President Buhari needs emergency powers to build up massive armed forces to crush the insurgency, writes Udu Yakubu

As a composite architecture of the armed forces and all its constituting elements, the military is a strategic national guardian entrusted with security matters connected with lives and property within the geographic space of a country. The Nigerian Constitution thus provides that ‘subject to an Act of the National Assembly, the federation shall equip and maintain the Armed Forces as may be considered adequate and effective for the purpose of defending Nigeria from external aggression, suppressing insurrection, and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so,’ among others.

The Nigerian military did live up to this expectation when, for the first time, it had to deal with a civil war situation, which lasted from 1967 to 1970. Prosecuting the war was not without huge and frightening challenges to the federal government led by General Gowon. The United States of America, for instance, had barred the shipment of arms to Nigeria. To mitigate the obstacles, the federal government looked towards Russia. The Biafrans made deals with Portugal. The Civil War cost both sides $140 million for the purchase of arms only. $140 million in the 1960s.

Nigeria went into the Civil War in 1967 with just about 5000 soldiers in its army. However, just before the war came to an end, Nigeria had well over 250,000 men in its national army, all within the space of 30 months. The government embarked on mass recruitment into the military, and simply overwhelmed Biafra by the sheer number of soldiers who were in the theatre of war. There were federal boots in every available space within recovered territories. The significant point that must be firmly established is that, in going to war, a nation’s military requires both strategic and programmatic approaches.

Nigeria’s situation today is so similar to the Civil War experience. She needs to inundate her space with a near-ubiquitous military presence to make the needful statement against the Boko Haram fighters.

Boots on the ground! Boots everywhere! This is what Nigeria needs now in every contested territory in the Northeast, the Northwest, and elsewhere. A battalion of soldiers in every local government in the Northeast and Northwest will finish the war.

In addition to the need for arms which can be quickly fixed through a pragmatic approach, the war against insurgency has been prolonged by the huge gaps in human power to effectively crush the insurgents. This explains why, for instance, the troops of the Nigerian Army always move on after conquering and recovering territories from the hold of the terrorists. In moving to conquer the next town or community, or in chasing after the terrorists, there has often been security gaps in the towns just recovered, and the insurgents keep finding ways of making the most out of the gaps. That was what happened in the recent cases of the Boko Haram attacks on Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State. It was also the case in the massacre of the rice farmers in the Zabarmari community in Bornu State.

It is in this critical sense that Nigeria really needs boots and battalions everywhere in and around the theatres of war, and in the entire Northeast and Northwest especially.

Currently, the Nigerian Army has a strength of about 124,000 soldiers and officers in active service, and is currently engaged in one form of intervention or the other in 33 of the 36 states of the federation. Given its current strength, the Nigerian Army has done very well in recovering all lost territories from the insurgents, and decimating their strengths. But a lot more needs to be done.

The current reality is that the entire Nigerian military does not have the numerical strength, the required human power to effectively remain engaged in various parts of the country and at the same time effectively execute the war in the Northeast and Northwest and totally crush Boko Haram.

Conversely, the Boko Haram, has maintained an adequacy of number of fighters to engage the war. Boko Haram seems to be making more concerted efforts at reinforcing its numbers through steady recruitment of footmen and fighters in ways that an organised guerrilla would do.

For Nigeria, there should be a timeline for increasing the number of recruits into her military to 400,000 well-trained active personnel within the next six to nine months.

Yes, 400,000 soldiers and officers. This is what Nigeria needs for internal peace and security. The politicians, ethnic and civil society groups and other armchair critics can continue to play politics with the tenure of service chiefs and the President’s supposed posture. The service chiefs can be changed as it pleases the President and Commander-in-Chief. But if this fundamental issue is not tackled head-on, the security issues may worsen. The military are not magicians!

The depth and implications of achieving the required critical measures can work effectively in the context of presidential emergency power.

The numerical strength of the Nigerian Armed Forces should be prioritised with the objective of having a dominating presence in every local government in the entire Northeast and in parts of the Northwest and North-central. Nigeria is in a state of war. The military has to inundate and overwhelm the entire regions of conflict within the country.

Critical to effectively prosecuting the war at hand is the issue of funding for the military. Sadly, the first tranche of funding for the Nigerian military in the 2020 national budget was only made available to the Armed Forces in July 2020. Yet, there is no outcry against the anomaly; the leaders, politicians, media, and civil society groups continue to lead the untutored masses in the game of ignorance, pretense, hypocrisy and propaganda against its own military.

The nation’s military spending and defense budget from 2012 to 2017 was on a steady decline. If Nigeria does not multiply her human power and firepower, she would continue to live with insurgency, banditry and sooner or later contend with more insurgencies from other parts of the country and the real threat of extinction.

The statistics are a significant pointer to how Nigeria stands in terms of financial readiness to tackle its security challenges. Apparently, the links between Boko Haram and ISIS have become stronger in recent times, and this has significantly informed the degree of funding, strategising and organising by the terrorists. This can only be countered by inundating the entire Nigerian space with soldiers.

Nigeria should therefore really take her fate in her hands. This begins with the President Buhari, assuming such emergency powers that will immediately enable him to embark on building up the armed forces into a massive and intensely dominating mobile attacking force that will crush every element of insurgency in the country, and make the country a safe haven for every citizen. The president should tell the nation that Nigeria is at war, and then assume such emergency powers that will allow him to pursue a critical military development agenda. This is the path to sustainable peace and security in the country.

Dr. Yakubu, a Public Historian and Publisher, can be reached at: udu.yakubu@gmail.com