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Nigerian Military Vs Boko Haram: Anatomy Of A Smear Campaign

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By: Ifeanyi Izeze
Mischief, which is a major preoccupation of the human mind, no doubt has been perfected by the word politics in Nigeria and a clear manifestation of this is in the serial unguarded, sinister and at best unpatriotic utterances of some political leaders and even military officials since the nation came under the clear threat of the Islamist extremist terror group, Boko Haram. How come that we are so divided this time that we were supposed to unite by the common enemy of our collective existence?

Otherwise, the spate of criticisms against our military in recent times especially in their efforts at containing the boko haram menace would have been dismissed as normal outbursts from helpless and likely frustrated citizens who want them to do more but for the obvious slants and greyness of the tunes in the symphony. Has it ever occurred to anybody that our military has never been so degraded and riddled not even under some very terrible military administrations that reigned in this country? Is it not glaring that there is a definite campaign to not only demoralize our military men but also to pitch them against the civilians- the leaders and the led?

The first question is: Who is actually running this campaign of portraying the Nigerian military as the most corrupt, untrained, unserious and incapable of taking on the boko haram insurgents?

It is on record that of the about 57 United Nations Peacekeeping operations since the advent of the concept, Nigeria has very actively participated in about 44 of such missions. And in some of these places, the Nigerian soldiers did not just go for ''peace-keeping' or 'police operations', but were directly deployed in combat. In all these joint international operations where they were tested even in company of American military, the Nigerian military clearly show the world the quality of training the average Nigerian soldier has of which they were widely acknowledged and commended even by the American military high command and the entire United Nations. So how come now that this same military is now being ridiculed by all sorts of people?

There are currently over 5, 700 Nigerian troops partaking in peacekeeping operations worldwide making her the fourth largest troop contributing country in the world. If our soldiers are so poorly trained and equipped, could they have been able to work with other so called 'trained and disciplined' soldiers from other countries? Our soldiers gave a good account of themselves in such countries Burma, Lebanon, Croatia, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and even the other Congo, Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Liberia, Chad, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Somalia, Mali and in countless other places.

These same soldiers that gave their lives to bring freedom, peace, democracy and stability to other countries are today being ridiculed, humiliated, shamed, disgraced, insulted and defeated on all fronts all because they are not being properly led or adequately equipped.'

So does it not occur to those who should know that there seem to be a deliberate campaign which may really not be coming from outside but from within to create this view among diplomats here and with their governments at home that the Nigerian military is so poorly trained and armed, and so riddled with corruption, that not only is it incapable of doing anything good at the battle fields, it is also losing the broader fight against Boko Haram?

Could the American Generals and other top foreign officers currently participating in Nigeria's counter-insurgency efforts be so unguarded to run down and rubbish their Nigerian counterpart as some media reports (foreign and local) ascribed to them? How could a general that is worth his rank be the one running down other officers in the same operation? Even if the Nigerian military is corrupt, is it the American generals that would be saying it everyday? So where is the espirit d'corp? Corruption whatever that means or indiscipline of younger officers in the Nigerian military is not worse than the situation in either the American or the British military- truth be told.

It is clearly obvious that the military both Nigerian and the foreign participators are definitely being manipulated by 'fifth columnists' or 'enemies within' to cause friction among them and thus hamper smooth operations which would give us the kind of result anticipated from the joint operations.

Is it not curious that Boko Haram uses ICT experts that upload 25 minutes youtube videos from a supposedly networkless Sambisa forest; contacts foreign media especially BBC and Al Jazeera Hausa services; even medical experts that treat them from gun and shrapnel wounds, snakes and scorpion bites, and from the many diseases a place as gamy as Sambisa can give; they also have better cooks and better tailors than the Nigerian army. Haba!

The Defence Headquarters last Friday alleged there was a fresh plan by some interest groups to embark on a renewed campaign of calumny against the military, with the sole aim of attracting international condemnation and indictment of the Nigerian military and its operations in the northern part of the country.

The Director of Defence Information, Major-General Chris Olukolade, the said the military had got wind of the campaign, which relies heavily on doctored and falsified audio-visual materials, some of which are already trending in the social media. As said, the plan would be coordinated and funded by a prominent political leader whose state is presently under the state of emergency.

The statement reads, 'The details of the plan, which is already being fine-tuned by a group of media professionals, (are) to be presented for the final ratification and funding by the political figure. The design is expected to forcefully whip up sentiments of genocide allegedly targeted against a particular religious group.

'The planners of this crusade also hope to use it to gain some mileage in the drive to secure international attention as they have not achieved this sufficiently despite previous efforts. The programme, which is also meant to reinforce the ongoing media campaign against the military, was adopted as an alternative by those who are bent on politicising the ongoing counter-terrorism operations in the northern part of the country.

It is really heartrending that these 'fifth columnists' sure are doing a very good job at manipulating our military men especially the rank and file the last vestige of disciplined folks in this country, to toe the path of indiscipline, outright disobedience and defiance of the very military code/oath they assuaged their signatures to as they were enlisted to serve the nation in their various. How did we get to this point?

As said by a colleague, an astute public affairs analyst, 'If soldiers working for the country choose to sell their souls to the devil at the expense of our own security by allowing themselves to be used for whatever reasons, then how can Nigeria achieve sustained victory against terrorists.? Where is the patriotism?

How would any right thinking soldier (s) betray the country and their own colleagues by collaborating with terrorists? What do such fifth columnists gain by jeopardizing our security through criminal collaboration with indiscriminate mass murderers? Would their own children or families be safe from terrorists by betraying their country?

Is it not a big shame that these same 'enemies within' took an oath to defend their country? How else can one describe Boko Haram sympathizers within our country's security system if not to say they are enemies of Nigerians and Nigeria?

Whether anybody wants to hear this or not, the only thing that will make us win the war against the insurgent is by unity of purpose, spirit, soul and body. We must rally round our military to boost their morale in the not-too-conventional operation they are currently engaged. Anything short of this support will only be emboldening the miscreants and their sponsors who have vowed to inconvenience everybody but God will not allow them.

IFEANYI IZEZE is an Abuja-based Consultant and can be reached on: [email protected] ; 234-8033043009)