The President on the front line
THE recovery of towns and villages from the rampaging Boko Haram insurgents and the return of many Nigerians to their homes are very comforting news indeed. And President Goodluck Jonathan’s belated morale-boosting visit to troops in the frontline may, after all, have played a part in instilling confidence in them towards containing the insurgency in the North East.
In reality, that visit has opened a vista of joy for all Nigerians but especially the soldiers now buoyed by a renewed faith in the country and a practical show of commitment by their Commander-in-Chief, a gesture that had been consistently advocated by this newspaper.
That new posture of President Jonathan is a positive one even though critics are right to still remember the president’s long-term vacillation as unfortunate and a missed opportunity to pay himself a huge compliment much earlier. All the same, Jonathan must seize upon this moment to fully reposition the armed forces, boost their morale and enhance their fighting capacity. The opportunity must not be lost to restore the damaged image of the army in the light of Boko Haram’s audacious incursions into the Nigerian space.
There remains a strong need for the President to always be an encouragement to the institution he heads and a role model, especially to the men in the trenches.
With the reported renewed exploits and successes of the troops, Jonathan certainly deserves to be commended for the symbolic leadership shown the other day through his surprise check on Mubi and Baga in Adamawa, two main towns that were recovered from the terror group.
In full military gear, the president, during an on-the-spot assessment of the efforts of the military, applauded the men for proving their mettle once again through the “rapid recapture of the territories” in the grip of the insurgents. But by all accounts of the unconventional war, the presidency’s claims of “rapid” recovery of the two strategic towns deserves a re-definition, taking into account the troops’ inhibitions as a result of the initial lack of equipment to get the job done.
It is just as well that the occasion of the last visit provided a real opportunity for the Commander-in-Chief to express Nigerians’ appreciation for the gallant role of soldiers in the defence of the country’s territorial integrity, saluting their bravery, competence and patriotism.
Fourteen local council areas in the three worst hit states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa had practically and scandalously been over-run by Boko Haram. Against this backdrop, the renewed confidence of the nation’s armed forces as well as the bravery exhibited as they expelled the insurgents from their strongholds and turned the tide against the sect members is remarkable.
What has been underscored by these latest successes is the Nigerian military’s acclaimed capability of defending the country’s interests. With sound training from some of the best military institutions and solid character, the men and officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces are, no doubt, among the best in the world.
In the course of his visit which included an aerial survey of many affected areas, the President rightly charged the troops to earnestly conclude the mission just as he gave his word on the government’s continued support with required equipment and logistics as well as plans to reward bravery and patriotic service.
He also promised a good welfare scheme for the families of soldiers lost to the insurgency.
His word must now be his bond. The military must be given its due to avoid the kind of international ridicule the country had been subjected to before now over the troops’ sloppy efforts to dislodge the insurgents.
Therefore, the president must work harder at repositioning the institution through improved training, investment in hardware and international collaboration to aid effective border checks with the ultimate goal being improved national security.
His meeting later with Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima as part of the visit is also instructive. It confirms a renewed working relationship between the two after an injurious and unnecessary political mudslinging between the state and Federal authorities to gain political mileage at the expense of peace in the country.
The president’s seeming vacillation in confronting the fundamentalists in the initial days of the Boko Haram attacks and especially the delay in sending troops on their trail after the seizure of the Chibok girls, thus allowing the sect to gain confidence should be a lesson to all leaders. There is no alternative to decisiveness when the buck stops on your desk.
In spite of the circumstances of the visit which lend it to insinuations of political gimmickry, President Jonathan’s latest moves in the war on terror are reassuring.