Boko Haram: Ometu imi, O metu onu! By Ike Muo




Before people start asking  ‘is Ik also among the prophets’ (1 Sam,10:11) I wish to allay their fears and apologise for speaking in tongues today; it is as the Spirit directs. I know a pastor who directs his flock to speak in tongue now!(rather than waiting for the guidance of the Spirit), but that is by the way. Since we have been told that speaking in tongues is useless unless there is an interpreter (I Cor, 14:28), and because of the scarcity of genuine interpreters, I wish also to do the interpretation. O metu imi ometu onu simply means, whatever touches the nose also touches the mouth. It is an evidence of the unity of humanity that this Igbo saying has equivalents in various climes, when people intone: an injury to one is an injury to all (the aluta creed); what affects one affects all; do not ask for whom the bell tolls.. (Ernest Hemmingway 1940). We taught that the Boko-Haram (BH) onslaught was a Maiduguri affair, just as we thought that the herdsmen murderous rage and expansionist intrigue was a Plateau affair, as we also thought that kidnapping was a Niger Delta affair just as we are thinking that the travails of El-Zakzaky is solely of concern for Shiites or that the Kanu-IPOB affair, including various strange armoured dances, is an okoro affair. In all this, as we have learnt to our own peril, we were and are mistaking because ometu imi, ometu onu!

The stories from the Northern front in the past two weeks are really SAD, and made more saddening by where we were coming from and official utterances. Last week, the Senate suspended plenary in honour of scores of soldiers felled by rampaging BH operatives who attacked 157 Task Force battalion at Metele, in the Borno axis of Nigeria, and who as usual, seized arms and ammunition from the Nigerian troops. One key issue about the attack has been the size of the casualty, as if even one death is not bad enough. Femi Adesina who still declared that BH has been technically defeated told us that he had no idea of the number, even when he speaks for the C-in-C; and that governments do not usually release list of casualties (a stand that has been authoritatively punctured).  The military authorities said that the reports on the causalities were false, but did not give any number. Well, the fact that the number has varied from 44 to 70 to 110 and to ‘almost 200’, is a proof of the fact , known to even elementary communication scholars, that bad news is better than no news because when there is no news, people manufacture some news to fill the void. In this case, the police have beaten the army to it because they will give you a figure even though the figure always has a question mark! A disputed figure is better than no figure.  (The army eventually gave the figure as 23 and how can I query that figure? My mouth is too holy to ask any questions, though I would have done so if it were the police!) But irrespective of the figures, I commiserate with those who are mourning at this time. I also commiserate with the army and our nation. I commiserate with them because what affects Metele or  Maiduguri or the North East affects all of us. We have friends and relatives there; we have business interests there and of course, the dead are our compatriots and we share a common humanity. Beyond the fact that the carnage has long gone beyond Maiduguri, a survey of the price of fish and other Borno sourced items will show that truly that what affects one affects all.  I am done with the condolences

There are other interesting aspects of this development, especially arising from epistle by Ogbeni Femi Adesina. In the first instance, he reiterated that BH has been technically defeated. Secondly he declared that the incident has nothing to do with APC because since elections were over, what we have is a government, not a party. Another interesting aspect of this development is that the surviving soldiers accused their superiors of giving them grossly inadequate and obsolete weapons (https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/11/metele-attack-surviving-soldiers-send-sos-to-buhari/). There is also a report that the slain commander of the attacked taskforce had once refused to go for an operation because of non-availability of serviceable hardware, until he was threatened with court-martial. It will be recalled that some soldiers recently engaged in a public protest and the army authorities had threatened to court-martial them.( But people had wondered why the Jonathan Government should court-martial poorly equipped soldiers! ) These three issues are intertwined. One of the reasons why the APC-Government has been holding to Dasuki, and for which they have been pillorying GEJ and of course, the PDP, is that  they (PDP et al)allegedly chopped blood money;  squandering defense funds while sending defenseless or poorly equipped soldiers to die in the battlefield. Now, four years down the line and after humongous sums have been expanded, including $1 billion, some of which was spent without NASS approval, the issue of obsolete weapons has reared its ugly head again. I wonder if this were still procured by Dasuki or Ihejirika and approved by Johathan. And now, because  he is on the hot seat, Adesina knows that what we have is a government and not a party. But he and his cohorts have been calling PDP, even when it rains, for that past four years.

The technical defeat of BH is an issue that I am unable to understand; it is tool complex for my simple grain! The term crept into the Nigerian politico-military lexicon when PMB adopted it in explaining  his governments successes in the war against BH, about three years ago. Since then, the term has changed to decimated, largely defeated or terribly degraded. The argument is that the BH has been technically or largely defeated, or decimated and as the antics of a drowning force (just like a hen whose head has been chopped of does), they have been attacking soft targets, like markets, places of worship and IDP camps. I am facing the same dilemma that made Ayo Fayose to ask the Federal Government on 11/9/18, (before he went underground), to tell Nigerians the truth about this technically defeated BH that was still overrunning military bases and killing our soldiers. It is the same dilemma that had earlier made Eben Barlow to write on ‘the rise, fall and rise of BH( Harvard International Review, February 1, 2017).How can BH be  terribly degraded and or decimated when in the recent past they have successfully  overran military bases,( Manok  Zari, Rann, Kagana and Cross-Kauw-just before PMBs visit) and invaded and took over towns( Kofa, Damasak, Gudumbali), hoisted flags( Adamawa), administering territories and imposing taxes( Yobe)! They even have the temerity to give advance notices of their intention to attack (Punch, 28/11/18), just like armed robbers previously did in Lagos!

The truth of the matter is that Nigeria is at war with forces that we have probably underrated.  Report has it that another group has just emerged! The truth of the matter is that the war was a serious affair and that it is still a serious affair. The truth of the matter is that the present government deliberately created the wrong impressions about the BH inferno, so as to score cheap political points and achieve some feel-good affects.  And the final truth of the matter is that we should admit the sad reality that BH is still on ground, return to the drawing board and take a serious look at the issue of poor quality and quantity of weapons.

I once more commiserate with those affected and afflicted, call on all Nigerians, even those on the farthest southern part of the country, to  spare some concerns for those on the war-front, because ometu imi, ometu onu. I also wish to remind of us that in this BH affair as well as other matters only the truth will set us free.

Muo,PhD is of the Department of Business Administration, OOU, Ago-Iwoye and is reached at [email protected][email protected], 08033026625

 




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