History often repeats itself in Nigeria (think sick presidents). This may have everything to do with history not being taught in schools across the country, however, I digress. A new set of Chibok girls were released on 6 May 2017. While the country celebrates this achievement, it has also generated many questions with no one willing to give the right answers.
THE STORY DOESN’T ADD UP
It is understandable that the negotiation was a covert operation which needed to be kept under wraps. However, now that everything is in the open and the Chibok girls have been released, the government should come out with the truth. They can start by being honest about the timelines.
According to the Nigerian government: There was a strike carried out against Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau on the 27th April, which according to the military left him injured. Following the strike, Shekau released a video on 4th May, disclaiming his involvement in any strike. Then on the 6th May, Boko Haram was still “kind enough” to release 80 Chibok girls in exchange for their imprisoned commanders.
This version simply does not make any sense. From a female’s perspective… how did that many girls, get sized up, dressed up, and cleaned up in less than 24 hours before their photo op? From an intelligence analyst point of view, why would Boko Haram choose to release the Chibok girls after a military strike which killed a number of their top commanders and even injured their leader Shekau?
Photo: A subsection of the 80 Chibok Girls recently released by Boko Haram. Source: IBTimes UK
A MORE LIKELY SCENARIO OF CHIBOK GIRLS RELEASE
A more likely narrative is that the Chibok girls had been released prior to the strike on Shekau (which will mean they were released towards the end of April). The military was hoping to get the girls rescued first. Then they would release the Boko Haram prisoners (and possibly some money as it has been speculated).
While the girls are getting cleaned up, and sized up for their big reveal, the military would carry out a strike on Shekau, his top commanders, the newly released prisoners and other Boko Haram members in the vicinity.
If all went according to plan, the government would parade the Chibok girls while announcing the death of Shekau and his top commanders. This the government believed, would surely give the president a much-needed poll boost and a credible distraction to mask his departure for another indefinite Medical leave.
Unfortunately for the Nigerian Government, Shekau had to ruin the plan by surviving the strike.
WHAT EVERYONE NEEDS TO BE WEARY ABOUT
While the military should be doing all they can, to figure out the mole who keeps alerting Shekau on the military’s planned strikes against him, they also need to be worried about what is about to happen to their soldiers on the ground.
After the last set of 21 Chibok girls were released in October 2016, there was a significant increase in Boko Haram attacks. The government said the girls were released “out of the goodness of Boko Haram’s heart”. But the spike in attacks thereafter, revealed that the group must have received resources to stock up on supplies, IED making materials. Following the release of the 21 girls, they sent out a fresh wave of bombs throughout Borno.
With the recent release of the 80 Chibok girls, not only was money possibly given in exchange for the girls, but also Boko Haram fighters were released back into the field.
Someone once asked, is there any price too high to pay for the release of the Chibok girls? The answer is yes: The loss of more Nigerian lives.
As part of the release negotiations, Boko Haram asked for some of their fighters back. They will not be interested in invaluable or common foot soldiers. These Boko Haram prisoners were possibly strategic (cerebral) commanders and expert bomb makers.
Of more concern is the possible release of IED makers into the field. If this is the case, the Nigerian government would have successfully given Boko Haram money and skilled workers to keep the attacks going. 80 lives may have well been swapped for 800 lives
IS ANYONE THINKING LONG TERM?
I know it may be too much to ask for Nigeria, but those Boko Haram fighters should have been implanted with a chip to track their every move. While the initial reaction of most who I tell this is: TIA-TIN- This is Africa, This is Nigeria.
TIN or not, this is how we need to start thinking. After all, wildlife conservationist across Africa already use this technology to track the movement and migration of endangered wildlife species across the continent. We really should be planting the chips and saying TIA, this is how its done.
Photo: Swedish startup hub Epicenter offers to implant its workers and startup members with microchips the size of grains of rice that function as swipe cards: to open doors, operate printers, or buy smoothies with a wave of the hand. Source: Yahoo News
The release of the Chibok girls is no doubt a cause for celebration from a societal and theological point of view. But from an intelligence, defense and security point of view, it shows that the leaders of this country would rather opt for short-term solutions, leading to a temporary cessation of the problem which inevitably resurfaces with a new and more lethal dimension (Think Niger Delta Militant Amnesty Program).
It is time to start thinking long term. There must be solid structures in place to ensure that this war ends. Solidify border control, implement robust IED defeat strategies (targeting, eliminating bomb makers and the entire supply chain).
Quite frankly, this Boko Haram crisis persist because a large group of people are benefiting from it. It’s in their interest to keep it going. Dear FG, identify those who are benefitting from insecurity in the land and take them out too!
According to reports, there are still over 100 Chibok girls left to be rescued. Once Boko Harm depletes their resources, they will be ready to negotiate once more and this lazy cycle will continue.
It is time to stop rewarding bad behavior and to start thinking long term. We need defense, intelligence, legislative and executive leaders who are ready to do the right thing.
Tanwa Ashiru is the founder of Bulwark Intelligence an information services company that delivers high quality security, intelligence, and threat assessments to the federal government and private companies. Tanwa is a U.S Air Force veteran with over 14 years of experience in Intelligence Analysis, working in the U.S Department of Defense (DoD), and the U.S National Security Agency (NSA).
She served 180 days in Afghanistan and was involved in counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism operations in Southwest Asia, Middle East and Africa. She holds an M.A in Intelligence Studies from the School of Security and Global Studies at American Military University (AMU), West Virginia, USA (2016).
Tanwa has written a number of security related articles in The Guardian Newspaper Nigeria, and has been featured several times on Nigeria’s Channels Television Sunrise Daily morning show, CNBC Africa Power Lunch West Africa Show, Ebony Life TV’s The Crunch, Naij.com, Pulse TV, TV Continental and co-anchored a Security Watch Weekly Show on Inspiration F.M 92.3.
Twitter: @bulwark_intel and @tanwaashiru