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WAR ON TERROR: MUCH ADO ABOUT SERVICE CHIEFS

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WAR ON TERROR: MUCH ADO ABOUT SERVICE CHIEFS
OPINION: By Dr Uche Diala
Convener, Nigeria Patriots Call

 

‘Sack The Service Chiefs’ has been the swan song of some people in the last few days so much so that one would think ‘sack Service Chiefs’ is a newly discovered vaccine for obliterating the Boko Haram Insurgency.

 

However, having critically analyzed the situation, I humbly submit that while sacking or changing the Service Chiefs at this time might assuage certain feelings or emotions and even be politically expedient, I do not believe that that would move the needle on the challenges at hand in any real or significant magnitude.

 

Have we for a second paused to ponder if the Commander in Chief has considered the pros and cons of changing the Service Chiefs, essentially in the middle of a war? We must accept that we do not know as much as he does about what goes on in the security circles.

 

Some of us, including the Nigerian Senate so confidently pronounce that the Service Chiefs should be sacked for poor performance, incompetence etc. We carry on as if sacking the Service Chiefs is a magic wand that will make the Boko Haram insurgency go away ‘sharp sharp’ but I am sorry to say, with all due respects that that is too simplistic and to say the least ill informed.

 

Pray what yardstick and marking scheme did we use to mark the script of the Service Chiefs to arrive at the verdict of non-performance? I know that the only viable yardstick available for use under such circumstances is to compare what was in a particular theatre of war before and what is currently and also contrast with what happens in similar conflicts elsewhere in the world.

 

To deal with this, let me quickly take us back to the before-now which was 2014/15 because we seem to be too short memoried and emotion-driven and that is a huge problem. It is trite wisdom that before one can say something is better or worse, one must benchmark it against something else or a different period in time. Otherwise it would just be emotional gerrymandering.

 

By 2014/15, Boko Haram had overrun over up to 20 Local Governments Areas in Nigeria, occupied those territories and hoisted their flags, suicide and other bombings were a daily occurrence from the entire NE, NW up to Abuja the Federal capital Territory, including the Police Force headquarters, thousands of Nigerians were being abducted in large numbers, Churches and Mosques were being bombed routinely, Borno state was almost totally taken over by Boko Haram except for the capital Maiduguri, many Borno state indigenes could not go home over 2 years, Nigerian soldiers were being driven into neighboring countries by Boko Haram etc, etc. As a matter of fact the 2015 general election was postponed by President Goodluck Jonathan because of the Boko Haram Insurgency.

 

This in a nutshell was our case when General Tukur Yusuf Buratai and the other Service Chiefs were appointed.

 

Not too long after that and till date, no single portion of Nigerian territory is under Boko Haram control, I cannot remember the last time we had a suicide bombing, thousands of Nigerians abducted have been rescued and returned home, life has returned to a semblance of normalcy in most of those affected parts of the country, worshipping in Churches and Mosques is no longer a probable ‘suicide mission’ and now Boko Haram is restricted to hit and run attacks on soft targets, which is indeed heartbreaking. But that is the sad thing about Asymmetric warfare. We cannot pretend that we are fighting a conventional war between two national armies. We are not.

 

Furthermore if one considers war on terror in other climes, the case of Afghanistan and the Taliban easily comes to mind. Even with the combined forces of the United States and its Western allies, after 21 years of combat, hundreds of American and allied forces killed, thousands of Afghan lives lost, billions of Dollars spent, that war is still on and the Taliban has still not been ‘defeated’. On the contrary, on February 29, 2020, the United States signed a Deal on ‘Path to Peace’ with the Taliban; On September 12, 2020, a peace talk between the Afghan government and the Taliban began and on November 17, 2020, the United States announced plans to withdraw its troop from Afghanistan. Yet that war is not ended and the Taliban remains un-defeated.

 

The joint multinational forces led by the United States will win many battles with the Taliban and leave the Afghan forces to hold ground, yet every now and then the terrorists pull through a sensational attack killing quite a number of people and of course that is the news the world hears. Would anyone say the American and coalition forces are incompetent or have failed because the Taliban pulled through one opportunistic attack few and far in-between?

 

That is pretty much the case with Nigeria and Boko Haram today. You hardly hear people talk about the many daily exploits, heroics and sacrifices of the Nigerian Military. People only hype the once-in-a-while sensational and cowardly attack by the Boko Haram on soft targets. That is what many have based their verdict of incompetence, failure etc of the Service Chiefs and our Military on. That is most unfair. It just does not work that way.

 

This is the stuff religious fundamentalism is made of. Until and unless you kill the ideology that drives it (which is easier said than done), you cannot end it. The best way to end Boko Haram like a cancer is not to allow it to take root in the first place. Once it takes root, your options are limited and like a pterygium growing on the conjunctiva, it is very difficult to cut out all the roots. It takes a painstaking and meticulous process to achieve that.

 

What is important is that steady progress is being made. Nigerians need to understand this. Sadly the government has not helped in this aspect of making Nigerians understand due to inefficient and ineffective information and communication.

 

The Nigerian state has decimated and degraded Boko Haram and its capacity to do what it actually planned which was to take over Nigeria and establish an radical Islamic caliphate from the forests of Sambisa to the waters of Woji in River state. This Administration and our Military since 2015 have reduced Boko Haram to an opportunistic predator that sneaks in an out of hiding to hit soft targets. Nigeria; I mean this particular crop of Service chiefs that some gladly demonize have turned the corner from what it was in 2014/15 and sustainably and verifiably so.

 

That is why we do not have the same situation we had before as I enumerated earlier and the fact that after years of relentless trying, Boko Haram has not been able to go beyond the North East and to do what it used to do, in the scale and brazen manner it used to be capable of is neither by accident nor a fluke. It is because these Service Chiefs and our Military are working very hard. Anyone might attempt to advance any other reason other than that.

 

In closing, let me be clear, I am not saying that the Service Chiefs cannot be changed even for the fun of it or for political expediency. I am just saying that there is no magic any new team will perform that will instantly spirit away the Insurgency. As a matter of fact, such a change might alter the rhythm already established.

 

Incidentally, we have a Commander in Chief who is not driven by sentiments or political considerations and in fairness to him, if the security reports, both local and international indicate that changing the Service Chiefs at this time won’t cause a paradigm shift in the war, as I am convinced it won’t, maybe even be counterproductive, why must he do that? To please who?

 

In conclusion, Security issues are not emotional issues. One has to deal with the facts and one has to be objective. If we do a couple of the things I enumerated in my earlier Article on this matter, as well as sound suggestions made by objective Nigerians, we shall keep making progress whether the Service Chiefs are changed or not.

 

We are not where we ought or would want to be but we are surely not where we used to be. Neither are we where we could have been if our Government, Our Military and these Service Chiefs were not doing their best. Yet more needs to be done. No doubt. It behoves on all of us citizens to acknowledge what the Military has achieved so far and to encourage it to do more, instead of demoralizing it and our troops.

 

May the souls of our compatriots (innocent civilians and men and women of the Military alike) who have paid the supreme sacrifice because of this insurgency rest in peace and may God give the President and Commander in Chief the wisdom to do the needful, whatever that is.

 

#GodBlessNigeria
#GodBlessOurTroops

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