Our Military’s Commendable Exploits Against Boko Haram

By Abiodun Ladepo

“We are dealing with a very, very serious enemy”, Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs, Doyin Okupe, told Channels TV a few days ago. It gladdens my heart to know someone this close to President Goodluck Jonathan realizes that Boko Haram is not just another students’ riot. And it gladdens my heart to know that through the recent onslaught and successes of the Nigerian military, it seems Jonathan is starting to prove that even a President with no record of military service can successfully prosecute a war.

What the Nigerian Special Forces, supported by other elements of the military, have accomplished in the past few days have been nothing but heroic. For this, they deserve our adulation, gratitude and praise.  Exploiting critical intelligence gleaned from some of the previously captured terrorists and other sources (that shall remain unnamed for obvious reasons) our military took the battle to the enemy by encircling some villages near Lake Chad, to include Duguri, Malafatori and Polkime, where they sent many terrorists to early graves. They bombarded the terrorists’ hideouts with relentless “shock and awe” and in the process, captured a relatively large weapons cache – weapons which the incorrigible terrorists would have used against Nigerians in the future. The soldiers also captured large sums of money in different denominations. So, Yes, Okupe is right. We are dealing with a serious enemy.

But the military is not resting on its oars. Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, Director of Defense Information, announced that our soldiers have stepped up what they call “Cordon and Search” (the cordoning off of a section of land and searching it) in their areas of operation. They have also deployed more personnel and materiel for “Patrol and Pursuit” throughout Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States, effectively and appropriately designating the area a war zone. Olukolade also stated that Nigerian soldiers were “busy throughout the weekend” in Gamboru Ngala and Dikwa local government areas near our borders with Chad and Cameroon. Our soldiers are even laying ambush for terrorists and disrupting their attack plans! (The terrorists used to be the ones ambushing our Soldiers.) Gone seems to be the days when we waited for them to attack our Soldiers in their bedrooms. And we see proof of our Soldiers’ offensive operations. We see pictures of dead terrorists.  We see pictures of captured and hand-cuffed terrorists. We see pictures of weapons cache seized from the terrorists. Unfortunately, these very important achievements were eclipsed by the unfortunate death of Nigerians during the immigrations application fiasco and the missing Malaysian aircraft.

Nevertheless, Boko Haram’s Command and Control element must be in a quandary now. Their financial sponsors too must begin to realize that this is becoming an unprofitable venture. And sooner rather than later, Nemesis would catch up with all those who have unleashed this mayhem on Nigeria as the military tightens the noose. If they had been basking in the aura of invincibility and using it as recruitment tool, they now must be battling low morale amongst themselves and amongst their members.

I am ecstatic. I am always ecstatic when you allow the soldier to do what he is trained to do. I always hated it when soldiers were deployed to quell students’ riots in my university days. That is the job of the police.  Soldiers do not shoot to wound or warn. Soldiers shoot to kill. If time and circumstances permit, soldiers aim at your heart and lodge a single round (bullet) in it so that you do not suffer too much; and they do not waste too much ammunition killing you. I love it when they are not encumbered by inane constraints such as administrative ineptitude or intra-departmental squabbles or politics. I love it when soldiers can bring to bear on the enemy the full spectrum of their training and might. If we continue like this, it is only a question of when (not if) Boko Haram will be annihilated.

And when our soldiers pay the ultimate price like some have done while defending Nigeria against Boko Haram, I hope Nigeria recognizes each and every single one of them. I hope each dead soldier receives a befitting military burial, complete with the traditional 21-gun salute, regardless of rank. I hope our State governors and legislators; local government chairpersons and councilors, make it a point of duty to attend funeral services for soldiers from their areas of jurisdiction that lost their lives while fighting for the country. I hope our governors find (from their unaccountable security votes) reasonable amounts of money that would help cushion the lives of the loved ones left by a dead soldier. I hope that we guarantee full scholarships for the children and spouse of any soldier who lost his/her life while fighting for Nigeria. I hope that, like we named streets after football players who brought honor and glory to Nigeria), we honor soldiers who gave their lives for our country.

Gen. Olukolade has been doing a great job churning out those press releases.  But he needs to do much more. Nothing in the life of a Nigerian soldier right now should be more important than defeating Boko Haram. So, Olukolade (or any able combatant commander) needs to hold an almost daily briefing – complete with charts, graphs and pictures – where Nigerian journalists, along with their international counterparts, would receive Battle Damage Assessments (BDA), especially after major onslaughts. He should spend more time in front of the TV answering questions that showcase the exploits of our military without leaking sensitive information about future operations. This will enhance Nigerians’ respect and confidence in our military, infuse our soldiers with pride and re-invigorate them in their quest to defeat the enemy, knowing that the world appreciates their exploits.

Anybody who has read my past commentaries on the Boko Haram crisis and the military knows that the two are very personal to me. The ways we organize and employ our military personnel and equipment are near and dear to my heart.  This is because our potential adversaries, starting from those with whom we share borders, all the way out to nations in other continents, watch the way our military fights. Whether these potential adversaries summon enough courage to challenge us in the future is, in part, a function of how they perceive our resoluteness and ferociousness in prosecuting the current war.  To that end, I prefer that our military approaches every conflict with overwhelmingly lethal force in order to deter future aggression. My previous submissions have, therefore, been justifiably scathing in their criticism of the highest echelon of the military. Because I have been one of the most virulent critic of the way we have prosecuted this war up till now, it is only fair that I shower encomiums on the military leadership for providing the soldiers the type of purpose, direction and motivation that yielded the results of last week. I should also commend the President for allowing the military leadership to do what it had to do.

However, last week’s was just one of many battles. The war is still raging.  Boko Haram fighters may have been beaten back; they most likely went to re-group. If we captured so much ammunition and money from them, it means they are well-financed. The job of our intelligence agencies is to find who stands to benefit from the Boko Haram conflict and who has the financial wherewithal to fund the group. We need to find out how so many lethal weapons got into the country.  We need to find out who wittingly or unwittingly aided the smuggling of war-fighting weapons into Nigeria. We need to find out who re-supplies the terrorists; who performs maintenance work on their weapons; who recruits fighters for them and trains such fighters; who provides vehicles and who, amongst us, provides intelligence information to them.

Just as the President and the rest of us expect and demand the defeat of Boko Haram by the military, the President and all of us should expect and demand from our intelligence organizations the uncovering of how Boko Haram has remained in business all these years. If the intelligence agencies are not living up to expectations, the President needs to sack people just like he did in the military. No modern country fights wars blindly. No country wages war without each battle being aided by solid intelligence.

Sambo Dasuki, National Security Adviser (NSA) and others have canvassed the so-called carrot and stick method in dealing with the terrorists. Knowing the mentality of ultra-religious zealots and bigots, I am not sure Boko Haram would accept anything short of “Sharializing” the whole of Nigeria.  Carrot and stick will only work if Boko Haram is a political pressure group. So, I am for putting even more pressure on the throat of Boko Haram. Dasuki also admitted that Boko Haram bested Nigeria in the dissemination of its goals and aspirations. He suggested Nigeria up its propaganda game so as to reach the localities from which Boko Haram recruits. Great idea! But good luck on its successful implementation. Good luck on spreading propaganda to people who do not have food, pipe borne water, roads, schools and hospitals. Good luck on selling propaganda to people who have been so neglected by successive governments they still think Tafawa Balewa is the President’s name.

Abiodun Ladepo
Los Angeles, California, USA.