By Sunday Ogaba
Nothing really remains normal during war time. These are delicate times that requires a high measure of guardedness to navigate through them. This is the reason I found it very uncharitable to watch the commissioner of information of Borno State, Alhaji Babakura Jatau on AIT alleging that Nigerian troops in Baga are no longer focused on the war against insurgency because they are into the business of fish farming and for that purpose they are not working towards ending the war.
Nothing can be more uncharitable and farther from the truth than this statement by the honorable commisioner. From all indications, Alhaji Jatau in all intent and purpose appears to have been on a mischievous and deliberate mission to misinform the public and perhaps to demoralize the troops.
The media onslaught against the military by a few marksmen is quite unfortunate coming at a time when the troops need all the support they can get. I also read same negative propaganda in the Nation newspaper and as an ex-soldier who gave all my best during my active service years, I was tempted to ignore the writer especially since he hid his true identity by posing as “ a concerned Borno citizen”.
It is however glaring that he is not genuinely concerned but merely an interested party in the current propaganda and politics of the Borno insecurity. Many of their type have made themselves readily available for propaganda assault against the Nigerian military because of the pecuniary gain in this insecurity crisis.
The job of the military in Borno and most part of the northern eastern part of the country in the last decade or so is to defeat the terrorist elements rampaging in that zone. All well-meaning Nigerians will agree that the military has done its best in carrying out this task. The war is definitely not over. However, the Nigerian military has moved far away from the early days of the war when they lost some ground to the terrorist.
To appreciate how far we have come in this war, we have to retrospectively recount how it all started and where we were at the inception. About a decade ago when the war started it wasn’t so clear what we were battling at that point. What initially looked like a local rebellion later snow-balled into a global terrorist group, with support coming in from international backers such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq in Syria (ISIS).
In addition to the aforementioned, the toothis and the collapse of Libya played a damming part. The nearly collapse of Mali and complete breakdown of Libya and the attendant death of Muammar Al-Gaddafi created a huge passage way for fighters from all over to migrate to Nigeria easily. There was also a genuine desire by ISIS to own their own territory so they found Boko Haram a very formidable ally.
Unfortunately, whilst all of these things were going on “we “Nigerians were totally disunited on the issue of Boko Haram. Rather than taking decisive action against the already growing insecurity, what dominated discourse in the Government circle then were accusations and counter accusations by different political groups, this inaction unfortunately bought Boko Haram enough time to spread wildly.
Whilst we bickered and politicized urgent security issues, our enemies took advantage and before we knew it, the terrorists had taken territory, hoisted flags and in some instances made their own laws.
That was the status of insecurity in the country pre-2015, before the advent of this government. Once the Buhari led administration took over and in line with his campaign to vigorously end the insurgency, President Buhari moved quickly into action first by visiting Neighboring countries such as Niger and Chad to solicit their support in securing our porous borders and seeking their cooperation in the war against insurgency.
Thereafter, new set of Security Chiefs were appointed in Nigeria and concrete plans were immediately put in place to improve the process of purchasing arms and ammunitions for the military. It is important to mention here what happened between 2011 and 2015 when most of the monies allocated for the purchase of these equipment were diverted and looted. I am sure we haven’t forgotten so quickly the former NSA 2.1b USD scandal. Whilst many of our troops died due to lack of adequate tools to prosecute the war, some people simply looted the money meant for fighting the insurgency.
However all of that change post 2015. The same army that fled from the terrorists returned to their duty posts, with moral boosted due to the leadership direction by the new set of security chiefs. Suddenly, the same army started reclaiming back lost territory. By the middle of 2016 all the 14 local government hitherto under the siege of the insurgents were reclaimed and there was no longer any single local government area was under Boko Haram control.
The reclamation of lost territories was quite significant. For those of us who live outside of these areas where the heart of operations was ongoing, we may not appreciate the significance of that progress but the residents of those areas that were hitherto under siege know what it is like to be back under state law and order. They know what it is like to return to their original homes and to have their lives back.
All these were achieved by the same army. In most instances paying the ultimate price with the lives of men and women of the army in order to secure you and me. Even though I admit that a lot still need to be done to win this war completely, it is however very uncharitable to turn around to blame the army for the unending war. Next to the indigenes of Borno, no other institution or organization has suffered more casualty in this war than the men and women of the Nigerian army.
Has Boko Haram been defeated? Probably not but I can assure you they have been badly decimated. They no longer have the capacity to hold territory, so they have resorted to cowardly suicidal acts and attacks on the fringes. They obviously do not have the capacity to mount the carnival like type of attacks they carried out pre 2015.
I have taken time to explain that whole scenario to us lot in order to make us see how far we have come in this complex war. This is not an external war or aggression from a neighboring country. This is internal with a lot of internal collaborations and dynamics, which transcends what we see on the surfaces.
There are political actors benefiting from this war and clandestinely supporting book Haram. There are informants and fifth columnist helping and abetting Boko Haram. The Dynamics of the war is complex why is why it behooves on us all to be circumspect in our communications.
Once the propaganda and the false narrative that the Nigeria Army cannot win this war holds ground and the false narration begins to spread, it will adversely affect the morals of our gallant troops. Once their morale is affected, it becomes difficult to get any strategy implemented successfully because you need highly motivated troops to go ahead and fight with their all including laying down their lives.
These are no easy feats to achieve. That is why I am amazed at those who are quick to criticize the army at the sight of any little slip up but won’t give due credit when they fought several battle to the point of death in other to achieve victory.
True leaders of thought should be measured in their reactions during tough and challenge times like this. Like I said in my opening paragraph, “ nothing remains normal during war time”. It is important that state actors are measured in their reactions, keeping in mind the bigger picture of the value of well-motivated troops as against demoralized fighters.
Nobody wants to return back to the barracks and to their family and loved ones more than the soldiers. To imagine that some fish business or whatever other interest will be more important to them than securing peace and winning this war completely is laughable, to put it mildly.
I can assure you from my years of experience in the service and from communication with a few friends that I have within the military, no one wants the war to end more than the soldiers and they have proven this severally especially with recent successes recorded against the insurgents
Additionally, It is important to advice the government that military might alone may not be sufficient to end this war soon. A lot of political decisions has to be made. Government has to be very decisive with those who sponsor, aide and abet terrorist and their activities. I encourage the government to go after the sponsors of this group the same way it goes after corrupt element in the society because they (the sponsors) have the same devastating effect on the country at large, more than the corrupt officials.
Already the army is carrying out different operations in almost 34 states of the federation out of 36 states. With the limited resources available there is no doubt that the army is actually over stretched. A lot of the assignment that the army are belabored with are perhaps things that could have been sorted out by dialogue and in some instance, mere presence of fairly good governance could save us the use of our military resources.
There is no doubt that the military has done its best considering the limited resources available to it. Let us as a people come together and unite to defeat the monster of terrorism that has ravaged a part of the country for a while now. This battle cannot be won without the unity of purpose of all stakeholders.
Politicians, religious leaders, traditional rulers, community leaders, the armed forces and indeed all leaders of thought must unite to confront this common enemy rather than finding quick blames. Many countries of the world have gone through this phase at some point and pulled through victoriously. I am confident that within a very short while we will be out of this victoriously. This is the last lap of the race to win the war against insurgency, Nigerians must form a united force to cheer our troops to lasting victory!
God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Ogaba is a veteran of the Nigerian Armed Forces and wrote from Abuja.