Abubakar Shekau Army's ultimatum to capture Boko Haram leader an unnecessary distraction

The army's pursuit of the terrorist leader has brought it a lot of embarrassment in the past.

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Boko Haram's shadowy leader, Abubakar Shekau play

Boko Haram's shadowy leader, Abubakar Shekau

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On Wednesday, August 30, 2017, the army's 40-day ultimatum to capture Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, expired.

Crucially, the army had organised a press briefing on Boko Haram operations for Wednesday, and in a room full of reporters, Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Major-General Ibrahim Attahiru, updated the nation on their encounters with the dangerous terrorist group.

Major General Ibrahim Attahiru play

Major General Ibrahim Attahiru

(Nigerian Tribune)

 

More crucially, there was no sight of a Shekau in chains or any cheerful claims of his death during the briefing.

When asked by a reporter in the room about the army's failure to stick to its own timetable, the Commander replied, "The 40-day ultimatum given to the theatre is concomitant task to the overall objectives for which the theatre stands to achieve. The theatre is here to deal a decisive blow to Boko Haram.

"That being the case, capturing Shekau is an enhancer to that objective. 40 days was a guideline.

"It does not mean that because 40 days is about to elapse and Shekau has not been captured, we'll renew other 40 days, and we'll go after him and get him."

There's not a lot of people that are surprised by the army's failure to capture Shekau or their defiance in the face of that failure.

When the 40-day directive was issued by Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai, on July 21, a lot of people saw it for the diversionary tactic that it was; the same one that the army has employed several times in its long bloody war against the terrorist sect and its deranged leader.

Boko Haram elusive leader Shekau says 'still around' play

A screengrab from a video released by the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram shows its leader, Abubakar Shekau, preaching to locals in an unidentified town 

(Boko Haram/AFP/File)

 

In the hunt for Shekau, the army has had a lot of missteps that they've had to double down on to save face in public or suffer the humiliation in silence. The army's history of killing Shekau with word of mouth and press releases is a well-documented travesty.

ALSO READ: Abubakar Shekau is the proverbial cat with 9 lives

At the height of that embarrassment, the army claimed in 2016 that it had destroyed every Shekau that has existed as leader of the sect.

Former Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Major-General Lucky Irabor said, "I can confirm to you that the original Shekau was killed, the second Shekau was killed, and the man presenting himself as Shekau, I can also confirm to you that a few days ago, he was wounded. We are yet to confirm whether he is dead or not.

"They released videos to prove that they are still active, but that’s just a facade"

Despite that statement being 12 months ago, Boko Haram appears to still be active, with over 50 successful attacks under their murderous belts this year alone.

No well-meaning Nigerian should take delight in the army's failure to gain complete control of the Boko Haram problem in the north east.

To their credit, the group is less dominant in the country now than it was a year ago, and the highest point of that was the sacking of their largest base in Sambisa Forest in December 2016.

Despite the government's apparent exaggeration of what that victory represents in the war against the terrorist group, the army has come a long, hard way in curbing their menace.

However, it does not help itself with grandstanding and public chest-thumping that almost always results in the embarrassment of its genuine efforts to move the country completely past these perilous times.

ALSO READ: A timeline of Boko Haram's attacks in 2017

As disconcerting as Maj-Gen Attahiru's words of renewal of the order to capture Shekau is, there is something many people should agree with him on, and that is that capturing Shekau is not the biggest objective of the war.

A poster displayed in Maiduguri, Nigeria, shows the photograph of Abubakar Shekau, leader of the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, declared wanted by the Nigerian military with a reward for information that could lead to his capture - May 2013 play

A poster displayed in Maiduguri, Nigeria, shows the photograph of Abubakar Shekau, leader of the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, declared wanted by the Nigerian military with a reward for information that could lead to his capture - May 2013

(BBC)

 

No one should be under the illusion that capturing Shekau or killing him is going to be an automatic death blow to Boko Haram.

As recent events have shown, the terrorist group has at least three known factions now, with Abu Musab al-Barnawi and Mamman Nur leading the other factions.

It is important to note that Al-Barnawi's faction, not Shekau's, is responsible for this year's deadliest attack; an ambush of an oil exploration team in the Magumeri area of Borno that led to the death of 69 people and the capture of three civilians who are still being held for ransom a month later.

Mamman Nur's faction is largely unknown yet, but who knows what he might become with the power vacuum Shekau's potential capture or death would cause?

While his capture or death would be an important morale-boosting public victory in the country's fight against terrorism, it probably won't amount to much in dealing that decisive blow Maj-Gen Attahiru is intent on delivering on Boko Haram.

This is why the army should do away with the public obsession with capturing or killing Shekau as he's only a prominent head of a deadly hydra that'll just grow another.

Nigerian soldiers on patrol in Banki, Borno State, to guard against infiltration or attack by Boko Haram insurgents play

Nigerian soldiers on patrol in Banki, Borno State, to guard against infiltration or attack by Boko Haram insurgents

(AFP)

 

During the 40-day ultimatum that just elapsed,  Director of Defence Information, Major-General John Enenche, resorted to the army's long-held belief about Shekau.

He said, "There are many Shekaus, there are various Shekaus, which is my strong belief.

"A Shekau is still alive, people keep posing as Shekaus, but who knows the real Shekau? Only the indigenes and the people that are there, and people like carrying big names, that is why we keep knocking out any Shekau that comes up."

Will the real Shekau please stand up?

We need to close this chapter in the country's history for good and move on to the real work.

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