YNaija Says: The military needs to apologize to Nigerians for the dishonesty about Shekau

For the past eight years, the name Abubakar Shekau has struck fear into the hearts of Nigerians, especially those who have seen and experienced the destruction and bloodletting that Boko Haram, the terrorist group he leads has wrought on tens of thousands of people.

Ever since he assumed leadership of the organization after the killing of its founder, Mohammed Yusuf, he has become a highly-sought after target by security forces in Nigeria. As a matter of fact, his emergence as the leader of Boko Haram was a surprise to security forces who thought he had been killed in the clashes between the organization and security forces that brought them to limelight in 2009.

Since then, Shekau has been said to have been killed at least at four more times. Each time, Nigerians celebrated the elimination of a man that has brought so much pain and sorrow to them. Each time, Shekau re-emerged to mock the military and the nation and to prove that he was very much around. And each time, the military explained that away as the work of body doubles and impostors because Boko Haram needed to keep up the impression that its leader was still alive for propaganda purposes.

This was until yesterday when the Nigerian military admitted that Shekau was very much alive, and still yet blamed their inability to kill the real Shekau to the existence of “many faces of Shekau.”

This admission of truth by the Nigerian military, though belated, ought to be followed by an apology to Nigerians for stringing them along for years with lies about the existence of their public enemy number one.

It is not acceptable that the military continued to feed the public with untruths about Shekau despite the fact that he constantly churned out videos, spreading his violent ideology and leading the organization that has not given up its campaign of bombings and killings.

Even more, it also shows the paucity of intelligence that the Nigerian military and other security agencies is using to fight Boko Haram in a bid to render it harmless. In an editorial two months ago, this newspaper lamented the inability of the military to eliminate the leadership of the terrorist organization which will weaken it in the same manner the United States’ relentless targeting of the leadership of al-Qaeda has weakened it.

Instead, Boko Haram’s casualties have been overwhelmingly its foot soldiers, which are expendable while those that offer it strategic and ideological guidance are still quite intact. As long as its leadership is not eliminated, Boko Haram will continue to be a potent force and a threat to peace in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region.

Finally, there is yet to be any evidence that the group’s sources of funding have been identified and blocked. This is particularly important considering the fact that it no longer makes as much money as before from criminal activity such as kidnapping. Without its funding cut off, Boko Haram will continue to have a lifeline.

The military and other security agencies need to improve their intelligence-gathering in order to make their work against Boko Haram more effective. It is not enough to trumpet their successes in recovering territory that used to be held by the terrorists. They have to ensure that Boko Haram ceases to exist and to be a threat to Nigerians and to achieve this, they need to eliminate their leadership and funding sources.

Most importantly, the military should make a commitment to always be honest with Nigerians. Engaging in propaganda of claiming that Shekau has been killed only to be proven wrong does not do them any good as it makes them lose the trust of Nigerians.

An apology regarding this would be a good place to start.

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