President Buhari has just pulled a dash to the Boko Haram war front, an imaginative move that infuses a more powerful meaning to what would have otherwise been a totally dull Independence anniversary. It is in the best tradition of generalship and no one can deny him that. The relative novelty in the dare as well as in the choice of the day must have left Boko Haram psychologically dispirited.
Millions of Nigerians are wishing and hoping that the military would convert the symbolism of the action into two advantages. One is immediate while the second is gradual. The immediate is the re-imagination of the media management of the counter-insurgency from throwing figures at the nation to framing the figures in such a manner that they communicate and constitute the COIN in the minds of the local, national and global audiences. Otherwise, the risk of a self-limiting propaganda hangs over the campaign. In other words, there is still the story war to be won, an area where so much has been achieved but where a narrative battle needs to be waged along the campaign itself.
The second is the more obvious or ‘natural’ thing: winding down that war in a lightening manner that recovers the heroism of the Nigerian armed forces in popular psychology. Nations, we are told, are imagined communities, an imagining process no other achievement nurtures best as much as clinical victory over the enemy in war. Such victory and its celebration compensates for all loses, sacrifices and pains that war brings to everyone, both those who bear arms and the ‘bloody civilians’ who are even more involved as parents, brothers, sisters and friends of those who bear arms in the service of the nation. Many more are psychologically at the war front than can be imagined and they all want victory. Victory is a many sided affair but this military is used to bringing home victory.
There is thus a way in which President Buhari has, consciously or unconsciously, invoked Garba Sufa’s challenge to his patrons for more in his constant shifting of the performance gaze: Lamba 1 din kena, saura lamba tu, (something like, well, you have done number one, it remains number two, three, four and so on). The president has dashed to the war front, it remains breaking down the message of that dare to tangibles that can lighten the national mood.