Mallam Kasim Baba Al-Kasim, is the North-east Regional Rapporteur of the Concerned Professional Congress (CPC), a civil advocacy group promoting good governance, democracy and citizen engagement in Nigeria. In this interview EMEKA ODOM, he speaks on the state of the region, maintaining that Nigerians should appreciate the efforts of the Nigerian military in decimating Boko…

Mallam Kasim Baba Al-Kasim, is the North-east Regional Rapporteur of the Concerned Professional Congress (CPC), a civil advocacy group promoting good governance, democracy and citizen engagement in Nigeria. In this interview EMEKA ODOM, he speaks on the state of the region, maintaining that Nigerians should appreciate the efforts of the Nigerian military in decimating Boko Haram thereby fast-tracking the peace process in the region.

What is your take on the state of the North East right now; are we where we ought to be?
It is important that we bear in mind that the North-east had been a major axis in the entire Trans-Saharan trade route that stretches from the South-eastern part of Nigeria through Jos, Bauchi, Gombe up to Maiduguri towards the Sudan and other cities and countries on that route. It is sad that because of Boko Haraminsurgency in the three states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, our share of the multi-million dollar trade in several items such as the popular Baga fish, hides and skin, beans, millet, cattle, trinkets, fabric, tinko meat, leather shoes, bags, mats, etc has been severely affected. Before now, most of the people in these areas cared less about government presence in their lives and localities because they were doing large scale farming, trading and general merchandise across the borders. So the North East zone had witnessed much instability and human displacement that is unprecedented in recent memory arising from the insurgency and terrorism by the criminal Boko Haram. Now back to your question about whether we are where we ought to be, the answer is a resounding Yes. Why do I say so? The fact on ground today is that normalcy has returned to the region courtesy of the amazing courage, gallantry and commitment of our fighting troops of Operation Lafiya Dole whose efforts have restored our collective of a lasting peace and security in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States where the battle has been fiercest. Indeed, we owe a debt of gratitude to our selfless troops and their able commanders who have gained the upper hand in the crucial task of confronting emerging threats to national security notwithstanding the heavy risks they face daily in the field of battle.

But we hear also that the situation has been unpredictable with reports of some suicide attacks in Maiduguri recently. How do we reconcile reports that the military has effectively degraded the capacity of the terrorists with the apprehension that this may just be the usual official rhetoric?
The situation today is different. If there is any rhetoric at all, it is the other way round where some interests, for reasons best known to them are out to discredit and undermine the image and integrity of our military. I make bold to say that we would have since lost the entire North-east to Boko Haram if the present political leadership under President Muhammadu Buhari did not emerge to save this nation from the strangle-hold of these criminals. We owe him a debt of gratitude for putting together a crop of highly patriotic, courageous and gallant service men under the current military high command headed by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonishakin. Nigerians and the entire global community have applauded the military for the successful battle against terror that has resulted in the steady decimation of the Boko Haram terrorists to the point that they now lack the capacity to either directly confront our troops and hold territories or carry out suicide bombing on soft targets such as markets, mosques, churches, sports entertainment centres, motor parks, public buildings, etc. Today, they are degraded, decimated and fleeing in different directions.
What, in specific terms, would you say we have achieved as a result of the intervention by our military and other security forces in the anti-terror war?
You will not easily appreciate the depth of the crisis until you make an effort to apprise yourself of the details. Close observers will tell you that the situation is markedly different today. Imagine a situation where 27 LGAs in Borno State alone were under the grip of BokoHaram before President Muhammadu Buharicame. Morale among the troops was very low before this CDS and his three crack Service Chiefs were appointed. Now, they have continued to turn the tide against Boko Haram. Today, the key performance indicators are there for all to see. Our military has reclaimed much ground in the three states of the theatre of war.Boko Haram has been effectively contained and dislodged. . Over 30.000 men, women and the aged captives have so far been freed from BokoHaram’s evil grip while over 10,000 territories were liberated. Over 10,000 battle-tired BokoHaram members have surrendered with about 800 of them earmarked for rehabilitation, reintegration and de-radicalization under theOperation Safe Corridor initiative of the CDS.

So, how do you explain the spate of resurgent suicide attacks being carried out by BokoHaram in Maiduguri which have been sporadic recently?
The attacks are sporadic but not resurgent because the Boko Haram sect has been dislodged from Sambisa Forest. They have lost their illegal and organized occupancy of the dreaded forest so they are totally in disarray and fleeing in all directions to wreak more havoc to create the impression that they are still relevant. The attacks are a mere publicity stunt which must be shunned and dismissed. Now let me sound a caution to our people here. Boko Haram is gone for good. Do not mind the attacks. It is the price we must pay to see their back finally. It is the same philosophy and modus operandi of terrorists the world over. Terrorists are still striking in countries with more sophisticated and expensive security architecture. Only recently, a 52 year-old British-born Khalid Mashood, suspected to be a terrorist drove a car across Westminster Bridge, mowing down pedestrians before ramming into the Parliament and entering the parliament building and stabbing to death a policeman who was unarmed. He was eventually shot dead by the British Police. ISIS has claimed it was behind the attack. Now, will you say the British security is lax? No. Does France joke with its security? The answer is also No. In our case, Nigeria has been getting international praise for our efforts at combating terrorism successfully. Recently, the CDS, Gen. Olonishakin was reported to be attending a World Conference on Global Coalition AgainstCounter-Terrorism in Washington D.C where the U.S Republican Secretary of State, Mr. Rex Tillerson singled out Nigeria’s counter-terrorism strategy as an effective template that should be adopted and emulated by other terrorism-ravaged countries of the world. Nigeria received a standing ovation at the conference watched on news and social media by over a billion people across the world. This commendation for the Nigerian military is coming on the heels of a similar commendation sometime ago by the immediate past U.S Democrat President Barack Obama. So you can see that truth is constant. Nigeria is indeed on the march again.

What are you saying in effect?
What I’m saying is that the counter-terrorism war takes huge time and effort to fight; it is not a photo-finish affair. Even after decimating the capacity of the terror merchants, the war takes some time to taper off. This is why it is always canvassed that the war should be fought collectively from the family unit level to the global level. This is the awareness we are creating at CPC as a civil advocacy platform. We are talking about the radicalized mind. Radicalization is fought on all fronts- mental, phychological, material, philosophical, religious, physical, political, socio-economic, etc. It requires an aggressive coalition at the various levels that I have mentioned. Terrorism thrives on networking which can only be broken when everybody is engaged in it. For no reason whatsoever should terrorists be covered, shielded or harboured, they must be exposed for all mankind to be free. We must not allow the terrorists to divide us. Our best response to the scourge is solidarity with our military and security forces. This is the only way to go. At the CPC, we are committed to the cause of engendering good governance in the country. Don’t forget that it has been observed that BokoHaram is a fall-out of lack of good governancebut whatever it is, we urge the remnants to surrender and join the rest of us to build a just, united, stable, secure, peaceful, egalitarian and progressive Nigerian nation.

What do you make of the current humanitarian issues in the North East now?
Permit me to inform you that we just had our 2017 1st Quarter meeting in Bauchi to assess emerging developments in the North East especially regarding the humanitarian challenges after which we briefed the press last weekend. For the avoidance of doubt, the military and other security agencies have succeeded in completely breaking the wings of the terrorists. We urge citizens not to drop their guard but maintain vigilance at all times because as the saying goes, vigilance is the price of freedom. The Nigerian military that we know will continue to be responsive to general expectations of a quick end to the Boko Harammenace. We commend the governors of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States on the ongoing efforts at resettling the internally displaced people in order to tackle the humanitarian crisis in the region. We commend the recent fact-finding efforts of a UK-led United Nations Security Council which visited Nigeria recently and described the North-east as the world’s largest and most-neglected crisis. We welcome the show of support and solidarity. We however appeal that more drastic moves be made to actualize the a

Source:Nigerian News from Leadership News