Thank You President Idriss Deby
By Yemi Adebowale
For the first time in a long while, I heard the coldblooded leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau lamenting. The cry was sweet music to my ears as President Idriss Deby led the Chadian army to pound Shekau and his insane boys, who have been inflicting unprecedented pain on hapless Nigerians in the North-east. Few days back, Boko Haram pushed their luck too far when they killed 92 Chadian soldiers in Boma, on the fringes of Lake Chad. About the same time, the terrorists killed over 70 Nigerian soldiers in Borno State and got away with it. But Deby would not have this nonsense, which he described as the worst attack ever on the country’s military by a foreign body. It dented the pride of a Chadian military that has been deployed across the region to fight militants. The Chadian President went after Shekau like a wounded lion. He bravely led from the forefront to counter the terrorists.
In an offensive tagged, “Operation Wrath of Boma”, Chadian soldiers destroyed the sect’s bases around Lake Chad, killing several terrorists. Hundreds of weapons were also recovered from them; bunkers hiding key commanders where discovered and destroyed. Until the wrath of Deby, this part of Borno State was perfectly under the control of the terrorists with no Nigerian soldier in sight. This lays bare all the lies that no part of the country was under the control of the terrorists.
Shekau has never been this badly beaten in all his years of killing, maiming and raping across boundaries. As his soldiers flee in different directions, in a sober voice, Shekau, who spoke in Hausa language, cried, “People of Chad, leave us alone, this operation is not approved by the Qur’an. It is not the will of the Prophet Muhammed but if you want to continue, God will help us too because he is bigger than you. To my fighters, take heart. It is I, Abubakar Shekau, your leader.”
Please, note that Israelis helped the Chadians with the mapping of the entire Lake Chad region before the commencement of the Operation Wrath of Boma. The Israelis also provided air and land technical support to the Chadians. Back home, our leaders are too proud to seek assistance from Israel. Deby has shown that the terrorists can be defeated. Again, the arms and ammunitions seized from the terrorists were largely those they stole when they sacked a number of Nigerian military formations.
After clearing the Lake Chad border lands, the Chadian soldiers waited endlessly for Nigerian soldiers to come and take charge. They are still waiting for Nigeria troops to take charge of Damasak, in Mobbar Local Government Area of Borno State. As at press time, there was no evidence that Nigeria had done the needful.
There is also no evidence that terrorists fleeing into Nigeria following the strikes by Chad had been pinned and killed by Nigerian soldiers. I wish this Chadians will continue deep into Nigeria and end this madness called Boko Haram. Our gallant soldiers are constrained by so many factors, top of which is a failed political and military leadership; a political leadership lacking the will to combat terrorism and a military leadership that wants the war to continue. As long as the war is on, they are in business. There is also a war business in Borno and Yobe states, managed by top Nigerian commanders. Traders pay heavily to move goods in and out of the theatre of war.
The big boys in the military care less about the unending war and the hundreds of Nigerian soldiers killed needlessly. This is why they are always very happy to say that the terrorists “have been technically defeated” and that no Nigerian territory “is under the control of Boko Haram.” While they continue to chant these prickly statements, the graveyards of our soldiers in the North-east grow. I will never forget one of the deadliest massacres of Nigerian soldiers by Boko Haram in Metele, Borno State, in November 2018. Scores of soldiers were killed at 157 Task Force Battalion in Metele. The exact casualty figure is still a closely-guided secret. The commander of the battalion, Lt. Col. Ibrahim Sakaba was also killed during the attack. I thought the military will go after the terrorists with venom. Nothing happened.
In the last five years, Boko Haram have attacked and sacked 25 military posts, killing hundreds of Nigerian soldiers. Some of the sacked military posts were in Gajiram, Mainok, Rann, Geidam, Sasawa, Magumeri, Malam Fatori, Gashigha, Kanama, Gamboru-Ngala, Mafa, Damasak, Gudumbali, Garunda, Kunduga, Kareto, Jilli, Arge, Zari, Arege, Metele and Buni Gari.
Senior officers have also been mauled by Boko Haram without retaliation by the military. Some of those killed were Lt. Colonel O. Umusu, Lt. Colonel K Yusuf, Lt. Colonel Abu Ali, Lt. Colonel B. U. Umar, Captain Victor Ulasi, Lt Col Yusuf Aminu, Group Lt. Col. A E Mamudu and Lt. Col. Azubuike.
A technically defeated Boko Haram keeps thrashing our soldiers and military formations. The unending lies make me sick. Just few weeks back, the spokesman of the Defence Headquarters, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, continued this garbage, while countering Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State’s avowal that Boko Haram terrorists control three local government areas in the state. Nwachukwu speciously dismissed Zulum’s call on the military to recapture the affected local governments, saying, “no Nigerian territory is under the control of terrorist groups – Boko Haram and ISWAP.”
Nwachukwu was countering Zulum, who as governor, gets undiluted information from all the nooks and crannies of his state. Zulum would love to govern and access all local governments in Borno State in conformity with his mandate. So, he has no business with turning the truth on its head. The governor, who listed the local government areas controlled by Boko Haram as Marte, Kukawa and Abadam, challenged the military authorities to reclaim the seized territories from the terrorists. This is the truth the military must respond to appropriately.
The governor courageously made his assertions in the presence of the Defence Minister, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd); the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai; and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Abubakar Sadique. Thousands of people displaced from Marte, Kukawa and Abadam, by Boko Haram are now in IDP camps, unable to return to their homes. Auno, a settlement located on the major road leading to Maiduguri is one other community exposed to attacks. The terrorists have struck here six times in the last 10 months, killing scores of people. The attack few weeks back was most brutal, with Boko Haram killing 30 people and abducted many women and children in a late night raid on blameless people waiting to cross into Maiduguri.
Lies, lies and unending lies. This is the biggest drawback to the war against Boko Haram. As I pen this piece, there are over 700,000 traumatised people in 33 IDP camps in Borno State. These people can’t return home because their towns and villages are under the control of the terrorists. I wonder why these hapless persons would choose to remain in dehumanising camps, if their towns and villages were safe. In these IDP camps, people struggle for a meal a day, while scores die daily of hunger, disease and malnutrition. Zulum was right when he told General Magashi that keeping thousands of people in IDP camps with no source of livelihood “is like building material for Boko Haram on recruitment missions in villages.” Borno State is facing an unprecedented mess, with 22 of its 27 local governments either fully or partially controlled by the terrorists. Aid agencies can’t access many local governments in Borno. Thousands of people are also living in squalid conditions in Borno IDP camps.
One of the hopeless responses of Army Chief, Tukur Buratai, to the unending attacks by Boko Haram was the creation of his so-called “Super Camps”. It is an imprudent strategy, under which small army camps were withdrawn from several areas and combined into fewer larger bases. This happened early last year. The result has been tragic, as it helped the terrorists to gain more grounds, thus, increasing the pummeling of innocent Nigerians and soldiers. This baloney is obviously not working. His balderdash Super Camps have brought more pain on Nigerians living in the war zone. There should be a pragmatic tactical committee working with those implementing this war against Boko Haram.
President Buhari assumed power in 2015 with a pledge to exterminate the terrorists. Almost five years down the line, this country has gone deeper into this mess, with the terrorists gaining more strength. Billions of U.S. Dollars have gone down the drain for purchase of equipment for the military, yet the soldiers are persistently complaining about being poorly equipped. Buhari should be prepared to answer pertinent questions regarding this faltering war: Why is our military poorly equipped and poorly motivated? How much equipment has he procured for them in the last four years? Where is the evidence? What have we achieved with all the billions of USD released for equipment? Why are we not hiring foreign military experts?
No doubt, our soldiers are struggling to contain the rebels because they are poorly motivated and poorly equipped. It is so depressing hearing stories of soldiers on the war front being owed field allowances. Army Chief, Tukur Buratai, recently rubbed salt on the injuries of these gallant officers and soldiers when he accused those involved in the anti-insurgency war of indiscipline and lacking commitment. He added: “It is unfortunate but the truth is that almost every setback the Nigeria Army has had in our operations in recent times can be traced to insufficient willingness to perform assigned tasks or simply insufficient commitment to a common national/military course by those at the frontlines.”
This was a very unfortunate and painful statement from the Army Chief. Our gallant soldiers lack things as basic as water, yet, they put their lives on the line. Boko Haram parades better apparatus than our soldiers, yet, Buratai wants our men to perform magic. This country has been needlessly losing hundreds of its gallant soldiers to Boko Haram because of these failings. So, what is this army chief talking about? Buratai has never really been there for the soldiers. That was why I had consistently advocated his removal.
The way forward? First, the likes of Bashir Magashi, Gabriel Olonisakin, Buratai and, Sadique Abubakar, have no business staying a day longer in office. They must go. These people have done more harm than good to the war against Boko Haram. A forward-looking government would have overhauled this sluggish leadership. I find it difficult to comprehend why terrorists must consistently take the fight to our soldiers. They have been obviously emboldened by the lethargic tactics of our ill-equipped and ill-motivated military. For now, our gallant soldiers lack the capacity to end this war. The strategy for getting result against Boko Haram is largely through aerial power. Technology, quality equipment and quality manpower will be needed. It requires quality fighter jets and quality armoured attack helicopters. Our gallant military lacks the competence and equipment for these. So, our President must hire Israeli or Russian mercenaries to finish this war.