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Nigerian soldiers dying in vain

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Nigerian soldiers stand at the ready at the headquarters of the 120th Battalion in Goniri, Yobe State, in Nigeria’s restive northeast on July 3, 2019. – Boko Haram’s decade-long campaign of violence has killed 27,000 people and displaced about two million in Nigeria. The insurgency has spilled over into neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting formation of a regional military coalition to defeat the jihadist group. (Photo by AUDU MARTE / AFP)

Sir: I am the product of the loins of a former Nigerian Army soldier, a Civil Warrior who almost lost his life fighting to establish a federal beachhead at the Onitsha sector of the River Niger in the heat of the civil war and whose very young wife (my late mother) had the rare, almost un-regulation privilege to visit a pacified warfront (Asaba, really) in 1969 and she was duly entertained when my dad’s CO, the late Gen. Sani Abacha, a young man back then, upbraided my dad for permitting such a young wife to come visiting when armistice was not declared yet.

I grew up amongst soldiers in the confines of a couple of army barracks appreciating what a call to service and valour and patriotism and fighting to protect the fatherland were all about; basically, “soldier no dey fear death because ‘im don sign to die” but no one ever told us that getting slaughtered like chickens in an ill-defined war is a cool way to serve one’s country. And this is why I am really bothered about the lack of a workable battle strategy to finish off the war in the Northeast. Yes, war indeed because we are at war! This is just the fact that about anyone in the corridors of federal power today would want to deny.

Denial of the realities on ground and covering up for the mass slaughters of our defenceless soldiers in the Northeast are a twin evil that every Nigerian must rise up against right now.

For this rare moment, let me pay compliments to the journalistic exposè of the Daily Trust newspaper in doing its best to report battlefield causalities even though I detest the morality of this newspaper when it comes to telling it straight about Fulani jihadism in my state of Benue and other places. I have argued a couple of times that the old-fashioned big artillery-propped, close air support Pattonneque division-wide push, hold-and-occupy pincer movement is the best battle strategy the Nigerian Army must adopt to uproot Boko Haram.

Alas, when you talk to gung-ho soldiers who have been on military tours of the Northeast and who barely survived ambushes by a bunch of undisciplined rag-tag terrorists you will hear complain of frustration about how the top military brass want these fighting soldiers to “capture alive” as much as possible suicide-primed Boko Haram elements so that these terrorists will be enrolled in some highfalutin “de-radicalisation” programme.

To what end is this “de-radicalisation” programme, if I may ask? Is it to boost the political standings of certain ones so that they will continue to con international donor NGOs to continue to keep the cash spigot open? Isn’t anyone out there bothered that Nigeria cannot afford to bleed soldiers indefinitely? Finally, what some people do not want to hear is this, and I’m gonna say it loud and clear: a hefty proportion of the military casualties out there in the Northeast battlegrounds are young Christian soldiers who are daily being posted to their early graves, and, of course a hefty chunk of those soldiers who get drafted to do some soft-core “python-dance” operations in the Southeast are young non-Christian types. Is this great thinking or what?

Sunday Adole Jonah, Department of Physics, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State.


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