Sunday, 14 December 2014

To Defeat Boko Haram: Put Square Pegs In Square Holes, Wield The Big Stick!

Food For Thought: A General (Leader) is as good or as bad as his foot soldiers (followers). According to Philip Armour, ''No general can fight his battles alone. He must depend upon his ability to select the right man for the right place''.
Envisage Nigeria in the mould of a profit-oriented business concern where the CEO headhunts, assigns specific tasks to the staff. Staffer boasts s/he will deliver results within record time but several months, even years down the line, geezer starts finger pointing and buck passing. In the aforementioned context, a typical CEO wastes no time before firing, replacing such flippant employee(s).
No thanks to the rampaging streak of a so-called ragtag, bloodletting Sect with some warped religious ideology, swathes of the Nigerian territory (North East) - Chibok et al are marooned from the rest of the country.
Born in Yola, Adamawa state several years ago, a place I still have a strong affinity for, I vividly recall I and my entire household sleeping under dogonyaro trees from dusk to dawn with our doors wide open without worrying about threat to our lives and properties. No sane person can try that adventure in any part of Nigeria anymore.
What do you expect in a clime where political expediency, flimsy sentiments (it's our turn, it's their turn, na mu ne) and ethnic affiliation overrides competence in choosing who becomes say, a National Security Adviser, a Minister of Defence, a Service Chief or an Inspector general of Police. Mull over this probable scenario: Mr. President and his pundits saying - 'okay, Boko Haram is a creation of some northern blokes, let's assuage them, sort this problem out by appointing one of theirs as Minister of Defence or a National Security Adviser'. Pronto, a powerful religious leader or party chieftain props a candidate for that office and the deal is done. It's secondary if the candidate has the clout or not. Currently, the Chief of Defence Staff, the minister of Defence, the National Security Adviser, the Inspector General of Police amongst others, are northerners. So far, the appointment of the aforementioned does not seem to have yielded the desired result. The point here: the prevailing terrorism, insurgency quagmire in Nigeria transcends making gratuitous political overtures.

Granted Mr. President and his top military, security apparatchiks are not expected to be at the front lines in the fight against Boko Haram but truth be told, the buck ends on their table since they are directly and indirectly vested with the responsibility of protecting the Nigerian federation. It is not enough to strap a suffix/affix of Commander-in-Chief or Chief of Army Staff et al to ones name, the occupier of that office must also justify the use of such titles and live up to the dictates of such a lofty office. Back in the days, when a regular combatant makes a promise, he keeps it even at the expense of his life. Not anymore! Senior military officers are now worse than Goebbels, politicians who talk from both sides of their mouth.

Enter a Chief of Defence Staff - Air Marshal Badeh whose Vimtim hometown was overran by Boko Haram. Same man that boasted shortly after his appointment that Boko Haram will soon be history, according to him by April 2014. This is December! Even claimed he knew where the abducted Chibok girls were held and promised they will soon be released. Lately he brokered, announced a sham "419" cease fire with Boko Haram and the Sect took advantage of that interregnum to up their game. From one opprobrium to the other. In saner climes, the government official(s) that midwifed, fell for or announced that scam called ceasefire agreement need not be told to unreservedly apologize or better still, quit honorably. Not in Nigeria. The gaffer is swaggering and his paymaster is not in a hurry to wield the big stick.

Whereas the Service Chiefs, non-fighting titular generals were rewarded with national honors for the 'good job they are doing' - junketing, carousing and ensconcing themselves in air conditioned offices, armor plated state-of-the-art automobiles and spewing blatant disinformation as press releases with the attendant allowances and estacodes, some not-very-lucky-and-not-well-connected scapegoats - junior officers and soldiers have been killed, court martialed or dismissed since this Boko Haram quagmire started. 12 Soldiers have since been sentenced to death by firing squad by a court-martial for mutiny, some say for firing at GOC 7 Div, one Maj. Gen. Ahmed Mohammed (N/7915). A question that begs for answer is: was the GOC derelict, complicit in any way? If yes, was punishment meted to him or was he given a Soft landing?

Is it not appalling that the Nigerian military has set a precedent of convicting more soldiers than terrorists in its fight against terrorism? How many sponsors, masterminds of Boko Haram have been convicted? Why won't your soldiers shy away from battle when you fill up military recruitment slots with your bari nbuga (Hausa = incompetent), unemployed cronies, mistresses and family members who have no passion for the job? Why won't your soldiers abdicate when they are not adequately armed because one of theirs sitting in an office, squandered money meant for munitions? One of my combatant instructors told us during battle drill and weapons training that it is foolhardy to confront an enemy who has got say, a FN Rifle with a revolver considering the ''effective killing range'' of both weapons. Why won't soldiers chicken out when their morale is at its lowest ebb due to lack of welfare? Credible intelligence gathering is the bulwark of any serious military. Have you got this factor going for you? Meanwhile generals are building mansions everywhere and acquiring state-of-the-art automobiles. As they say, ''monkey dey work, baboon dey chop''.  Rather than do a thorough introspection, accept the home truth and sort out the mess in the system, the establishment is busy court martialing folks. If the anomalous status quo persists, the Nigerian military should get set for many more court martial, perhaps until there is no one left to court martial again.

Erstwhile Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Ihejirika managed to keep Boko Haram at bay, then the Sect operated in the fringes of Sambisa, Balmo forests and seldom engaged the Nigerian military in direct combat nor did they take and hold territories as they are doing now. Then Boko Haram basically engaged in hit-and-run tactics. One cannot fathom how the game changed after Lt. General Kenneth Minimah took over as Army Chief. A coincidence? Even  northerners that lampooned, derided Ihejirika are now coming round to give him credit for reining in Boko Haram while he held sway. Leadership newspaper of 12 December, 2014 reports that northern youths under the aegis of Yan Kishan Arewa opines that "under Ihejirika, no town was captured by Boko Haram.

Need we mention the newly appointed Police top dog, a lawyer we are told, who remains unapologetic in the face of his faux pas - not recognizing Aminu Tambuwal as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The Police gaffer understandably qualifies as the 'Chief Law Enforcer' of the federal republic, does he also double as the 'Chief Law Interpreter' of Nigeria, an authority hitherto vested on the judiciary? Wanton insecurity is stifling Nigeria and Nigerians while folks charged with national security are busy meddling in politics.

Recall how the minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro oversaw a botched recruitment exercise into the Immigration Service during which hundreds of thousands of innocent Nigerians were fleeced and life was snuffed out of about 20 hapless prospective enlistees. Typical of events in Nigeria, the matter fizzled out sooner than later. Mr. President promised to compensate and reserve employment slots to families that lost their loved ones but nothing has been heard of the matter again. It's business as usual, the Minister continues to cling to his exalted position.

Wondering if these geezers, sitting ducks in the security hierarchy and corridors of power have a tinge of shame over their lackluster performance? Are these national award recipients not shamefaced that a so-called ragtag Sect is daring, taunting and in some occasions, outmaneuvering the military of the giant of Africa? Military strategists agree that you don't win a battle by continually been on the defensive. Rather than take the battle to the doorstep of the enemy, the public space is inundated with trite and ineffective alibis. Today they say, ''oh, we are fighting an unconventional warfare''. Another day they say ''the military is not well armed'', "America refused to sell arms to us" bla bla bla as if it is only the United States that sells arms. You seldom need red tape to purchase arms from the Eastern Bloc. The latest alibi from President Jonathan goes thus: "Internal, external forces are sabotaging anti-insurgency War". Of course there must be folks, countries that don't want your progress. That explains why you have a pot potpourri of military/security, intelligence agencies and ginormous resources at your disposal to fix national security. Since you admit that external and internal forces are hampering your efforts, that means you know those 'forces'. So why can't you tackle them? Sure it is not invincible 'forces'? Now that $1 billion dollars have been appropriated to the military, in addition to trillions of Naira expended before now, let's see who, what they will blame their nonperformance on.

If Boko Haram is not lacking in weapons and a wheeling dealing former Niger Delta militant and nouveau-riche cum power broker, has the wherewithal to source seven decommissioned, modified Norwegian battleships putatively on behalf of NIMASA (a federal government establishment), what excuse has the Nigerian government got for their opprobrious inability to acquire much needed munitions for the military? In addition to the contract, largesse of protecting Nigeria's waterways and its crude oil pipelines which he has in his kitty, perhaps it is high time Nigeria's defence purchases was outsourced to the reformed militant since he is good at it? By the way, what is the work of the Nigerian Navy? Can someone please tell us if oil bunkering has slacked since Mr.Tompolo was given the multi-million dollar largesse to stem the tide? Moving on...

Few classic scenarios, examples from other spheres worthy of emulation will suffice. On 20th May, 2014, Al-Shabbab launched a kamikaze assault on Somali parliament building. Scores were killed in that attack. Thereafter, Somali's national security minister - Abdikarim Guled resigned. Prime minister Chung Hong-Won of South Korea apologized and tendered her resignation sequel to a ferry mishap. The then Home Minister, Shivraj Patil and the national security adviser, M.K Naraganan both resigned in the wake of the terror attack on Mumbai. Recently, Kenyan President - Uhuru Kenyatta fired the minister of Interior, one Joseph Lenko after a recent Al-Shabbab attack that left 36 dead. The Kenyan Police Chief - David Kimaiyo did not wait to be pushed, he jumped, tendered his resignation. Lately too, the Police Chief of the Afghan Capital - Kabul resigned after Taliban gunmen killed three members of a South African family. After less than two years on the job, America's decorated Veteran, Chuck Hagel is stepping aside as the US Defence Secretary. Some say he jumped, others claim he was pushed. Whichever way, he caved in. Now to one of our neighbors - Cameroon. President Paul Biya sacked two senior army officers - Colonel Youssa Gedeon and Lt. Col. Justin Ngonga aftermath of the abduction of Cameroon's deputy Prime minister's wife by Boko Haram.

When will folks at the helm of affairs in Nigeria start taking responsibility for their actions and inactions? Why is it a rare feat for nonfeasance public officials in Nigeria to humbly and voluntarily quit in the face of ignominy? In saner climes, public officials voluntarily quit in the face of embarrassment or when they run out of ideas. Not in Nigeria where many a times, such officials are shielded by an "oga-at-top".

Enough of the trite, unbecoming and embarrassing hogwash! Please man up, take responsibility, at least for once.

Nigerians demand that square pegs be put in square holes. This tradition of 'na mu ne' (Hausa word for our own person, cronyism) MUST stop in Nigeria. Let's give the job to whosoever can, will and MUST do it irrespective of his religious or ethnic affiliation. My humble self and indeed many Nigerians don't give a hoot if the President of Nigeria and his deputy hail from one family, like in Poland where twin brothers - Lech Kaczynski and Jaroslaw Kaczynski were simultaneously President and Prime minister. Nigerians yearn for detribalized, incorrupt, urbane, foresighted, decisive, courageous leaders who have the balls to wield the big stick if and when the need arises.

Now that a general election is round the corner, Nigerian voters must not hesitate to make clean this crop, haze with their votes during the 2015 general elections. Please let's relegate tribal, religious sentiments, personal ego and vote for the best candidates irrespective of party leaning.

Peace is a sine qua non for co-existence, development and prosperity. This unprecedented atmosphere of instability and wanton insecurity is stifling Nigeria and Nigerians.This reign of terror must stop! Enough of this senseless bloodletting. Please let's give peace a chance.


Written by:

Don Okereke
(Security Aficionado/Analyst/Consultant, Writer/Blogger, Change Agent, Advocate, Ex-Serviceman)
Twitter: @donokereke

*This article is a sequel to my earlier piece titled: "Stop The Back-passing, Finger pointing, Please Take Responsibility and Step Aside"