Boko Haram hasn't been entirely defeated, but nothing gladdens the heart like sacking the bastards from Sambisa Forest
I spent the better part of 2016 harassing the life out of Army Spokesperson, Colonel Kukasheka Sani Usman.
I'd call the Colonel at odd hours for a clarification on some of his statements or a story making the rounds.
I'd call Usman to demand answers to all kinds of questions. I got under his skin.
"Sir, is it true that....?"
On those rare occasions when he wouldn't pick up, I'll send a text message, half expecting a reply.
But Colonel Usman always replies. "It's not true...", he'll text back.
You could almost sense the irritation in his words.
"Was there a mutiny among the fighting forces?....did soldiers drown in a River in an attempt to escape Boko Haram fighters...are soldiers getting shortchanged? Are they begging for water and food?"
On one occasion, Usman even said he would put me on a plane to the war ravaged North East to see things for myself.
He was that tired of me.
Don't blame me, Colonel. As a journalist, I was trained not to take things at face value. I was hired to be nosy, to interrogate everything--even those that appear factual on paper.
I have chosen a profession hinged on ample doses of skepticism.
It is a miracle that Usman didn't have me shot in 2016. Sorry, that was only a joke. But I'm sure you catch my drift. I heckled the life out of the army spokesperson.
And I'm not even sorry.
When it comes to reporting the war against Boko Haram, the journalist sometimes doesn't know who or what to believe.
But when my cellphone rang on Christmas Day, I knew better than to doubt the information being passed across.
The call was from a soldier right there on the frontlines. "Sambisa has fallen...Sambisa has fallen!!!"
It was a voice from a place called ecstasy and relief...and excitement.
I was still torn between dialling Col Usman's number or not when President Muhammadu Buhari sent out the following message.
"I was told by the Chief of Army Staff that the (Sambisa) Camp fell at about 1:35pm on Friday, December 22, and that the terrorists are on the run, and no longer have a place to hide. I urge you to maintain the tempo by pursuing them and bringing them to justice".
Hours later, I wrote a piece asking that we treat the news of the recapture of Sambisa Forest by our troops with cautious optimism because we've been here before.
But forgive me if I'm wrong, dear readers. There's something about this latest news concerning the exploit of our troops that warms the heart.
I have seen pictures of our Soldiers tearing Boko Haram flag apart. I have seen videos like this one below:
And I have seen pictures like this:
For once, the hashtag #SupportOurTroops should mean something.
Make no mistake, we haven't won the war against Boko Haram. Not yet.
There'll be the sporadic bombs here and there. There'll be the occasional soft target attacks here and there. There'll be the odd suicide bombings in marketplaces. Boko Haram won't go away simply because we've chased them out of their homes. This is an unconventional, asymmetric warfare. Wars like this don't end at the snap of a finger.
Boko Haram is likely to regroup someplace else.
But getting back that vast swathe of land called Sambisa and turning same into a training camp for the Army is some wonderful Christmas present amid all the doom and gloom of the last couple of months.
It suddenly looks like we can be proud of our army again; after years of watching them flee from Boko Haram fighters because they were poorly equipped and left demoralised.
Nothing says you can't celebrate 'small' victories while looking forward to bigger ones.
Or we can choose to leave that Champagne on ice until such a time when we hear of bombs and Boko Haram invasions no more. That's perfectly okay, especially if you are like me.
But meanwhile, can you pick my calls, Colonel Usman? Believe me this last time...I come in peace.
Sambisa has fallen, dammit!!!