OUR SOLDIERS AND THE METELE TRAGEDY

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The recent massacre of our soldiers by Boko Haram at Metele in Borno State will forever remain a disturbing phenomenon in the psyche of men and women of goodwill in our nation. We now regularly lose soldiers in numbers to the terrorists as if our military is one of a stone-age era despite all the claims by the presidency and military top brass that “Boko Haram has been technically defeated”.

Unfortunately for the soldiers, their families and Nigerians, there was no sense of urgency or even outrage from both the presidency and the military top brass as would have been expected. It all looked like business as usual as it took the presidency five whole days before it could muster any sense of responsibility to make a statement on the unfortunate and disastrous incident, and this only followed the outpouring of outrage against the presidency by the citizens for what many thought was the presidency’s lackadaisical attitude towards the fatal fate of the soldiers.

The pertinent questions Nigerians are asking are: how come Boko Haram still had the kind of audacity displayed in that attack on Nigerian soldiers when the presidency and the military top brass had earlier told us that the terrorist organisation had been “technically defeated”?

How come what now seems to be one of the deadliest attacks on our soldiers is coming only days after the Nigerian Army showcased its newly acquired military hardware on its twitter handle, precisely on October 30, 2018, with the following caption: “Breaking News. Nigerian Army receives large consignment of ammunition: The NIgerian Army has received a shipment of various ammunition to further enhance its operational capabilities and combat efficiency.”

Also, how come this deadly attack is coming only months after President Buhari approved the controversial $1bn for the purchase of military hardware, precisely in April 2018?

At that time, not few Nigerians expressed doubts as to the real reason why that humongous amount was approved by the president singlehandedly without any legislative input as required by our laws. The question many are still asking now is: what happened to that money? What happened to the degraded and technically defeated Boko Haram? Can we still trust our leaders and the service chiefs on this fight against insurgency?

There is the assertion in authoritative quarters that despite the many singsongs of a defeated Boko Haram and how President Buhari and his anointed service chiefs have been directing the affairs of the military, the soldiers themselves have confirmed that their morale is at an all time low and that they are being sent to the war front with weapons far inferior to those of the terrorists, and this is despite all the noise about getting new and sophisticated weapons to prosecute the war against terrorism.

Some of the soldiers who escaped the onslaught of the terrorists have been widely quoted by the media to have narrated the following heartbreaking condition of the army: “See what the Nigerian Army has been doing to us. They brought us here. See how they killed our fellow soldiers, they burnt them inside the tanks,” a narrator in the video said.

“This is a Third World vehicle, a tank manufactured in 1972; and Albarnawi broke all of it. They want to use us and we are not getting anything from them. We want to tell the government of our condition….

In August this year, a band of soldiers shot sporadically in the premises of the Maiduguri airport in protest over shabby handling of their affairs by their commanders.

Soldiers are not known to easily lose their cool against their superiors to the extent of openly threatening to shoot them because they always know the consequences of such actions. But it seems the complacency, lack of management capacity and unfair treatments meted to the soldiers by their superiors were enough for their tempers to so boil over irrespective of the consequences.

The soldiers themselves feel cheated, and they have so declared on several occasions. They have almost always complained about their poor welfare including the non-payment, and sometimes delay, in payment of their allowances. The Nigerian soldier is, no doubt, gallant, and has enormous capacity, courage and determination to defend us as citizens and protect our territorial integrity as a nation. But when the enemy parades superior firepower, courage and determination take flight, naturally.

When Buhari appointed a majority of the service chiefs from a particular region and religion, he and his supporters defended it and claimed that even if all his appointees come from one region and religion in a multicultural, multi-religious and multiethnic nation like Nigeria, it means nothing as long as they are competent.

Today, nothing exposes the shallowness and puerility of such appointments.

Jude Ndukwe,

jrndukwe@yahoo.co.uk