By Kelechi Mgboji
THE release of 21 Chibok girls out of about 219 abducted by the deadly Boko Haram in 2014 did not come as a surprise given the overwhelming superior fire-power of the Nigerian military campaign in recent times led by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai.
He has hit the ground running since his appointment as the head of the Army less than a year ago with the mandate to restore waning professionalism in the military. With the release of 21 of the schoolgirls, hope has risen that the remaining girls and all those under the captivity of the Islamic sect might soon breathe the air of freedom.
News report has already indicated that the release of another 83 Chibok girls is being negotiated with a faction of Boko Haram that has link to deadly terrorists group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) said to have indicated willingness to negotiate.
Those who understand the art of warfare can testify that when the potency of the enemy is decimated, such that little or no room is left to maneuver, the only option open to them is a negotiated surrender. Reports reveal that the sect is boxed to a corner, transfixed to a small enclave, and therefore incapable of putting up further resistance for a long time.
Thus, much as we give credit to the Swiss government and the Red Cross for their roles in obtaining the release of the girls, we should not relegate to the background efforts of our gallant soldiers who have rediscovered themselves and put up a spirited fight against the terrorists.
Many thanks to the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, for putting up amazing professionalism. The General perfectly understands that when, in military campaign, you annihilate the enemy position he will be forced to do your bidding.
It is this professional attitude to the war that the military has deployed and sustained the onslaught against the sect in the North East. The Chairman Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, Senator Shehu Sani, confirmed that among the major factors that made release of the girls possible were the high sense of commitment by the leadership of the security agencies of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government as opposed to those of previous administrations.
Sani, who was a guest on Channels Television Sunrise programme was at one point among the team of negotiators who tried to obtain the release of the girls before the present government came on board. Sani admitted that Boko Haram was losing more and more grounds to the superior firepower of the military on all fronts.
This is the happy turn of events since the new administration commenced its military onslaught in the region, a development that justified the position of the military that opted for sustained onslaught against the terrorist. Today, the North East which used to be the hotbed of terrorists attacks is being liberated on a daily basis, paving way for return of normalcy in the region.
Over 20, 000 people who were held in captivity by the terrorists have been rescued, and many have returned to their homes. Economic life of the region is also beginning to bounce back as the presence of security forces both on ground and air offer reassurance to the civil populace that their lives and property are secure.
This gradual return of normalcy in the region is highly commendable in view of the fact that before now, the armed forces had come under monumental disgrace each time the Nigerian forces shirked from combat with the Boko Haram footsoldiers.
Military and police barracks were known to have been destroyed by the Boko Haram forces, and officers and men who were not so lucky as to escape were caught and executed in a gruesome manner. Those who managed to escape in some cases faced charges of deserting duties, got tried and put behind bars or even sentenced to death as it were.
That was the situation when Buratai was appointed the Chief of Army Staff. Before he launched the “Operation Lafia Dole”, the code-name of the military campaign in the North East, he embarked on forensic audit of military units, formations and operations across the country to ascertain the exact strength of Nigeria Army and ensure judicious use of scarce resources.
This management strategy paid off after it was realised that some of the military hardware which the past leadership of the military claimed to have bought and deployed to the war were at best refurbished and therefore ineffectual, despite huge amount of money it claimed to have spent.
Result of the audit further offered Buratai’s military management an understanding of the pitfalls of terrorism fight executed by his predecessors. Two factors stuck out of military flipflop in the counter-insurgency war. Ill-equipped and poorly motivated footsoldiers were drafted to the firing line. The result is well known.
Armed with this understanding, Buratai rekindled the morale of the officers and men deployed against the terrorists, paying all allowances and benefits of soldiers hitherto withheld by their superiors.
To further fire the morale of soldiers and get them more committed to their military career, the military headquarters has directed Army Post-Housing Development Directorate to work out modalities for housing scheme for all soldiers, especially those exposed to the ongoing anti-terrorism fight. If the housing scheme scales through, all military personnel are likely to own their personal houses on retirement.
Radical change in military management cannot be complete without the mention of the massive renovation of residential and office accommodation, as well as building of new military barracks being undertaken across the country.
From the lean resources available, the leadership has embarked on series of ambitious projects. The Maxwell Khobe Cantonment Jos, Nigerian Army School of Artillery, Kachia, Kaduna State, Office of the Military Secretary, Army Barracks building in Oturkpo, Benue State, and many more are some of the ongoing projects to change the fortunes of the military.
Mgboji writes from Lagos.