President Muhammadu Buhari and his Minister for Propaganda Lai Mohammed are fast losing whatever is left of their credibility.
Someone once said that the truth is the first casualty of war, but it appears that lying has become a weapon of choice in the war against Boko Haram.
In August the president told his new military chiefs: “You need to brace up and continue to team up with other stakeholders to come up with a well coordinated joint effort which will bring a desired end to these insurgencies within three months”. He added for good measure a few days later in the Benin Republic: “I assure you that we will defeat Boko Haram by the end of this year.”
This is after he said as a candidate: “If you elect me as the president of Nigeria on February 14, 2015, I am assuring you that our government will chase Boko Haram out of Nigeria within two months because it is the responsibility of any reasonable government to secure the lives and property of its citizens.”
As we are now three days before the end of the year, and when it started becoming increasingly likely that Boko Haram would not be chased out of Nigeria, the aptly-named Lai Mohammed fired the first salvo before Christmas to declare that the war against the insurgents had been “largely won”. The president added the next day in an interview with the BBC that Boko Haram had been “technically defeated”.
Largely, technically, psychologically, tactically, dramatically, whatever, the rush to declare “mission accomplished” prematurely like George Bush did on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, was a preemptive strike against questions about the end year deadline for defeating Boko Haram.
That deadline, that should not have been set in the first place, because it made you a hostage to fortune, was now making it necessary to peddle what appeared to the untrained eye to be lies about victory.
The apparent and premature victory lie always had the potential to set up the liars for severe embarrassment if there were any further attacks after “technical” or “largely” victory had been declared. Bush could have told them that for free after the war in Iraq continued for over a decade following his “mission accomplished” embarrassment.
Last night the insurgents struck near the most important city in Nigeria’s northeast – Maiduguri. The BBC reports that they attacked a village, Dawari, near the city, killing 21 and injuring 91. The militants, that were supposedly largely and technically defeated, arrived in three trucks and were armed with rocket-propelled grenades. This morning suicide bombers detonated their load in a mosque in the city, resulting in multiple casualties.
Fake victory declarations did not start with the current administration. Former president Goodluck Jonathan said in February that the kidnapped Chibok girls would be returned soon. There is still no sign of them. Jonathan asked for the February 14 (s)election to be postponed to 28 March because the military needed six extra weeks to defeat Boko Haram. He got his six week extension but the defeat never happened.
Karl Marx said that “history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” The tragedy of Boko Haram has now provided comic relief for some Nigerians because of the antics of our rulers.
Lai Mohammed has become “Comical Lai” on social media, named after Saddam Hussein’s information minister. And the “technically defeated” Boko Haram are now only capable of “technical” attacks.
Buhari and Comical Lai should learn the relevant lessons from Jonathan’s experience and painful defeat. If you keep taking Nigerians for fools, they will laugh at you and once the joke’s on you, you’ve lost – technically or largely.