By Johannes Wojuola
Airstrikes and bombardments. Terrorists killed. Hideouts and camps of bandits destroyed. Several bandits killed. Terrorists’ logistics supplier arrested. The most part of the past two months has given us headlines that had these phrases, as the Nigerian Armed Forces recorded massive successes in their pursuits to end terrorism and criminality, especially in northern Nigeria.
Over a week ago, reports emerged in the media that bandits were making approaches to political leaders and military personnel seeking channels to surrender. The military has knocked the living daylights out of them. They are losing their numbers and munitions daily, and seem to be hearing the language they understand.
One of the abducted Chibok girls, taken seven years ago, on the 14th of April 2014, surrendered to the Nigerian Military, alongside the man she was forced to marry while in abduction, a Boko Haram member. She and her “husband” are two out of many hundreds that have surrendered in the last few weeks.
The Nigerian Military has said that it has received over 600 surrendered Boko Haram/ ISWAP members who have laid down their arms and surrendered to the country’s troops. This is due to the sustained military onslaught that have pushed the criminals out of their hideouts, left them without food and access to logistics and choked them into surrender.
The aggressive operations of the Nigerian Armed Forces have no doubt yielded great results so far.
In mid-July this year, over a hundred bandits were reported to have been killed by Air Force strikes in the Sububu Forest in Zamfara State. This was a big blow to the capacity of the criminals. Residents of a nearby district, Magami, were said to have held celebratory rallies after those strikes. They had been victims of these criminals, and this was not just victory for the Nigerian armed forces, but for them, too. And it is just one of the many successful pulverisation of terrorists and bandits in the Northern parts of the country.
More reports from the Operations Whirl Stroke, Hadarin Daji and Hadin Kai tell stories with similar outcomes: terrorists and bandits killed in their numbers, a good number arrested too, their camps and hideouts destroyed, their logistic suppliers nabbed, hundreds abducted by them rescued, weapons, ammunitions and logistic equipment recovered.
There is also Bello Galadima, a notorious bandit that ravaged parts of the North West several months ago. He was caught in Sokoto State a week ago by a team of Nigeria Civil Defence and Security Corps operatives who had been on his trail for a while. His trade was providing information to kidnappers on potential victims. One more devil down!
Nigeria is getting safer. One village, one town, one local government area at a time. Slow and steady, that is becoming the reality. People are returning to their businesses and farms—even with their eyes behind their heads. Concomitantly, the number of attacks and kidnapping sprees have reduced.
The primary responsibility of any government is to secure its people and ensure stability. The economy, the oxygen for the survival of any entity cannot boom where security is under threat. Any government that takes the welfare of its people seriously must make the business of security a topmost priority.
No government in the country’s history has spent so much to fund security and purchase weapons and equipment for the Nigerian Armed Forces as the Buhari government has—with accountability and transparency to boot. Most of the military purchases have been government to government transactions, easing away hawkish and dishonest middlemen from the bargain.
In mid-July, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo launched the Navy’s Falcon Eye. Some weeks ago, six of the country’s 12 Super Tucano fighter aircrafts arrived in Nigeria. They would be launched in style when President Buhari returns from his medical break. Six other Tucanos are expected in the near future, as well as 12 Cobra Fighter Helicopters and other military equipment.
With these victories and positive reports from the exploits of our armed forces, more must be done to ensure that territories secured do not fall back into the hands of criminal elements ever again. This business is beyond the tactic of boots on ground.
The kills and wins by the security agencies are triumphs, yet alert us to a worrying cancer: proliferation of weapons and booming criminality. The government must investigate what fecundates this cancer. From seeds of neglect sown, to the quality and even absence of education, to the issues of unemployment, these and more need to be analysed by our country’s security experts to trace and tackle the roots of the security crisis the country is facing.
Young, agile and auspicious lads do not take on banditry as if it were a buoyant white collar industry, or as if the long walks we are told victims have had to take are gainful aerobic energy walks—no, they are none of these. These young men become ready tools for recruiters when they are not meaningfully engaged and lack a vision of the kind of future they want for themselves—a product and outcome of quality education, which they mostly lack.
These are just a few of the root causes of the criminality we are seeing today. And they need to be tackled with the same kind of vigour and aggression that men of our armed forces have deployed to annihilate criminals and destroy their camps and hideouts.
The language these criminals understand is one where they are dealt with, with the force of military power and might. Unfortunately, they understand this language because they do not know better. If they had learnt “languages” in humanities, literature, finance, sciences or even the future of languages, in coding, the language of criminals would not be what they understand. Ultimately, the next battle is to change the kind of language that our young, agile, and auspicious lads understand.
Johannes Wojuola Esq is a member of the APC Presidential Campaign Council (2015 and 2019)