Demola Rewaju: How Can We Fight Boko Haram With Less Than 100,000...

Demola Rewaju: How Can We Fight Boko Haram With Less Than 100,000 Soldiers

By Opinions | The Trent on April 15, 2014
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Nigerian troops (file) boko haram Nigerian Army Sokoto
Nigerian troops (file)

by Demola Rewaju

Let me start this piece out by reiterating what I set out to do with Demola Rewaju Daily – to write not as one who knows all the answers but one who is willing to share the little I know. [For the full ‘Mission Statement’ of this my platform, click here to open it in a new tab while you go one reading this one]. I claim no superior knowledge of military operations or security matters but I believe my analysis will contribute to the growing discussion of national security. Any such analysis must however be done from three salient mindsets: one of love and sympathy for and towards the victims living or dead, two, of empathy for the fighting men of our military and those on the security operations side and three from a position of absolute loyalty to the democratically elected leadership of our country. To fail in any of these three is to fail in conclusion. This is therefore not a condemnation or criticism but a realistic evaluation of things as they are. My sympathy goes out to the victims as espoused in this prior piece I wrote about our failing humanity in the face of Boko Haram.

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These buses were destroyed by a bomb on the outskirts of Abuja, Nigeria, on Monday, April 14, 2014. (Photo Credit: AFP, Getty Images)
These buses were destroyed by a bomb on the outskirts of Abuja, Nigeria, on Monday, April 14, 2014. (Photo Credit: AFP, Getty Images)

When I said on Twitter and on Channels TV that we have a total of 100,000 soldiers in Nigeria, the presenter was stunned for a moment until I confirmed to him that this was the assertion of former Chief of Army Staff Maj. Gen. Dambazzau on the occasion of the handing over of the Umaru Yar’Adua Military Barracks. 100,000 is even a gross overestimation of our fighting strength with the declining rate put at -16. Of this number, several are on duty in military formations all over the country in various barracks, defence headquarters, military hospitals etc. Others are on peacekeeping duties in the Niger-Delta, across the middle belt and other violence flashpoints. In the three states where a state of emergency is currently in place, we can only afford to deploy about 40,000 soldiers. [Click here to read an analysis of our military strength in the three states]. The governors of Adamawa and Borno called for the deployment of more troops but their calls are being ignored simply because we do not have the soldiers to deploy.

When numbers are few, intelligence must be enhanced and it is an indictment of past governments that we do not have a clearcut body of intelligence on the activities of underground extremist and fundamentalist sects in Northern Nigeria. No nation on earth has the military numbers to fight against an insurgent terrorist group as shown by the Vietnam War. Wars are prosecuted along clear lines of engagement such as non-violence against civilians and not killing a surrendered soldier but with insurgency and terrorism, their rules are different. Guerrilla warfare is a deadly war where smaller groups have the advantage of breaking the rules and attacking larger armies without the restriction of a military zone. The word ‘guerrilla’ is a Spanish word meaning ‘small war’.

Terrorism by its very nature aims to strike fear in the minds of its victims and it does this by creating the illusion that it can strike anywhere, anytime – the sad reality of our situation in Nigeria. Intelligence is the only combat strategy to fight terrorism and insurgency and this includes knowledge of the terrain, the roots of the insurgency movement, their motivation, their commanders, their fighting strength in terms of armoury and numbers etc. This war requires not just a full military operation but an upgrading of security consciousness in the mind of every Nigerian. This is what I think Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was trying to stay when in the wake of the Abuja Independence Day bomb blast he said that terrorism is a global reality that we must adapt to but he was taken to the cleaners and that line of thought was shut down. Nyanya Bus Terminal from all reports was a natural target for any Boko Haram cell looking to inflict damage in the FCT but our people there were not security conscious enough to raise the alarm on any suspicious person or luggage (which is how some reports say the bomb was dropped off in or beside a bus).

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The entire Boko Haram matter and the fight against it has gone beyond the level of official secrecy and government must begin to speak publicly about it. Let us know exactly how many troops are deployed in the hotspots, tell us how many of our soldiers are undergoing insurgency combat training in Israel, America, Iran and other nations where their troops have faced such deadly-scary warfare before. Let us know things about Boko Haram that show that you have penetrated their circles and are a step ahead of them. The United State at the height of its war on terrorism released names of Most Wanted members of Al-Qaeda and placed rewards on their heads in amounts proportional to their hierarchical structure. We can guess that Abubakar Shekau is the leader of Boko Haram but who are his lieutenants? Who is his deputy? What kind of structure do they run? Obviously, Boko Haram now operates in cell formation across the northern states but one wouldn’t be surprised if they already have sleeper cells in place in Southern Nigeria! Remember some people were arrested in Lagos and Edo recently. That Boko Haram has not come out to claim responsibility for this recent attack is a sign that the overall leadership was not aware of it ab initio – signs of an independent cell operating in the FCT or around it. The SSS, DMI, Police and other intelligence arms are where restructuring is urgently needed because even with 40,000 soldiers in the north, our men will defeat Boko Haram in a face-to-face war but where numbers are lacking, I repeat, intelligence must be enhanced. Unfortunately, this will take some time but if we start now, we can penetrate Boko Haram deeply enough to take it down from the inside out before the end of this year.

The other side of the matter is the kid gloves with which government appears to be treating this matter of national security. Every decent hotel and highbrow church in Lagos and Abuja now carries out extensive searches on vehicles coming into their premises with sophisticated gadgets but there is yet much apathy among the masses about the state of war the country is in. Suspicious movement is no longer about armed robbers or thieves anymore but about potential bombers. Interestingly, it has been a few months since we had cases of suicide bombing. The modus operandi is now to drop off the bomb and escape or put it in an unmanned abandoned vehicle close to the target – is this perhaps an indication that there are no people in Boko Haram willing to die anymore for Shekau’s utterly stupid cause?

As part of the intelligence moves, the support of grassroots Islamic teachers who disagree with Boko Haram tactics must be enlisted and they must be given protection. I wrote about Sheikh Gumi‘s position on April 14, 2013, one full year ago and I’m surprised that government isn’t working with him to cut off Boko Haram recruits. Government must begin a massive sensitisation for the people to know that the nation is at war instead of pretending that they are on top of the situation. Following the 9/11 attacks in America, citizens were urged to report suspicious activities around them especially in bus stations, airports, malls and crowded places where terrorists look to inflict maximum damage by the number of high casualties. Abandoned bags, cars, luggage etc were treated with extreme caution.

If we had done these before now, perhaps someone at the Nyanya Bus Terminal may have seen or noticed something but it is still not too late, even now.

Demola Rewaju owns Demola Rewaju Daily where this article was first published.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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