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Nigeria's security situation: Tough times don’t last, but tough people do; The case of the Nigerian Army and the Burden of Success

By Odeyemi Oladimeji
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Nigerians and the rest of the world would recall that when the violent terrorist group Boko Haram was raging the entire North and declaring Nigeria’s territories part of its unholy caliphate, in the years preceding the beginning of this present administration, there was no such hope of an end to it all.

It was perhaps the darkest days of the Nigerian Nation exposure to Terror and Great insecurity. It was a helpless nation that practically ceded some 14 Local Governments to the Boko Haram group.

It was so to say, a war time situation.

In great fear Christians and Muslims were afraid to go to their place of worship.

The incessant bombings of Churches and Mosques were commonplace and to be expected every worship day.

The advent of the President Buhari's administration and the appointment of Lt General Tukur Yusufu Buratai, brought certain hope and raised the expectations of Nigerians, to which both have been met, Hope restored and Expectations fulfilled as the raging daily terror incidents of previous years have been greatly reduced to occasional degraded attacks with no direction effects....Churches and Mosques are no more bombed and the Terror presence removed practically from the 14 Local Governments spread across 5 states in the North East zone.

However, in spite of this Great victories, the occasional attacks of soft targets have continued, even though very few and far in-between.

In the period of 30 months since General Tukur Yusufu Buratai became the Chief of Army Staff, life in general within the North East zone, has practically returned to normal. People are back to their places of work and even the displaced are gradually finding their ways back home.

Of note is also the fact that many abducted persons numbering in their hundreds have been rescued through deliberate, calculated military rescue missions with incredibly minimal civilian loses..

All territories hitherto under the control of Boko Haram have now not only been fully recovered, but effectively manned and properly policed.

While thousands have been rescued, including no less that 120 of the Chibok girls, hundreds of the terrorists have also been either killed or taken prisoners, while hundreds more have voluntarily surrendered!

The Boko Haram Terror Group have not only been so drastically decimated, even "the leader Shekau in his last video release, stated his tiredness and an end to it all".

The last hold of the Boko Haram in the Sambisa Forest has also been laid bare and the camp rendered desolate with Shekau's personal effects all captured, just missing capturing him too., by whiskers... The end surely is near for Shekau and his Terror Group.

Considering how the Boko Haram had held the whole country hostage for upward of 5 years, in the last two years they have not had the capacity to mobilize to carry out coordinated attacks to override towns and cities like they once did.

Despite all these great strides and victories, the whole nation was shocked to wake up to a most embarrassing kidnap of a hundred and three girls from a secondary school in Dapchi, Yobe state, about a week ago... And here lies the Burden of Success and the Challenge to the Buhari administration that has done well with securing the country so far.

The Nigerian Army that has hitherto, recorded far too many victories against the Boko Haram, suddenly found itself in a blame game with the state government and with the police regarding how the girls were kidnapped.

The Nigerian Army through the Theatre Command of Operation Lafiya Dole, the Military’ s anti - insurgency command in the North - East, on Monday, admitted that troops were redeployed from the Dapchi area before the abduction of the schoolgirls.

It added that the army “handed over the security of the area to the Nigeria Police Division.

The Deputy Director , Army Public Relations and the Theatre Command’s spokesperson, Col . Onyema Nwachukwu , said the military should not be blamed for the abduction of the schoolgirls.

Nwachukwu said the troops were redeployed in Kanama, on the Nigeria -Niger Republic border, to combat Boko Haram terrorists who were attacking a military location in the area... But that it is now making efforts to rescue the abducted school girls..

Nwachukwu said; “Although this headquarters will not attempt to join in any blame game, it is to set the record straight. Several communities and local government areas that were hitherto under siege of the insurgents have been liberated and the insurgents pushed out. While troops continue to decimate the insurgents in the hinterlands, the security of the liberated communities and towns falls in the hands of the sister security agencies .

“Contrary to the comments being circulated, troops earlier deployed in Dapchi were redeployed to reinforce troops in Kanama area following attacks on troops’ location at the Nigerian - Niger Republic border. This was on the premise that Dapchi had been relatively calm and peaceful.

“We will also like to assure the parents , government and the people of Yobe that we will not rest on our laurels in the search and rescue of the abducted schoolgirls and any other persons held captive by the terrorists .”

The statement by the military is gladdening in this regard. And as it is, a truly degraded Boko Haram can only hope to bargain for the exchange of its captives for funds and materials, just as a last bold attempt to survive through the unrelenting military drive to obtain total victory. The Buhari administration has also announced the deployment of fighter jets to provide aerial survey and surveillance of the movement of the Boko Haram group and their captives..

Just as we have seen the Army as effective as it could be in a war against terror, score massive victories yet facing guerilla-like strikes, the decades of farmers and herdsmen clashes that have persisted in the North Central zone and elsewhere have also become a burden, despite many big victories scored by the Army under the leadership of Lt General Tukur Yusufu Buratai.

In the last 3 months, such clashes between the Herdsmen and farmers, seem to have become more challenging, especially in Benue, Nassarawa, and Taraba States.

Vicious killings, reprisals, attacks and counter-attacks have risen to very dangerous levels.

These security issues have been almost as old as Nigeria itself, but many factors lately have made such clashes more worrisome.

Many actors and factors bear responsibility for the escalations, among which were the influx of unchecked arms from the Libyan conflicts and other conflicts in Central Africa and The Sudan. Many of the Nomadic Herdsmen either fleeing conflict areas and others returning from war torn zones with arms seem to have found their ways into the Nigerian space, willing or contracted by warring sides to aid in communal clashes, thereby escalating the conflicts as they occur where the herdsmen are involved.

Destruction of farmlands by herdsmen, cattle rustling, the activities of state sponsored militia, who some herdsmen vacuously blame for their reprisal attacks, the unwitting and illegal sale of community lands to herdsmen by community leaders, cultural nomadic practices that have refused to acquiesce with modern day realities, and anti-open grazing law that remains inchoate and elementary as a solution to the herders – farmers clashes, porous borders, have all provided various forms of escalations into these conflict issues, everywhere.

Truth be also said, our internal security system as presently constituted in our federacy, lacks the capacity, to address the escalating security challenges as the police are often inadequate in being able to effectively tackle these issues...

No leader anywhere, let alone the Nigerian leader President Muhammadu Buhari, would watch such a depressing situation and do nothing!

Perhaps, what gives out the wrong feelers is the President’s tribal affinity with the Fulani. Contrary to the erroneous idea that the President has done or is doing nothing, there is abundance of evidence that the President and the Army have done much and are still doing more.

In the wake of the massacre that happened in Benue state, President Buhari wrote to the National Assembly, stating expressly his plans on how to tackle these issues.

Thereafter a high level security meeting was called where the President to outlined his plans to all the security agencies, including the Army.

And thereafter, the army under the able leadership of General Buratai began the onerous task of restoring peace and bringing the perpetrators of the wanton killings to face Justice.

And there are a slew of cogent examples of successes recorded already within a short time.

On the 15th of February the Nigerian Army commenced the Operation Ayem Akpatuma, a Tiv phrase for Cat Race. The exercise was aimed at tackling, from the security angle, the farmers – herdsmen clashes, and the general insecurity in the North Central region.

A lasting solution that goes to the root to be proffered was paramount in the mind of Mr President and the Chief of Army Staff.

Parties who have lost loved ones on both sides of the divide are going to still be hurting, even with security measures put in place. But the heavy presence of the Army has at least brought the much needed relief and the hope the people crave for.

But that is also not enough — Until justice is served, these problems would hang over the head of any government like the sword of Damocles.

General Buhari himself has undertaken on the spot visitations to the conflict areas, it is important to him that his troops see him as the perfect definition of a servant leader, the man who leads from the front.

In strategic, tactical approach the army can now be said to have settled down in engaging the Herdsmen, and the results are trickling in.

General Buratai, I must say, has continually maintained an excellent tradition of meeting timeliness... And above all, he has shown trademark concerns about carrying out reforms that will enthrone the Nigerian Army as one of the best in the world.

It is needless to re-echo that President Buhari knows that right now Nigerians are apprehensive and will hold him responsible for any perceived security lapse. President Buhari has shown even to sceptics that he is on top of the situation.We must also appreciate and salute the galantry and patriotism of General Buratai , a competent Soldier's Soldier, who has repackaged the Nigerian Army and given it a very good image.

Part of the security challenges of old, were security leaks and sympathizers of terrorists, who hitherto were wont to sabotaging previous efforts.... All of these have been effectively eradicated, the army now knows exactly when to advance, when to attack and when to retreat;

It knows how to assail enemy camps and arrest terrorists and their aides.

The arrests and surrender of very senior Boko Haram commanders in recent times are sure testimonies.

Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do.

Recently, the first set of graduates from the Army War College have had their graduation ceremony done already.

Expectedly too is the commmecement of work at the Nigerian Army University of Technology, Biu. These are intended to completely free Nigeria from the claws of Terrorism.

It is therefore not surprising that the Army, in no time has discovered the base of armed militias terrorising Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states at Tor-Dunga town in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of Benue State. The immediate past Director of Army Public Relations, Brig Gen Sani Usman announced this barely a week after springing into action.

Usman said the Army also arrested a native doctor, Tordue Gber a.k.a Tiv Swem, who allegedly supplied charms to the militias.

The army spokesman disclosed this in statement issued on Wednesday, January 31, 2018.

He said the native doctor was arrested along with one of his accomplices...

Soldiers from the One Division of the Nigerian Army in Kaduna have arrested about 18 suspected herdsmen and recovered several arms including AK47 rifles from them as a demonstration of Gen Buratai's commitment to rid the communal conflict areas of criminals.

The suspects were arrested in Laduga village, a settlement in Kachia Local Government Area in the Southern part of Kaduna State.

The army stormed the village in the early hours of Sunday following a tip-off on an alleged plan by the suspected herdsmen to attack some villages in Kachia and Kaura Local Government Areas.

The troops were said to have condoned the village for a search, leading to the successful arrest of the 18 suspects with several arms.

The raid was carried out at about 4:00am in a cordon and search operation aimed at saving the natives from being attacked by the herdsmen.

In the heat of attacks by suspected herders, troops of the Guards Brigade deployed to Mararaba, Nasarawa state for internal security operations arrested a man with arms and ammunition during a stop and search operation at a milliary checkpoint.

The then Director of Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Sani Usman, confirmed the arrest in a statement...

And as this article is being written many more of such successes are also being recorded.

In concluding this Article, it is important to state that all the efforts being put in place and with the successes recorded, it is obvious that there is still some work still to be done. Real effort and real appreciation of the enormity of the myriad of problems is one thing, but mischief reportage and misrepresentation of facts is another. Lately, the usual suspects, bloggers have been capitalizing on some few isolated attacks by terrorists and herdsmen to help in their typical denunciation of Buhari's government and the army, in such uncouth derogatory terms. Whereas, it is clear to all but these few, that the now decimated but desperate Boko Haram terrorists are on their last throes of defeat and are throwing all that they have at the Nigerian state. What the country needs right now is the coming together of all men and women of Goodwill to rally round the government and the army in this task of ridding the country of both terrorists and communal clashes. This article should also not end without mentioning those within and without who are on the habit of peddling various false narratives that do not bear witness to the Truth. Perhaps most disturbing is the activities of arm-chair critics, pseudo-intellectuals who are in the habit of churning out incoherent diatribes and by their conduct, they habitually seek to always disparage the Sophistry and Selfless display of Galantry and Professionalism of the Nigerian Army in dealing with both the war against Terror and Herdsmen. Rather than laud the Chief of Army Staff and his personel for always being prompt, prescient and present in his response to the issues bordering on Nigerian security matters, these fellows fail to appreciate always, the very instructive and glaring efforts.

That the herdsmen and farmers security issues have subsided in Benue, Taraba, Nassarawa and in other places are clear attestations to the facts herein presented.

It will also not be judicious if we do not mention the important factor of adequate funding to all of our security agencies, especially the Army and other sister agencies to be able to adequate tackle Terror and totally decimate it.

Increased funding for the Military as a whole is also very desirable at this moment of need in which the country's security issues are so multifaceted.

It is our prayer and highest wish that the abducted girls be safely reunited with their families within the shortest possible time.

God Bless Nigeria.

God Bless the Nigerian Security Forces.

Comrade Oladimeji Odeyemi, a security analyst and a counter terrorist expert sent this article from Ibadan.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Odeyemi Oladimeji and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."