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Tragedy of Borno and other tales of propaganda



By Sam Ibemere …

I woke up on the morning of the first day of the Sallah holidays not knowing what to make of a distasteful gist shared by Army spokesperson, Colonel Sani Usman. His story knocked at the heart of Borno, that once lovely city now drenched, and still dripping with the blood of innocent Nigerians caught up in a senseless war.

Well, was I expecting something more salacious? May be, yes. Only months earlier, we had been promised that the deranged souls who had infiltrated the cities and made Sambisa forest their homeland would be decimated by Christmas.

We were regaled by scenes of the Army’s readiness to do battle. Every page you turned had the boss himself, General Buratai, doing push-ups with the troops and thumping the air in jubilation. We were even told that he spent a night with the boys in the jungle of Gwoza, the dreaded hills from where the insurgents marched on the towns of Borno. The renewed confidence was palpable.

It was impossible not be infected by the seeming high morale of our re-born soldiers who until recently reportedly flew from battle.

The tragedy of Borno was going to be over soon, or so we thought. The incurable optimists even lobbied to bring the date of the last battle to sometime in November.

Many felt the enemy had been sufficiently asphyxiated with the ludicrous seizure of arms such as bows and arrows, trucks of dried fish and drums of petroleum products.

The story told by Usman, on behalf of the Army, is as tragic as it is comedic. He unwittingly reminded us that we may have rejoiced too early. Peace, he said, remains a far-fetched goal because saboteurs in the name of Borno elders had taken over the country side.

Besides, he alluded to certain interests intent on prolonging the war for reasons traceable to greed. Scary, but wait for this. He also told the tale of the marabouts, the spiritual warlords whose magical grills had severally failed to predict the future. Yes, he also named them in the game of changing tides.

If his intention was to elicit some cheer in the face of Nigeria’s larger tragedy, then it fell flat on its face. These are certainly not times for theatrical renditions. Why choose the morning of Sallah, for God’s sake? Did he not realize that the world, nay the nation, was still in shock from the stone-throwing tragedy in Saudi Arabia? This was a misfire of the worst kind.

Read also: Borno leaders prolonging Boko Haram war, Army says

I am so scared about what awaits Borno in the days ahead. One sincerely hopes that the Army is not in a hasty retreat from its many posturing on the insurgency war. With all the shuffling and shoving in the military, are we not to believe that the permutations were mere gimmicks meant to keep us constantly glued on the change mantra? May be someone thought that Christmas was light years away.

But we can quickly erase the sorrows of Borno, if we choose to. While it would be too simplistic to recommend quick steps, it would be nice for the military to act more and talk less. A casual observer would find the propaganda war in this instance a bit out of tune. If Army intelligence unmasked a certain faceless group as irritants, would it not have been more tactful to uproot such quietly and match on to victory? Therein lies our dilemma.

I have always felt that the blemish in Borno is a dirty intra-class war fought through proxy. It is a fierce battle for control of resources, and by extension, political power. The game of finger-pointing most probably belies an attempt to lure the military wing into taking sides in this very brutal conflagration.

The hint on Marabouts is comedy taken too far, unless the Army wants to have us believe that their battle tanks have come under spell and refusing to spew mortars, just by some remote incantations. Not funny though but this clearly defines the limits of logic and propaganda. Were we not told that the military does have an Intelligence Corps?

I refuse to be amused just as the bombs have not ceased going off. Let’s refrain from the jester’s court while the Borno tragedy lingers. Is anyone listening?

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