According to a report published here in The News Nigeria, a local news service, Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima has said that elements of the insurgency control two local government areas in his state, in their entirety, while controlling part of a third. The local government areas fully under insurgent control in Borno State, are Abbadam and Mobar, while Marte is under their partial control.
The announcement which the Governor made while he was receiving the Secretary To The Government Of The Federation, Babbachir David Lawal explains recent reports in Premium Times Nigeria of the Nigerian Army destroying over 20 well-fortified camps of the insurgency.
That insurgents control any territory in Nigeria(I wonder if the over 20 camps were not Nigerian territories) was denied strenuously by the Chief Of Army Staff, Lt.Gen Tukur Buratai, who stopped just shy of accusing Gov Shettima of treasonous lying.
No Boko Haram is holding any territory in Nigeria at the momment, I have not heard any Boko Haram member or leader making such claim, they are no more in control…
However, the reality on the ground is that all is not as well as the Nigerian Army/Government, would have us believe. In September the Nigerian Army stated that it had destroyed “all known Boko Haram camps” and that “the terrorists have been so weakened that they can never hold any part of the territory in that part of the country”.
“As I am speaking to you, all the terrorists’ camps have completely been wiped out. So, right now they are completely in disarray, having no command and control of where to plan. We have even taken over the camps that most of them have even abandoned their bases and blended within towns and communities,”
Defence Spokesman Col. Rabe Abubakar at his maiden news conference in September.
Contrast this with the Army’s announcement that it had destroyed over 20 well-fortified camps, which even if they occupied just half an acre of land (which would not be so well fortified obviously) would still be occupying ten acres of Nigerian territory, just yesterday. Either the camps were not known (mind you they are 20 camps, not one, not 2o, but 20 camps in a region that is not mangrove-forested) which would call into question the Nigerian Air Force’s aerial reconnaissance capabilities, or the Army knew about them but without destroying them rushed to declare all Boko Haram camps destroyed.
Whichever the case, it can be argued successfully, that when it comes to events in the North East and Borno State in particular, Governor Kashim Shettima is a way more reliable source of accurate information than the Nigerian Army or the Federal Government, as he has always been anyway.
Nothing he said should surprise anybody who has seriously been studying this insurgency. Statements of bravado and push-up PR exercises aside, it was obvious that what has been occurring on the ground in this war, has not been a strategic defeat for the insurgents, rather, it has been a metamorphosing of the kind of war that is being fought, and a change in tactics plus a bit of adjustment in the overall strategy. While for the Nigerian Government, it has been another exercise in hubris/ignorance fuelled self-deceit. While the overarching strategic aim is to eliminate the insurgency, the Nigerian Government has so far persisted in the same mistakes the Jonathan administration adopted that cannot in anyway ensure the achievement of this noble aim.
Frankly, if the Nigerian Government and President Buhari really wishes to defeat this insurgency, it MUST stop the fire-brigade gain PR victories at any cost, and go back to the drawing boards so to speak, where they can consult with experts on counterinsurgency, people who have been in this insurgency and are now out, people who understand the religious,political and psychological reasons behind this insurgency, experts in psychological and information warfare etc, and then pull all this expertise together in a workable plan, that can be used to actually degrade the insurgency on all fronts be it religious, psychological, financial, military etc. It will not be an easy task, nor is it likely four years will be enough to totally eliminate the insurgency, but it is worth being done. The alternative is that this madness keeps getting a disoriented kids-gloves treatment, and keeps learning and growing and becoming better, until it gets to the point where it actually becomes a real threat to the continued existence of Nigeria as a viable entity.