It is no longer gossip that the seemingly never ending North Eastern scourge called Boko Haram may have been finally pushed to near submission even as it is obvious that the Nigerian Army under the leadership of Lt. Gen Buratai whose total commitment has led to the recorded success by the ever committed Army.
Only March 24th 2016 had the renowned and revered sect leader, Mallam Abubakar Shekau had publicly declared his surrender due to the intense offensive of the Army and the recovery of their dream republic erstwhile annexed by these secessionists.
Only about two years ago there were security reports that Shekau may have died as a result of wounds he sustained during a shoot-out with security agents. The reports suggested that he was almost captured, but his aides managed to evacuate him across the border to Cameroon.
It would be recalled that there was also a time when the media had it that he had been apprehended. Contrary to such reports the seemingly invincible Shekau resurfaced with renewed gusto and zeal to foment more trouble even as the movement grew with every regeneration.
However, worthy of mention is the ability of the Nigerian Military to end the ever regenerating powers of the once mysterious sect leader-Shekau, who for every time a statement was put out regarding his death, made it a point of duty to reassure his followers that he was still alive and that their course is a worthy one supported by God Almighty.
His medium of choice being videos that many have had to wonder if it really is the terrorist leader or his clone, ironically has become the message of disillusionment.
The recent surrender of the dreaded terrorist, attributed to the intense offensive by the military has not only changed the leadership but also necessitated a significant change in the methods. This is even as the arrest of the shadow recruitment wing of the Boko Haram terrorist group, Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Sheikh El Zakakky has significantly deflated the activities of the Nigerian subsect of Syrian ISIS which has been the major supporters of its Nigerian cell- Boko Haram.
This commendation is not complete without recognising the recent change in tactics which has announced the fear in the heart and operations of these fanatics who erstwhile had the guts and effrontery to broadcast videos with bravado exposing the face of their mystified leader, Abubakar Shekau who paraded their military might alongside threats which loquaciously flowed with accompanying braggadocios.
Today it has been announced that there is a change of leadership in the sect owing to the military’s might and subsequent surrender of Shekau. The terrorist group which announced its change in an interview in IS’s weekly Arabic magazine Al-Naba said the leadership for its West African branch, Boko Haram, has been adjusted.
This is even as Abu Musab Al-Barnawi, who was previously spokesman for the Nigerian-based Islamists did not say what has become of the group’s former leader Abubakar Shekau. It is curious also that the video does not say what has become of the group’s former leader Abubakar Shekau.
He was also heard from in an audio message last August, saying he was alive and had not been replaced – an IS video released in April said the same even as only yesterday he appeared to debunk Al-Barnawi’s claim to have changed leadership.
Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi, who appeared in the declaration video, wore a turban but unlike it is customary with the sect, his face was blurred out and it was filmed as a sit-down studio interview; meanwhile compared to the fearless stature presented by Abubakar Shekau, his delivery in the Hausa language was considered and softly spoken, Barnawi pulled no punches.
Shekau was often filmed in the open, surrounded by fighters, loudly proclaiming his threats, victories and giving rambling ideological lectures.
This controversy is certainly not removed from the recent cowering attitude exhibited by the group due to force from the Nigerian military command since it opened base in North East, thus the now observed division in the sect leadership with Shekau surrendering and Barnawi taking shadowy control without the usual gusto cum bravado.
It has also been argued that apart from the recent fear that has been sent into the dwellings of these religious radicals, it believed that the decision to hide the face of their leader may be because of his close ties to the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Boko Haram’s recruitment agency in all their campaigns in the North East.
Meanwhile authorities have also suggested that the choice of an unknown and obscure commander was to still maintain the useful impact which the IMN has continued to make in furthering the activities of die hard Boko Haram terrorists that have refused to surrender, just as Al-Barnawi in his interview had declared further that his group “remained a force to be reckoned with” while emphasising a new membership drive, an obvious sign that they have been massively depleted by continuous military campaigns