From G. CHIJIOKE ODOM (Pstr), Lagos
With another general reportedly killed by Boko Haram in the theatre of warfare in Borno State, North East, just over the weekend, why could Nigeria possibly be loosing highly trained generals – five of them, and 15 colonels – most recently, in an unseemly manner?
First: A highly politicised, corruption-riddled, ill-trained, ill-prepared, ill-equipped and less motivated Nigerian Army or military lost a golden opportunity to deal decisively with what began as an ordinary insurgency by Kanuri ideological renegades. Mohammed Yusuf and his muslim fundamentalists. Lacking neither the soul to confront them then, nor the capacity, “a little leaven leaventh the whole lump”, so much so that the group has been taken over by the ISWAP – Islamic State of West African Province – which is an offshoot of Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda (which bombed America in the infamous 9/11) with their international affiliates, local and regional networks, hard currency over-flow, cross-cutting intelligence, military sophistications and technological battlefield approach. So the “battle is no longer to the ‘strong’ ; ‘neither the race to the swift’ of your generals. Because the ‘time and chance’ of highly sophisticated and battle hardened and doctrinally imbued ISWAP commanders ‘happeneth’ – makes nonsense of the best of your strategies, tactics and – the lives of your generals and their troops. In truth, the ‘battle is joined’ – Tucano jets or not; and grieviously so. Our military is now compelled to fight a more deadly and devaststing, bitter, audacious and vociferous enemy. Consequently, smoke, sweat and sorrow; thorns, terror and tears ; and the bullets, bombs and blood flows. The raging fire consumes – generals and infantrymen alike! Yet, all these could have been avoided.
As at today, I can list authoritatively not less than five generals and 15 colonels that have been despatched by Boko Haram in the most recent times. Also bear in mind that in military terms, under-reporting of your casualties, out-right denials of your losses of territories and batteries or armaments, serial and sustained pernicious propagandisation, etc, are key in order not to get the enemy to either be truly excited or able to estimate your vulnerabilty. Hence, all manners of euphemisms are both employed and deployed to staunch the debilitating but unrelenting flow from the seemingly vulnerable side. General Bosco Ntaganda, also known as ‘General Mosquitoe’, the Congo Democratic Republic guerilla warlord jailed by the International Criminal Court at the Hague, and Alice Lakenwa, the female guerilla warlord who led her intractable and implacable Holy Spirit Brigade in Uganda, are experts in this scenario.
Two: Every time, you hear from our military and the FG that the war in the North East is not a normal warfare but an assymetrical warfare. Very true indeed. It means that it is not something you win by military tactics alone because it has deeper and stonger and wider tentacles in guerillla tactics, ideological bonding with communities in the theatre of warfare, strong collaboration and cooperation, sentimental affinities and affiliations with, and iron-clad sympathy of the residents with the insurgents, etc. Hence it is something you win through winning the hearts and minds of the ordinary people in the theatre of warfare because they readily give away your best efforts, secrets and operational plans and programmes, ground moves and motives to the insurgents whom they trust over and above you. These insurgents run the economies of these local territories, regulate their socio- politics and offer the residents public safety and private security in their places of domicile. That is the government they know, see and obey. The loyalty of residents to them is tensile steel strength. It is even exacerbated by state failure to requite and bequeath the modicum of living and life sustenability to these residents in those far-flung backwaters, which are literally light years away from any sleepy cosmopolis. The Nigerian military is concentrating on the military solution alone while neglecting the core goodwill approach of winning the redisents’ hearts and minds.
The US made the same mistake and suffered this same heavy defeat in Vietnam in the 1970s and, most recently, some months ago in Afghanistan in the hands of the Talibans after spending over 20years there to fight them; train, equip and man the country’s military and also committing over US $20 trillion to the war. The Afghanistan military and all their generals, for all those 20 years, unknown to the US, were most sympathetic to the Taliibans. President Trump knew that and made plans to withraw the US from Afghanistan and President Biden, his successor and veteran of foreign policy, implemented that early this year.
But the Nigerian military has not learnt any lessons. If you are a hard-nosed international civil liberties or rights advocate, defence and security strategist, international policy pundit, development expert or investigative journalist who wants to put it straight to them about these things through expert analyses, you may suffer denigration like the ex naval chief turned professor of global security, Kunle Olatogun, with his earth-shaking disclosures; or elimination or forced disappearance like Bagauda Kaltho; or Tordue Henry Salem, the case of The Vanguard journalist now in focus. Anything can happen and your guess is as good as mine. The whole country, with her military, is one that hates the bitter truth but madly in love with the beautiful lie!
Three: Inside the Nigerian military and the FG bureaucracy itself are the saboteurs of the best efforts, and those aiding and abetting the high casualty of generals. Competition among the red-necks – generals – to be posted to command the war theatre, and motivated only by the greed to command and profiteer from the war budget, the war economy – they turn the thriving but re-captured Lake Chad fishing communities and large territories of farming communities into their personal enterprises, control the market – the thriving international foodstuff market in that region and post home net-breaking profits, and are inwardly unwilling to end the war for fear of loosing profit grounds, etc, -all these drive an unstoppable incendiary but toxic warfare within both the military and civilian technical and administrative hierarchy for all manners of manoeuverings to land plum jobs in the theatre of war. Several unspeakable wealth recovered from service chiefs within the period of the war effort – e,g, ex Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Alex Badeh and his controversial assasination; and even the yet -to-be decoded recent military plane crash in Kaduna which killed the Chief of Army Staff, Gen Attahiru and other officers, etc, etc, are all offshoots of “the enemy within”.
What is more lamentable, militarily speaking, from my defence and training and war experience, is that a general is too high a commanding officer to be deployed to the very level of battlements and siege going on in the North East. A colonel or equivalent rank is the fitting and acceptable standard for that level of conflict on ground. Strategic and tactical analyses will show that it is a terrible administrative, technical, strategic and tactical blunder to deploy generals to such conflict of such level of intense. Non-defence or military initiates may neither readily apprehend nor comprehend this; but this is the hard truth. Real military insider hard fact; as shocking as it might be! Neither the US nor China will ever do so; for they well know the implications.
So sad for any nation, even my nation, to loose any generals, highly trained generals, whether in the line of duty or not. More so, in very unseemly manners. But, can we ever learn? May their souls rest in perfect peace. Amen.