December 6, 2020

The political will we need to defeat Boko Haram — Gen Ikponmwen (retd)

The political will we need to defeat Boko Haram — Gen Ikponmwen (retd)

Gen Ikponmwen

Gen Ikponmwen

By Ozioruva Aliu

A former Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier-General Idada Ikponmwen(retd), in this interview, speaks on renewed Boko Haram attacks and how to defeat the insurgents.

Renewed attacks

I don’t know about renewed energy. I know that they (Boko Haram) have never given up. I also believe now more than ever that the talk about decimating them and technically defeating them, means nothing to Nigerians. Killings by Boko Haram have been on for more than nine years. The rate of killings by Boko Haram reduced a little towards the end of President Goodluck Jonathan’s tenure.

But the leadership that made the containment of these killings the thrust of its campaign, the very regime that said it will make sure we stop all the killings and ensure there is security is witnessing an unprecedented level of insecurity in its sixth year. Opinion leaders, governors, senators and members of the House of Representatives have called on government to restructure, overhaul and rejig the faulty security architecture.

Change of service chiefs

On many occasions, the National Assembly and many individuals and groups had said the change of leadership in the armed forces is long overdue. The killing of more than 43 farmers in Borno State reignited the call. The Sultan of Sokoto, a few days ago, also said the insecurity in this country has got to an intolerable level. Senator Shekarau, a former governor, said there is no alternative to overhauling the security architecture.

Therefore, it baffles me beyond imagination that President Muhammadu Buhari has not deemed it necessary to change the service chiefs. Doing so would boost morale and efficiency in the security sector. It baffles me because everybody seems to know that this requirement is indispensable, but government does not seem to believe so.

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Some of us, given our background in the service and our knowledge of the law and the constitution, have said the President does not have the power to retain service chiefs indefinitely. It is wrong and untenable. There is no justification for saying the President has the right to retain service chiefs beyond the prescribed years. In the circumstance we are in Nigeria today, no President should contemplate disrespecting the views of Nigerians that the service chiefs should go.

Call for the hiring of mercenaries

President Jonathan engaged mercenaries, but when the present administration came on board, they said they were not ready to work with mercenaries. The issue of whether to engage mercenaries or not should not be a public matter. They are soldiers of fortune. I will not argue that government must not decide on what to do, but what it decides to do must be something that is of value to the people. If they said the mercenaries were doing well and you stopped them and your system is still not doing well, then you give those who are arguing for their engagement, the benefit of the doubt. I will not say Nigeria has trained enough personnel or specialists to deal with Boko Haram. During the Civil War, mercenaries were used. In other countries where there is war or internal crisis, they are using mercenaries. It is a global phenomenon that cannot be dismissed without reason.


I recall that when Chibok Girls were abducted, it was reported that Nigerian troops were informed several hours before the attack, but they did nothing. President Jonathan said there was Boko Haram in the public service, the Army, Air Force and Navy.

Recall that some soldiers, who were condemned by the military because they refused to fight, refused to fight because they knew that information about their movement was already known to the enemy. These lend credence to the issue of internal sabotage. Government at all times must be resolute, must have the political will to stop this carnage and give the nation better security. The doctrine of social contract between the people and government must be upheld.