By Dare Babarinsa
When the cowardly Boko Haram terrorists group came to the rice field of Borno State, the farmers thought they were friends. They gathered the farmers to a central spot as if they had a message of peace for them. After all, most members of the Boko Haram terror gang are also natives of Borno State.
That has made the group, despite its bestial campaign, to continue to stay alive. This time around, they had not come to ask for taxes as they had done sometimes in the past. They came for blood. Gun-wielding insurgents surrounded the farmers and one by one they led them to the slaughter. The echo of the Borno massacre is still resonating round the world.
No one is really sure of how many people were killed last Saturday on the rice field of Borno. Some estimate put the number of those killed at 43. International agencies were quoting more than 100. Last Sunday, Professor Babagana Zulum, the Governor of Borno led worshippers to give mass burial to about 50 people. Everyone has been trying to explain what happened. President Muhammadu Buhari, while commiserating with the people of Borno State, restated that the Federal Government would do everything to bring the perpetrators to justice. Huuh!!
The Boko Haram crisis is a peculiar kind of insurgency that requires creative response. Our gallant soldiers have been battling these criminals for more than 10 years and yet there is no end in sight. Worse still, Boko Haram has no discernible command structure nor any code of demand except their perceived desire to set up an Islamic theocratic state. Therefore, there is no one to negotiate with, no one to truly re-educate and no one to placate. Boko Haram is a prove that madness is an infectious decease.
The rice-field massacre has again impress upon us the need to review the strategy and tactics of the Boko-Haram War. Over the years, the Nigerian military has been used to traditional warfare where the battle field and the war fronts could easily be identified on the map. Today, we have a moving target which can surface anywhere in the country. They have no uniform and no territory. They are nowhere. They are everywhere. Therefore, the tactics of our military would also mean that they have to be everywhere at the same time. It is becoming apparent, considering the scope of operations in 2020 that our military has more or less succeeded in sweeping them out of Adamawa and Yobe and they are now mostly active in Borno State where they regard hardworking Governor Zulum as their nemesis and necessary target.
What would be the scenario if the rice-field massacre had happened in another country and clime? Immediately suspected Boko Haram members surfaced near the village, someone would have contacted the right person who would immediately contact the Command Centre. The Command Centre would immediately take four action almost simultaneously. One, it would alert troops near the area of the incident. Two it would focus satellite surveillance on the area. Three, it would summon an air force plane to survey the area and if necessary take offensive action. Four it would direct attack helicopters with well-armed troops to the place to fight the insurgent immediately. In essence, in modern guerrilla warfare, time is everything. All these would be done within 30 minutes.
I don’t know how many hours it took for our troops to respond to the villagers’ distress call. By the time they came however, the worst has happened and Governor Zulum had scores of dead bodies to bury. In frustration, Governor Zulum suggested that may be Nigeria needs to hire mercenaries to fight the Boko Haram War for us. I don’t agree with him.
But we need help. Early this year, Major-General Olusegun Adeniyi, then the theatre commander of Operation Lafia Dole made a video report to the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, complaining that his troops were poorly armed and poorly kitted. “This morning from every flank, not less than 15 gun trucks were facing us,” he said. He concluded that his troops were victims of “very wrong intelligence assessment.”
Though Adeniyi’s message was a highly classified intelligence assessment meant mainly for Buratai and the High Command, it found its way into the social media and created a storm. The general was fired from his post and last week, a court martial censored him for indiscretion and ordered that he losses three years’ seniority. His aide, Tokunbo Obanla, who was accused of posting the video on the internet was sentenced to 28 days’ imprisonment with hard labour.
What Adeniyi did was not unusual. What was unusual about it was that his report found its way to the social media. This carelessness could endanger the lives of our troops and compromise the security of the country.
During the Nigerian Civil War, field commanders made regular report to the Defence Headquarters. Colonel Benjamin Black Scorpion Adekunle fired regular memos to General Yakubu Gowon, Nigerian military ruler and his deputy, Admiral Akinwale Wey, complaining about inadequate weaponry. Colonel Murtala Muhammed, the Commander of the 2nd Division, fired a letter to Gowon after the ambush at Abagana during which he lost almost 7000 troops on March 31, 1968, accusing the Head of State of sabotage. He then angrily left the war front and returned to Lagos. He was never given any command again.
Many Nigerians fear that trouble is laying in ambush for our dear country, not just in Borno but almost in every part of this country. Nowhere is safe. Last week, Oba Israel Adeusi, the Olufon of Ifon-Akoko in Ondo State, was abducted and killed by suspected Fulani kidnappers. In the past few months, there has been incidents of kidnapping in Ekiti, Oyo and other parts of the country. In all these, our leaders wring their hands like Pontius Pilate and enjoin us to pray to God for protection. They have forgotten that they were elected to protect the citizens. That is the primary duty of government.
It appears that our leaders are allowing the criminals to have the upper hand most of the time. Last week, there were again new calls for Buhari to allow his service chiefs to go home. They have done their best, but their best is not good enough. We do not see the killing of almost 100 rice farmers, or the kidnapping of a leading monarch, as incidents that require that someone somewhere takes responsibility. No one is going to be indicted. No one is going to resign. The service chiefs would continue to move about the neighbourhood like petite Napoleons. I really feel that it is time Buhari relieve Nigeria of this burden and appoint new service chiefs.
The war against insurgents, kidnappers, cattle-rustlers and other violent criminals has moved to the realm of intelligence and constant reconnaissance. It is first-rate intelligence that would allow us to move ahead before these criminals do. Our country must stay ahead of them instead of playing catch up.
It is not pleasant if our country behaves like a farmer who had gone to his veterinary doctor to complain about his cow.
“Doctor, my cow is coughing,” he said. The doctor was sympathetic and gave the farmer a powder to apply.
“Use this pipe to blow the powder to its mouth.”
The following day, the farmer was back, looking very agitated.
“What happened,” the doctor wanted to know.
“I did everything as you instructed,” the farmer said. “Then the cow blew first!”
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