Facts are sacred

“Comments are free, but facts are sacred”

When U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry spoke at a joint press conference with Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, he lauded President Buhari’s fight against terrorism and his successful efforts in curbing insurgency in Nigeria. He was speaking from facts.

Over the last ten months since President Buhari was sworn in as President, there has been a palpable change in stories that have emanated from the North Eastern part of our country. From daily bomb-blasts at market places, to attacks on places of worship; from Boko Haram making nervy claims to Nigerian territory and hoisting their disdainful flags to spite our sovereignty, to the kidnap of our young promising boys and girls; from military commanders wining and dining in the capital city even during the heat of war, to our indefatigable soldiers in the battlefront complaining of lack of bullets; from mothers and wives of our gallant forces protesting against poor welfare to their sons and husbands, to battalions fleeing at the sight of Boko Haram Hilux Trucks. These facts dominated the media space at some point in time. But they have changed.

A week ago, a soccer match was played in the heart of Borno State between the El Kanemi Warriors against the Shooting Stars of Ibadan. The last time the Warriors stepped out for a game on that turf was three years ago.

Over the past three years, Nigerians were scared to go to places of worship for fear of untimely bomb blasts or for fear of a random shooting from the vile Boko Haram sect. But today that fact has changed. In several communities around the North East, not only have Churches and Mosques been rebuilt, worship of the creator in His sanctuary has returned.

Indeed it became obvious at some point that Nigerians seemed to have lost empathy: the constant news headlines of attacks and bomb blasts, killings, shootings and kidnappings with figure counts in scores and hundreds left many affectionless. The question then was not about who died, but where the attack hit; the casualties were too many; keeping track was a chore; the dead became mere numbers.

But these facts are fast becoming past tense.

Only last weekend, the Army Chief, Lieutenant-General Buratai reopened the Damaturu-Biu Road that had been shut for over three years. This act has sparked a renaissance of socio-economic activities in that area.

In droves, families of the Buni Yadi Community, taking the now opened Damaturu-Biu route joyfully returned to clean up their homes and settle in. Most have begun setting back their businesses up, as economic activities have slowly returned to many other communities in the North East. The IDP Camps that once formed their temporary abodes are emptying. Hope for a return, once a figment, is now a tactile reality.

In the last six months, more than 200 top Boko Haram kingpins have been arrested; including many who matched the faces of those on the 100 Most Wanted Terrorists list released by the military.

Within a span of six weeks, over 11,000 Boko Haram abductees have been freed by the Nigerian Military as they comb and clear the labyrinthine forests and territories once occupied and held by the now degraded sect.

In Borno State, a week ago, the University of Maiduguri held a combined convocation ceremony for over 37,000 students — this grand ceremony, antithetical to the core of what Boko Haram stands for, has certainly left the now enervated sect to realize the change in facts.

Two, three years ago, not only the fear of a monumental attack on such a gathering would have disturbed the minds of the hosts, but the very likely low attendance that would have greeted the ceremony. A clear statement made by hosting the convocation can be gleaned as thus: we have been brought to our knees in the past, but we have risen, and even taller.

President Muhammadu Buhari has prosecuted the war against terrorism with a fierce determination and vigor that has birthed the a priori results we see today.

While, in truth, Boko Haram remain a threat, as also Al Qaeda, ISIS and every other doctrinal manifestation of terrorism, they have as of fact, been severely downgraded and decimated by the Nigerian Military since the coming in of this administration.

Nonetheless, we are only half way gone on this war. A lot, still has, and must be done. Only last week a Nigerian Military Commander suffered an ambush attack. The attack was successfully quelled, but it cost the life of one of our soldiers.

It signifies two things: the sect is still a menace; but, our Military is more powerful than ever to neutralize them. They can no longer launch monumental territory claiming attacks; they cannot assault and destroy municipal institutions and security outfits as they once could; they have now been relegated to the bushes of the Sambisa forest. But therein lies the onerous task our Military must achieve next: completely wiping the sect out from their caves and importantly returning life back to normalcy for the over one million internally displaced Nigerians in that region.

No doubt, Boko Haram — having lost the power to coalesce and pull formidable attack stunts — will now take to soft targets attacks, ambushes, suicide bombs, guerilla strikes and one-man warfare. The resort to using young female suicide bombers — girls captured by them as their weapons — gives credence to their new survival tactics they have employed in this next phase of battle.

The mop-up and return to normalcy for the people of the North East will be a demanding and daunting one. The radical views of this terrorist group and the socio-economic propellers that fostered their growth are still potent.

The Military must improve on its information gathering and find the terrorists in their caves even before they attack.

The Government as a whole must do all that is needful for the rehabilitation, reconstruction and reconciliation of the people of the North East — a move that has already been set in motion with evaluation and assessment reports underway. Soonest, we must see the fruition of these paperwork.

The minds of our brothers and sisters in this region have been defiled by the horrendous scenes of bloodshed and war. The trauma they now experience will be lifelong and bitter. The least we must do is to be compassionate and do all that is possible to bring them back to normalcy.

Even as the Nigerian Military soar in their feats; and the facts of history laud their efforts and victory, we must brace up for another phase of this journey: the total recovery of the people of the North East back to the status quo ante and even better.

Nevertheless, the facts as we knew them have changed. A lot of calm, life and sanity has returned to most parts of the North East. This we must applaud. And give ALL Glory to God.

Johannes Tobi Wojuola is a Lawyer​