When in December 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari decided to extend the tenure of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Gabriel Abayomi Olonisakin and other Service Chiefs, some Nigerians never discern the wisdom in the President’s decision. But it was a decision timely and strategic for reasons not far-fetched.
The extension of tenure of Security Chiefs was ennobled by Mr. President’s appraisal of their performances, and provable impact on the Nigerian military’s prosecution of Boko Haram terrorism war and it’s tackling of militancy in the Niger Delta. Although, evidently, Nigeria was basking in a plethora of insecurity challenges, but it was incontestable that these twin evils mainly posed extremely serious dangers to the nation and Nigerians.
It is not easy quelling terrorism and insurrections in any part of the globe. Anywhere in the world, governments have had serious nightmares, where armed criminals take up arms against the state. It is quite a frenzied task repressing them. A peep into combat of terrorism wars elsewhere would reveal such unnerving realities.
The Nigerian experience particularly resonates with conspiratorial gang-ups from both internal and external forces fuelling the crises, violence and bloodshed on the land. In their minds, they wished Nigeria would have ceased to exist long before today.
So, nauseatingly, by May 2015, before the inauguration of the administration of President Buhari, Nigeria was on the cliff of disintegration and bloodletting in depths far beyond the normal, masterminded by these armed sects.
The Boko Haram terrorists; Niger Delta militancy, armed bandits, ethno-religious crises on the Plateau and Southern Kaduna; resurgence of violent separatists’ movements in the Southeast, farmers and herders, cumulatively piled pressure on Nigeria’s security apparatuses.
The military top hierarchy has often lamented that the overwhelming involvement of the military in curbing insurrections’ have overstretched it. But in spite of this burden, the Nigerian military has proved its mettle, in more ways that have erased doubts.
President Buhari delayed the formation of his federal cabinet. But the President was swift in appointing Service Chiefs because of the severity of the insecurity threats, which assailed the nation. By July 2015, Gen. Olonisakin emerged as Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). It is understandable that most Nigerians did not know the gravity of the insecurity problems confronting Nigeria, which needed immediate intervention.
The engagement of competent and trusted officers to pilot the affairs of the military was therefore imperative and the choices devoid of sentiments. Nigerians read isolated incidents of security breaches, but the CDS acquainted the people about nation’s insecurity predicaments, more than a year after, he assumed duties.
The CDS gave the insight in New York at the second Chief of Defence Staff conference, when the Nigeria’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in America treated Gen. Olonisakin to a reception. The CDS astounded his guests when he disclosed that the military was tackling 14 insecurity threats in the country. It’s unimaginable how Nigeria degenerated to levels.
“By my estimation, we have about 14 security threats that we are confronting, ranging from terrorism, insurgency, kidnapping, cultism, to issues linked to armed robbery,” the CDS revealed.
Such levels of insecurity manifestations in very abnormal dimensions, needed thoroughbred and experienced professionals, as leaders of the military who would formulate policies and initiate actions to quickly navigate the trajectory of restoring peace and security, or to free bleeding communities in the country from bondage of armed assailants’.
The professional experiences and training of Gen. Olonisakin became handy tools for co-ordinating the Military to smother the burning fires in the land, orchestrated by armed groups. Olonisakin’s experience as Commander, Nigerian Army Corps of Signals and later, Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Nigerian Army assisted immensely in his appreciation of his new assignment of coordinating the various segments of the Nigerian Armed Forces in attaining the highest goals of national security.
Therefore, the CDS combined experience and brainwork, in perfect alliance with the Service Chiefs to move in unison against enemies of Nigeria. Gen. Olonisakin understood that terrorism festers uncontrollably because of its roots in neighbouring countries or other regional nations. He embarked on a campaign of synergy and common focus with these countries in tackling the menace of Boko Haram terrorism.
For instance, Gen. Olonisakin was in Monrovia, Liberia to grace the 61st celebrations of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL). In his keynote address, the Nigerian CDS wooed the AFL to become active partakers and supporters of regional security efforts in areas like terrorism and other conflicts. He travelled and met military leaders of other nations with same message.
Furthermore, at the peak of Boko Haram terrorism, Gen. Olonisakin encouraged knowledge exchange and sourcing of veritable working ideas between the Nigerian military and its foreign counterparts’ on the dynamic trends in the combat of terrorism. Knowledge is power in every assignment.
The Defence Chief also ensured the Nigerian Military is constantly exposed to modern training and new military equipments to make their jobs easier. It accounted for the launching in Lagos of the latest Indian Naval warship, named INS Tarkash, an awful engineering masterpiece during the 2017 Nigerian Navy Day celebrations.
The ship was acquired to facilitate high sea operations in curbing oil theft, piracy and allied crimes through joint military exercises. These crimes have been tamed significantly by the Nigerian military.
The Nigerian CDS has been instrumental, as the background force in the strategies and tactics implemented by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen. TY Buratai which have decimated and defeated Boko Haram terrorists. That Boko Haram top commanders/foot soldiers could voluntarily surrender to the Nigerian military; the gagging of insurgents, blockage of sources of food and ammunitions supply to terrorists and stirring of rebellion among wives and children of terrorists against their husbands were profoundly ingenious strategies of winning the war adopted by the CDS and his team.
A team player to the core, Gen. Olonisakin realized that fighting the insecurity monster is a collective responsibility. He knew it was not the exclusive reserve of the Nigerian military alone, as other sister security agencies and even civilians had to be integrated into the counter-insurgency operations. The CTF is the formalized civilian arm of the counter-insurgency operations.
He said in New York; “We realised that to mitigate this particular menace is not only about the military. So we need to carry the whole nation along to be able to address that.”
To this effect, the CDS has ensured a smooth involvement of officers’ the Department of State Services (DSS); the Police, and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps at different stages of the terrorism combat battles. They have played supportive roles impressively.
The CDS’s initiative of operating a camp known as operation safe corridor in Gombe state for de-radicalization and integration of repentant terrorists is a masterstroke. It is the peculiar manner he has brought the military to appreciate the dilemma of some of these insurgents, as indoctrinated into the devilish sect against their wish.
Today and in truth, Nigeria cannot claim complete repression of all the debilitating insecurity threats which crumbled the country. But it is also undeniable that the CDS and his team in Defence Headquarters have made very commendable and significant impacts in extricating Nigeria from the claws of terrorism, militancy, bitter and violent secessionists’ agitations and hordes of others.
Without tested, patriotic, loyal and hardworking military officers and leaders like Gen. Olonisakin, Nigeria’s insecurity narrative would have sustained its sad tales. But his efforts and that of other Service Chiefs have kept the unity and sovereign integrity of Nigeria unbreakable and the future more reassuring.
By Ajogwu Jerry
Ajogwu, a journalist wrote from Asokoro, Abuja.