Never again will they see these their loved ones, except in the realm of dreams and their imaginations.
Sunday, November 18 was a dark, dark day in the annals of Nigeria’s battle against Boko Haram terrorists. The day saw the daylight massacre of over a hundred soldiers of the 157 Task Force Battalion of the Nigerian Army camped in Metele, North-Eastern Borno State, which is the heart of the insurgency by the Boko Haram sect and its Islamic State of West Africa (ISWA) associates.
The day, which began like any other one for the unfortunate Nigerian Army personnel, saw the curtain drawn on their military careers and their dream to rid the country of the Boko Haram insurgency. In one fell swoop, over a hundred fathers, brothers, sons and beloved family members of many Nigerians were cut down in their prime – painfully and virtually anonymously. Many other civilians also died in the attack.
Sadly, the Boko Haram problem that began like child’s play and was initially handled with kid gloves by the authorities has become a huge albatross for the nation. The latest massacre has punched a huge hole in the claim of technical defeat of the sect and President Muhammadu Buhari, who is just about two months away from a general election in which he is seeking re-election, will have to rejig the anti-terror war and ensure that attacks of this nature do not recur. This insurgency should be defeated, technically and in all other ways, once and for all.
The incessant killings in this seemingly intractable war against Boko Haram suggest the need for a change of strategy in bringing the insurgency to an end. Since there is apparently no plan for a decisive routing of the sect, as such routing has been unachievable in the past six years or so that the insurgents have become a serious problem for the country, it will be good for the current government to have a review of its strategies to properly keep the sect in check.
There are so many reasons why this war must be terminated speedily. First, it is one of the major campaign promises of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the failure to achieve it will be a major failure of the government. Secondly, the needless loss of lives of young Nigerian soldiers is unacceptable and cannot be allowed to go on ad infinitum. Something drastic must be done if the government is going to continue enjoying the support and confidence of all Nigerians and even the soldiers themselves on this war.
So much information is in the media on the poor arming of the soldiers who are made to face the superior firepower of Boko Haram. Our soldiers are often reported to be outgunned and outnumbered by the terrorists and it really beats the imagination how a supposed local insurgency can outgun the military of a whole Federal Republic of Nigeria, if not that corruption and a lackadaisical attitude have taken over the system.
It, certainly, cannot be that the Federal military might cannot rout the insurgents. It may, therefore, be that the will to send the terrorists packing has not been mustered by the government for reasons best to known our leaders. The nation cannot afford the endless loss of lives on account of the Boko Haram war.
Thirdly, but not the least, is that the nation cannot afford the huge financial cost of this war. The billions of naira committed to the war on a regular basis is something that the nation cannot afford when we are short of funds to execute badly needed infrastructural projects. Even, money is sometimes borrowed to pay workers salaries, so how can the nation endlessly pour money into the purchasing of arms and the feeding of thousands of internally displaced persons? The government should not make the running of the Internally Displaced Persons camps a permanent business from which some unscrupulous persons will be making a fortune. The insurgency should be ended speedily so that all the IDPS can return to making a living for themselves once again. Again, the future of the children displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency is at stake. Their normal growth processes in their houses and communities have been disturbed and all efforts need to be made to restore them to normalcy, if they are not to grow into dysfunctional adults.
Among the strategies that need to be re-jigged in the war against the insurgents is our military’s state of preparedness. It is surprising that the soldiers operating in such a dangerous terrain said they were caught awareness. An alarm was said to have been issued on the impending attack by the watchtower operatives rather late, and the soldiers could not get themselves together to effectively repel it until the insurgents poured into the camp and held it hostage for 45 minutes before they finished off the retreating soldiers who were unable to escape because of the barbed wires used to fence the camp. Hence, the design of the camp left no room for a retreat. There was also apparently no provision for a quick intervention by the air wing of the military, which could have helped to make the terrorists beat a retreat, and possibly reduce the casualty figure. Worse still, some of the soldiers that went to evacuate the bodies of their fallen colleagues the next day were also killed, and the terrorists were at a time said to still be in control of the village.
Even in the midst of these very sad developments, many Nigerians are still carrying on as if they do not care about the dangers of war and the fact that the incessant hate speeches and strategies deployed against one another along religious, political and ethnic lines could lead to a war one day. There is so much sorrow, sadness and deaths in the affected parts of the country, yet all efforts made to end the killings have proved unsuccessful.
Even then, our politicians are mostly only on the political turf for the money they can make. There is hardly a thought for the suffering of the masses and the problem in the Northeast, and how to stop them. The lives of the people at the receiving end of this war should be a priority for anyone aspiring to the leadership of the country. I sympathise with the soldiers and civilians who perished in this attack, and their families. This, certainly, will be a sad and dreary year end for the families of the fallen Nigerians who probably would have been nursing hopes that they would be coming home for the celebration. But not now, never again. Never again will they see these their loved ones, except in the realm of dreams and their imaginations.
The time has come for the Army to design an effective strategy to bring this insurgency to an end. War should not become a permanent feature of life in the affected states. Where there is constant war and bloodshed, there can be no real development or progress.
The other time, the Presidency requested for one billion dollars from the excess crude account for arms to fight this war, leading to an uproar that the government had said the terrorists were already technically defeated. The simple truth is that an infrastructure-deficit Nigeria cannot afford the huge funds required for a prolonged war. Let the government find a way to bring this insurgency to an end.
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