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Obsolete guns and other issues

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To remind the military top brass of evergreen truism in the saying that the sanctity of truth is neither destructible nor violable, no matter elaborate attempts made to do so, could never amount to being too forward or volunteering unsolicited advice.

Among the Ibibios of Akwa Ibom State, for example, a popular variant of this proverb is that as difficult as it may be to pin down nauseating fart to a particular individual, especially in a crowded room, you could not deny that some one inside farted and polluted the entire space. A few months ago, some one farted and despite desperate attempts made to deny that fact, all that appears to be history now that the breeze, as they say, has blown open the ugly warts and freckles on the bum of a fowl for every one to see.

For the sake of those who are yet to latch onto my drift, as it were, I draw your attention to the fact that when some distraught villagers in Riyom area of Barkin Ladi Local Government Area in Plateau State alleged, a while ago, that some military members of the Joint Task Force, JTF, in that state encouraged them to flee because invading Fulani militiamen descending from surrounding hills were better armed than they were, we were greeted with strident denials, despite the curious failure of soldiers present to protect the former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Dr. Fulani Dantong, who was subsequently killed in the disorderly flight from the invaders.

Neither the personal testimony of the late Dantong’s younger brother who witnessed the slaughter nor another version by a federal legislator who also witnessed the tragedy could convince those denying to hesitate before advancing an argument that was, and still remains, clearly inadequate as defence.

This spate of controversy, hopefully, has been laid to rest with the categorical statement by Governor Ibrahim Geidam of strife-torn Yobe State that Nigerian soldiers are hopelessly ill-equipped compared to apprehended Boko Haram insurgents whose alleged exploits and cache of arms invariably taunt the supposedly superior fire-power of security agents. Governor Geidam did not mince words recently when he lampooned the combat-readiness of our troops, insisting that weapons either seized or recovered from the insurgents indicate that only a miracle could tilt the battle in favour of what he described as “poorly-armed” Nigerian troops.

And unlike the flurry of denials that greeted earlier  allegations in Plateau, the Governor’s observation may have categorically rested the controversy regarding the so-called imbalance of terror (weaponry), between both sides. Could this alleged inferiority in weaponry be the actual reason why the war against terror is yet to be won convincingly by the military, despite tales of huge investments allegedly made by the Federal Government?

The Yobe State governor should know better because his state has been a most savage and tear-jerking epicentre of the insurgency, as no day passes without chilling reports of atrocities like school pupils killed in their sleep or some hare-brained fanatics cutting down some defenceless citizens because of misplaced hatred for the same Western education which, ironically, provides the guns and bombs that the terrorists rely on to dramatise their outrage.

And now that a high-profile witness in this major killing field has alleged embarrassing unpreparedness of soldiers in terms of fire-power, may be the futility in further denying what actually happened in Barkin Ladi would eventually be accepted and acknowledged by all parties in this self-sustaining controversy.

This writer recalls, with some trepidation, the pervasive panic and alarm that prevailed following initial reports that some professionals, who are trained to dig in and fight, not to run or scamper for safety, actually urged ambushed hill billy folks to flee, allegedly because invaders paraded better armoury and it would have been suicidal to play a dumb hero by confronting them- a tactically-sound argument.

Instead of dragging the matter further with, perhaps,  more hilarious allegations and counter-allegations, what the country requires most, at this point, is sober re-assessment of aggregate strategies since the commencement of the war against terror which every patriotic Nigerian agrees must be won. And won convincingly, so that this and maybe future generations of terrorists and anarchists would settle for a more legitimate way of life.

Since most Nigerians are aware that the terrorists receive support from both within and outside the country, adjusting to the possibility of this support conferring on terrorists some degree of sophistication, both in terms of weaponry and training, is a more pragmatic option as the military authorities themselves have admitted.

According to the Director of Defence Information, Brig-Gen Chris Olukolade, necessary adjustments have been made by the military, as an institution, as a practical response to the growing desperation (add sophistication), by the religious terrorists.

“From the perspective of the Armed Forces, this only proves our earlier position on the desperation of the insurgents; the military authorities have noted it and have adjusted accordingly to it,” he said, adding that “having discovered new tricks of the insurgents in advancing their desperation, the military authorities have adjusted and directed appropriate responses to nip the trend in the bud and re-assert the security and protection of Nigerians as mandated by Mr President through the state of emergency declaration, ”Olukolade further said.

As a matter of fact, what makes this new emphasis on adjustment by the military more gratifying is the implicit admission of awareness of and familiarity with the fact that growing sophistication by the insurgents imposes the burden of appropriate and commensurate response by the military- exactly the lingo that multitudes of worried Nigerians have been dying to hear.

And as tribute to this adjustment by the military to the increasing desperation of the insurgents, Olukolade  revealed that some foreign nationals, including a mortally-wounded Chadian who fought alongside the insurgents, have been arrested.  This much, he said, was revealed by the wounded Boko Haram combatant who was captured by Nigerian soldiers.

Evidently, Olukolade’s theory of systematic adjustment by the military to the desperation of terrorists is better and more confidence-inspiring than unconvincing denials that there are ancient guns in the house, as exemplified by the Plateau incident. Knowing that solution to a formidable challenge is undergoing consideration is always better than pretending that the challenge does not exist in the first instance.

In other words, the honest admission that a genuine challenge exists (theory of constant adjustment), but is being re-assessed and re-evaluated for resolution, is a more realistic definition of pragmatism than the false dismissal of terrorists as inconsequential irritants even when sensational reports of upsets recorded by supposedly- rag-tag insurgents against better-trained soldiers continue to make the rounds.

For these and many other reasons, including the urgent need to re-assert its authority and re-invent the confidence of Nigerians that has been shattered in traditional institutions, the military must crush this insurgency. And do so convincingly, even if to erase any iota of doubt regarding their superiority to criminals who challenge the integrity of the nation which the military swore to defend.

Mr Dominik  Umosen, a communications strategist, wrote from Lagos.

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