The biggest piece of good news that Nigerians have been blessed to receive in near recent times has been the apparent murder of feared Boko Haram spokesman, Abu Qaqa. It seems almost incredulous, and perhaps impossible to comprehend that the monster who brazenly terrorised the country and declared war on any media agency that mis-represented his organization in news reports has finally been felled, by none other than the military Joint Task Force (JTF). Is this really the beginning of the end of Boko Haram? Do they have something else planned? Was Abu Qaqa as much the intellectual force behind Boko Haram as he was a tough-talking mouthpiece or was he a mere spokesperson? Nigerians appear to embrace this good news with bated breath and due caution, and rightly so.
It is not often that Nigerians have a lot to celebrate coming from their peacekeeping teams, either the police, military or paramilitary fixtures, and not since the much-publicised Joint Task Force (JTF) has made so much of the killings of a handful of psychotic terrorists. Nigerians will particularly remember the charade late last year when the ever-elusive Abu Qaqa was reported to have been arrested and then later escaped from detention, and after he was reported to have been killed in the past, only to have resurfaced in particularly flamboyant fashion. This time, Nigerians would hope that he has been silenced for real and that with him goes the core strength of the gang of brutes whose larger-than-life image and persona have proven too feisty for 160 million people to accommodate.
Goodluck Jonathan is no Barack Obama, and while comparisons would surely be drawn between the assassinations of Osama bin Laden and Abu Qaqa, the truth remains that the murder of Abu Qaqa and the attendant capture of two other Boko Haram supremos had not so much to do with military strategy as it had to do with luck and good fortune. While attempting to not deny the JTF due credit for a job well done, and long awaited, the realities of the circumstances that led to the gunfight aren’t absolutely exciting. Preliminary reports indicate that a combined team of military troops intercepted a vehicle transporting the militants, a woman and three kids travelling from Maiduguri to Kano at a checkpoint where a gunfight ensued in the militants’ attempt to flee. Possibly, the intelligence department of the JTF had received a generous tip that was genuine, possibly the military men on duty at 6:00am were really sensitive and alert to their duties, and possibly this was just a chance occurrence that puts the Nigerian military back in the good books of Nigerians, but whatever the circumstances, this is a good day for all Nigerians.
The question that Nigerians would grapple with over the next couple of days is “what is left of Boko Haram, now that Abu Qaqa has been killed?” The murder of Osama bin Laden did not spell the end of Al Qaeda, and even after the killings of several top commanders of the global terrorist agency, no one doubts that there are still very strong lieutenants left in the Middle East and northern Africa. In recent times, strong links have been drawn between Al Qaeda and Boko Haram, and contemporary knowledge about these devilish forces reveals that the lines of command often extend far beyond the outspoken representatives who are delegated with publicity and instilling fear in people. While bin Laden remains by miles the most widely-recognized and most dreaded export ever to have come out of Al Qaeda or any terrorist organization in the world, he was said to lack the military intelligence and expertise that commanders like Anwar Al-Awlaki and Ayman Al-Zawahiri had. Nigerians would wonder if Boko Haram has such repositories of military aptitude and anti-human sentiments left in the chain of command, while hoping that Abu Qaqa was the all-in-all.
In the highly unlikely event that Boko Haram faces definite extinction with the fortunate demise of Abu Qaqa and his team, what can Nigerians expect in the near future? Peace in the north and much-awaited calm in the south? A boastful Press Release from President Goodluck Jonathan or Reuben Abati about the success of the President’s military strategy and ‘Transformation Agenda’? A resurrection of the Niger-Delta militancy, now that their northern rivals have been extinguished? A dearth of excuses for the Goodluck Jonathan team, which fingers Boko Haram as the sole reason for the slow pace of progress in the arrival of results of the much-awaited ‘Transformation Agenda’? Whatever the outcome of the next couple of days in Nigeria, we can all be sure that we wouldn’t be hearing from Abu Qaqa any time soon, and that’s enough reason to celebrate.
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