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Nigeria’s Beggarly Army And Courage

It does seem that our problems, as far as the terrorism war is concerned, goes beyond cluelessness

I was lost for words when I read the latest press release from the Nigeria Army as it relates to Boko Haram. It reads: “This is to finally warn all Boko Haram terrorists wherever they are, to desist from all acts of terrorism, surrender themselves and face the law now. We wish to inform them that we are aware of all their hideouts, camps and enclaves. They should follow their colleagues who have so far surren­dered. Failure to surrender will result in serious consequences as our troops have closed up with them.

“We equally appeal to members of the international community and the world at large, to kindly persuade Boko Haram terrorists and their inter­national collaborators to desist from acts of terrorism and renounce their membership of the terrorist organiza­tion forthwith. They should also im­mediately and unconditionally release all abducted persons in their custody including the Chibok school girls.

“You are please requested to dis­seminate this information to the public through your medium”. It is not clear if this was a mistake. But knowing the Army, I am sure it was approved and cleared for publication as it signed by Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman, who is Acting Director Army Public Rela­tions.

This was captured in many reports as ‘final warning to Boko Haram’ by the Nigerian Army.

My surprise, is that this was issued a day after the service chiefs, led by our Chief of Defence Staff, had met with President Muhammadu Buhari to brief him on developments in the fight against Boko Haram. Reports from that meeting indicated that the service chiefs informed the President that his ultimatum on December deadline to defeat the ‘rag tag’ terrorists was not possible. The service chiefs had point­ed fingers are ‘weather’ and ‘logistics’ as factors that would make the De­cember deadline impossible to realize.

Our CDS, Gen. Abayomi Olon- ishakin, had told journalists after the meeting that “the challenges we are looking at are the issues of probably the weather as it were and some other logistics that we feel we should have so that the mandate can be quickly de­livered”. Note that the CDS used the word probably. This means, he is not certainly sure. That is instructive and conveys deep meanings.

Before Olonishakin spoke, the Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Yusuf Bu­ratai had On October 16, in an ex­hortation to his troop warned that the sovereignty of Nigeria is under threat but assured that the Army has the equipment and men to prosecute, and win, the war. He had said: “The next few days will be crucial to Op Lafiya Dole. It is also crucial to our country Nigeria. Our sovereignty as a nation is threatened. The Nigerian Army, and indeed the military, as the symbol of our nationhood is being challenged. Our ability to stand and defeat the Boko Haram terrorists in the next few weeks will determine the future of our country. We cannot afford to lose the fight. We are better trained and better equipped. The whole nation is behind us. Mr. President is with us. Let us remain steadfast in this noble cause. Be courageous. We must degrade and defeat the terrorists. This job must be done. We must make our country men and women proud”.

Note the words of the COAS where he said “We are better trained and better equipped”. Then, note the words of the CDS where he said “the challenges we are looking at are the issues of probably the weather as it were and some other logistics that we feel we should have”. To the unconscious, all is well and the ‘war’ is on course. But to the conscious, there are deeper problems than the pub­lic would imagine. All don’t seem to add up in the military.

Col. Usman’s statement contradicts all. He says the Army knows where the terrorists are hiding. He says all hideouts are clearly mapped out. Ac­cording to him, the Nigerian Army is in the know of all terrorist camps and hideouts. If so, why are the camps not being routed? Is CDS Olonishakin stating the obvious? Is Gen. Buratai hiding something? Is Gen Olonishakin mistaken? These are signs of contra­diction which makes prosecution of the war against Boko Haram a much more difficult assignment.

Besides, we are now being told, through Col. Usman’s press statement, that we have graduated to having an Army that pleads with the enemy to drop its weapons and surrender. That is unheard of. It is unimaginable that an Army, which is “better trained and
better equipped”, would ask a ‘rag­tag’ terrorist group to renounce terror­ism and surrender. That is the simplest admission of cluelessness. It means we are at the mercy of Boko Haram. It means that our Army is weak, unmo­tivated and uninspired. It shows signs of a bigger problem in the military. This is even after the Army had sev­erally boasted of pushing the terrorists back and regaining lost territories.

This comes on the background of statistics released by Amnesty Inter­national that about 1,600 persons had been killed by Boko Haram between June and September this year. Unfortu­nately, there seems not to be any out­rage against this figure. And it is under­standable. Meanwhile, our President had said in a recent interview on Aljazeera television that the Army is now better equipped. This raises questions.

In the said Aljazeera interview, Mr. President boasted of milestones achieved in pushing back the terrorists to include relocating the Command Headquarters to Borno state. Result of that, four months after, are more than 1,600 murders and an incursion into FCT through Nyanya and Kuje. Further, Mr. President told Aljazeera that he seeks assurance from Boko haram that the Chibok girls are alive, and a commitment that they would be returned as same. This is the same line that Col. Usman had rehashed in beg­ging Boko Haram to release the girls. As I write, I imagine how earlier com­ments that ‘we know where the girls are’ vaporized and ended up as pleas for disclosure and release.

It does seem that our problems, as far as the terrorism war is concerned, goes beyond cluelessness. We may have to go back into research to find out exactly  what the problem is as it is now obvious that the malaise goes be­yond replacing command chiefs and relocating its headquarters. Something illness more debilitating may have hit the military.



–  ACHILLEUS-CHUD UCHEGBU        e-mail: achilleus.uchegbu@theunion.com.ng


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