Letter to Buhari on Boko Haram in Borno

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SATURDAY PERSPECTIVE 

Zanna Boguma

Dearest President,

I hope my letter reaches you in good health. My special regards to you and members of the esteemed first family and best wishes and a lot of appreciations for your fatherly attention to us people of Borno and the Northeast. I wrote you this letter in response to the numerous social media comments on the last military statement denying the dare devil and daring attacks on Gubio and Magumeri local governments of Borno State by Boko Haram. The attempts by Boko Haram to intimidate and attack communities in the state and the actions of our soldiers in the frontline have made us lose confidence in the recent military’s performance in protecting not only the vulnerable citizens but even the territorial boundaries of the nation.

 Your Excellency, while lauding the efforts of the Nigerian Army for their gallantry in other part of the state, much is needed to be done in areas around MMC and Jere and in recent attacks on Nganzai, Gajiganna, Gubio, Magumeri, Amurwa, Kalali Abdul, Wanori and Dalori villages. The incessant and daring attacks by Boko Haram are becoming a source of great concern to citizens living in the two local government areas and five villages simultaneously attacked for three days without any counter measures or even a response to distress calls from the locals.

 A country’s armed forces are supposed to be a proud and patriotic defenders of both the nation’s territories and its citizens, but today’s men of the armed forces are either overwhelmed by the desire to amass wealth by all means on the bloods of the innocent Nigerian citizens, or have been compromised by theories of conspiracy and collaboration by deserting their formations in the face of attacks by the insurgents.

 We’ve been hearing of successes recorded by battalions outside Maiduguri in their clearance operations while the terrorists hibernating around the Alau general area and in the recent local governments of Gubio and Magumeri were allowed to have a field day without any rapid response from the military except for them to take to their heels leaving all hardwares to be carted away by the insurgents.

 In most cases, they are not pursued; they dare to attack and always allowed to go which is a mockery of our security. The Nigeria armed forces are rated to be the finest in Africa, but the present crop of the soldiers sent to the frontline are either not ready to fight or have compromised. One silly rumor in town was the stories of our men divided along parochial lines of tribe and religion which will not augur well for national security.

 Your Excellency, may I kindly wish to recall your exploits as an army commander. We living in Borno will never forget your patriotism and sense of duty by commandeering the reclaiming of our territories from Chad in the 80s against all odds. But from the happenings in Borno and elsewhere, the field commanders and their men, in most cases, have turned the theatre of war into a milking cow. Many have abdicated their responsibility as defenders of the citizens without confronting the terrorists.

 I believe, as done in all places, all new entrants in the armed forces are sworn to uphold the constitution and to protect the territorial integrity of the country, an oath of allegiance and promise to lay their arms in protecting both the civilians and the nation against any enemy – domestic and foreign. However, in the Nigeria of today and as seen in the recent action of our men on the frontline, these principles have been compromised.

 Your Excellency is not being told the truth about the situation on the theatre of war. You are either fed with false information to raise hopes of technical defeat of the terrorists, which is far from the truth. Agreed our armed forces are overstretched. Agreed their equipment are obsolete and their conditions are really not promising, but as a nation, they are trained to confront the worst of enemies than the rag tag, untrained and professionally bankrupt miscreants who capitalize on their fear and weakness to wreak havoc on them and vulnerable citizens.

 The recent systematic attacks on Gubio, a strategic battalion and forcing soldiers to withdraw is not only a shame but a slap on the face of our armed forces, a mockery and abuse on the strength and professionalism of our armed forces which was once a formidable force in the Africa.

 Patriotism being the hallmark of all military operations is absent. In most cases, men that were lacking in experiences of war tactics are posted out for guerrilla-like operations. The special forces that would have dealt with the peculiarities of insurgency are not properly involved in the operation and munitions that could have been used are not on ground to confront the monster head on.

 Your Excellency, one very potent war strategy is propaganda which has been effectively used by the enemies to send fears into the spine of our young and in experienced soldiers. This strategy would have been used by our officers to intimidate the enemy. 

 Instead of taking the offensive to the enemies, our men are confined to trenches waiting to be attacked. The continued reports of repels and foiling of attacks are never a war strategy that is intended to end. Sometimes, those officers with the zeal and passion for the profession are demoralized by their commanders and in most cases, prevented from either pursuing the enemies or even responding to intelligence information about the movements of the insurgents. 

 In counter insurgency operations, you don’t wait to be attacked; rather, you take the war to the enclaves and hide outs of the insurgents. In Syria and Iraq, the military used the strategy of offensive warfare to technically defeat and degraded the ISIS insurgency in their country. Not only that; the militia were effectively used to achieve success in the operation to capture their territories and send the insurgents running.

 Also, one of the disheartening and most demeaning aspects of the war is that the Chadian, Cameroonian and Nigerien armed force seem to be more professional and determined in the operation. Their courageous pursuit of the enemies in the Lake Chad exposed our soldiers as cowards and unserious which has reduced their image of once the most fearsome and professional army in Africa.  

 Cases of desertion and abandonment of formations need to be thoroughly investigated. Cordon and search operations must be seriously intensified and punitive expeditions intensified. No matter the consequences, the infantry must come into the operation and with full air support, if we truly want to end this challenge. The hunters who were the masters of the forest, the determined CJTF and our vigilantes should be brought into the fight if we really want to achieve success in the war. These if effectively implemented, will greatly assist in countering the insurgency. 

There are many questions to be asked in the face of the recent actions of the military in the operation. There is a seeming case of sabotage, collaboration and negligence seen in most of the recent attacks. 

 Former President Jonathan was accused of conspiracy and complacency. The then military was accused of sabotage and sellout. They were accused of using the insurgency to enrich themselves and from the look of things. History seems to be repeating itself if not the worst, similar to the one that had happened.

 We in Borno and the North have high hopes when we elected this government. We saw in you hope of redemption from our national calamities knowing very well your patriotism and integrity. In the last four years, these hopes were translated into reality but with the recent upsurge in insurgent’s activity in Northern Borno and the actions of the military, we are left with no options than to despair.

 Unfortunately for us, and with all sense of regrets and apologies, our sons who are supposed to feel our pains seem not helping. We had all it takes to bemoan their silent and ineffective response to the plight of their state, region and people. The Chiefs of Army and Air force are both from the Northeast, the National Security Adviser, the Chief of Staff to the President and the SGF all are from the region yet, they remained mute and inactive.  

As our leader and President, we in Borno and the Northeast will always remain indebted to you for identifying with us, for the concerns you have for our region and for the lofty intentions you have of transforming our region to greater heights. Your political will to end the insurgency, the drilling of oil in the Lake Chad, the recharging of the Lake Chad and many more which the insurgency has made it impossible are fresh in our memories. In terms of representation in government, you gave us all that it takes to make our region great. But, those entrusted have not only failed us, but have failed you in actualizing your objective of building a secured and prosperous nation. 

 I wish the authorities concerned will shelve all their personal or parochial interests and put the safety of the citizens and the nation first and re-strategize their operational methods in defeating the enemies of the nation. His Eminence, the Shehu of Borno, told you about the current realities when you visited him in his palace. His Eminence has spoken the minds of all the people of Borno and by extension the Northeast when he told you that the insurgents have virtually surrounded Borno not far away from the state capital to which nothing has been done until these realities were today being seen around us. His Excellency, our Governor too has severally seen you on the matter. Now is the time for Mr. President to personally interface with our community leaders to debrief him on vital intelligence and in real situations in Borno and the Northeast.

 As did before, Mr. President should direct the Service Chiefs to relocate to Borno to finally operationalize the defeat of Boko Haram as was done in Syria and Iraq. The military should take the offensive position to deal with the problem. They don’t just wait for the enemy to strike. They should never allow the enemy to understand their fears and weaknesses.

 As I am writing this open letter to you, all military formations have been withdrawn from all their strategic locations and this action has made our remaining communities more vulnerable to attacks by Boko Haram. This action has also emboldened the terrorists for daily attacks and to ransack communities that were unprotected due to the lack of military presence. Residents of Gubio and Magumeri local governments have also deserted the two strategic towns thus opening a route for the terrorists to descend on Maiduguri. Routes from Maiduguri to Damasak, Maiduguri to Monguno and Maiduguri to Konduga and Bama are all made vulnerable with this withdrawal.

 This letter does not intend to put our men of the armed force to disrepute, nor the institution as incapable, rather, we felt as citizens to plead for more viable approach to the fight against the insurgency and put to an end the lingering insecurity bedeviling our nation. As a patriotic and professional institution in which Mr. President has once served, the military is seen as our hope for peace and stability and Mr. President as the Commander in Chief, needs to know that we are concerned and worried. Let our despair be turned into optimism and let us be patriotic to our nation and protect our country’s image and integrity.

 Mr. President may kindly accept the assurances of our highest regards and love while praying to the Almighty to protect you against all and a special prayer for our men of the armed force for victory and protection.  

––Zanna Hassan Boguma (Zanna Boguma of Borno)