Olabode George: Military Alone Can’t Defeat Boko Haram

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Olabode George

• Says carnage in the north a national malady • Faults Buhari’s failing to probe Tinubu’s bullion-van saga

Gboyega Akinsanmi

A former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Bode George has faulted military approach to counter-insurgency operations in the Northeast, noting that only dialogue can end the insurgency by Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWA).

George, a former military governor of Ondo State, has also lamented the kind of carnage taking place in the north due to the activities of banditry, insurgency and kidnapping, describing it as a national malady that requires a result-oriented approach.

He has equally described the anti-corruption war of President Muhammadu Buhari as the war against some perceived enemies, faulting the president for failing to investigating the case of two bullions vans driven in the Ikoyi residence of the National Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu on the day of elections.

George canvassed a rethink in the counter-insurgency operations in the Northeast at a session with THISDAY in his Ikoyi office recently, warning that the Boko Haram war “is no longer a conventional war, but a guerrilla war.”

Founded by Mohammed Yusuf in 2002, Boko Haram started its insurgency operation in the Northeast in 2009 under the leadership of Abubakar Shekau initially against soft targets, but progressed in 2011 to the bombings of the Force Headquarters and the United Nations Office in Abuja .

Since 2009, the campaign of violence by Boko Haram insurgents has cost at least 27,000 lives, displaced some two million people and spawned an affiliate of the Islamic State of West Africa Province, opposing the westernisation of Nigeria and seeking to establish an Islamic state.

In September 2019, Buhari claimed that his administration had substantially defeated and degraded the Boko Haram insurgents to the extent that the insurgents were attacking only soft targets. He urged the armed forces to protect innocent Nigerians, whom he said, were ‘soft targets’.

With the renewed attacks in Borno State in the recent months, George provided strategic analysis about the character of the Boko Haram insurgency or any guerrilla warfare, which according to him, should not be addressed through orthodox approach as in the case of conventional warfare.

George, a strategist in the Nigerian Navy before his retirement, explained that Boko Haram “is no longer a conventional war. It is guerrilla warfare. Guerrilla war goes back into the history. It is not settled on the battlefield because the enemies you are fighting live among the people.”

In the military campaign against the Boko Haram or its sister organisation, ISWA, George observed that it was difficult “to define who are the real enemies. They will come during the day, mingle with the people and study the entire environment. In the night, they will launch attacks.”

Given its unconventional operations, George observed that Boko Haram “has appeared unending. It is not a normal warfare. The enemies are within, living among the people. In the day, they wear the same dress as we wear. They talk as normal human beings to gather intelligence

“There must be a meeting point. Check all the world where guerrilla war has been fought. The parties will have to come to the table and talk. The issue of religion they have brought into it makes it delicate. No nation embarks on religious war and wins. It is a perpetual unsettled scenario.

“As a military man, I know it will not be over until you call for a dialogue. The federal government must engage the insurgents. It must find out what they really want. These are the same people who live among the larger population. They are not aliens that dropped from the firmament.

“So, how do you identify them? If the army goes all out, they will just kill so many innocent people because they do not write on their heads that they are Boko Haram. That is the difference between the conventional war and guerrilla war. So, the earlier we sit down and negotiate the better.”

Besides considering dialogue, George equally canvassed the need to deploy military technology to combat the Boko Haram insurgency, warning that depending on the conventional warfare containment strategies would not guarantee public order in Borno State or any part of the Northeast.

He said technology “has gone ballistic. Why can we engage the developed countries to deploy their satellites to identify the location and movements of the Boko Haram insurgents? If we can do that, we will seek them, the location where they are gathering and the way they are moving.

“What are we doing? Are we networking with the international community enough? Where is that giant of Africa? We cannot resolve this issue. Today, this man is kidnapped. Tomorrow, another man is shot. We have lost the state of people. Everybody is on the precipice. We are practically living in fear.”

Specifically, the PDP chieftain lamented that failing to fight the Boko Haram insurgency with multi-pronged approach “has been responsible for the carnage going on in the north. If you know the kind of carnage going on in the north, it is really terrible. It is no doubt a national malady.”

He, therefore, advised the president tobcall a one-day conference, which he said, should bring together all elders including former presidents, former presidents of the Senate, former Speakers of the House of Representatives, traditional rulers, former senior military officers and former governors, among others, for national discourse.

George justified his conference of national leaders, citing the unnecessary tribal suspicion and mistrust against tribes nationwide, which he argued, should be constructively addressed because the gulf between tribes across the federation “is getting wider and wider every day.

“If I dress like a northerner, for instance, who will know that I am not? Everybody, who is normal, has one head, two hearts, one heart and his blood must be red. We have divided ourselves and everybody is on the trenches. A divided house is a defeated house. A divided country is a defeated country.”

George faulted Buhari’s approach to anti-corruption campaign, claiming that it had become a weapon against some perceived enemies, especially the opposition while the allies of the president and the ruling party had been shielded from criminal investigation and prosecution.

He cited Buhari’s failure to investigate the case of two bullion vans that driven into the Ikoyi residence of the APC national leader on the day of election, warning that no person, irrespective of his position and status in this country, was above the law, not even the president himself.

He said: “Somebody drove two bullion vans in his house on the day of elections. Were those bullion vans carrying shits? When there was public outrage about it, some people said he had been a rich man. Those are the people who are fighting corruption in Nigeria. At the peak time of election, they drove two bullion vans into his house.

“Somebody said he was really a very rich man before he became governor. We are in Animal Farm. So, this administration cherry-pick people it wants to punish. Nobody is above the law, not even the president. He may have the immunity now. If he commits any criminal offence, people will take him up after his tenure,” George explained.