Emeka Nwankpa

Recent reports revealed that 13 soldiers and two police personnel were killed on Christmas-eve while fighting through a Boko Haram ambush on Damaturu-Maiduguri Roadbut Nigerian Army’s deputy spokesman, Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu, quickly added that in another terrorists’ attack on the same day in Kukareta, Damaturu LGA of Yobe State, the insurgents were successfully repelled and killed after a fierce battle.

Curiously, the rest of the country has carriedon as if nothing happened. It is a manifestation of low civilian support to the Nigerianmilitary. It is even sad that many don’t evenbother when service men die in action.

Three soldiers attached to Operation Safe Haven died as renewed tension escalated on September 7, 2018 in Plateau State. In March this year, eleven young freshly-trained soldiers who were deployed to Kaduna State as Special Forces against banditry in Birnin Gwari weremurdered in ambush.

It was frightening that Nigerians especially the political class did not condemn the killings. Ithas become the lot of military information handlers currently engaged in a multi-taskmatrix of managing the psychology of troopsand the emotions of bereaved families, the aloofness of many Nigerian people ,fighting off Boko Haram’s online propaganda theirritably doubtful postures of human rights platforms such as Amnesty International.

Yet, in all these, the critical issues of welfare, personnel and weapons and other logistics are another matter entirely. What about the issue of public perception of the counter-terrorism war which will be ten years in 2019 after the sect’s leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was extra-judicially killed in 2009? This is where the nation is right now.

Clearly, Nigeria is not where it should be but it has definitely progressed. In 2015 shortly before the elections that removed former President Goodluck Jonathan, a remarkable push-back against Boko Haram was made and continues to be made in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States, the theatre of war.

In Borno State, for example, where 27 LGAswere under Boko Haram, the military has turned the tide. Key performance indicatorssuch as the restoration of governmental authority, the return of thousands of rescued hostages to their ancestral roots, re-opening of inter-state roads and resuscitation of socio-economic activities.

The fight against terrorism since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in 2015 has been phenomenal made possible by theresilient service chiefs led by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin providing synergy-driven leadership to the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai, Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas, the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar and the commanders of Operation Lafiya Dole as true national heroes.

They have left none in doubt about their resolve to secure and stabilize the nation. The North East could have been lost to Boko Haram if they did not emerge to decimate the sect’s capacity to hold Nigerian territories.

Regrettably, Boko Haram’s propaganda has dictated a deadly narrative to divideunsuspecting Nigerians along ethnic, regional, religious and political lines as many see the anti-terror fight as a military affair. This is perhaps why the media reports terrorists’activities as though they were a State thereby giving it a larger-than-life status. Boko Haram has enjoyed the oxygen of free publicity.

The perception that the anti-terror is undulyprolonged is mistaken. This is direct fallout of the war of narratives. This again raises the need for public support to the defence forces to eliminate the remnant of the terrorists.

A nation moves together with its military winsa war. The Nigerian troops sacked Camp Zairo and Camp S (Shape) headquarters of the sect in the dreaded Sambisa Forest on December 22, 2016. They can do more. Such national consensus forms the chemistry of modern warfare. In 2011, Americans rallied round their military and security forces to take Osama Bin Laden down. Nigeria’s military has the spirit and soul to defend the country.But Nigerians must first know that the nationin a state of war. We must bother when the service men die in action while defending the country.

Never in the history of the nation have themilitary and other security forces been engaged in so many internal security operations as they are now. Insurgency has been curtailed in the North East. The forces are still engaged with other threats such as kidnapping, cattle rustling, farmers-herdsmenclashes, pipeline vandalism, oil robbery, illegal bunkering, ritual killing, cultism, etc.

Add the possible violent fallout of the current electioneering campaigns in the country and the stakes go higher. The armed forces have aided civil authority to restore of law and order, peace and security in the various flash-points across the country. There is a steadydecimation of Boko Haram. The Nigerian Air Force has been very effective in deploying the height advantage and the ferocity of the Mi35 fighter jets to frustrate the terrorists.

Consequently, thousands of rescued captives have returned to their communities to resume their normal lives. Night life has returned to Maiduguri and its environs. Regular commercial flights into the city have increased. Normalcy has returned to most of the areas affected by the insurgency.

Hotel accommodation in Maiduguri today is scarce which proves that the Nigerian military has significantly fast-tracked the return of peace to the region thereby demonstrating its capacity and will to defend the nation’s sovereignty country against internal and external aggression. The nation owes them a debt of gratitude.

This is the same military whose personnel are doing very well in United Nations peace-keeping operations across the globe. This is the same military that prevented the last presidential elections in the Gambia from slipping into chaos thereby guarding democracy in that country and increasing the confidence of Nigerians in the resilience of our armed forces under the CDS, General Olonisakin and his capable service chiefs.

Concerns are still being raised in certain quarters about when and whether the nation will eventually see the back of Boko Haram. Historically, the war against terrorism lingersbecause terrorism runs on many legs. Indoctrination makes it difficult to fight because the minds involved are, at best, disoriented.

The Nigerian military is a conventional fighting force fighting non-conventional ragtag combatants. The required approach therefore is multi-pronged lending itself to arbitrary reviews, tactical adjustments and strategic manoeuvres which ultimately drags the war on end.

Nigerians have critical roles to play in the way the military has ingeniously adjusted its doctrinal focus and training programs to incorporate civilians in promoting internal security through volunteering vital information to security services as a mark of citizen duty. Unfortunately, this is not being done. The security of the nation is not the duty of the military alone but everybody’s.

The Nigerian military has been better-positioned to quell armed conflicts in aid of the civil police in the country. Under Gen. Olonisakin and the service chiefs, the armed forces have garnered remarkable global respect in the determined manner it has effectively tackled insecurity particularly terrorism and insurgency.

Nigeria’s counter-terrorism strategy has also become a subject of robust discourse, deep study and increased interest in top military quarters across the world prompting a visit not long ago by a high-powered study group from the prestigious Royal College of Defence Studies in the United Kingdom to the Defence Headquarters in Abuja.

Today, the military under Gen. Olonisakin and the service chiefs have employed synergy, intelligence and information sharing to stabilize the nation in the way it has tackled national security threats particularly terrorism and insurgency employing a mix of kinetic and non-kinetic measures.

The various intervention operations across the country have remarkably secured and stabilized the nation. Operation Sharan Daji in the North West tackles armed banditry, the rustling of cattle and other livestock while Operation Awatse, a collaboration of the Army, Navy and Air Force in the South West region tackles militants and oil installation vandals around Arepo, Ishawo and Elepete creeks in Lagos and Ogun States.

Operation Hard Punch in Kaduna currently battling kidnapping and banditry in Birnin Gwari and Kaduna-Abuja Road is complementing Operation Safe Haven in the North Central Plateau State and Operation Swirl Stroke to combat deadly herdsmen, armed robbery, cattle-rustling and banditry in Nasarawa, Benue and Taraba States.

Operation Delta Safe in the Niger Delta area protects critical oil installation, routs oil robbery, pipeline vandalism, illegal oil bunkering and general criminality in the oil-rich region.

The top military command under the CDS, knowing that a nation’s strength is measured by the combat readiness of its defence forces, set out on a vision: to ensure a well motivated, trained and equipped Armed Forces that is responsive to national security commitments.

Defence observers believe the operations are the best gift by the military to Nigerians, a major safeguard against threats to the nation’s sovereignty. They deserve garland as the trueguardian of Nigeria’s sovereignty, and,democracy.

Emeka Nwankpa, a journalist and public affairs commentator, lives in Abuja.

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