War on terror: The implications of underreporting
Though, ordinarily and for obvious tactical and strategic reasons, not every development on the battlefield is publicly disseminated, and despite the relative improvement of the credibility of the reports emanating from the Nigerian military about the developments on the war fronts against Boko Haram terrorists, the absence of regular presence of reporters from independent media outlets in the closest proximity possible to the war fronts has rendered the war grossly underreported.
This explains the unmistakable inconsistency between the extent of the victories that the military claims to be achieving and the persistent recurrence of deadly bomb attacks in public places, raids and other terror activities by the terrorists. It also means that the military still, albeit to a lesser extent compared to what obtained until recently, deliberately exaggerates its victories and underreports many important developments that are usually disseminated in warfare. It could be recalled that, towards the end of former President Jonathan’s presidency, the military had claimed to have launched an intensified military campaign purportedly to subdue and rout the terrorists.
However, though the dramatic decline of the rate and intensity of their terror attacks proved the effectiveness of the military campaign, their equally dramatic ability to bounce back and resume their deadly terror attacks from the very day President Buhari was inaugurated, which they have also been able to sustain ever since then, exposed how the military exaggerated their victories and the extent of setbacks suffered by the Boko Haram terrorists.
Also, the military repeatedly gave the impression that all Nigerian territories under Boko Haram occupation had been liberated. However, after the launch of the ongoing military campaign against the terrorists following President Buhari’s assumption of the presidency, it turned out that there were still vast territories under their occupation, which the military are yet again claiming to be liberating. By the way, admittedly, like many Nigerians, I innocently fell for such accounts of exaggerated victories, which gave the impression that the military had liberated all Nigerians territories from the terrorists, and that the terrorists were on the run.
In fact, I even got carried away and wrote some columns emphasizing the need to sustain the momentum until they were completely eradicated, and to also focus on measures to track down their survivors scattered across the region and beyond. Anyway, though the ongoing military campaign against the terrorists has been largely successful, claims that they no longer occupy any part of Nigerian territories, and that they are no longer capable of carrying out organized attacks, as the military authorities claim or insinuate, remain mere assertions, to say the least. After all, recently the terrorists were shown in a widely circulated video clip in their hundreds including their children flocking to their Eid prayer ground where they performed Eid Al-Adha prayer, as they were also shown listening to the Eid Khutba, exchanging Eid congratulations afterwards, slaughtering a sacrificial cow, dismissing claims that they were on the run and defiantly vowing to carry on their terror attacks.
Also, though many of them were visibly armed, they were apparently at ease and never looked like those anticipating any imminent attack. Besides, the persistent recurrence of their attacks, which still bear the hallmarks of carefully masterminded and well organized terror attacks, refute claims that they have been rendered too disorganized to perpetuate organized attacks anymore.
In any case, from the perspective of the politics of conflicts of this nature, the failure or reluctance of the Nigerian military authorities to adequately engage reputable local, regional and international media outlets in covering its war against Boko Haram has greatly affected Nigerian government’s ability to appropriately interest the international community in the war, which consequently explains its failure to drum up appropriate international commitment to assist the country militarily especially in intelligence gathering skills, advance counterterrorism tactics and supply of sophisticated military equipment.
It equally explains Nigeria’s failure to draw adequate international attention to the plight of particularly the worst affected victims of the insurgency in the north east and elsewhere, hence its failure to engage the international community in the provision of adequate humanitarian assistance to them and those displaced across the northern part of the country and in some neighbouring countries.
Moreover, even though if the military sustains the momentum of its ongoing campaign against the insurgents, it will be able to dislodge them from their strongholds and hideouts, the growing sophistication of their desperate terror attack tactics underscores the urgent need to use equally sophisticated intelligencebased counterterrorism tactics and equipment, which Nigerian military, clearly and unfortunately, lacks.
It’s therefore hoped that adequate and efficient media coverage of the war against Boko Haram, which, by the way, is fortunately enough not entangled in the quagmire of international politics, will be very instrumental in interesting the international community and major international humanitarian aid organizations in the war with a view to adequately engaging them in the process of ending it and mobilizing the maximum amount of support for post-war reconstruction of the infrastructure and rehabilitation of the victims of the insurgency.