Despite claims to the contrary, the recent increase in attacks and killings by Boko Haram terrorists is an indication that the military may be losing grounds to the insurgents in the Northeast, writes Senator IroegbuÂ
Nigerian military have over the years, been famed for their conventional war victories and exploits. The Nigerian Army, Navy and Air Force, are renowned for not losing any war within its territory as well as in their regional and international peace enforcement duties.Â
Unfortunately, developments within the nationâ€™s northeast region and other parts of the country where Boko Haram terrorists held sway have dragged the military into unchartered waters of unconventional warfare.Â
For Nigeria, Nigerians and their armed forces, Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Insurgency (CTCOIN) Operation is a new challenge they were reluctantly drawn into when Mohammed Yusufâ€™s led Boko Haram started itsÂ Â ‘retaliatory’ onslaught against state institutions. What started like a protest attacks in 2007 have now matured into a full blown terrorism.Â
Unprepared and untested in asymmetric warfare with its guerrilla tactics, the nationâ€™s security and intelligence architecture were forced to bring their resilience, adaptability and ingenuity to the fore. While the countryâ€™s armed forces could be said to have performed admirably within its limited training, resources and international assistance, the jury is still out if it has indeed passed the test.
This is accentuated by the fact that for over seven years, NigeriansÂ Â have been grappling with the Boko Haram-led terrorism that has led to the death of thousands of people, destruction of properties worth billions of naira, and rendered millions as refugees or Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). People are still apprehensive whether the military alone can resolve the complex issues, whether other arms of security and intelligence services are doing enough to assist and if the political will and sincerity is actually applied to bring the crisis to an end.
While these doubts remain, there is no doubt however, that the military are at the vanguard of the CT COIN operations, especially at the epicentre of the insurgency in the Northeast. Significant progress has also been made from what it used to be in 2014 when the terrorists dominated three North Eastern states.
But for many, the war has dragged on beyond expectations with each announcement of victory often punctured by repeated terrorists’ attacks and resurgence.Â Â The terror group and its leader Shekau, have in more than one occasion either been declared “dead” or “technically defeated” only to make a deadly comeback that tends to mock the seemingly premature declarations.Â
The latest of these setbacks, was the deadly incident of July 25, 2017, when some Boko Haram Terrorists ambushed, attacked, kidnapped and killed some Nigerian troops including members of the local vigilantes known as Civilian JTF (CJTF), staff of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as well as that of University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) who were on oil exploration mission to Yesu District of Magumeri Local Government Area (LGA) of Borno state.
While the nation is yet to recover from the unfortunate reversal of fortunes, Nigerian Air Force (NAF) confirmed that the terrorists have re-entered their infamous enclaves in the Sambisa forest. This was also followed with daring attacks in Magdali village of Adamawa state, leading to the death of seven people. Prior to these attacks, there have been sustained cases of suicide bombings in and around UNIMAID, hitherto a ‘no-go-area’ for the terrorists and other parts of Borno State.Â Â
Bewildered, Nigerians are beginning to ask what has become of all the declared victories; capture of Sambisa Camp Zairo and the famous “technical defeat” of the terrorists.
In the same vein, concerned strategists and experts in CTCOIN are bothered by the fact that there have not been enough awareness and understanding of what asymmetric warfare is all about. Many have come to the conclusion that the public and most personnel in the defence sector lack proper education on CT COIN operations. Some have also began to brainstorm, if every single bomb that goes off invalidates the claim of victory by the military and whether it is out of place for the terrified citizens to voice these doubts?Â
Notwithstanding, it’sÂ Â the failure of the government to properly define and communicate these events as they unfold that prompted the US National Security Adviser (NSA), Lt-Gen. H.R. McMaster to warn about the complex nature of asymmetric warfare and the often temptation to simplify approaches, expectations and outcomes by the state actors.
According to him, there is an inherent temptation to be lost in the euphoria of often short-lived victory of conventional battles, forgetting how interactive human nature and politics influences the outcomes of CT COIN operations.
Consequently, there are doubts if the military had actually lost ground to Boko Haram and if the terrorists are now stronger than they were some months back.
Have the military lost ground?Â
To truly ascertain the state of things in addition to verified situations on ground from players in the battlefield, THISDAY went to town sampling the opinions of some of the players, analysts and security experts in the CTCOIN operations. Opinions were divided but findings showed that while the Nigerian military have not in any way lost grounds but are being tactically outsmarted by the terrorists that have resorted to classic asymmetric and guerrilla tactics. On this, the military seem to have been caught napping and sabotage is rife. This has also exposed the need for improved intelligence and synergy among the security agencies, and also to fine-tune the country’s CTCOIN strategies. The terrorists, knowing their deficiencies in conventional battles, which Nigerian military is renowned for, have now resorted to hit-and-run attacks to advertise that they still retain the ability to terrorise.Â
ForÂ Â counter-terrorism expert and lecturer at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Dr. Freedom Onuoha, the events of the recent past suggest that something has gone wrong or at least is going wrong with the current military campaign posture against the insurgents. Onuoha noted that some factors could be responsible for this, first of which is “to question the whole basis of the politics of release of some Chibok girls in the past one year, especially with the release of Boko Haram strategists or top commanders”.Â
According to him, “one experienced strategists or commander in any terrorist organization is worth more than a hundred foot-soldiers. His battle tested experience and intelligence are enough to pull an audacious attack that you may think that several hundred foot soldiers were involved”.Â
The alumnus of National Defence College (NDC) also expressed the need to look into the incessant redeployment and re-posting of military officers to see how this may be impacting on authority, command and control (ACC) structure of military operations against the insurgents.Â Â
Finally, he said, we need to probe more into the very internal resilience structure of the insurgents to ascertain if there are developments that have emboldened or bolstered their strength.Â Â
“For instance, did the government pay ransom in addition for prisoner exchange for the Chibok girls? If yes, has the flow of cash enabled the group to revive dormant cells or fund operations that have remained in the cooler?Â Â
“Also, are there pointers of possible rapprochement between the factions of the Boko Haram that may have accounted for increased audacious attacks against state interests as against themselves? What is even the role of possible sabotage within or outside the military?” Onuoha asked.Â
In the same vein, a security analyst alluded that the “military have lost ground”, saying that the shake up and redeployment of key players, familiar with the terrain is a major setback. He however, opined that while the terrorists are waxing stronger and attacking soft targets, it shows sign of defeat and weakness.Â Â
“They are just doing it to register their presence, which is not true. They keep decreasing day by day,” he said.
“The recent analysis by the US that Nigerian military have not been able to retain the ground recovered by the MNJT is apt and true. Not only had the MNJT recovered ground, major towns recovered just before the 2015 elections have been lost. Worst case scenario is that the dreaded Sambisa forest whose alleged total clearance from the hands of Boko Haram is now officially back into the control of the terrorists. This is a clear indicator of two steps taken forward and five steps backwards in the campaign against BH. From the onset let it be made succinctly clear that fighting terrorists is not easy more so Islamic induced ones who derive their inspiration falsely from their religion as we have seen all over the world,” a retired senior officer said.Â
But other officers differed on the ground that “skirmishes always happen across the lifespan of an insurgency”.Â Â
“Check relevant history on the US Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. In my opinion, except the security deteriorates beyond 2015 situation, it would be sheer mischief at best or gross lack of understanding of the situation, to suggest that the military has lost ground. Apart from the few heat and run attacks by Boko Haram in the last few months, is there any pointer to loss of territory and brazen daylight attacks as was the case a few years ago?Â
“It is just coincidence. We have not lost grounds. Lone wolf attacks are hard to fight anywhere in the world. The NNPC case was insider information”.
In the same vein, a retired Army Chief was emphatic that, for him, â€œit is a success story”, clarifying that there were gaps in the mop up operations” and “the result is what we are witnessing today”.Â Â
Technically, he added, Boko Haram is defeated but a lot needs to be done to check their isolated criminal activities, suggesting that the, “locals, natives and all well-meaning citizens need to cooperate with the Military for total success”.
The respected senior officer also fingered politicians and fifth columnists, whom he alleged, donâ€™t want the war to end.Â
“You must understand that there may be saboteurs who have been profiting from the insurgency over the years and may not want peace to return. And politics and politicians are also there. I believe there is a 5th columnist somewhere. I am fully convinced the military has done its best and will surely do more to ensure sustained peace and stability.”
“To be candid the military has not lost ground. Few pockets of Boko Haran members scattered all over the North East undercover the fact that they are trying to seek and gain attention. It is obvious that the military has denied them freedom of movement, they now resort to laying of ambush, â€œanother officer agreed.Â
But Mr. Chinedu Anarado of Nigerian Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP) noted that while the military had degraded the terrorists, they still possess the ability to hurt soft targets.Â
â€œThere is a middle ground. While it seems the military have whittled down the sects capacity, they still retain ability to hurt and are using the current resurgence to demonstrate that. But more importantly, to negotiate something for themselves. I believe they are in talks with government with regards to the remaining Chibok girls. Hence it is likely to show they can still hurt hence get an upper hand in the negotiations,” Anarado concluded.Â
There is no doubt that recent tragic events have thrown up the debate whether the once “technically defeated” terrorists are back on track? Is history about to repeat itself?Â
A sense of deja vuÂ
The resurgence of suffocated terrorists, have re-echoed a cyclic scenario in our war against terror that is often forgotten in our rush for another round of ‘victory’.
Â Just like former president Olusegun Obasanjo ordered the attack on Odi, the late Yar’Adua administration, in 2008, unleashed the military on the BH group, who crushed the group, arrested their leader Mohammed Yusuf and handed him over to the police under whose custody he was killed.Â Â
Relieved, many thought that was the end of the “troublesome and irritating” Boko Haram and everyone went about their business. But they were wrong.Â Two years later, the group rebounded into amorphous and classical terror group under the eccentric Abubakar Shekau, bombing churches, strategic centres like Police Force Headquarters, UN Buildings and media houses, maiming and killing people. This time around, people noticed a radical ideological shift, different and even more sinister than the Mohammed Yusuf era. Shekau expanded Boko Haram terroristsâ€™ activities beyond the hitherto limited attacks to selected security infrastructures in the North East to North West, North Central and Southwards.Â
Alarmed, the Nigerian security agencies and the military in particular were mobilised to confront what has now become a full blown terrorism with introduction of suicide bombings. This is alien to Nigeria but to the credit of the then service chiefs who pioneered the military from an entirely conventional force, to CTCOIN specialists while providing the necessary trainings.Â Â
The military and security agencies did rally round to confront the rampaging terrorists but not without casualties as both the then Inspector General of Police (IGP) Hafsat Ringim who vowed to wipe off Boko HaramÂ in one weekÂ (but failed spectacularly), the Minister of Defence, Dr. Bello Mohammed and late National Security Adviser (NSA), Gen. Patrick Azazi lost their positions.Â Â
Then entered Col. Mohammed Sambo Dasuki (rtd) as the NSA with ex-President Goodluck Jonathan declaring a ‘State of Emergency â€˜on three Northeast states of Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states. Dasuki together with the then Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika (rtd); Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Mohammed Dikko Umar (rtd); Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin (rtd) and later Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim (rtd), were able to reverse the gains of the terrorists back to their Sambisa enclave. There was air of victory and the dominant discussion then whether the “fatally wounded Shekau” was dead or not and the final onslaught in Sambisa forest. While the government and military authorities were basking on this imminent victory, the terrorists in an audacious onslaught penetrated Maiduguri,Â Â temporarily captured the air force base and destroyed the air component of the then Joint Task Force (JTF) creating not only a stalemate in the war but bad blood between the Army and Air Force.
Sensing the crack, Jonathan in January 2014, reshuffled his military chiefs to inject fresh ideas with the emergence of Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh (rtd) at the Defence Headquarters (DHQ), Lt-Gen. Kenneth Minimah (rtd) at the Army, Vice Admiral Jibrin (rtd) in Navy and Air Marshal Adesola Amosu (rtd) to commandeer the Nigerian Air Force (NAF).Â
Unfortunately, like old habit that dies hard, Badeh on assumption of office took the same slippery lane that got the sacked IGP Ringim into trouble by promising to crush Boko Haram by April of 2014. Similar to the response Ringim got through the subsequent attacks at the Force Headquarters and UN Building in Abuja, Boko Haram metamorphosed into insurgency, capturing and occupying vast territories in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. The year marked the worst in the history of the Nigerian Armed Forces as it lost conventional battles after battles climaxing in the kidnap of over 200 girls of Government Secondary School, Chibok who were taking their final West African Examination.Â
Even though the military fought gallantly after acquiring some new weapons to recover almost all the lost territories before May 29, 2015 it however, cost Jonathan his re-election bid. Then came in President Muhammadu Buhari with a promise to crush Boko Haram within months of assuming office. With the military regaining momentum, Buhari allowed the security personnel inherited from Jonathan to carry on but subsequently changed them on July 13, 2015. This was followed by resurgent attacks by the terrorists. In response to the rising attacks, Buhari on August 13, 2015 at the decoration of the new Service Chiefs mimicked Ringim and Badeh by issuing a three-month ultimatum with which to defeat Boko Haram and effectively end the war on terror. Energised, the new military and intelligence chiefs including the NSA, Maj-Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd), Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin (DHQ), Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai (Army), Vice Admiral Ibok-Etteh Ibas (Navy) and Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar (NAF) swung into action with aggressive mop up operations with significant success.
While the security chiefs could be excused for not issuing the three-month deadline, they did try to comply with the directive. But on sensing a potential backlash that would follow failure of such strategic blunder, the Minister of Information, Mr. Lai Mohammed coined the “technical defeat” of Boko Haram at the end of 2015. This was followed by another deadline to finish Boko Haram by December 31, 2016 leading to the successful capture of the Boko Haram Headquarters in Sambisa forest. While, they successfully captured Sambisa Camp Zairo on deadline, similar to the success of Jonathan’s six-week deadline before 2015 elections brought the psychological boost needed in the war against terror, it nevertheless created the relaxed atmosphere that allowed the terrorists to regroup and re-strategise to unleash new wave of attacks.Â Â
Strategic Communications FailureÂ Â
A cursory look into unfolding events reveals a communication gap in the CTCOIN efforts. According to experts, there is a noticeable failure to either educate the public or deliberate attempt to obscure understanding of the asymmetric nature of the warfare. There are questions that have dominated public discourse in recent times like when government or military claims that Boko Haram has been “technically defeated”, what did they mean? How does such resonate with the people with repeated suicide bombings and terrorist attacks?Â Â Have the strategic planners and prosecutors of war against terror been able to define and communicate same to the members of the public the nature of warfare the country is currently engaged in? Is recovering territories same as defeating the terrorists?Â
According to CTCOIN experts, significant part of modern warfare is in the theatre of strategic communications and psychological operations. And as it stands, the terrorists seem to be more consistent, proactive and steps ahead in this regard.
This fact was not lost to the second in command of Al-Qaeda Ayman al-Zawahiri, who in 2005 admonished the Jihadists “that we are in a battle, and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media”.
While Nigerian government is trying to do a catch-up in their communication strategies, a security and counter-terrorism expert, Mr. Amaechi Nwaokolo, warned the authorities to avoid propaganda and use of false information. Nwaokolo noted that while propaganda might work for the terrorists and state actors in conventional war situation, it would be counter-productive in asymmetric warfare that is fluid, unpredictable and undefined. “What do you think will happen if they make a claim only for it to turn out to be false like often is this case in this kind of situation,” he said.
He alluded to the fact that the public must be told and their mind prepared to appreciate the nature of the warfare like when the former US President George Bush warned Americans in the aftermath of 9/11 attack that “the war will be long and difficult”. Bush gave no deadlines but promised that the war would be won.
Experts rather advised for advanced and covert use of psychological operations and strategic communications that is subtle but effective to counter the terroristsâ€™ propaganda.Â
“We should avoid making hasty and ambiguous or bogus promises and deadline that is out of tune with the nature of conflict we are in. These must be avoided because a single suicide bombing can make nonsense of your claim of victory,” a retired military chief said.Â
Blame the Politicians…
In line with the postulations by McMaster, politics, politicians and political influences have a lot to do with successes or failure of the operations. According to findings, pressures from politicians and the zeal to please the political authorities without recourse to operational and tactical implications is undoing the professionalism of the military and gains on the battlefield.Â
“The Nigerian politicians, for selfish gains are trying to polarise the military which till today remain the few institutions that reflect the unity the country. At the peak of terrorism in late 2013 and 2014, the opposition rather than align with the government of the day chose to celebrate the terrorist and malign our military, thinking that if they destroy it they will inherit a different one. They are now in government and have seen it… if care is not taken people in the military, security and intelligence agencies would be viewed based on where they come from or how loyal they were to former or current administration. We donâ€™t need such polarisation,” a security personnel said.
Another security expert agreed, saying “the military had exhausted the momentum and impetus garnered towards the end of Jonathan era when the fight was boosted with new weapons and reorganisation of the forces as well as military alliances that saw the full involvement of a reinvigorated MNJTF in taming the terrorists.Â
“The apparent all motion without movement seen in Nigeria can be traced to many reasons: False propaganda by the Buhari government in an effort to demonise Jonathan administration. The politicization of the fight against Boko Haram by the All Progressive Peoples Congress (APC) before 2015 and after winning the election to date has been a serious draw back in a purely serious national undertaking.Â
“Although, both the military and politicians for purposes of propaganda were uncharitable in failing to acknowledge the strategic input of previous leadership. But now that their capability is really being tested and challenged, they need to go back to the drawing board and re-strategise instead of joining politicians to engage in meaningless propaganda and denial of the reality on ground. â€œThe terrorists appear set to embarrass the military and the nation yet again”.
It was argued that the rush to please and kowtow to the politicians has put the military in an embarrassing situation…the unnecessary deadlines.
“I think the government was too quick to tell the world that Boko Haram has been technically defeated,” an intelligence officer noted, adding; “why should the military who are short of manpower allow our officers and soldiers to embark on the ill-fated journey for oil exploration just to please our politicians? Why canâ€™t they be firm and stand up to them when the situation doesnâ€™t call for it or honourably resign than put our troops in harmâ€™s way? I mean we are still battling with these terrorists and you are sending them on oil exploration when even Niger Delta where we are sure of oil is not even secure?”Â
The serving and retired officers, intelligence and security experts who spoke on condition of anonymity noted that while the whole operation is subject to the civil authority, the military must be freed from undue political pressure.Â
Â “Like it is said, ‘soldier go, soldier come, barracks remain’, meaning that our military must remain constant despite changes in administration. It was in the bid to hurriedly prove the current politicians right that their presence in government will end Boko Haram that gave rise to the premature declarations of victory that makes mockery of the bravery and efforts of our armed forces,” a source said.
Itâ€™s not all about the military….
Many security experts have also noted that one of the key missing links in the ongoing CTCOIN operation is the harmonisation of intelligence and civilian components to complement the military operations.Â Â The reality is that the political authorities have relinquished all the burdens of counter-terrorism efforts to the military, neglecting the critical inputs required from the civil population, intelligence and paramilitary agents.
The then Commander of US AFRICOM, Gen. Carter Ham (rtd), while responding to questions in 2013 to the raging war against Boko Haram, warned Nigeria that “military might alone cannot solve the problem”.Â
In the same vein, Ihejirika once lamented the failure to “mobilise and motivate public mood” in support of the military efforts, while the immediate past Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj-Gen. Leo Irabor, after the capture of Sambisa forest, noted that the military had done the 20 percent of the job but the remaining 80 percent is left for the government, media and the public.
This point is not also lost on the military personnel, who expressed their frustrations to THISDAY, saying: “It is never the responsibility of the military to hold liberated areas. Sometimes we ascribe too much to the military than they are trained or conditioned for. Military is to help liberate an enemy stronghold while the police, civil defence and constituted authority are to dominate immediately. Now we can’t blame the military for what is happening”.
They highlighted the fact that the asymmetric nature of the warfare has not been understood or well communicated to the public. Some of the analysts stressed the fact that Nigerian military is doing creditably well bearing in mind how protracted CTCOIN operations are by citing examples of the long-drawn wars in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and Syria amongst others. It was observed that unlike other countries with more sophisticated weapons and coalitions including the US and Russia, Nigeria has been battling the terrorists alone apart from the largely funded Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) operating at the fringes of the contiguous boundaries of the Lake Chad Basin with Cameron, Chad and Niger Republic.
According to them, the public and civil authorities should be made to understand that “this a classic counter-insurgent operations”, noting that while the country expects a quick end to the insurgency, both FARC rebels in Colombia and Lord Resistance Army in Uganda have lasted for decades.Â Â
“Check what is happening in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan where the world top militaries are involved for many years and compare with our progress in Nigeria.Â Â Finally, I implore you to interrogate the concept of counter insurgency. Is it all about the military? Again, what is the role of media in all these? Is it to criticise the military? What is the practice in other climes?â€ a concerned officer queried
“In asymmetric warfare, you don’t defeat the enemy through a decisive battle like in conventional warfare but series of small battles. The adversary counts his wins not by the casualties you suffer but by his ability to hit other soft targets and in this instance, civilians. It’s the nature of this type of warfare that it oscillates up and down. Remember the ‘surge’ in Iraq? Thatâ€™s what informed it. The current fight in the North East is called asymmetric war. The rules guiding prosecution of conventional war are not followed by belligerent groups or Boko Haram. One peculiar thing to note is that in asymmetric war, you know when it starts but you can’t predict when it ends. All over the world, even where there are better armaments as well as intelligent apparatus, end of asymmetric war is not predictable. But with political will and absolute dedication to duty by the military, the war could be brought to an end soon.Â
“Terrorist and their activities the world over are same. One of their greatest weapon is the ability to operate lonely or jointly with devastating impact. They can easily conceal their identities and live among the people. That is why countering terrorism requires a coordinated intelligence gatherings and well-articulated surveillance.”
“Secondly, terrorists often use drugs and stimulants thus making them die-hard.Â Â Even in their small groups, they aimed to create fear and apprehension. A lone terrorist will never give up or surrender but would rather prefer to be martyred. What we are seeing today in Nigeria’s Northeast may continue as in elsewhere in the world particularly as millions of vulnerable illiterate and hungry youths are available as feeders,” others corroborated.
Call for Change of StrategyÂ
The common denominator among many experts, analysts, military and intelligence personnel that spoke to THISDAY is the urgent need to keep five steps ahead of the terrorists. The consensus is that the fluid nature of asymmetric warfare requires constant reviewing of strategy to counter the terrorists.
The chiefs among the suggestions are the need for advanced technologies, strategic communications, public participation, proactive, effective and actionable intelligence as well as proper use of civil-military relations. According to the sources, the nature of the conflict requires the use of soft approaches including intelligence and counter-narratives.Â
In addition, there was suggestion for a central Command for the Counter-terrorism efforts in form of Home Land Security, a role the Office of NSA (ONSA) was playing under the previous administration through the Terrorism Prevention Act (amended) with some suggesting it be commandeered by the DHQ. They noted that the growing rivalry among the security and intelligence agencies including military services and their inability to share intelligence is hurting the operations.
An officer in the theatre of operations noted: “we are getting complacence and war fatigued.Â Â Due to so many reasons: Logistical problems such as obsolete equipment, weather factor and need to review our strategy and tactics. Morale of the fighting troops. Finally, the misuse of media as a propaganda tool.”Â
Also, the need for operational stability was raised with incessant cases of redeployment affecting the war and urged the authorities to allow the current crop of commanders enough time to learn the ropes while injecting fresh heads and ideas at the services through change of leadership.Â Â
A concerned personnel said: “To be honest it will take a while for them to study and understand the ground. During the period of Irabor, the achievements of our troops over the adversary especially gain territories later made our troops to be more relaxed there by leaving their guards for surprises. There is therefore, need to change the leadership of the services for new guys with different ideas. Preferably, if the operation is under DHQ, because there is a sense of disunity between the services especially NA and NAF. This services render press interview on their achievements which I feel is wrong.”
Government response…the way forwardÂ
The Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, sensing apprehension among Nigerians has ordered the military chiefs back to the theatre of operations in Maiduguri. While some have expressed reservation over this approach, others have hailed it as a proactive step in the right direction.Â
Programme Coordinator, Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), Group Capt. Shehu Sadeeq, while summarising his take on the government directive disagreed with the former COAS, Lt-Gen. Agwai’s assertion that ordering the service chiefs to move to the North East was wrong.
Sadeeq, who was a formerÂ Â NAF Director of Public Relations and Information (DOPRI), described the directive as a ‘Battle field circulation’ or ‘leading from the front’, and it is an art that has been practised by the most successful commanders of the 20 and 21 Century, Patton, Montgomery, Bradley, McChrystal and now Buratai. It is necessary and to be effective, the commander must be able to understand the effects of battle on his soldiers and himself. It is front-line leadership”.Â
“The commander must see and be with his soldiers in their environment to really know what they are able to accomplish. Additionally, this gives them that almost mystical ability to accomplish even more. Battlefield circulation does not necessarily mean mission-immersed presence which entails a deeper, longer-lasting participation in the operations process.”Â
A passionate officer gave an in-depth analysis of the current situation with recommendations on the way forward.Â
The officer said “that the military lost concentration at some point, while the Boko Haram Terrorists were re-strategising. The military was able to push and confine them toÂ Â Â Sambisa forest, failed to keep them there because, in my view, they were busy celebrating a temporary victory.Â
“They allowed the Boko Haram to pool their resources together and draw out a new strategy. One of such strategies was the massive distribution of suicide bombers into the civilian populace, to create the impression that they had totally lost the capability to carry out any armed confrontation. This strategy worked a great deal because they slowed down a bit and allowed the military to open up roads within for transportation of goods, especially food, with minimal security escorts. Then the attacks began followed with ambushes, getting food supplies, attacking escorts, and seizing gun trucks and replenishing their arsenal. And this continued…the military was still sleeping…lost in the belief that the terroristsÂ Â lacked the capacity to launch a major attack… a gun truck, two, three, 11 and they kept growing, people kept dying; soldiers, civilians…until now. Then there was the release of the Chibok girls after payment of heavy ransom. The monies would only help to improve their arsenal…we were still sleeping…Â Â
“Just as Boko Haram did during the former President Jonathan’s era, where the Chibok girls actually gave international prominence to the activities of the terrorists, we have a repeat here with the attack on the oil workers.”
The officer continued with recommendations: “Now, what’s the problem? In any war situation, there’s the need for constant review of strategies to consolidate every progress made until the war is totally won. Especially if you realise that the enemy is not relaxing just like football, you may introduce a new strategy to win so many matches, but without a backup plan, your opponents will soon understand your strategies and before long, it will no longer be as effective.
“Then there’s the part played by government. In the wake of the success of the military in the war; recapturing territories and pushing the terrorists into hiding, the government decided to cut funding. To them the war had ‘already’ been won and there was no need to spend so much on the war anymore. I guess they felt the military would just embezzle the funds since there was no more war to fight…imagine these politicians…Â Â So, by and large, everybody, including you (the media) played various roles towards the present situation…”Â
“Some people are just happy to hear/read that the Boko HaramÂ Â have regained their powers and the military is failing, while human lives are being lost in hundreds weekly… Fellow Nigerians, let’s give some credit to the military also, while we, collectively, beg the executive to do the needful to support the military with adequate funds to execute this war to a stop. War has never been cheap…and those fighting it are human beings too… Until the recent attack in Mubi, Boko Haram had been fully confined within the borders of Borno state. You and I know that by now, they would have completely overrun the North East region but as at today there are no serious attacks outside of Borno. See how calm it is in Abuja, yet people are quick to condemn the military without probing deep to understand possible causes. Well, we’re back to the drawing board, hopefully, we will be seeing results soon”.Â
Finally, Osinbajo while speaking at the at the Silver Jubilee and graduation of 133 military and para-military participants of the Course 25 of the NDC in Abuja last Friday, challenged the Nigerian military elite to develop and master the cutting edge technology to defeat cyber hackers and terrorists in order to create a better future for the citizenry.Â
â€œI challenge the elite of our armed forcesÂ Â that if militants, terrorist groups and internet hackers are constantly re-inventing themselves taking advantage of emerging technologies, you have no reason whatsoever not to be at the cutting edge of technological warfare.
â€œYou must consistently redefine your role in national security architecture,â€™â€™ he said.