I remember the ‘army’ of Rann

I have always avoided living close to an abattoir, the reason being that whenever I receive unpleasant news, my lower jaw automatically drops for longer than necessary. And by so doing, green flies which are denizens of abattoir could easily take refuge in my mouth.

Penultimate Friday came along with the sad news that the Boko Haram insurgents raided Rann in Kala Balge Local Government Area of Borno state the previous night and killed no fewer than four United Nations aid workers (all Nigerians), and abducted one… a female nurse. Another female nurse was badly wounded. A medical doctor working as a consultant was among those slain in the IDP camp. Four policemen and six soldiers also met their untimely deaths on that Thursday night.

I was in deep shock and my lower jaw gave way not because the marauders invaded a well-guarded IDP camp. In fact, such camps littering the North-east region are easy targets for the insurgents. But that the attack took place in Rann sounded like fake news to me. This was because Rann had proved to be a no-go area for the criminal elements after their first attempt to sack the community in February, 2014 ended in disaster, even at the acme of their hostilities.

Let me recall the story: On the fateful day, the insurgents laid siege on the community. But the folks of Rann did not do the expected… run. Rather than turn tails in fright, they confronted the heavily armed marauders and defended their fatherland with admirable audacity. The Rann army made up of Civilian JTF or homegrown vigilantes was not armed with sophisticated weapons. No fighter jets; no drones. All they had were dane guns, double barrel rifles (suitable for bushmeat hunting), poisoned arrows, spears, machetes and all manner of charms. They did not hide inside bulletproof vests. But they immersed themselves in charms that could render bullets impenetrable to their bodies. Above all, they asked God for victory over the evil men.

The terrorists stormed the location not knowing that their target had been cordoned off and fortified with charms that afflicted them with blindness. They fell into the numerous bobby traps set for them and could not fire a single shot. Consequently, the Rann warriors overran the invaders, slaughtering over 200. They seized their weapons which included APC (not to be confused with All Progressives Congress which was not even in power then) as well as motorcycles and Hilux vehicles. And God answered their supplication! The APC under reference, as if you don’t know, is a shortcut of Armoured Personnel Carrier.

The latest tragedy in Rann was the second of such attacks on IDP in that far-flung settlement. The first was on January 10, 2017, when Nigerians and indeed the entire global community were jolted by the news of the bombing of a camp housing the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The bombing was not carried out by the ubiquitous suicide bombers being unleashed on soft targets such as the IDP camps. The bombs were rained down from the fighter jets of the nation’s Air Force manned by personnel who suffered optical illusion, momentarily. Such attacks from those who are supposed to protect you are referred to as “friendly fire” in military parlance.

On that tragic Tuesday in Rann, the Air Force jets scrambled into the sky based on the report that a group of marauding insurgents was sighted in the area. The bombers picked a target which they mistook as quartering the enemies and down came a hail of bombs, sending the hapless occupiers running in all directions in panic. By the time the smoke vanished, no fewer than 100 people, mostly women and children, lay lifeless and scores seriously injured or maimed. Among those killed and wounded were local and international aid workers.

The irony of the bombing was that it occurred in Rann. If the military or “Operation Lafiya Dole” in particular had remembered the impregnability of Rann, they would not have bothered to dispatch fighter jets to that location based on the intelligence report about the insurgents’ presence in that axis.

Rann stood out as one of the no-go areas for the insurgents at the time that the terror war was at an apogee. While the terrorists made several attempts to overrun Maiduguri, the heartbeat of Borno state, they left the Rannians alone after that first attempt on their territory about three or so years ago that ended in disaster.

I have a submission to make here. It is not intended to rubbish the effort and capability of our security agencies in the North-east axis. In the case of Rann, those defenders that secured the territory in 2014 should be enlisted to help in securing the IDPs located in that community. The marauders must have known that their target was free of the mysterious Rann army. If they were there, I bet you they would not have undertaken what could be another suicide mission.

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