One could not help but cringe at the implied glee with which some in the social media – and indeed some corporate media – the failed attempts by notorious terror group, Boko Haram to again occupy some villages. In reference to a Monday attack on some villages around Chibok, these persons were quick to report as if the days of terrorists boldly riding convoy through attacked villages were once again upon us.
The celebratory tone with which these Nigerians announced the Boko Haram attack on Kubirivour, Boftari and Kuburmbalah villages in Borno state was rivalled only by their enthused commentaries on the surfacing of a video some hours earlier in which someone claiming to be the group’s demented leader Abubakar Shekau was making a show of his proof of life.
In a heart-warming reminder that not all of us have lost our humanity and sense of patriotism after all, some people were able to put the video apart and surmised on the strength of the inconsistencies and circumstantial evidence around the clip that the character making half hearted threats in it was Abubakar Shekau V (the fifth). God willing, he has sealed his fate in the manner of Shekau I, Shekau II, Shekau III and Shekau IV, whom the Nigerian Army reported was fatally wounded in an air raid by the Nigerian Air Force.
Whosoever inherits or acts as a pretender to the abominable Shekau title is destined to go in a hail of bullets or blown to shreds and it has become a title as toxic as that of Abu Qaqa, the spokesperson’s alias that is no longer in use since death or capture became a certainty for its holder.
Fresh recruits that sign up to being fighters for Boko Haram – allegedly comprising nationals of Niger, Chad and other stateless fighters – should expect no better outcome than what the Shekaus and their other fighters got, death or capture. The days when they forcefully occupied the compound of village district heads and attached black flags with inscriptions atop such compounds will never come again and anyone who gleefully announced that this has happened would do well to cross check the reality on ground before misleading others.
Those who harbour such veiled joy at the prospect of villages falling to Boko Haram fighters should worry. They should worry about what might have happened to their thought pattern, emotion and psyche. No one should wish the hoisting of Boko Haram flag on his enemy even when that enemy is a neighbouring village that annexed ancestral land belonging to that the person village. When it took place some two years ago we are all witnesses to the horror and carnage that unfolded in such places.
So anyone, in personal capacity or in official capacity as an employee, who writes about Boko Haram attacks in celebratory that ascribes the exploits of capturing territory to the terrorists should begin to ask questions about how much their perception has been tempered by the contemporary reality of steadily consuming graphic contents.
The internet is replete with such toxic contents. They are put there by the terrorists and their corporate backers for specific purpose. The contents include terrorists’ videos and photographs depicting beheadings, burning, crucifixion and other barbaric forms of execution. These are propaganda material that the terrorists put out not just to awe populations with the brutality and depravity they are capable of but to also sustain the slow but effective campaign of desensitising people to the true scale of their atrocities.
We must therefore make conscious efforts not to become the conduit for promoting Boko Haram’s propaganda, or any terrorist propaganda for that matter, by helping to blow their attacks out of proportion. When people ascribe incidents that did not take place to the terrorists that is the trap they are precisely falling into. They become the mouthpiece to a terror group that has since discovered that sadistic, poorly informed or embittered social commentators deliver its propaganda better than its now moribund spokesperson, Abu Qaqa. The group now simply attempt an attack and waits for it to be embellished, distorted and blown out of proportion by persons who do not understand that they are furthering the interest of terrorists when they report, post social media updates or make commentaries without understanding the intricacies of reporting terrorism.
Does this mean that Boko Haram’s activities have completely ceased? No. The attacks on the villages is proof that the remnants of the terrorists would rather be killed in battle than to step forward, surrender for rehabilitation or to take responsibility for their crime against humanity. The swift response of troops of the Nigerian Army also showed the futility of the terrorists continuing to attempt a come back. The killing of innocent civilians in the attack is a reminder of the ugly brutality that terrorism is and the need to defeat it decisively.
The degradation of the terror group’s capacity was a lot of hard work that was possible with military determination driven by capable leadership but even that did not began to yield results until there was a reversal in treating Boko Haram as a parallel state that has territories. Again, we have come to another phase where the collective will to manage the perception of terrorism must be one. Our duty now is not to report or hype Boko Haram back into existence; it is a dying group that must not be resuscitated or placed on life support, which is what it will get if continue to give it credits for acts it did not commit.
Kolawole PhD is a University lecturer and contributed this piece from keffi