By Owei Lakemfa
IT was like a coup announcement when on December 4, the Nigeria Army broadcast it had ousted the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF, from the North-East where the country is flushing out Boko Haram terrorists.
It had found UNICEF guilty of spying for the terrorists and sabotaging Nigeria’s fight against terrorists. The announcement said: “The Theatre Command, Operation LAFIYA DOLE, has observed with dismay that some of the activities of international humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organisations operating in the North- East have left so much to be desired. There is credible information that some of them are indulging in unwholesome practices that could further jeopardise the fight against terrorism and insurgency, as they train and deploy spies who support the insurgents and their sympathizers.
“It is baffling to note that some of these organisations have been playing the terrorists’ script with the aim to continue demoralizing the troops who are doing so much to protect the lives of victims of Boko Haram Terrorism and safeguard them from wanton destruction of property and their means of livelihood. The Theatre Command considers the actions of these organisations as a direct assault and insult on the sensibilities of Nigerians, as they tend to benefit more from expanding the reign of terror on our people.
“Consequently, the Theatre Command, Operation LAFIYA DOLE, is suspending the operations of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF, in the North-East theatre until further notice. This has become inevitable since the organisation has abdicated its primary duty of catering for the wellbeing of children and the vulnerable through humanitarian activities and now engaged in training selected persons for clandestine activities to continue sabotaging the counter-terrorism and Counter-insurgency efforts of troops…”
It was a strategic move which sent people begging the army to forgive the enemy combatants of the United Nations. Within four hours, our patriotic army forgave UNICEF and asked it to go and sin no more.
Then the military turned to the nosy Amnesty International, AI, to administer the same dose. The body had the imprudence of issuing a Report which did not only have the input of the Nigerian Army but also accused the military of doing nothing to stop or prevent violent attacks in the country which claimed over 3,600 lives in the last two years. To rub salt to injury, Ms. Osai Ojigho, Amnesty’s Nigeria Director claimed that: “These attacks were well planned and coordinated, with the use of weapons like machine guns and AK-47 rifles.” She also claimed: “Little has been done by the authorities in terms of prevention, arrests and prosecutions, even when information about the suspected perpetrators was available.” The AI added magisterially: “The Nigerian government has displayed what can only be described as gross incompetence and has failed in its duty to protect the lives of its population.”
This was nothing compared to the crimes or sins of UNICEF, and the military was understandably mad. Defence Spokesman, Brigadier- General John Agim said these were blanket allegations and that: “We do not condone rapists and do not have rapists amongst us.”
I watched newly returned Army Spokesman, Brigadier-General Sani Kukasheka Usman on television rage against the international interlopers asserting their reports are either fabricated or one-sided. The military’s verdict is that AI must leave Nigeria. Let me point out that like the UNICEF case, the army does not need to provide any proof for its claims; that they are made by the army, is sufficient proof.
I like a powerful army, at least a military that is not only conscious of its awesome powers but also does not hesitate to use them whether to discipline civilians on the streets or international organisations. The Nigerian Army is one of the most powerful armies in the world not in terms of professional skills, competence or equipment, but the power it wields including to conduct foreign policy or levy war. I therefore pity the AI which hasn’t even the clout of the United Nations agencies, but wants to flex muscles, rather than beg. It fails to realise that this is a war-tested military which far back in December, 2015 had “technically defeated” the Boko Haram, then “degraded it” and has spent the last three years on mop up operations. There are of course sceptics who claim that Boko Haram has not been defeated. These claims are by ‘bloody civilians’ who do not know the difference between defeating enemies and exterminating them. Our army defeated Boko Haram three years ago, but has not exterminated it because of human rights concerns. Were it to do so, it is the same people and their foreign collaborators in UN and AI that will shout about the Nigeria military carrying out ‘crimes against humanity.’
The army has been quite wonderful in the last three years crushing terrorists in the North-East and North-West, successfully gunning down over 300 Shiites in Zaria in 2015, and finishing their remnants this year in the Abuja Wars, keeping Niger-Delta militants in check, militarily crushing Biafran separatists especially of the IPOB extraction, sweeping the Middle Belt clean of foreign herdsmen and clearing the West of kidnappers.
This has been the most glorious moment for our military especially the Nigeria Air Force which releases daily bulletins like weather reports- about its escapades against Boko Haram. That it was in slumber when the Boko Haram invaded Melete is a mere evidence of being battle weary.
Only the uninitiated will be surprised that in a democratic system, the Nigerian Army determines foreign policy including banning the UNESCO and declaring the Amnesty International an enemy combatant which must leave Nigeria.
The army’s wisdom and power comes from a cumulative 29-year experience running the country, in contrast, the civilians are still on a learning curve. When matters concern national security, the armed forces move without waiting for any clearance, directive or being bogged down by constitutional provisions or processes.
There is the well told story under the Shagari administration when President Muhammadu Buhari was the General Officer Commanding the Third Division, Jos and some Chadian bandits entered the country.
He did not wait for any directive before routing them and was well on his way to Ndjamena when political pressures made him turn back. And when he thought the bloody civilians were slacking, he told soldiers to go and study the constitution to know their role. When busy bodies protested and asked him to be probed, he simply overthrew the government. That is the culture of our gallant generals. It is, therefore, wise for we Nigerians to continue to pledge our loyalty to the military, and its Commander-in-Chief, President Buhari, himself, a retired but not tired general.