The report the other day by President Goodluck Jonathan that the government has acquired new platforms for the Nigerian Army to strengthen their combat-readiness in the fight against Boko Haram insurgents is definitely heart-warming. From attacks on security formations and bombing of churches, the insurgents’ activities have graduated to a full-scale war. The government has sought albeit unsuccessfully to halt their activities with little success and its response to the insurgency, steeped in politics and other extraneous dynamics, has been less than satisfying. If the tools are getting better and the troops are being motivated, then the tide may be turning for good.
Government has traversed a range of options to put an end to the activities of the insurgents. Apart from the use of force, it set up a dialogue committee under the leadership of the Minister for Special Duties to explore peaceful resolution of the crisis. The conflict has also attracted help from a group of indigenous hunters and the so-called Civilian Joint Task Force, JTF, who have exploited their knowledge of the terrain to assist the security forces. However, the dividends have been anything but substantial. The insurgents have persisted in their atrocious and wanton killings and gaining territories within the Nigerian state in full combat engagement with the Nigerian security forces. Their activities gained global attention with the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls about a year ago and consequently spawned demonstration across the globe with the clarion call for the girls’ release, all to no avail. Recently, global attention was again drawn to the insurgents’ activities with their successful attack on Baga and other towns where they killed a multitude and displaced many more.
The security forces have on several occasions promised to end the insurgency and on each occasion failed to realise their self-imposed deadlines and goals in ways that have put their hard-worn reputation under public scrutiny. It then came into the public domain that some security personnel were refusing to bear arms and fight for the country for reasons of insufficiency of tools of engagement. Some of these personnel were later brought before military court-martials, charged with mutiny, a spectacle that attracted public outcry and with consequent query on what has happened to budgetary allocations to the security forces over the years.
The attempt to address the deficiencies in armament has itself been steeped in the politics of international relations. The United States (U.S.) denied Nigeria access to the arms market for alleged human rights violations by its security forces and also prevented a third party, such as Israel, from advancing the same help to Nigeria. At some point, the U.S. queried the reliability of the Nigerian intelligence community with which it was hesitant to share prized security information on the insurgents. These brick-walls forced Nigerian government, or so it claimed, to ferry cash, in search of armament, to South Africa whose laws it violated by so doing and thereby, once again, brought the government to public opprobrium.
Given the foregoing, the report of better days coming from Jonathan is a welcome relief for the Nigerian security forces whose capability to secure the country’s territorial integrity has never been in doubt. They have played outstanding roles in restoring peace and stability to the West Africa sub-region and did gallantly in peace-keeping operations all over the world. This newspaper has argued that no inch of Nigeria’s territory should be ceded to insurgents by whatever name and it is hoped that a re-tooled military would ensure just that.
It is important, however, to wonder why the President broke the news of delivery of new platforms for the military during his campaign trip to Ilorin, Kwara State. The propriety of making the arming of the nation’s security forces, a sensitive information, a campaign issue and no matter for newspaper headlines is, of course, open to question. If this was to create the impression that the government is doing something, that was imprudent as there are other ways in which the information could have been couched.
Nevertheless, the courage of the fighting men and women in uniform has earned them plaudits and they remain the nation’s pride. Although, the equipment is coming after some strategic mistakes have been made in the past, the security forces should make judicious use of the new platforms to win the war against insurgents. The government should also move further to harness and consolidate the diplomatic and military support of neighbours and the rest of the world to deal a decisive blow on the insurgents and restore peace to Nigeria.