The military is now well placed to end the protracted war against Boko Haram
The April 22 ultimatum to Nigeria by Chad, a member of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) fighting Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) is yet another indication that all is not well with the war against insurgency. “Our troops have died for Lake Chad and the Sahel. From today, no Chadian soldiers will take part in a military mission outside Chad,” said Chadian President Idris Deby who led his troops in a counter-attack that led to the death of many of the insurgents. After the episode, he granted several self-promoting interviews where he tried to put down Nigeria and the efforts of our military.
It is therefore no surprise that Chad is being hailed internationally while Nigeria is being ridiculed in the social media. Meanwhile, with many of the insurgents said to have melted into some Nigerian communities in the North-east, the job of our military troops is now well cut out for them. It would be most tragic to allow the Boko Haram insurgents that had been flushed out by the Chadian soldiers to regain foothold on Nigerian territory. That is the challenge of the moment.
The relocation of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Tukur Buratai to the main theatre of the war, though desirable, is not enough as modern warfare is not fought with bare chests and hands. This is the time to boost the morale of the soldiers and their officers by providing for them the needed arms and logistics in the onslaught against the insurgents. The recent deployment of the commanding officer, Major General Olusegun Adeniyi, for bringing to the public the frustrations of his fighting troops is a pointer to some lingering operational issues. He merely reaffirmed what most Nigerians have been saying that our soldiers are squared against well-armed insurgents. The issues he raised should be addressed.
What is particularly worrying is that the same military which ended the Nigerian civil war within 30 months, and later led ECOMOG to end civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, etc., has been stranded by a rag-tag collective of untrained sectarian zealots for more than a decade. Quite clearly, something is wrong in terms of doctrine, training, morale, strategic orientation and more crucially, leadership. Yet, despite strong indications that senior military officers and the fighting troops have lost trust in the current service chiefs, President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to make changes.
We have stated on this page on several occasions that the policy put in place to defeat the insurgency has become ineffective and it is draining the army of the goodwill of most Nigerians. For the past one year, Boko Haram terrorists and their ISWAP counterparts have, through daring raids, attacks and seizures, put a lie to the much-touted view that the war against insurgency is ‘technically over’. In fact, the insurgents have exacerbated their asymmetrical warfare and executed successful attacks, and in the process killed hundreds of civilians and military personnel.
We have consistently commended the men and officers of the armed forces for their gallantry and sense of duty. Many of them have paid the ultimate sacrifice. But the Chad offensive that has put the insurgents on the run indicates very clearly that this does not have to be an endless war. With greater motivation and a new commitment, our military can defeat the insurgents. We hope Buratai who has talked down Boko Haram on several occasions will now walk his talk from Maiduguri. Nigeria will not take any excuse from him this time.