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Buhari, Boko Haram and the hiring of mercenaries

MOST newspapers across Nigeria on Tuesday May 19th, 2015, came out with almost the same bold headline: “Buhari slams military for hiring mercenaries”, with a small rider which says “it is a shame it can’t secure 14 out of 774 LGAs in the country”. The retired Army Major General was speaking when the elite members of the Arewa Consultative Forum paid him a courtesy visit in Kaduna.

Ordinarily, President Muhammadu Buhari, ought not to be challenged on this subject matter for some reasons.

One, he is a retired major general of the Nigerian Army. Two, he has seen hostility during his days as a combatant. Three, he once led an onslaught, during his service days, against another religious insurgents [not of class of Boko Haram though] in the Northeast of the country, when he even pursued them [insurgents] into Republic of Chad territory during the days of Shehu Shagari in the Second Republic. Four and most importantly [for the purpose of this discussion], Buhari was the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces for twenty months after overthrowing the democratically elected government of the Second Republic.

The man was on his professional terrain therefore when he passed that damned judgement on his own constituency which is the military. If it is agreed that a former military commander, a former military Head of State, a former Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces was better positioned to say what he said, that itself will be suggestive of precluding any counter opinion on the subject matter from other quarters, most importantly, from any “bloody civilian”. But to come to such conclusion shall remain another fallacy of historical presentation, again, for some cogent reasons.

There are too many military strategists all over the world who are not professional soldiers, yet they are the beacon or custodian of knowledge in technics wars, impacting same to the professional soldierswho go to fight battles with excellent results. Go to the best military academies all over the world, you will discover that most acclaimed excellent and brilliant officers with glorious war achievement records passed through the tutelage of these “bloody civilians” strategists. What this has proved is the fact that military knowledge in prosecution of warfare is not an exclusive monopoly of professional soldiers.

Another reason is the fact that machineries of prosecuting war, like arms, ammunitions, other hardware [which included but not limited to tank, armoured personnel carrier, night vision goggle, bulletproof vests, helicopter gunship, bomber planes plus other heavy and light equipment of the Navy are products manufactured by institutions outside the military. These institutions are primarily properties and jurisdiction of the civilians’ community which the military in Nigeria would arrogantly refer to as “bloody civilian”.

We can go on and on to articulate many other reasons why military operational knowledge is no more exclusive property of retired military officers like the case at hand –”Buhari slams military for hiring mercenaries”. Let us move on to discuss the issue but not without giving another reason in a very recent case when the Nigerian Military High Command was chastised by another former retired four star general of the Nigerian Army, a former Head of State, Olusegun Obasanjo and the reply the military top hierarchy gave to “Oga”.

Unfortunately the acrimonious altercation was about President Buhari and his certificate; which he claimed was with the Army Headquarters. The Army HQ replied their former C-in-C in a particular manner which irked General Obasanjo, and in his usual character, “washed down” the Army HQ “for not displaying proper military respectful conduct in dealing with their superior”. In putting the record straight, while replying “Oga” Obasanjo on the matter, the Military High Command affirmed that “it could be that their former C-in-C [Obasanjo] is out of tune with the modern day trend in the military, either in training, operation and other procedure”. That was enough word for General Obasanjo on the subject matter. It is also enough revelation for us; mostly the “bloody civilians”, and of course to the “have-been-to” retired military officers, that sometimes, their military knowledge, when they were there in active service, might have been outdated.

Coming down to the matter in discuss, the newspapers’ report of Tuesday, May 19th, quoted Buhari as having expressed “disappointment with the way the military handled the war against insurgency in the North East, wondering why the military could not secure 14 out of the 774 local government councils in the country without the assistance of ‘South African mercenaries’”.One only hope that Buhari’s outburst against the military at this time is not against the background of his certificate matter narrated above and the way the military High Command responded to it because Oga Buhari neither need to have been disappointed nor even wondered, and this is for simple reasons.

One, the Nigerian military sent to the war “was not waiting for the South African mercenaries” but were waiting for modern weapon of warfare. They were waiting because over thirty years, all previous Head of States and Presidents, including Buhari[Military Head of State from 1984 -1986], refused to equip the military with modern warfare weapons. So the military waited [oh, they were dying while supposedly waiting as troops and officers were being slaughtered on daily basis by the more equipped Boko Haram insurgents]until President Goodluck Jonathan procured all the necessary weapons, hence the difference that has told the history of victory we now have in the North East.
Two, military philosophy of going to war [holy war as the theory implies] is to “annex, defeat and conquer”.

The Boko Haram group, made up of well-trained soldiers with sophisticated modern weapon of war, came to annex, defeat and conquer, just like their brothers [ISIS] are doing in the Middle-east, but it is now a fact of history that with the modern war weapons Jonathan procured, the same Nigerian military revised the situation –not one local government out of 774 in Nigeria is in the hands of any insurgents, even as of the time the Buhari spoke. My conclusion is that President Buhari ought to praise and eulogise his “boys”, with a standing ovation, for “following the very good operational procedure he bequeathed on them”.

This copy was sent in before the inauguaration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Mr. Godwin Etakibuebu, a commentator on public affairs, wrote from Lagos.

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