INTERVIEW:NIGERIA’S LONGEST WAR AND LESSONS FROM CHAD’S RECENT DECISIVE BLOW ON BOKO HARAM

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Our correspondent in Yola,Tom Garba had an interview with the coordinator center of Peace and security Studies of Modibbo Adama University Yola,Dr Jude Mommodoh who is an associate professor of peace and conflict revealed lessons to learn on a recent onlaught of Boko Haram by the Chadians Soldiers.

Why has the Boko Haram insurgency lasted for so long?

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Response:The Nigerian Civil War lasted for 30 months (1967-1970). But the Boko Haram insurgency which started in 2009 has so far become protracted stretching for 11 years now and it remains Nigeria’s longest war and an unresolved nightmare. The insurgency has led to the deaths of several thousands of lives and provoking massive humanitarian crisis leading to the displacement of more than 2 million citizens of the Lake Chad region. The North East of Nigeria is the epicenter of the Islamist insurgency waged by the Abubakar Shekau-led Boko Haram Islamic sect which calls itself “Jama’atul Alhul Sunnah Lidda’watiwal Jihad” (JAS), meaning “people committed to the propagation of the Prophet’s teachings and jihad” and its splinter group called the Islamic State of West Africa (ISWAP), which pledged allegiance to the Islamic States since 2015. Nigeria is currently fighting her longest war and from the evidence before us, it appears that our security forces are not winning the war.

Why do say so?

Response:It is because the Boko Haram insurgency has continued unabated primarily because of the kinetic counter offensive approach that has been adopted for so long a time by the military to contain the Boko Haram Jihadists. This kinetic counter insurgency approach has continued to prove ineffective and unable to contain the offensive attacks of the insurgents. This is evidenced from the continued and consistent violent attacks launched by the terrorists against military formations and civilian targets. Boko Haram insurgents have continued their campaign of deaths, killing our gallant soldiers, humanitarian workers and defenseless Nigerian citizens and burning down villages. Many civilians residing in areas prone to the attacks of the insurgents can hardly sleep with their two eyes closed. About two weeks ago, Abubakar Shekau led insurgents ambushed and massacred 47 Nigerian soldiers in a village called Gorgi in Yobe State. Just imagine how our soldiers have continued to be killed so cheaply by these rag-tag insurgents. My worry is that when is the Nigerian government going to bring an end to Boko Haram’s mass atrocities? Only God can tell when this will happen.

Do you think is because of finance or good will by the Military we are facing the battle this way?

Response:Yes the Nigerian security forces fighting the Boko Haram insurgents are largely under-resourced and they have continued to struggle to fight from a very weak position against the well resourced Boko Haram insurgents. The greatest challenge facing Nigeria’s counter insurgency operations in the North East is the gradual waning or even the non-existence of political will from Nigeria’s Federal Government. The federal government has gone to sleep and clearly demonstrated inability to adequately resource the fighting troops in terms of adequacy of weaponry, troops, logistics, welfare and motivation. Although, I am aware that the federal government has made payment for the delivery of 12 Tocano Jet fighters from the United States but these jet fighters will not be delivered until 2022. We are currently at war with the Boko Haram insurgents, who are killing our people and threatening out national sovereignty, so it is now that the jet fighters are needed and not 2022. There are also the challenges of accountability and transparency in defense procurements. In the last 7 years, the Nigerian military has received budgetary allocations up to about 4 trillion naira. What has been done with these huge amounts of money? We are all aware that our soldiers have on several occasions posted videos online complaining that they have been fighting Boko Haram insurgents with poor weapons and equipments. Some of them even said that the insurgents have more superior weapons than the Nigerian soldiers. Recently, Major General Olusegun Adeniyi, the immediate past theater Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole was fired for daring to confess in a video that went viral about the difficult situation under which the fighting troops were operating. This confessional statement from such a high ranking officer is only stating the obvious. The counter insurgency operations itself is shrouded in secrecy. Those persons and institutions that ought to be over-sighting the military authorities in charge of the counter insurgency operations have either gone to sleep or complicit in the massive corruption that is tainting the counter-insurgency operations. Clearly, a lot needs to be done by the government if we must win the war. The fighting troops are not properly resourced and the chances of winning the war against the insurgents continue to be slim.

What lessons can the Nigerian government learn from President Idriss Deby of Chad’s resolve to contain the activities of Boko Haram Insurgents?

Response: It is very sad and degrading that Nigeria that once championed peacekeeping operations in Africa and even went ahead to stabilize and restored peace in countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Gambia that is now the one to learn lesson from a tiny country like Chad. Notwithstanding, there is a lot that the Nigerian President and our military authorities can learn from Chad. President Idriss Deby of Chad has demonstrated a strong political will towards containing the mass atrocities of Boko Harm insurgents both at his home country and in the Lake Chad region. Over the years, President Deby has invested massively in procurements of sophisticated military equipments for the Chadian military.

Are you saying the Chadians Soldiers are better than the Nigerian Military?

Response:As far as this war is going this way the Chadian military remain the best in asymmetric warfare in Africa. They are battle tested and have fought rebels in Chad for almost 4 decades. In 2015, the Chadian soldiers came to the rescue of Nigeria on the invitation of President Goodluck Jonathan. They helped in flushing out the occupying forces of Boko Haram in Borno State.

Recently, in March 2020, Boko Haram insurgents ambushed and massacred 92 Chadian soldiers. President Deby immediately visited the scene where his troops were murdered and offered condolences and promised to revenge the gruesome murder of his troops against the Boko Haram insurgents. This is an exemplary leadership displayed by the President of Chad. President Muhamadu Buhari can take a cue from President Deby’s fearless and dynamic leadership style. President Deby also worked the talk by mobilising and leading his troops against Boko Haram insurgents last week and they dealt a big blow on the Boko Haram insurgents, killing many insurgents and seizing huge stock piles of arms from the armory of the insurgents, who mostly fled into Nigeria and Niger, where they felt they were not likely to face such hard punches. Some have said that Abubakar Shekau was killed by Chadian soldiers in the revenge attacks but I think it was a top Boko Harm commander that was killed.

Suffice it to say, that there are many lessons that the Nigerian government and the leadership of the Nigerian military can learn from last week onslaught of Chadian troops against the Boko Haram insurgents which made the insurgents to chicken out. I sincerely hope that the president of Nigeria will rejig the war against the insurgents by adequately resourcing the military so as to be able to effectively contain the Boko Haram marauders.