The Nigeria Military and Boko Haram’s Claim to Gwoza TownArticles/Opinion, Featured Contributors/Columnists Tuesday, August 26th, 2014
By Professor R.A. Ipinyomi, University of Ilorin, Nigeria
The proclaimed leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, released in a video clip on Sunday August 24, 2014 that the Islamic sect has captured Gwoza and has turned the Local Government Area as part of their intended Islamic Caliphate in North East Nigeria. In a quick reaction to the declaration, the Director of Defence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade described the claim as an empty claim, that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria is still intact and unaltered. The army general also asserted that any group of terrorists laying claim to any portion of Nigeria territory will not be allowed to get away with that expression of delusion and crime and that necessary military operations to secure that area from the activities of the bandits are still ongoing. The implication of this brief claim and counter claim between Boko Haram operatives and the Nigeria military officers is that some part of the Nigeria territory may have been illegally occupied by Boko Haram but that Nigeria would fight back to reclaim any such territories, if true. Therefore it is no longer a war of words to a situation where Nigeria has lost many lives to Boko Haram in various parts of the country since 2009, has some school age girls captured and now making territorial claims and the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate. A similar claim is on going in the territories of Syrian and Iraq where the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ISIS has been running battles with the local national armed forces and the western airpowers.
On Monday August 25, 2014 the BBC reported that some 400 Nigerian soldiers fled as they were overpowered by the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents in a renewed invasion which involved attack on army barracks, Gamboru and Ngala towns in Borno State as well as house to house raiding. The Nigeria defence had also since dismissed reports that its forces were dislodged by the militants but described the escape on Monday of the Nigerian troops to Cameroon sequel to the Boko Haram insurgents attack on Gamboru and Ngala towns as a tactical maneuver. We would accept the Nigerian army’s claim and response to the ugly situation between the two forces. That is we are agreeing that Boko Haram is a force against the Nigerian armed forces but our national expectation is that Boko Haram force should have been no match for the Nigerian Armed Forces if not for so many wrong steps already taken by successive Nigerian governments. Some of these wrong steps are what we wish the Nigerian Armed Forces and the Federal Government of Nigeria should study and resolve. Eventually we know that Boko Haram is a fading force especially because they have failed to define their demands beyond power quest coated in fake religious colours. However we had expected the Nigeria Forces to have terminated the insurgents from start and not have allowed it to get near the current situation where even the army would be seeking shelters in neighbouring Cameroon intentionally or by military tactical necessity.
It would be recalled that successive Nigerian Military regimes themselves might have taken steps that had whittled down the capability of the Nigeria Armed Forces by failing to adequately provide the needed training and weapons upgrading as necessary because of their perceived fear of another take-over from within the armed forces at the times. Similarly retirements were awarded to officers that could still be very useful to the nation unnecessarily. In this way they refused to grow the army and the little weaponry and trained men have continued to be used in guarding only the Presidents and their cronies. The Nigeria armed forces failed to provide adequate coverage per state or even per local government area hence a Boko Haram could grow, without interference, and hunting the populists and now even the soldiers in the armed forces. Secondly corruption has entered every fabric of the Nigerian system to the extent that there is a great compromise in the standard equipment and supplies given to every soldier on mission. Each soldier is almost on his own to make provision in food and other supplies. Nigeria should investigate from the Russian, Iran or even Hamas what they give to their fighters.
To be fair to the Nigeria governments we would also look inward to our inherent nature where we are too quick to remain loyal to extraneous interests that could provide some quick financial gains rather than to our professions and nation. Many people are of the wrong opinion that Nigeria is not worth dying for because the nation lacks warding appreciation rightly and lacks planning for people who work for the nation. These, in addition to political hijackers using the money they already illegally obtain from the system for fueling organizations like Boko Haram, is a source working against the proper building up the standard armed forces for the 21st century. We need to rebuild the Nigeria Armed Forces from start using Nigeria initiatives rather than always too quick to apply for foreign loans or sending officers for foreign training alone. We need a robust research group and an independent financing system for the Nigerian Armed Forces. The Nigeria Armed Forces can no longer thrive under the present political system without seeking some level of independence and also equally entering to a moment of understanding with the people they are supposed to protect. There must henceforth be a people friendly approach to policing and a people friendly National Army to coordinate the policing of the national territorial integrity, land or waters.
By far the worst indicator of lack of governance in the daily life of the people is the lawlessness and outrageous behavior in the society. For example when I was in the secondary school (the school Senior Prefect and Mr. Phillips a white my as our Principal) we had a lawn and on it there was a sign post that no student should walk on the lawn. There was no wall preventing students order than the sign post but any student who dared the school authority and walked on the lawn received heavy punishment promptly. Today similar sign posts exist all over the country where people should not walk, trade, drop waste or trespass. But today such rules and instructions are violated with impunity and nobody is punished. The law enforcement agents hardly know why they are on duty except to ask for the wrong things or look the other way when offences are committed. We cannot grow a proper society in a lawlessness, disobedience and disorderliness environment. Orderliness begins from the top and down and we cannot afford a society where some people siren their way through the heavy traffic jam they create and others sweating it out for hours. The result will always be chaos and lawlessness in the society where a Boko Haram thrives.
Therefore the pressure is much more on the Nigeria Armed Forces than hitherto, and they have to stop Boko Haram from any further expansion. They have to restore the integrity of the Nigeria nation as well as defend why they are army generals. By definition you can’t be an army general without having won a war but we have many generals all over. They have to forget about politics and do a professional job. We must obey God rather than man and we must similarly defend our nation rather than defending a religion, a political party or even the president of the nation. We will keep encouraging Boko Haram and its sponsors to give up unconditionally their pursuit and join in the rebuilding of the Nigeria nation for all Nigerians. Since 2009 (which coincides with the time after the passing on of our late President Umaru Yar’Adua) Boko Haram has been destroying the nation. In a democracy an Abubakar Shekau or his master may emerge as the ekected president comes 2015. Over whom would they govern? Let Boko Haram disarm ceasefire and return to normal mainstream politicking. In politics you win some and lose others but the game should continue.
Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi
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