By David Onmeje
We are all pretty aware of the so many influences, emotions and sentiments which becloud the senses, each time a Nigerian pens down anything on the ongoing war against insurgency in the Northeast and other parts of Nigeria. The ink flows with a lot of inexplicable grumpiness against the Nigerian military.
And the Nigerian Army, which is specifically spearheading the counter-insurgency operations in the country, is never spared the rod. They are punched hard and asininely.
None ever remembers whatever efforts the government of President Muhammadu Buhari; the leadership of the Nigerian Military, the COAS Lt. Gen. TY Buratai and Nigerian troops have made to blight the previously raging fires of terrorism, which brought Nigeria on its knees by 2015.
I am always perturbed by the verdict of some commentators, analysts, and critics, fawning to the dictates of detractors by spewing the most imaginary and debasing aspects of the Military’s terrorism expeditions in the Northeast. I hear such inconsequential phrases like, “corruption by Military top brass frustrating the war”, “partiality in deployment of troops” “nepotism” or sectional loyalty in handling of troops.
They easily forget the extent of the struggles and the verifiable positive results in the progress of the anti-terrorism exploits of Nigerian Military. As a people, our memories are abysmally short and we have a tendency to consume lies far recklessly spewed in our political space. That’s why, at the outset of my response, I hinted of weird influences and warped senses.
It is endemic in Nigerians to tilt more towards darkness than light. It defines our everyday lives. And for many others, it’s a favorite past time to peddle unsubstantiated falsehood, embellished with some artificial toga of verisimilitude.
Nigeria is in a big jumble. And the dearth of patriotism in some of us in approaching national issues, especially on security is fast eclipsing the pillars of the nation, and the sympathy, we claim for our country by churning out such jaded opinions and narratives.
My ire has been sparked by the September 11, 2018 article in Premium Times authored by a columnist, Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú. The caption has the rhetorical caption, “Has Boko Haram Become A Money Spinner For The Army Brass?” The author vomited all manner of immaturities against President Muhammadu Buhari; the Nigerian Military; Gen. Buratai, and troops battling Boko Haram terrorism in the region. Nothing can be this distasteful in the truest sense of the word.
Olateju concluded with a patronizing call for the sack of the current Army Chief. And with a note of finality, albeit sounding hoarsely and presumably like a simpleton, she echoed that a new COAS would inject fresh ideas into the counter-insurgency operations.
The author has forgotten that among the ranks of the Military, there are Boko Haram spies , agents and informants. Some locals are not left out just for a pittance paid by the extremist sect through agents. The ambushes which occasionally kill our troops on operational voyages are fallouts of such bad eggs among troops and other conspiratorial Nigerians. We are all guilty, vicariously.
So, when she harped so much on soldiers protesting the obvious lie of denial of their legitimate entitlements’ on the battlefield, including feeding, it amused me. I have the feeling, she expected the troops to act with “maraboutic” power.
The columnist failed to mention the oddity of redeployed troops, who in Augusts 2018 protested at Maiduguri Airport‘s at the verge of boarding a flight to Marte, another insurgency location. I dusted the author’s motives to me in very lucid terms, as a mercenary columnist on a hatchet job.
In all honesty, the author failed to grasp the drift of the August 2018 protest at Maiduguri airport by troops,
at the point of departure to Marte, resisting redeployment. No matter how bad any Nigerian feels about it, internal deployments of troops is the exclusive prerogative of the internal administrative discretion of the Nigerian Army hierarchy.
We should ask ourselves this rationally fundamental question! In the military, we all know obeying the last order is sacred. If the protests by troops is Godly for the author’s bandied reasons of diverted or poor welfare packages, skipping of their daily meals and poor equipment of troops, why didn’t the troops get to the point of redeployment in Marte before staging the protests over these “failures” as propagated by the likes of Olateju?
Is she ever concerned about the effect of a few soldiers who disobeyed a lawful order on the battlefield and the spiral consequences it can extend to other loyal troops ?
Nowhere and in any establishment, do subordinates’ flagrantly disobey lawful orders with such impunity, without a reprimand. This is not what a patriotic and unbiased columnist should promote disguisedly.
Nothing has shocked me more like the reasoning of some Nigerians, as reflected in the opinion piece by Olateju. It has not pretended to bow to the demands of patriotism to the nation and loyalty to Commanders at the warfront. But she wants the same army to completely defeat terrorism, when their likes fuel the embers of discord and recalcitrance in the military.
Let me revert to some eye-catching specific points in the piece, which have inspired my angst and betrayed the concealed motives of the columnist as acting a script for Nigerian politicians. In alliance with veiled foreign cronies, they hate terrorism respite in Nigeria.
Nigerian politicians are a band of people who stop at nothing to daily plot the festering and escalation of Boko Haram terrorism to service their anti- Buhari 2019 campaigns.
Her piece opened with a fake flowery, but demoralizing painting of insurgents attacks on Zari village, 30 kilometers from Damasak, LGA in Northern Borno State. I doubt whether the author is conversant with the geographical terrain of the state. But 30 milometers to Zari, the spot of the terrorists invasion of a military post , where reinforcement from Damasak came is quite a distance. It cannot easily be approximated on road in the rough terrain to sustain the Army Post. Did she even know the number of insurgents who invaded the locality?
Yet, in her own account of the unattributed report, she unconsciously praised the troops by the contradictory accounts that they “…seized it briefly after a fierce battle…the terrorists took weapons and military equipment before they were pushed out of the base by troops with aerial support.”
It would have been nice for the columnist to have concluded that the terrorists occupied the “captured” military base in Zari and took over the village. But I didn’t figure it in her narrations. What a reversal!
Crucially, was it the same unarmed, unequipped, untrained Nigerian troops that successfully repelled terrorists and reclaimed Zari? Then she went on to reel out amazing figures of casualties on the part of the Nigerian troops, giving insurgents the impression of triumph over the Nigerian state.
I was really incensed with her statement inter alia; “Is it possible that the Army brass has turned the Boko Haram insurgency into a full-time money making occupation, wasting the lives of soldiers on the field, while Generals make money both in Abuja and the theatre of operations….?”
A dissection of the import of her submissions stare me with empathy for the author’s acclaimed sense of security vigilance. But I must concede it to her that she was not even sure of the facts. It explains why her piece is cast rhetorically.
Notwithstanding its draping banal intent, I wish to ask her what is peculiarly Nigerian in troops who meet tragic deaths on the battlefield? Olateju can ask America and precisely, President Donal Trump, how many troops the country has lost in Iraq and Afghanistan battling terrorism in 2018. The figures would startle and shock her into reality.
Nigeria purchases its weaponry to fight insurgency from America, among other technologically advanced foreign nations of the world. Nigeria’s purchase of Tucano fighter jets from America is still being processed.
If America, which prides itself as global security champion is still battling with the defeat of terrorism in the Middle East, with over 100, 000 troops on ground, the simplistic expectations of the likes of the author and her soul mates to feel the Buhari Presidency would have slammed the final death knell on insurgency in three years is utopian.
As she reads this text, American troops are killed every day in the Middle East, but the most brilliant of journalists or columnists in America do not celebrate it with the blame game on their military, as delightfully done by Olateju.
I am infinitely pained that the same Gen. Buratai and Nigerian troops, the columnist gladly defames for corruption and incompetence on the battlefield are the same leaders and troops, who have rescued 24 LGAs captured by insurgents in the Northeast. It is the same “weak,untrained and unarmed troops” who have rescued over 16,000 Nigerians, (including Chibok and Dapchi schoolgirls) held in captivity by Boko Haram.
By Olateju’s version, it is the same powerless Nigerian troops, that have stopped Boko Harm bomb explosions in Abuja or in other parts of the North. These troops have foiled incursions of insurgents into the Southern part of Nigeria, where, probably the likes Olateju sits comfortably to craft such nonsensical prose against them.
What other performance targets that have been set by Gen. Buratai which have remained largely unaddressed, concerning the insurgency, Olateju?
And she shamelessly perched on the graves of soldiers on the battlefield; “… Nigerians long de-sensitised to mass death moved on as if nothing had happened. Even the military wore no somber mood, as the situation was treated as normal.”
Phew! This is the peak of treachery against one’s nation. I have reminded earlier, with copious examples that the most sophisticated army in the battlefield are killed by enemy forces. Pride could not allow her mention or even remember the historic cenotaph
Gen. Buratai erected at Gudumbali in Gazamala LGA and the lovingly punchy epaulet, “Forever in our Memory.”
Since Olateju is merely guessing, I hope she would not make the same mistake, Transparency International (TI) made in 2017 by branding the present military leadership as corrupt? Thereafter, Auwal Rafsanjani, their Country Director. refuted the report on a live AIT programme as false.
I wish to prick the conscience of the columnist and her few sojouners that as she reads this piece, Gen. Buratai is physically in Gudumbali, in the heart of the Northeast supervising his troops. The Army Chief is interacting with soldiers and with
their commanders. He has fought in the trenches with his troops before now.
She needs to again write about the elation of the
Gudumbali community leaders who repeatedly saw an Army boss in their midst. Let her tell the world, when any other high-ranking military officer visited such villages in the Northeast before now. But it is possible today under a Gen. Buratai’s leadership of the Nigerian Army and the counter-insurgency.
Ms. Olateju should urgently apologize to Nigerians, President Buhari and Gen. Buratai for the unbridled insults with her opinion article and the neurotic calls for Gen. Buratai’s sack.
For the rest of us, we are unanimously echoing that Nigeria’s political leadership should decorate Gen. Buratai with the national honour of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger. His exceptional exploits in leadership of the Army both in the office and the trenches against terrorists qualifies him for it, but certainly not vilification.
Onmeje writes from the United Kingdom.