Retired military brass hats, yesterday, said Governor Babagana Zulum’s call for the invitation of Chadian troops to partner with their Nigerian counterparts in fighting insurgency is not only an indictment of President Muhammadu Buhari, as the Commander-in-Chief, and the military High Command, but has also stirred the need for the adoption of fresh tactical and strategic approaches to ending insurgency.
Not only are the retired military chiefs dissatisfied with the funding and welfare of the military, they are also calling for a total overhaul of the military architecture, including improved welfare for soldiers, and recruitment of more personnel .
According to some of them, the morale of officers and soldiers has plummeted because of the appointment of over 75 per cent of key armed forces/national security services chiefs from Buhari’s paternal and maternal kinsmen.
Former Minister of State for Defense, Dr. Olu Agunloye, said for a governor of a state to be attacked twice within four days shows that Nigeria has only been addressing symptoms instead of treating the disease.
He corroborated the retired military officers submission that except the political class adopts new approaches and strategies to governance, “the worst is in the waiting,” even as he added that Zulum’s call was not out of order, considering the fact that the state is a border area, which a nation cannot protect alone.
In January this year, residents of Maiduguri, capital of Borno State protested the withdrawal of Chadian troops from the Multinational Joint Task Force, in the Lake Chad region.
Chad withdrew its 1, 200-strong force after a months-long mission of fighting Boko Haram across its common border with Nigeria. Zulum’s call for the troops return perhaps, underpins their contribution to the little successes recorded in the fight around that flank before the recent escalation of attacks.
Tired of watching their kith and kin routinely killed by insurgents, Borno youths are also calling for the immediate adoption of new strategies to end the reign of terrorism, which has consumed over 32, 000 lives and property worth N4.2t in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states.
The youths under the aegis of Gwoza Community Youths Watch Forum (GCYWF) said the Federal Government and its security agencies must intensify efforts, deploy new strategies towards ending attacks on Governor Zulum.
The forum’s chairman, Mohammed Saleh said: “In over a decade, terrorism has claimed 32, 000 lives with property worth $9.2b (N3.42t) in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. We’re extremely disheartened with repeated recent attacks on our governor in the cause of fighting terrorists, as well as resettling IDPs into their communities,” he said.
He noted that youths from Gwoza, including the ones in 26 councils; strongly condemn any further attacks on Zulum and other residents taking refuge in IDP camps and host communities.
ACCORDING to delegate to the 2014 National Conference, Col. Tony Nyiam (rtd), Zulum’s invitation clearly indicts Buhari (PMB), the military high command, and it illustrates that the governor has no more confidence in the political leadership (which is the president) of the Nigerian Armed Forces. “But can one blame the supposedly chief security officer of Bornu State that was twice ambushed within four days and was almost killed in his homeland…? Wasn’t any lesson learnt from the first ambush and heavy loss of lives for the higher command to quickly put in place a contingent plan?”
He continued: “The indictment can’t include the mid-career and junior officers and soldiers who are neither adequately kitted, nor motivated by the top military leadership. The officers and soldiers morale is low because of Buhari’s nepotistic appointment of over 75 per cent of the armed forces, and other national security services, chiefs from his paternal and maternal kinsmen. Besides, he has breached the convention by keeping services chiefs well past their years in service.”
Nyiam, who was the most senior officer in the 1990 Major Gideon Orkah-led coup, stressed the need for the involvement of locals in their homeland security. “There are antecedents to learn from. There is the British example of using locals to fight the Northern Ireland violent insurgents, the Irish Republicans Army (IRA), such as Ulster Defence Association (UDA), and the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF). In South America, the Colombian government, with the help of the conventional Colombian military, set up the United Defence Forces of Colombia to complement the regular army in the fight against the leftist guerrillas.”
He added that “Chad and Niger republics have, to some extent, answered their question of national identity. The advantages of shared Islamic faith and good understanding of each other’s language helps. But Nigerian and Cameroon leaders refuse to allow the federal system of government to function and their peoples are divided by faith and ethnicity wise. There is no political and economic foundation to support the military power in the battle.”
Even though Nyiam agreed that there was a semblance of progress in the insurgency war when Buhari took over in 2015, he explained that over time, there were tactical errors of moving the military command to the battlefield, which we sharply opposed then, but we were ignored. The repercussion is what we are facing now.”
AIR Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (rtd), a former Commander of the Presidential Fleet Retired said Zulum’s suggestion that Chadian troops be invited indicates collapse of the country’s security architecture.
Nkanga stressed that it was worrisome that while the rest of the world have declared Boko Haram a terrorist group, the Nigerian government, for some inexplicable reasons, has failed to do so.
“I do not know what Chadian soldiers will come and do here. In fact, the invitation raises a question. Is it Nigeria that should ask Chad for military assistance or the other way round? How many soldiers does Chad have? What level of training do their soldiers have? What sort of equipment do they posses? What has just happened is a story that we should not allow other people to hear because it is very embarrassing and suggests a total collapse of our defence/security architecture. That is why the president should just own up that it is over so that we can start the process of rebuilding,” he said.
He, however, added that if Buhari as the commander-in-chief shares Zulum’s views, it was time he approached the National Assembly and inform them that the military was incapable of defending the nation’s territorial integrity, and he would like to invite foreign forces to come in to assist the military.
“Defence policy is derivable from the national interest. So, if the country has not specifically stated clearly what its national interest is, you cannot get a clear defence policy.”
He reiterated the call for restructuring of the country because it would enable everybody to contribute to the country, instead of the prevailing circumstance where peoples’ commitment today, no matter how highly educated, is to their ethnicity and religion not to Nigeria as a nation.
AGUNLOYE who, however, disagreed that Zulum’s call for the engagement of foreign soldiers in the fight against insurgency indicated weakness or lack of capacity by the Nigerian military, said apart from physical insecurity, insurgency is also giving room for social and food insecurity, which are the factors aggravating tension along that area.
“It is sad that the country is making issues out of the attack on Governor Zulum, but ordinary masses of this country are being attacked and killed on a regular basis along the same axis and nothing is done or heard. The incidents show that security of lives and property in the present administration is not okay. There is a breakdown in this system occasioned by corruption and injustice of which I will blame the current government and not until we take the bull by the horn, there is less blame we can put on our military.
“Based on my experience as a former defense minister, I don’t agree that the Nigerian military is weak or lacks what it takes to tackle insurgency. The problem is they are incapacitated due to political management and corruption. The military is an integral instrument of our security force and it is whatever we programme into it that we would get. If they are not appropriately programmed in terms of funding, training, equipment and so on, we can’t expect much from them. Experience has shown that our soldiers and police are among the best in the world, but the deficiency we are witnessing today is absolutely the fault of our political class and lack of effectiveness in governance.”
CAPTAIN David Mbamara (rtd), who took sides with Zulum’s call said it was an error in the first place for the Chadian troops to have pulled out of the joint military task because of the peculiarity of the area.
According to Mbamara, “Lake Chad Basin is an open ground and there should be a synergy among the countries along the route when it comes to fighting insurgency otherwise it is not what Nigeria can handle alone. We must also understand that almost all the arms and ammunition that come into Nigeria and other countries along the route are from Libya. Even if Nigeria flushes out the insurgents, they will run into other countries and re-launch. So it has to be a collective effort.” Insisting that the Nigerian military was equal to the task, he said what is left is for the politicians to do the needful by tackling the insurgency from Nigeria’s point of interest without allowing politics to permeate the military.
MAJOR Muhammad Tukur (rtd), who also threw his weight behind Zulum, said despite the capacity and strength of the Nigerian soldiers when placed against their Chadian counterparts, it would be difficult for Nigeria to overwhelm the tactics of the enemy alone.
“The Chadian is not as capable as its Nigerian counterpart. But what the Nigerian military needs is a total overhaul of the entire system, especially the field commanders because that is where the problem lies. You cannot force, or rely on field commanders who cannot follow the troops to the battlefront to defeat the enemies. I am in support of the joint operation of the Chadian military with Nigerian soldiers because Nigeria cannot win the battle alone. Our military should also be adequately funded because the insurgents too are well funded to fight the war.
“I have said this severally, there is fatique in the military, especially the field commanders, who need to be replaced regularly. We need more men at the battlefront. Nigeria has the strength to defeat Boko Haram, but our men are not willing to end the war, yet they can’t do it alone. So, instead of releasing money to commanders that will siphon public resources, the government should finance the joint operation between Nigeria and Chad to defeat the insurgents.”