Boko Haram Crisis and the Nigerian Military Dilemma By Funmilola Ajala
While fielding questions from journalists during a press conference at the end of West and Central Africa Security Summit in Paris, France, on Saturday, May 17, 2014; President Goodluck Jonathan was pressed severally about the military operations ongoing in North-East states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe against insurgent sect, Boko Haram.
The parley was at the instance of French President, Francois Hollande, who had Jonathan and his counterparts from Cameroon, Chad, Benin Republic, and Niger Republic camped inside the Élysée Palace for the meeting.
Conceivably, specific and continuous mention was reserved for the rescue strategy being implemented to achieve save and swift return of over 200 girls abducted by lieutenants of hifalutin Abubakar Shekau.
Responding, President Jonathan mimed the now usual rhythm of ‘government is doing all possible to ensure the girls return home soon.’
But beyond that, Jonathan revealed – pointedly – that asides the recently yielded clarion call to the international community for help, Nigeria has deployed a massive “20, 000 troops in the north-eastern part of the country,” to scan through and far beyond the territorial latitude of Borno and environs.
This, to be candid, amazed the news-hunters in attendance, as well as many of those who monitored the briefing across the universe.
20, 000 troops and no clues on the whereabouts of the kidnapped girls, after 35days?; Someone must be prodding on exaggerative intoxication; or perhaps, an unforgiveable slip of tongue. And who knows, maybe Mr. President had suddenly mistaken the 500-square-kilometre Sambisa forest and its extending vicinity for somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean!
But come to peruse it logically, Jonathan could not have suffered from any of the permutations presented above. He must have equipped himself with relevant, needed, facts and figures in such circumstance. He would not deliberately make caricature of his personae any further, in the light of recent publicised gaffes.
Then, something must be fundamentally wrong if, truly, 20, 000 able-bodied, trained, and armed personnel of the Nigerian Armed Forces are deployed, currently in these 3 states, and yet neither the presumed or exact location of the traumatised girls, nor that of conspicuously erratic, decrepit-looking – though lethal – homo sapien called Shekau could be ascertained.
Even, while the nation seem perplexed in rescuing the abducted Chibok girls whose only ‘sin’ could be traced to being Nigerians; clues, unfortunately so, abound to suggest that the Nigerian military might require more than mere palpating of a stethoscope if it’s to take the glory for any eventual success story. The nation’s armed forces, once acclaimed as possessing the Midas touch in peace-keeping missions beyond its boundaries, have suddenly become mortified with a cancerous infirmity nay psychopath called Boko Haram, at home.
In the opinion of those who should know; to be precise now: President Jonathan, there may be 2 reasons, possibly responsible for the apparently tormenting jigsaw the country’s military appears to find itself. During his recent Presidential Media Chat, in Abuja, Jonathan suggests that the military is, perchance, still smarting with the dynamism and exigencies of executing an unconventional military conflict as embedded in Boko Haram’s guerilla tactic.
Secondly, the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces also submits that the military is suffering from recurrent diarrhoea of negligence by successive administrations in the country which, according to him, suspend the efficiency of the forces with allocation of meagre financial resource; thus its dearth of contemporary operational and professional sophistication.
In contrast to His Excellency’s view(s), the fact that Boko Haram have metamorphosed into guerilla warfare specialists should not necessarily become a mystical puzzle too entangling for the Nigerian military to demystify. This objection is backed by historical antecedence of what transpired in the 90s, in Liberia.
Though Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) never assumed the uncontrollable orgy of barbarism which Boko Haram perpetrate, at the moment; nonetheless, to posit they were by no means as hematophagous as Boko Haram would only be subscribed to by an utter ignoramus. Whatever degree of callous maiming and inhuman indignation Boko Haram is foisting now, the NPFL did equally, if not more, with the exception of exploiting religion for evil. Yet, the Nigeria-led ECOMOG peacekeepers were credited with terminating the Liberian civil strife in the end.
Asides, the notion that the military is ‘under-funded’ cannot be comfortably situated in the scheme of realities. The military enjoyed years of unfettered hegemony in power after their chequered interruption in the country’s political progression which dates back to the 60s. The suggestion that they consciously stifled themselves of tools to works with negates rationality, to say the least. More so, the incumbent government has continually and consistently given lion shares of Nigeria’s annual budget to security and defence in the last 3 years. For the records, the allocation to the sector for 2014 stands at almost N1trillion, representing ¼ of the whole anticipated expenses.
Therefore, these theories are not only unfounded, but also grossly unsubstantiated.
Without mincing words, the cursory of recent happenings, in relation to the operations of the armed forces, points to a deep-rooted disconnect in the subsisting paradigm in the military hierarchy by Nigeria’s political echelon.
The nation was alarmed by two damaging revelations with direct nexus to the military, in the spate of just a week. News, first, filtered in that the major mastermind behind the April 14 bombing at Nyanya bus station, Sadiq Aminu Ogwuche – who has since been arrested in Sudan after Nigeria triggered Interpol arrest warrant – was a deserter from the Nigerian Army. Sadiq, who grew-up in the Barracks, being the son of a retired Colonel, reportedly served in the intelligence unit of the Army before fleeing to the United Kingdom in 2006.
One would be gullible to contemplate that Mr. Sadiq was not armed with some highly sensitive cum classified information of the military going by the fact that he was only let off the hooks in 2011 due to his father’s influence after he was apprehended abroad and repatriated back home, on terrorism-related charges.
Nigerians were still regurgitating over Mr. Sadiq’s anti-patriotic behaviour when news broke again that some disgruntled soldiers of the 7 Division, Maiduguri, opened fire on their General Officer Commanding (GOC), Maj. Gen. Ahmadu Mohammed, in apparent attempt on his life.
Abubakar was blamed by the ‘mutinied’ soldiers for the death of about 10 of their colleagues in the hands of dare-devil terrorists on their way back from Chibok – based on his command. He was subsequently transferred from Maimalari Barracks after he managed to retreat from the enraged soldiers. Disturbing, one must admit!
After the official change of guard between erstwhile Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Sa’ad (rtd), and incumbent Air Marshal Alex Badeh, in February, the latter was clearly in bragging mood as he concludes that there may be no need for an extension of the state-of-emergency in his native North-east region as Boko Haram would have been confined to the coolers by the tentative expiration date for the regimented rule by April. It seems he now understand the situation better with the resistance put up by the belligerents.
The Nigerian Armed Forces still, no doubts, retain its long-held gallantry and effrontery; unfortunately, its credibility – garnered from decades of commitment to global amity – is now being threatened by allegations of sabotage, connivance, favouritism, corruption, animousity, discontentment amongst others within its ranks.
From all hints, the alien help which has been praised to high heavens as Nigeria’s passport to liberation would still not put foot soldiers on the deserts of Borno and its sister states. Therefore, the imperativeness of boosting the morale of our military personnel alongside established international best practices which some of them have accessed in times past outside our shores. That is, only if, and sincerely, the government is serious about sentencing Shekau and his marauding human rustlers into history, anytime soon.
The country’s political cadre should realise that it took the same military, which hallmarked Hosni Mubarak’s reign for 32 years, just a thought to abandon him in support of the protesting Egyptian masses in 2011.
Nothing portends more anarchism than for civilian population in Kalabalge (Borno) and Madagali (Adamawa) to be battling Boko Haramists with machetes at night while soldiers are busy turning their Kalashnikovs against their ‘red-necked’ Ogas, in broad daylight.
A stitch in time, in this instance, might save more than just nine!
* You can follow Ajala on Twitter: @ajalatravel07, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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