In view of their accomplishments over the years, many readers would hardly come to terms with what had befallen the military in the last many years, particularly as it affects the fight against the Boko Haram insurgents, bandits and the insolent kidnappers. Our military have had a distinguished record in the field starting in regional and international peace keeping. At independence in 1960 when we joined the United Nations, we immediately started to contribute our armed forces personnel to peace keeping efforts. Our troops were said to have acquitted themselves creditably in Congo 1960-64, Tanzania 1960-62 and Pakistan 1965-66.
By the time our civil war broke out in 1967 our troops have already had some fighting experience which probably came to help to crush a well-armed and determined secessionist movement in a mere 30 months. Thereafter, this prowess of our troops made them very much sought-after by the United Nations whenever and wherever there was a conflict, to contribute to a peace keeping force and or international military observatories. Our troops served everywhere. In 1978 we were in Lebanon as part of UNFIL, Chad in 1981, along Iran-Iraq border UNIMOG in 1988, Kuwait UNICOM in 1991, Angola ‘91, Namibia ‘89, Cambodia ‘92, Yugoslavia ‘92, etc. Of course nearer home in Sierra Leonne and Liberia, our troops and the resources Nigeria committed made the difference in those countries from falling apart or remaining intact.
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In 2007 this country was in such a confident position in the ability of our Army as a can-do force that it voiced opposition to AFRICOM, a combatant command that USA created as an outfit to watch over Al Qaeda and other terrorists’ operations in Africa. The USA had to back down from establishing the command post on an African soil, because Nigeria, South Africa and Libya voiced their loud opposition to the plan. In fact, Nigeria was so belligerent in its opposition that the government spokesman said that we did not only reject AFRICOM on Nigeria’s soil but also would not want to see it in any African country. The rejection was loud and clear and the US had to accede to let AFRICOM berth in Stuttgart, Germany where it had maintained other combatant commands, since the close of World War 2.
But honestly we must admit that things have turned awry for our armed forces in the last 10 or so years. The fight against the Boko Haram armed insurgents has run into a quagmire. Not only that but other forms of insurgencies have cropped up in the form of a wholesale flourishing kidnapping industry and other forms of banditry. Nobody has been able to accurately pinpoint why the fight against the Boko Haram insurgents, whom many considered as a ragtag assemblage, has confounded our armed forces. We thought our forces lacked material and the whole nation rose in unison to support the President when he wanted billions direct from the Federation Account to buy arms.
The money was drawn, spent and probably arms were bought but conditions merely deteriorated with the insurgency now precariously spreading across the nation. That much was said by Governor Sani Bello when he warned that the Boko Haram fighters have raised their infamous flags in his domain and are within walking distance of Abuja the federal capital. Mohammed Ali Ndume, the Senator representing Borno South has been everywhere in the media lately decrying the deficits in the war effort. Senator Ndume should know, because he is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Army. Vibrant and passionate, Ndume has never been short of words advancing the cause of his constituency that is presently besieged by Boko Haram insurgents.
He had put it plainly across that the entire armed forces lack the material to accomplish the myriad of assignments before them. On top of that they lack the numbers required. That would probably explain why despite their pedigree our armed forces are bogged down by a number of ragtag brigands. To worsen matters, the casualties are rising by the day. The gory statistics given a few days ago by Samuel Aruwan, Kaduna State Commissioner of Internal Affairs and Internal Security, are frightening enough. He reported that in only three months between January and March 2021, bandits terrorising Kaduna State have killed 323 and abducted 949 citizens. I guess similar figures might show up from neighbouring Katsina, Niger and Zamfara States if they kept statistics.
It is time for a change of heart to probably do what would have been unthinkable some years ago. I am glad that the President has lately been won over to this argument. This became evident when at a televised virtual meeting with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken he specifically asked the US to reconsider relocating the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) from Stuttgart to Africa so as to bring it nearer to the theatre of operations and help to strengthen the ongoing efforts to check the security situation.
I watched the exchanges closely and clearly saw the President grimace when he came to the point in his speech where he asked the US to move AFRICOM to Africa. It is the kind of surrender only Generals understand, as a painful duty to save a territory, fighting men and material.