It’s time to engage mercenaries to contain the protracted insurgency, writes Abosede Ajibade
The major plank of the tripod of the Buhari presidency agenda is to tame the insurgency that was pronounced in the North Eastern part of the country. The then opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) harangue the then President Goodluck Jonathan over his inability to bring dare-devil Boko Haram insurgents on their knees.
The handlers and think tank of the APC dazzled Nigerians with the military credentials of General Muhammadu Buhari, the party’s presidential standard bearer. They reeled out his heroic gallant dexterity during the Maitatsine days. He promised to rescue Nigerians from rampaging ragtag Boko Haram guerilla fighters who had reportedly captured and hoisted their flags in 13 local government areas of Borno State, the epicentre of the insurgency.
The hopes were high but delivery was below par. Nigerians queried the competence of the government to tame Boko Haram as the terrorists crushing attacks on Borno towns continued unabated. In a knee-jerk response to the unabated security, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered relocation of the military command centre to Maiduguri, the Borno capital.
Yet the gains were little. No respite in sight even when the government spokesman and the minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed claimed that Boko Haram had been ‘greatly degraded’. According to him, communities and towns where insurgents hoisted their flags had been liberated. The argument fell flat in the face of growing insecurity in the state. Many sneered and wondered why ‘degraded Boko Haram’ continued to wax stronger and became more vicious in its attacks.
About 43 rice farmers were slaughtered by the insurgents for flaunting the order of Boko Haram not to farm. Sadly, the presidential spokesman Garba Shehu displayed crass insensitivity and aggravated the grief of the bereaved and other Nigerians by saying that the slain farmers did not get clearance from the military before going to the rice field.
Shehu’s insensitive statement clearly confirmed that the Boko Haram terrorists are still very much alive, vicious and deadly.
Former Governor Shettima cried a few times over the heinous killings of Borno citizens before he left office in 2019. His successor, Professor Babagana Zulum who was determined to change the ugly narrative has escaped assassination attempt twice.
He exposed the security forces lies that all was well. Out of frustration, he called on the federal government to engage the services and expertise of mercenaries who are sure footed in guerilla warfare.
Zulum’s proposal reawakened the conversations on the South African fighters contracted by Goodluck Jonathan in the twilight of his administration. Jonathan had engaged Specialised Tasks, Training, Equipment and Protection, (STTEP), a South African company to combat the insurgents in the North-east.
The mercenaries whose assignment was to conquer Shekau and his evil men justified the confidence reposed in them as they achieved milestones in the battlefield.
It will be recalled that bombings and wanton attacks on soft targets subsided due to the sustained assaults they unleashed on Shekau and his deranged ragtag army. Sadly, the mercenaries were disengaged by the Buhari government shortly after taking the reins of power.
The government scored a petty political point against the ousted Jonathan government at the expense of security of lives and property of residents of war-torn North Eastern Nigeria.
Now, the Nigeria’s House of Representatives, under the competent leadership of Rt Hon Femi Gbajabiamila made a bipartisan, patriotic recommendation to re-engage mercenaries in the wake of a surge in deadly violent crimes like kidnapping, banditry, cult clashes, among others.
The domestic security architecture is obviously overwhelmed. The nation is almost grounded to a halt. The security forces are fighting on too many battles on several fronts. They need foreign help urgently!
Echoing the collective consensus of the Nigerian Senate on the insecurity in the country, APC Senator representing Niger South, Muhammad Enagi said, “The enemies of God, bandits, terrorists, kidnappers are everywhere. Where are we heading to in this country? What else do we need as lawmakers that we are not doing?
“Can we rightly say that the government is incompetent? Because this issue has been discussed here over and over and there is no improvement. It is getting worse. I’m sure everybody here has stories to tell about the security challenges. What else are we supposed to do that we are not doing? Are we supposed to amend the laws in this country to give every citizen freedom to carry arms?
The above concern made the Green Chamber after the motion moved by Abdukadir Rahis to contact foreign mercenaries for help.
The federal government ego trip will further worsen the precarious security situation in the country. National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd) said, “The President’s view and directive is that we will not engage mercenaries when we have our own people to deal with these problems. We have the personnel and resources, and the President has given a new lease of life to the Armed Forces”.
The claim that the existing personnel and resources will defeat Boko Haram is weak. The unabated killings, kidnapping, banditry and other violent crimes punctured the NSA’s claim. The government should be humble enough and descend its high horse to request for assistance.
If foreign interests wade in on the protracted insecurity that has turned Nigeria into one of the most dangerous places to live in the world, the better for the country. It will in no way diminish our standing in the comity of nations. All nations are interdependent and often seek each other’s assistance in times of distress.
On October 31, 2020, The early morning bravery operation of United States Navy SEALs from Special Warfare Development Group(DEVGRU) during the rescue mission of captured American, 27-year-old Philip Walton in Nigeria brings to mind how foreign mercenaries could greatly help to crush insurgency.
They parachuted from Air Force Special Operations aircraft of the 352d Special Operations Wing and rescued the American citizen without hurt and dealt a deadly blow to his captors, killing six out of the seven-man-gang.
If Nigerian government could extend collaboration to the American forces just to rescue a single soul, why should the government hesitate in engaging trained and well-experienced foreign fighters at this critical time? Truth be told, insurgency and insecurity have become a thriving industry for powerful people in and outside of the security forces.
Former President Jonathan confirmed this when he cried out that Boko Haram sympathisers have infiltrated his government.
President Buhari should listen to the voice of reason from the Green Chamber and do all within his powers to secure Nigerians.