Francis Moses reports on the growing frustration among retired generals at the pace and tactics of the government in facing down Boko Haram terrorists
Every attempt by President Buhari’s administration bring Boko Harm to heel by the relocation of the Military Command to Maiduguri, the Borno State and recent appointment two of Borno citizens, Major Gen Tukur Burata and retired Major Gen Babagana Munguno among the new service chiefs and security operatives has so far met the brick wall as the terrorists have become more daring and killing people with reckless abandon. In fact sine the President’s inauguration on May 29, 457 people have been killed by suicide bombers in most Borno State with Wednesday killing of 48 others, including 22 villagers in Manok town, near Misduguri and 4 soldiers of the Joint Multinational Force, who had confronted the terrorists during their bloodletting mission. Confirming the attack and death to The UNION, a top military source said the three soldiers were members of the Joint Multinational Force which had moved into the border village through Chad to confront the terrorist who had made the Damaturu- Maiduguri road impassable for the inhabitants.
He said: “From the intelligence available to me men of the Joint Military Force had moved in from the Chad section to route the terrorists from the road and in the ensuing exchange of gun fire, we lost three men while 22 of the terrorists were killed. Unfortunately the terrorists had killed 23 civilians in the village, which borders Yobe and Borno states.
Meanwhile according to Amnesty International, at least over 15,000 people, mostly civilians have been killed since 2009 till date when Boko Haram launched its violent uprising to try to impose militant Islamist rule. Taking special interests in the bloody activities of Boko Harma since the emergence of the Buhari administration is former military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, who spoke against the background of the sects step-up bombing during the Holy Month of Ramadan. So too is fromer military administrator of Akwa Ibom, Air Commodore Idongesit Ikanga, rtd. General Babangida called on President Buhari to launch a full onslaught on Boko Haram. The former Head of State said the fight should be well coordinated by the military and carried out day and night to bring the insurgents to their knees. He also called on all Nigerians to unite against the insurgency which has claimed many innocent lives in the northern part of the country.
He conveyed this in his Sallah message recently to express his warm wishes to all Muslims at home and abroad for the successful completion of the 30-day Ramadan. He regretted that the continued killing by the insurgents had dragged Islamic in the mud. He condemned the dastardly acts. He also prayed God to touch the hearts of the insurgents so that the untoward act of bloodletting will permanently cease. He said: “As much as one would have appreciated our efforts as devout Muslims who have observed the obligatory month of Ramadan, the incessant killings and bloodlettings by members of the Boko Haram leave a sour taste in my mouth. For want of no discernible ideology, they have continued to portray Islam in very bad light, making members of other religions to perceive us with scorn.
Events in the last four weeks have continued to raise our adrenaline, in a season of apprehension and utter suspicion, about our security engagements and the sum total of our collective sufferance as a nation. The heightened tension is occasioned by renewed hostilities and mindless bombings predominantly by suicide bombers who have decidedly chose the option of death to life. We have seen the worst of human follies in the conduct of these avoidable carnage and bloodletting by unscrupulous persons under the guise of religion, doing havoc to our sense of nationality,” Babangida said. According to him, Buhari, as a military officer, understands the import of his altruistic suggestions, believing that the President will take steps to apply some of them that fit into the mainstream strategies already in place. “The approach has to be a holistic one, well coordinated with full onslaught launched by the day and night to route these insurgents to surrender,” he advised. “On a good day, as is often said, the idea of taking some Boko Haram suspects and prisoners to Anambra State should not be public knowledge, if we are truly serious about information management.
Each time we celebrate the dastardly acts of Boko Haram on the front pages of our newspapers and electronic platforms, it is a score for Boko Haram. I have implicit confidence in my mind that President Buhari, will put the final nail on the coffin of Boko Haram so that Nigeria can truly assume her greatness in the comity of nations,” Gen. Babangida said. But for a former military governor of Akwa Ibom state, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga retd, faulted the idea that changing service chiefs or appointing new ones is the way to go about addressing the terrorism. According to him, winning the war on the is based on orienting the Nigerian’s mentality towards seeing the sect as a national problem. Nkanga who until his retirement in 1999, was the commander of the presidential air fleet, noted that unless the new service chiefs change new strategies and got the support of the masses, the war against insurgence would continue to be hard one.
His words “The problem is not the individual that is there; the timing of the change of the service chiefs is not even important. What is important is the strategies they want to use in order to conquer the insurgence, and the strategies involve not only the military; so it is not getting a new commander that is the issue. It is the general interest of the nation that is important and that is where the strategy is derived from”. So we cannot fail to look at general attitude of Nigerinas.
However the Borno state governor, Kashim Shettima, is full of optimism with the recent appointments of Service Chiefs. He told visiting officials of the Nigerian Foundation for the Support of Victims of Insurgency that many people were killed during the Monday attack on the Maiduguri highway. Speaking on Tuesday, Mr. Shettima said his optimism that the Boko Haram insurgency would soon end was heightened by the appointment of new security chiefs by President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday. “Nigeria now has the best of chances to overcome the challenges of insurgency facing it, since 2009,” Mr. Shettima said. “President Buhari made a strong statement by his decision to appoint two highly competent sons of Borno to the offices of the National Security Adviser and the Chief of Army Staff. His words “I think his strategy was to get people with ancestral knowledge of the Borno terrain.
Major General Tukur Buratai is even a direct victim of Boko Haram attacks. He lost family members when his residence was attacked earlier this year in Buratai, a town in Biu local government area. Monguno was destroyed and once occupied by Boko Haram and that is where the new NSA, Retired Major General Babagana Monguno hails from. In fact, a key family member of General Monguno is still being held captive by Boko Haram insurgents. “These two Generals are from Borno, they know exactly where it pinches and most importantly, they understand the terrain and can easily connect with communities to get local support. Added to them is also the Chief of Air Staff, Air vice Marshal Sadique Abubakar who hails from Bauchi also in the northeast.
AVM Abubakar spent many of his formative years in military here in Borno State. He has spent over ten years in Borno, he knows the terrain very well also and connect with the people. “I think for us, it is now or never because the President has generously put sons of Borno and the northeast to lead the battle for the freedom of Borno, the northeast and the rest of Nigeria, from the murderous threats of insurgents. Insha Allah, with the combined efforts of other competent service chiefs and all Nigerians, the war on terror will soon be won by the supremacy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”. Boko Haram has in the last one year bombed all major bridges on four of the five highways linking the rest of the world with Maiduguri. The group has also planted landmines on the roads, killing several travellers. Maiduguri now hosts over a million internally displaced persons, and now relies only on the Kano-Maiduguri highway for access.
But with the incessant onslaught on the highway by the Boko Haram terrorists, there are fears by residents that even the only relatively safe route might be taken by the terrorists. Although soldiers have been deployed to Benisheik town, 85 kilometres from Maiduguri, to specifically guard the only bridge along the highway, there are concerns the terrorists might be plotting to attack the bridge. “If that happens, we are doomed in Maiduguri, because that is the only surviving road that thousands of travellers ply daily,” said Yahaya Garba, a Maiduguri-based automobile mechanic. However despite the service chief’s appointment the attacks increases day by day.