Mixed feelings have greeted the official announcement by the Nigerian military that troops deployed in the central communities in North-east Borno State have killed the man posing as Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram in the sect’s recent videos.
Director of Defence Information DHQ, Maj. General Chris Olukolade had last Wednesday in a press statement announced that troops in Konduga, about 35 kilometres from Maiduguri, the state capital, engaged Boko Haram men four times in the insurgents’ attempts to overrun the remote town located in the central part of the state. “Several of the terrorists including some of their commanders lost their lives in the encounters which lasted an average of about five hours each. In the course of those encounters, one Mohammed Bashir who has been acting or posing in videos as the deceased Abubakar Shekau, the eccentric character known as leader of the group, died,” the statement said.
Residents of Borno and Yobe said though the disclosure was a cheering news to them as it suggested a leap in the counter-insurgency operation of the nation’s military but maintained reprieve was far from them. Having lived with the bloodletting for five years, the people said they could tell when it was time to celebrate. “It is not yet Uhuru,” a retired military officer told Sunday Sun.
“We may be jubilating now that the Boko Haram crisis is going but from their antecedents, they may prove to be deadlier in the next phase of their terror campaigns except our military and all Nigerians unite to fight this battle to the end,” the officer who did not want his name in print said. He said, “Terrorists draw inspirations from their leaders who are usually eccentric. They are equally good in raising another leader among their commanders as quickly as possible when there is a vacuum without the foot soldiers knowing,” he stated, urging the military troops to sustain the tempo.
“The Boko Haram men do not have the kind of training our soldiers and officers received. It is not even possible. I have also noted many of their fighters can’t even wear reflective jackets, maybe because it is heavy on them. The initial setback we had was lack of zeal by troops and authority, but it appears everybody is getting serious now. We have excellent troops in this country and nothing should stop them from rooting Boko Haram out of their cave within months,” he said.
The ex-military officer, however, warned against politicizing Boko Haram issue, adding that bringing politics into counter-terrorism operation could affect the morale of soldiers fighting in the bush. “All these accusations and counter-accusations from politicians about Boko Haram can derail our troops from doing their job. They could say, for instance, that they brought me here to come and fight Boko Haram when they are the ones giving them money to kill people and stuffs like that,” he stressed.
Rev. Father Gideon Osagie of the Directorate of Social Communication of the Catholic Church, Maiduguri Diocese, in an interview with Sunday Sun said he was not excited about the death of Shekau or his impostor, saying he sensed danger ahead. The Catholic cleric who narrowly escaped the recent insurgents’ attack at Mubi, Adamawa State, said the Boko Haram men might be planning more terror acts somewhere.
“I’m not a pessimist but I can say from past activities of Boko Haram, that there is yet no light in the dark tunnel. I suspect there may even be more Shekaus among the Boko Haram commanders. This silence from them is making me uncomfortable. I expect them to react but they wouldn’t as they did last year when JTF said Shekau was dead. A month later, they came and denied it and then followed it with worse attacks to prove their point,” he disclosed.
He said Nigerians may be jubilating the purported death of Shekau but insisted the war against terror was beyond the individual. He urged the military to go for Boko Haram rather than wait for them to attack. “Nigerians want more proactive approach to their counter-terrorism operations. They shouldn’t wait for the terrorists to strike because it is not over until it is over,” he declared.
Fr Osagie suggested it was time the military knew the might of Boko Haram by appraising its recent activities. “Taking them for granted having killed their leader could be dangerous,” he warned even as he urged people to intensify their prayers to end the insurgency. “The insurgents are still in Gwoza, Bama, Gulak, Mubi, Bazza, Gamboru Ngala and other places where they have carved out supposed Islamic territory for themselves even within the Nigerian nation,” he said.
He said the Maiduguri Diocese of the Catholic Church, which covers Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, had suffered greatly as thousands of its members had been killed and displaced. He appealed to the media to focus more on the sufferings of the people affected by Boko Haram to tell the world the true situation in the North-east.
Traditional leader of the Yoruba community in Borno (Mai Yorubawa), Alhaji Yusuf Hassan Alao in his reaction advised the military to be careful about Boko Haram members who surrendered to them. “They have to be careful with them because these people (Boko Haram) can spring surprises. One is not trying to magnify their capacity but from their past activities, it is possible they are planning another evil after the killing of their leader. We may expect more attacks from them now because they are wounded,” he warned. He said the military troops had recorded progress in their counter-insurgency operation in the past only for the situation to deteriorate few months later. He appealed to the Federal Government to investigate the alleged sponsors of the sect and also beam its searchlight on sources of arms used by the sect. He canvassed the use of dialogue to end the crisis but warned people to be cautious. “This is a difficult stage and people have to
be vigilant and security continuous. We shouldn’t relax because the end hasn’t come,” he emphasized.
But Mohammed Hassan, a resident and teacher in Maiduguri wondered why Cameroonian authority claimed its troops killed the man now identified by Nigerian military as Bashir Mohammed, believably Shekau’s impostor. Photos of the Boko Haram slain leader, Bashir, a.k.a Abubakar Shekau were made public by the Cameroonian Army with a statement claiming the man was killed during a shootout in the Nigerian border town of Gamboru, local media reported. However, Hassan faulted the Cameroonian Army’s claim, saying the photograph displayed by the neighbouring African country had been in circulation for a week in Borno.
“It beats my imagination that Cameroon made such claim. Do the Cameroonian soldiers know Abubakar Shekau or Bashir Mohammed more than Borno people? The photograph they released to the media in Cameroon has been in circulation here in Maiduguri for about a week. People in Konduga who witnessed the military confrontation with Boko Haram men sent the video and photograph to friends and relatives in Maiduguri and it went viral. They even said Bashir was killed in the fourth battle, which he led after three failed attempts to seize Konduga.”
Hassan said he believed the “insurgency is gradually going to its end with recent military efforts and killing of many Boko Haram commanders.”
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