War on ter­ror: The im­pli­ca­tions of un­der­re­port­ing

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

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.

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