2017: The end, a fresh start or another saga?

By the time you read this, we would have been in the year 2017 for 72 hours. I bet it feels brand new, fresh and utterly refreshing. Allow me, therefore, to welcome you, my much esteemed readership, into the year of our dreams. The year we anticipated amidst storms, colossal tragedies and epic challenges is finally here… we have sailed from the tumultuous 2016 into a new epoch, in which we can only hope that the woes that besieged us in the just terminated year were not swift enough to cross over into this very auspicious one. However, while we observe as events unfold, only time will tell.

I would like to congratulate you for making it into 2017. You must be basking in the euphoria that even before the year materialised, an exceeding great tiding became its precursor, and so am I. The news that Boko Haram, Nigeria’s chief bane, has been obliterated should be, for every Nigerian, a reason to express joy, even if it interprets into self-mortification. It wouldn’t be untoward for Nigerians, at the premise of that extraordinary news, to steal a cue from Diego Maradona’s 2010 FM Metro radio interview and run naked through the Federal Capital Territory to express patent appreciation to the PMB administration for extinguishing the rampaging terrors, would it?

It must have felt like Bordeaux wine to a parched French throat when President Muhammadu Buhari declared that Boko Haram had been destroyed just as 2016 was ebbing into afterlife.  The President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria declared on Saturday, 23 December, 2016, that the Nigerian Army, in its dexterity, had wiped the insurgents off the Nigerian map on Friday, 22 December, 2016, based on information from the Chief of Army Staff.  According to his goodwill message to troops of Operation Lafiya Dole, the President received the ‘victory’ news from his Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai, revealing that the last camp of the sect in Sambisa forest was destroyed at about 1:35pm on Friday, 22 December, 2016.

What a thrill that was! Nine days to the end of one of the toughest years in the history of Nigeria came the news of the annihilation of those vampires who have for over a decade sucked the blood of innocent Nigerians. It wouldn’t suffice to roll out the drums; we must have an elaborate celebration for this super victory.  The universe should feel our jubilation, aliens should move to the rhythm of our music, rending space apart. We must cast aside the sackcloth, wash off the ashes that we mourned in for so long and prepare the nation for a legendary festival. But will it be too much too soon? What if it is too soon to sing the songs of victory?

My soul sails on ancient waters and the tides of quaint times teleport my spirit to Homeric Troy, where the Trojan War happened. I may not be able to go back to the very beginning, but know this; the battle of Troy was orchestrated by the elopement of Helen and Paris.

In Homer’s  Iliad, after the tenth year of battle, it was prophesied that Troy could not fall but the end of the war came with one final plan, the ruse devised by Odysseus. It was a giant hollow wooden horse, an animal that was sacred to the Trojans. It was built with the inscription: ‘The Greeks dedicate this thank-offering to Athena for their return home.’  This gave the Trojans the false impression that the Greeks had scurried back home in defeat after 10 years of war. However, the hollow horse was filled with soldiers led by Odysseus.

But when it was midnight and the clear moon was rising, soldiers from inside the horse emerged and killed the guards. The other soldiers entered the city and killed the sleeping population and a great massacre followed, which continued into the day. According to Homer, “Blood ran in torrents, drenched was all the earth, as Trojans and their alien helpers died.”

So, the impregnable Troy was razed to the ground. The invincible became only ashes and blood but, they had, in their naivety, thought that the war was over!

President Buhari has literally declared that the days of siege in Northern Nigeria are over and Boko Haram is dead. Time of death has been also called by the COAS and felicitations should, under normal circumstances, ensue. But shouldn’t we ponder a little on the following?

While updating journalists on ‘Operation Rescue Final’ in Maiduguri, Lucky Irabor, a Major General and the Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, stated that the Nigerian Army recovered Abubakar Shekau’s Quran and flag in Camp Zero, the Boko Haram headquarters in Sambisa Forest. Irabor explained that the holy book and the flag were believed to have been abandoned by the leader of the dreaded sect, while escaping his stronghold, but didn’t say if the Army had been able to neutralise  Shekau. Those recovered items should remind one of the Trojan horse, shouldn’t they?

But one should be more perplexed by the event that followed Nigeria’s declaration of victory over Boko Haram and the fact that the Nigerian Army brands such bold rebuttal as mere propaganda.  On Thursday, 29 November, 2016, Shekau, as quoted by AFP, said in a video clip: “We are safe. We have not been flushed out of anywhere. Tactics and strategies cannot reveal our location except if Allah wills by HIS decree.”

Shekau didn’t stop there; he also accused the military of lying to Nigerians, saying, “If you, indeed, crushed us, how can you see me like this? How many times have you killed us in your bogus death?”

While Shekau’s questions still hang in the air, the Nigerian Army reiterated that it had captured and occupied the last stronghold of the terrorists group in the Sambisa forest. The army reduced the video clip to Shekau just making spurious claims. It may be too early in the year to be pessimistic. But wouldn’t it be safe to be critically logical? When the Chibok girls were taken, we were given the impression that they were being held at Boko Haram’s fortress in Sambisa. Late last year, 21 of them were recovered, but a good number are still missing. Didn’t the Army find the rest of them while they sacked and captured Sambisa?

It is a brand new year but there remains so many questions hanging over the national atmospheric unanswered. We can only unanimously hope that, as a nation, we will make palpable progress this year and not continue in the disgusting trend of rigmarole. But before we roll out those drums, let us make certain that, like it was on Troy, the joke is not on us. Wouldn’t that be a great way to start 2017?