mark the
beginning of something ominous for the country.
One Intelligence source even claims that the
insurgents’ code-name for the current phase of
their attack is Al-Bidayah or The Beginning.
What is playing out is eerily reminiscent of how
ISIS gained territory and found a platform to
expand its horrendous quest. Learning from the
setback of Al-Shabaab and the gains of ISIS, Boko
Haram may succeed in sucking Nigeria into a
“Forever War”, with the insurgents having the
capabilities, including looting and kidnapping, to
survive for a long time as the Lord’s Resistance
Army (LRA) is doing in Uganda.
Even if Bama keeps changing hands, Gwoza
provides an ideal spot for gaining foothold in
Cameroon, Chad and Niger. It is no coincidence
that Shekau made that chilling declaration some
weeks ago in Gwoza, which has provided a suitable
training complex for the insurgents. Something
needs to done, drastically and urgently, before
Maiduguri falls.

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One thought on “Interesting Article From A Sage

  1. Fola

    I hope those guys in Aso Villa and DHQ have their a sense of history. Because if Maiduguri falls or is perhaps attacked; hit and run style, then their credibility will worth not more than a grain of sand! Excellent article though!


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