He hardly grants media chats because of the sensitive nature of his office. When he speaks, it is with bluntness and sincerity, delivered with deliberate measurement. He knows that he can be misquoted out of mischief or ignorance.
Sambo Dasuki, the National Security Adviser during the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, had in February 2015 strongly recommended the postponement of the Nigerian general elections for six weeks to enable the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to address the challenges of untrained ad-hoc election staff and the scanty distribution of voter’s cards. He also insisted that the military could address the insecurity in the North-East by clearing most terrorist infested communities within that period.
Within the recommended six weeks, the voter’s card distribution rate had increased astronomically from less than 50 percent nationally to over 75 percent, while the Nigerian military recovered more than 20 communities from terrorists in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states. The elections, afterward, were adjudged as free, fair and peaceful.
Similarly on April 14, 2015, Sambo Dasuki accurately predicted what the Nigerian military would accomplish before the handover on May 29, 2015. Coincidentally, on the first year anniversary of the abduction of the Chibok school girls, Dasuki gave an assurance that the Sambisa Forest would be stormed by Nigerian troops, while the Federal Government was making every effort to ensure that abducted Nigerians would be rescued from captivity from that enclave before the handing-over day. Speaking to PRNigeria, a media agency that distributes press releases on behalf of security agencies, he insisted that the government was concerned about the welfare of every single Nigerian, not only the Chibok girls, as other innocent Nigerian girls, boys, men and women had been abducted by the terrorists, and all efforts were being made by security agencies to rescue them.
Today, the Sambisa Forest, the last fortress of the terrorists has been invaded by the military who have so far rescued over 300 captives and destroyed camps and armaments of the terrorists.
However, there are those insisting that without the recovery of the Chibok girls, the military campaign should not be lauded. The Chibok incident was not the first abduction and not the last by the Boko Haram terrorists. Before the advent of the Bringbackourgirls movement for the rescue of the Chibok girls, boys were burnt to death and slaughtered in various terrorist attacks on boarding schools. Others were abducted for conscription. Young captives who were reluctant to join them in their dastardly acts of terrorism were summarily executed.
It is noteworthy that the BringBackOurGirls campaign has drawn global awareness to the murderous exploits of the terrorists after abducting the school girls in the Chibok town of Northern Nigeria. The campaign exploded across social media, with a strong sense of outrage catching the attention of politicians, celebrities and social media fans across the world.
While we clamour for the return of the Chibok girls, we must bemoan the fact that a lot of innocent lives of others citizens have been lost, including military and security personnel from different parts of the country. The loss of security personnel in active service have made many families to loss their fathers, brothers, sons, husbands, and even newly wedded grooms who were, in some instance, mercilessly massacred while fighting to protect our nation and people. We hardly heard any campaign on the need to Bring-Back-our-boys or Bring-Back-the-Corpses of bread winners for decent reburials.
It is unfortunate that we got to that sorry state because some communities had been tolerating the excesses of the terrorists by silently paying ransoms after every abduction, without reporting to security agencies, in the past. In fact some local leaders openly campaigned against the deployment of troops to curb the atrocities until the situation got out of hand.
The military has also been careful in its combat offensive, in view of the fact that some abducted women were used as human shields, girls as suicide bombers and boys as child soldiers by Boko Haram. It is indeed a delicate situation when troops trained in conventional warfare are suddenly confronted with asymmetrical warfare. Therefore, in such operations, the troops are bound to abide by rules of engagement, including tactical withdrawals to avoid collateral damage to civilians.
It is also rather unfortunate that some foreign powers have denied Nigeria the supply of sophisticated equipment over flimsy excuses of human right abuses. Even those who claimed to have deployed specialised experts for the search and rescue of the Chibok girls not only abandoned Nigeria and the victims to their fate, but never rescued a single abducted girl. Still, they claim the successes of our military offensive were only boosted by foreign mercenaries, even after the emergence of pictures and videos of the dexterity, sophistication and courage of Nigerian troops in their fight against terror, and the rescuing and freeing of abducted people, especially women and children.
It is a pride to Nigeria that even without the ‘Coalition Airstrike’ of powerful countries, similar to that being witnessed in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, the Nigerian military has effectively destroyed most of the terrorists training camps, while rescuing thousands of abducted victims from captivity.
The BringBackOurGirls movement, which has been instrumental to the mobilisation of citizens and the media through organised rallies against the abduction of the Chibok girls, should go further in highlighting the plight of other abducted citizens, internally displaced persons and the ruined communities that require rehabilitation. It is gratifying to note the assurance of our new President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired military general, that “we cannot claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls and all other innocent persons held hostage by insurgents.”
Every life is precious; not only that of Chibok girls but also other girls, boys, women and security personnel who are victims of terrorism.
Yushau A. Shuaib writes from Abuja.
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