Last week was a profound revelation of the actual situation in the North East and Boko Haram’s explosive expansion there.
Until last month when the radical Islamic sect, Boko Haram and their collaborators over ran the 157 Task Force Battalion of the Nigeria Army in Metele village, Borno State and in a horrific and daring fashion, killed scores of soldiers and many others severely wounded, the Federal Government and the military high command had insisted that the insurgents have been ‘technically defeated’ and almost decimated. As events have since shown, government’s repeated claims are nothing but a multiple discernible white lies. They are just illusory claims, well- packaged to deceive Nigerians.
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Now, let the facts sink in. These lies have been on for over a year, sometimes embellished to suit the tempers of the time. From been ‘technically defeated’, the territories held by the terrorists have been ‘degraded’, we were also told. For instance, in his 2018 New Year message, President Muhammadu Buhari told us that our armed forces “have since beaten Boko Haram”. And, in July this year,Mr.President also said that Boko Haram fighters were surrendering to government troops “willingly”. The truth is that the Nigerian military right now has a firestorm in its plate. The casualties suffered by the Nigeria army in Metele has a grim comparison to what America suffered in Vietnam on February 6,1965 when Vietcong guerrillas raided US advisers ’barracks in Pleiku. But, ours is a war within our own territory. But government has refused to admit that our nation is fully at war. Last week was a profound revelation of the actual situation in the North East and Boko Haram’s explosive expansion there. A new generation of terror is what we seem to have in our hands now.
It raises a lot of questions: Why has our security system become so vulnerable, unable and seemingly helpless to predict the tactics and strategy of the insurgents? Why is government and the military’s constant assurances to rein in the terrorists not yielding any lasting-result?I don’t have the answers. These are questions the military leadership should provide intelligence answers to. However, a member of the House of Representatives elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Sani Muhammed, has revealed why the military is losing grounds to the terrorists.
The lawmaker heads the Reps Committee on Humanitarian Affairs. Last week, he briefed his colleagues on his experience after the committee members visited the theatre of war in the North East. He has an astonishing tearful tale to tell. He exposed the white lies we have been fed with over this past year. According to him, the North East region has failed. His fear is that such failure could affect other states of the country. His words, “my fear is that this grave situation will have a contagious effect on other parts of the country”. He narrated one particular incident on how the committee on its arrival in Maiduguri, witnessed an attack on the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp at Dalori. On same day, the terrorists burnt a large part of the camp, killed and abducted women and children, and ran into the bush, unchallenged. Where was our military? Where was intelligence gathering mechanism?
The same shocking experience happened, the lawmaker said, in Bama, the second most important town in Borno state. Bama is strategic because it is the exit point of three neighouring countries, Chad, Niger Republic and Cameroon. The situation in Borno, he says, is the same in Gashua, Yobe state where according to him, the terrorists are in firm control. His conclusion is that government’s claim that it has defeated the insurgents doesn’t reflect the actual situation on ground. According to Mohammed, the talk of normalcy being restored in the North East “is a farce”.
That’s the same concern many Nigerians have expressed, that the war on terror in the North East is far from being won. Neither has the terrorists been ‘technically defeated nor degraded. Military sources have also been quoted by some online media that the number of Nigerian soldiers killed in 2018 alone is far more than those killed from 2011 – 2015 combined. There are indications that the casualty figures could be worse next year.
In an election year, terrorists are known to be more daring, only to prove a point. This brings a sense of urgency in the land. There’s already a growing impatience that the military is not doing as much as it should in response to the ‘clear and present danger’ posed by Boko Haram and its collaborators, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). Clearly, Boko Haram and its sponsors have proved how flexible they can change strategy and tactics through its guerillas tactics. The insurgents may have carefully borrowed from the rulebook of Vietcong that gave the American government and the Lyndon Johnson presidency a bloody nose.
All these astonishing ‘exploits’ by the insurgents have put Nigeria in the inglorious Global Terrorism Index (GTI) where she sits shamefully in 3rd position. This is the fourth consecutive year that Nigeria has sat pretty bad in this position, no thanks to terror attacks by Boko Haram. In its report released recently, GTI said 1,254 people were killed in Nigeria in a total of 272 attacks by the Islamic fundamentalists. GTI report is produced annually by the Institute of Economics and Peace, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit Think Tank. It monitors terrorism activities in 163 countries which covers 99.7 percent of the world’s population. Nigeria is only better than Afghanistan and Iraq in the GTI.
According to the United States Council on Foreign Relations Global Conflict Tracker, Boko Haram has killed more than 37,000 people since May 2011, and about 2.4 million people displaced in the Lake Chad Basin and rendered over 228,000 Nigerians as refugees.
This is a challenge of immediate sort that confronts the Nigerian military. And the daring successful attacks on our military formations in the North East, especially the most recent in Metele village, is a test of the leadership of the military. Although the President has ordered the military high command to respond appropriately, and the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Buratai has reshuffled the Commanders overseeing the war against insurgency in the North East, security experts are of the view that constant change of military commanders each time a major attack on its base occurs, is not the solution.
No doubt, war is grave engagement, in particular, against a non-conventional army, versatile in guerrilla tactics, nonetheless, the fact that our military has suffered attacks in quick succession in recent times, is a stark evidence that things have gone wrong. A failure of intelligence is one crucial area to address. Every new commander faces long-standing problems when it comes to intelligence gathering and how it is used. Second point to look into is the alleged grievances of our soldiers against their superior officers. Morale, obedience and initiative, are all qualities that good leadership can bring into place in times like these.
From an outsider position, one hears that the military has not got it alright in fostering a closer working relationship with the civilian populace in the North East who can provide critical, update information about the insurgents’ tactics. The military needs to go back to the 2013 Strategic Plan when it worked with the Civilian Joint Force, a network of local vigilance groups supporting the security forces.
To be fair to Buhari, no President in peace time in Nigeria has been confronted with the kind of enormous security problems that Boko Haram has put in his plate. Therefore, the wisdom in military strategy is that you cannot be adopting the same strategy again and again, and expect a different result. Without a new action plan, defeating Boko Haram in the North East will remain a pipedream. Neither will legion of lies do it.
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