By Philip Agbese
Iranian owned Press TV, in reporting a terror attack in the north-east of Nigeria, referred to the terrorists as “Daesh militants”, which could be the most appropriate attribution of the killer fanatics we still call Boko Haram or Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP). The description of the terrorists as “Daesh” is apt for several reasons.
First, Press TV – which already reports favouring the Islamic Movement in Nigeria against the Nigerian state, even with its biases, is a Middle East organization, so it should have some valid information about Daesh activities, being of Middle East origin having been born in Iran’s neighbouring Iraq and Syria. The second issue of note is the choice of the name “Daesh”, meant to sound derogatory as opposed to the romanticised Islamic State or ISIS that western media prefers to go with. The aim of this appears to be a deliberate effort to make the terrorists sound unsavoury instead of the glorification they are getting from the west.
The third and more profound consequence of the use of the name is the confirmation that what government forces are dealing with in the northeast, more like the entire north of the country is no longer the Boko Haram that some authorities had attributed to a deep-seated poverty and a failure of past governments to provide quality education. If Daesh, which belongs to Iraq and Syria are attacking in Nigeria, questions should be asked about which other deadly terrorist groups have moved to the fringe of Nigeria’s borders with Niger, Chad and Cameroon to carry out incursions into the country.
The wave of attacks against Nigeria’s interest is no longer Boko Haram’s quest to have the country governed by the strict application of Sharia it is now more of Daesh’s sick seven-point plan for world domination through a “total confrontation” and a “battle between faith and unbelief” as reported in the online version of the UK Express in December 21, 2016. The map that accompanied Daesh’s dream of World domination has Nigeria split between an imaginary caliphate labelled as Maghreb and The Land of Habasha.
That was before a motely coalition bombarded Daesh out of its last stronghold in Syria. But that bombardment with the onslaught on the terrorists is one that the world should question. It should be questioned how firepower enough to level entire cities was deployed and there was no ISIS casualties or corpses to show for the expensive killing machines deployed to the region. Apparently, what the western coalition (unlike the Russian targeted liquidation) did was to enter some sort of agreement with ISIS to allow its fighters to flee before their strongholds were reduced to rubbles. This leads to the question of where the terrorists fled to in the bombardment’s aftermath since there is no record that they are being hunted down by the coalition following a lack of dead bodies under the rubbles, especially considering they did not turn up in neighbouring Iraq and Afghanistan, at least not in appreciable numbers.
The terrorists have also not been reported in Libya. Western countries do not have the assets on ground to verify this in Libya anyway since they scarcely have any interest in the country anymore. If Daesh/ISIS is all about the destruction of human civilization and replacing same with their dream Islamic empire, then there is not much left to destroy in that country– their Western collaborators made sure of that in the course of killing Qadhafi. Niger, which lies between Libya and Nigeria is left without much to destroy so Nigeria is the obvious target.
The Daesh militants arrived into the cosy embrace of the remnant of Boko Haram terrorists that had fled into Niger, Chad and Cameroon following crushing defeats in the hands of the Nigerian military. Although earlier crushed by the army, the Boko Haram stragglers are a veritable danger. They have local and indigenous intelligence to trade with the arriving horde in exchange for being absorbed into the new terror group that is emerging. They also have experience from their previous encounters with the Nigerian military, which they share with their new partners unless they are overlords. On their part, the Daesh militants come with the International notoriety that automatically places them above the local scums they meet on the ground – this works well for them since they assume training and command positions that entail, they do not have to immediately start going into battle.
The merger of these groups is made more deadly by the quality of training that the Daesh militants can deliver to those they meet on ground and coupled with the knowledge of the terrain the outcome is proving difficult to manage. The skills that the escaped Daesh fighters possess comes in part from the United States, United Kingdom and countries of the European Union that had trained so-called rebels to confront the Syrian Army in their bid to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. The rebels acquired the skills that their western partners had to offer before defecting to ISIS. With such quality of skills and weapons handed out to rebels by the Obama regime (as President of the United States) what the Nigerian military is expected to deal with in the northeast is no longer the run of the mill terrorism but the combined army of several nations.
Unfortunately, instead of properly investigating the series of western blunders that produced this unfolding global disaster, the international media network has not been of help. They continue to legitimize the carnage being committed against humanity for reasons that have no connection with journalistic objectivity. The news networks have constituted themselves into the propaganda arm of the terrorists. They report in manners that project Daesh as having the upper hand in addition to the charade of deceiving the world to keep thinking that the terrorists in the Lake Chad basin are still the ragtag Boko Haram with a sprinkling of ISWAP. By obscuring the true identity of the terrorists that Nigeria is grappling with they are buying time for Daesh to gain momentum. By romanticising the group, they are making it attractive to other extremists to join its ranks. Why the media network has collectively, with a few exceptions like Press TV, adopted this approach is baffling.
It should interest world leaders that Nigeria cannot be the final objective of Daesh. The western countries should not be deluded into thinking they have succeeded by flushing the terrorists into Nigeria’s vicinity, away from the doorsteps of Europe, which experienced a deluge of migrants from the activities of ISIS and the Arab spring that was of their own making. Through that migrant crisis, Daesh sent out several of its members that have now infiltrated European countries and are setting up sleeper cells that will one day overwhelm those countries at short notice. Considering that most of the terrorists simply melded into the indigenous population in the Middle East they can reactivate at short notice and shatter whatever sense of defeat the western coalition think they have inflicted on the terrorists, whose allies still control some of the local districts politically anyway. The steady return to relevance of the Taliban in Afghanistan is proof that what has been achieved in the Middle East is cosmetic by all standards.
This is why is important to ensure that Daesh’s fusion or replacement with Boko Haram is not allowed to happen. Even though they have commenced the process, the world has the window to abort it through decisive intervention now that it still makes sense. Similar to the way Daesh is benefitting from the local resources it met on ground in the form of straggling Boko Haram fighters, the international coalition that chased Daesh to the fringe of Nigeria should leverage in the experience of the Nigerian Army and partner in ways that ensure that the terrorists are sent into the desert to meet their deserved fate.
Nigeria must consider new measures in view of the menace that has intensified from the changes in the dynamics in its northeast. Beyond the attacks on markets and other places that confirm their moral depravity, these terrorists are doing damage to the fauna: threatening human beings, plants and animal life in the Lake Chad Basin on scale that may cause an environmental disaster with global impact. The world is already losing vital resources since Daesh left the Middle East to team up with Boko Haram in the region.
The efforts of the Nigerian Army have paid off in the past by defeating Boko Haram. The efforts are still paying off because Daesh fighters never anticipated that they would not have overrun Nigeria by this time. The decisive stance of the Nigerian military in defending Nigeria’s territorial integrity keeps paying off. But while commending the Army for keeping Boko Haram at bay, it must be said that more has to be done. The Nigerian Army, with or without the support of those that created this problem in the first place, must ensure that Daesh/ISIS does not gain a foothold in the Lake Chad Basin.
It is glaring that this is a challenging task, which is why the Army must make a presentation to the Federal Government of Nigeria on how to seal the borders of Nigeria with its three neighbours that have proven not to have grasp of the terrorists’ problem. Membership of a regional organization like the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, is a known impediment to border control but it has come to the point where Nigeria has to practically weigh its ability to combat the existential threat of Daesh at the gates against the politically correct perception of being seen to be compliant with the terms of an outdated economic union.
Once the decision to shut the country borders in the affected areas has been reached, services like the Nigerian Immigration Service and the Nigerian Customs Service should be prevailed on to contribute their armed units to man every single inch of the nation’s borders in the northeast to prevent the illegal inflow of aliens and weapons. The police should mobilize to towns and villages in appreciable numbers that will ensure that any terrorist that beats the patrol at the borders will not meet defenceless towns and villages. The Army has done a great deal in combating terrorism and it is about time that the other organizations with roles in the country are brought in to address the infiltration of Daesh.
Agbese is a UK based human rights laws researcher.
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