*Calls for suspension of all national celebrations
*Enhancement of welfare of the armed forces
*Warns against politicising the security challenge
Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar (rtd), former governor of Kaduna State, has called on the Federal Government to recall all armed forces personnel in reserve and other able-bodied personnel who had served in peace-keeping in the army to prosecute the war against Boko Haram. He said Nigerians must cooperate with government in this war as only a united Nigeria will prevail against the insurgents. In this chat with Vanguard, Umar outlines the steps that government, politicians and peace-loving Nigerians must take to win the battle for the soul of Nigeria; noting that there is need to support the Nigerian military instead of playing into the hands of Boko Haram by castigating them. Excerpts:
By Ebele Orakpo
Nigeria at war:
He said: “Obviously, to say that Nigeria is at war is not saying much nor is it news. Much of the world would recognise it as stale news. Tragically, only the truly blind observer of events in Nigeria would be forgiven to think that majority of Nigerians honestly believe their country is indeed at war.
I feel compelled to appeal to all Nigerians to recognise that Nigeria is indeed at war. It is a war that seems set to engulf the entire country. We need to understand that the war in the North-East is a war against Nigeria. The insurgents intend to use a conquered North-East as a launch pad on which to invade and conquer the rest of the country and possibly the whole of the West African sub-region.
Boko Haram is well funded by Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, (AQIM) as well as the booty they acquire in the numerous territories they conquer. Nigerians must wake up to the reality that their only defence against the marauding insurgents is our visibly demoralized military”
Nigerians must unite:
“Nigerians, irrespective of our religious and ethnic differences, at home or in the diaspora, must feel threatened and act accordingly against this growing threat of Boko Haram insurgency. We must be psychologically and emotionally involved in the war against Boko Haram. It is a task that we must do while we still can. The Boko Haram cancer must be prevented from metastasizing.
Steps to be taken:
“For an effective war against the insurgents, we must resolve to do the following:
*Show unity of purpose by stopping all divisive recriminations as to which group of Nigerians is responsible for the emergence and support of Boko Haram. It is not true that the Federal Government is behind Boko Haram nor is any anti-President Jonathan politician responsible.
*We must give unalloyed support to the Federal Government and by extension, our security forces in their difficult task of combating the Boko Haram insurgents.
*More than ever before, Nigerians must be security-conscious.
*Politicians must desist from using our security challenges to score cheap political goals. They must also show the example by refraining from excessive celebrations during their electioneering campaigns.
“In spite of the growing multitudes of wailing victims, of those killed, uprooted, destitute, and sent into wilderness as refugees, the elites in Nigeria appear blissfully oblivious and give scant concern that their nation is fighting a most destructive war with Boko Haram. They seem to be thankful that the fire is burning in the remote North-East corner of the country; a fact that they seem to think has relieved them of any responsibility.
“How else can one describe the recklessness and the cold indifference being displayed by our politicians as they divert attention of the nation away from the killings and creating the impression that all that matters is the 2015 elections? And while our politicians dance away the nights and days to the wild cheers of their gullible and greedy supporters, town after town is overrun and brought under the merciless control of the Boko Haram insurgents.
*All national celebrations must be suspended. We should also suspend our participation in international sporting events until our security situation improves.
*In an effort to mobilise and focus the nation’s attention on our war effort, the Federal Government should declare a period of mourning in honour of the victims of insurgency. They must also show the example by refraining from excessive celebrations during their electioneering campaigns.”
*Special prayers should be held in churches and mosques for the victims including prayers for the release of the Chibok School girls and other abducted victims.
On the military Sabotage:
“There is not enough evidence to suggest that any of our military personnel is aiding Boko Haram. It’s part of the reasons that moved me to warn Nigerians to desist from divisive allegations that can only play into the hands of Boko Haram insurgents.
Alleged human rights abuses:
The Human rights allegations must be investigated and appropriate measures taken to avert hostility between our security forces and civilians. There is need for strong cooperation between our troops and the civilian population they are out to defend.
To beef up the strength of the military, Umar called on the Federal Government to recall all armed forces personnel in the reserve. It may also consider reabsorbing all able bodied and willing discharged veterans of international peacekeeping operations. There is the need to order back to barracks all security personnel who are currently deployed on non-essential duties for retraining and redeployment to the war front in the North-East.
“We are aware that not less than 20 per cent of our security manpower is deployed for duties as guards and servants to non-entitled serving and retired officers and their spouses. These should be withdrawn and properly redeployed. Without giving away our strength to the enemy, I will recommend that we increase our recruitment and employ only those that are willing to defend the country. This will also make it possible to rotate our personnel to ensure that none stays in the front longer than 12 months per tour.
“The general welfare of our troops must be enhanced. The Federal Government may consider launching a troops’ comfort fund or maintenance fund as was done during the civil war. Minister of Defence and service chiefs must be seen paying regular visits to frontline troops and in hospitals. There must be elaborate burial ceremonies for the fallen heroes with the band in attendance. The president should start public and ceremonial decoration of our security personnel who have distinguished themselves in the campaign. In order not to devalue such presidential awards, the Government may suspend all awards to other categories of Nigerians.
On call for declaration of full emergency rule in affected states:
Umar is not in support of full emergency rule in the affected states. He says: “The constitution is clear that only elected officials can govern a state or the nation.”
On a final note:
“It is one of the aims of the Boko Haram to demoralize our troops by attacking their families in barracks located in the area of conflict; this should cause the Federal Government to relocate families of our security forces to safer areas.
“Once again, it bears repeating that Boko Haram poses unprecedented danger to our national security. We therefore need to unite and confront this evil head on. We also need to do more to convince the international community especially our friends in the West, to abandon their current hesitation and come to our assistance without further delay. We fully endorse the protest of our ambassador to the USA against that country’s strange decision not to sell arms to Nigeria. More than anyone else, the West knows that, like ISIL, Boko Haram constitutes monumental threat to global peace and security.”
The public must cooperate with government in this difficult war against Boko Haram insurgents. I need to reiterate that politicians should not use our security challenges for the purpose of electioneering campaign.
Finally, I believe a united Nigeria will prevail against the Boko Haram