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Is the Army capable of defeating Boko Haram?

By Simon Abah
06 December 2018   |   3:24 am
Many military strategists x-ray strategies to tackle the scourge of terror which has damaged the image of Nigeria globally.


Many military strategists x-ray strategies to tackle the scourge of terror which has damaged the image of Nigeria globally. It is highly commendable that President Muhammadu Buhari as stated in the past, “has absolute confidence in the ability of the Nigerian military to bring to an end the insurgency spearheaded by members of the Boko Haram sect.”

But I have always believed that the military alone cannot end the war on insurgency without the support of the political benefactors of terror in the first place. In 2013, I asked a young army officer (now late) if the military can stamp out Boko Haram, he shook his head, “not with this commander-in-chief of the armed forces,” he said. Whatever that meant I didn’t bother to ask.

But I know that fighting troops must respect their C-IN-C and must have the backing of same to succeed in wars prosecuted. Again, I know that a nation’s armed forces are as strong-willed as the commander-in-chief and, the military high command of that country. The US president Barack Obama, almost threw his presidency on the line when he overrode his security chiefs on their recommendations to him on how to get Osama Bin Laden. It showed a man in charge. The rest is history.

I get the chance to teach staff members of corporate organizations in management training schools. And I still remember vividly, how one such attendee – told a story of how a young military officer friend of his deserted the army because of a war-posting to Maiduguri. He had a hunch that he would be killed in battle- the fear was borne out of the fact that  most of his graduate course mates from the Nigerian Defence Academy had been killed by the ‘Haramist,’ due to ineffective armory deployed to prosecute the war coupled with low motivation of fighting troops.

Many more are deserting the military. How about this occasion when I went to have my eyes checked and my doctor friend who consults for many military personnel told me about a soldier who came to ask her to draft a resignation letter for him. “He plans to leave the army.” And as with recycled stories elsewhere, most of his mates had been killed due to poor armament and low motivation of troops the chief reason why he planned to resign. I haven’t bothered to ask if his plans went through successfully.

I earwigged a deserter from a distance, in a public place the other day – say that he was drafted to the war front from the parade ground without prior warning and orientation without a chance to say good bye to his family. He was an unattached male and would have loved to say farewell to his mother.  They were given only minutes to put their things together and all he did was that he went to his room, undressed into civilian dress and deserted the army.

It beats me silly to hear these cases of desertion for our soldiers are not cowards. Military analysts have said that the armed forces, is the last unit, that is now holding the unity of this country together at the moment – for it is starkly clear that the political unit has turned the country upside down.

Two encounters spurred this essay. An analyst on a television program mentioned that soldiers from southern parts of Nigeria, mostly, were/are picked to prosecute the war on Boko Haram, and northern soldiers according to another analyst were sent to the east for operation crocodile dance. While soldiers from the north are spared the war efforts on Boko Haram, northern soldiers are sent to the south to unleash terror on southerners.

One major problem with Nigeria is that there is no government agency set up to actively engage and counter falsehood, to inform, educate, analyze, encourage learning and provide solutions to challenges of nationhood. Instead of spending billions to send people on religious pilgrimages why don’t we set up such agency to feed people with knowledge? Has the Army changed its recruitment strategy for war efforts? A successful applicant into the Army having passed the hoops on his paths, the thorns and tares of military interview, is assigned a department based on his skill, competence, capability and his choice of department. In the barracks soldiers are quartered according to their units: Army Corp of Engineers, Signal Corp, Military Police, Supply and transport, workshop, Military Intelligence, Medical, Education unit, Ordinance, Garrison, Mechanized Infantry Battalion, Artillery and more. Groups of soldiers on assignments are in: platoons (36), companies (100-120), battalions (1000), brigades (4000) and all are under a division (12000).

Soldiers do not work with borders. And all units are a microcosm of the country. Soldiers have an unwritten rule, regardless of tribe a soldier thinks of unit and country first not ethnicity. They work through a sort of Clairvoyance – and watch each other’s back instinctively regardless of ethnicity. After all – only soldiers speak soldiers language and lingo.

Theirs is a hierarchical and authoritarian profession but not one centered on ethnicity to cause soldierly dysfunctions. This impression is in the minds of people and it wouldn’t be a good strategy to pay it no mind. The Chief of the Army needs to correct the impression by putting out a statement. I admit to having a vague idea of how soldiers are mobilized for war but having watched soldiers in the barracks where I was raised from close quarters, I never heard them say they were drafted on ethnic basis but on regiment, such as infantry etc.,

Simon Abah wrote from Abuja

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