RETHINKING ‘VICTORY’ IN COUNTERINSURGENCY OPERATIONS IN NIGERIA
Okechukwu C. Iheduru, Ph.D.
The popular notion of “victory” has continued to elude the Nigerian military in its counterinsurgency operations against the Boko Haram Islamist group for the past nine years. Nigeria’s military has so far proved incapable of containing Boko Haram. Until recently, this failure to defeat the insurgency made the military the symbol of the perceived failure of the Nigerian state in the popular imagination. The puzzle reflects the popular notion of winning a war that has remained trapped in the past, even though there is wide acknowledgement that modern war fare has changed tremendously. Yet, this increasingly obsolete but persistent public conceptions that all wars must end with a declaration of “victory” by one party leads to failed or inappropriate strategies and expectations of war outcomes that actually lengthen the drudgery and costs of war. Indeed, we should recoil at the realization that world leaders may be sacrificing the lives of so many young people so that their country can claim a few more square miles or clear up its borders claimed by anti-state forces, only to come back and repeat the carnage, all without an end in sight. This paper therefore contends that the time has come to rethink the concept of victory in counterinsurgency operations in Nigeria. The change advocated is not just targeted at Boko Haram, but also against the myriad insurgencies and ethno-religious and anti-state forces that have mushroomed and will continue to evolve in Nigeria if the current trajectory of ill-fitting strategy and obsolete notion of victory remain unchanged.