For the umpteenth time, Bornu State, described unwittingly by default as the epicenter of insurgency in the country was again in the news for all the wrong reasons.
The state was thrown into a mourning mood as a result of the recent unmitigated slaughter of over 60 rice farmers by the dreaded Boko Haram members in Zabrimari, a village 10 kilometers away from Maiduguri, the state capital. This is one attack too many.
The brazen onslaught by the marauders evoked a barrage of condemnation by a cross section of Nigerians.
The apparent failure of the security agencies to put a stop to the spate of wanton killings of innocent citizens have, once more brought to the fore the observation in certain quarters that our gallant soldiers are beginning to display war fatigue, hence they lack the will and mental capacity to further prosecute the war against terror. Their morale is at the lowest ebb, I beg to reiterate.
Come to think of it, the broad daylight assault launched on the farmers was made more worrisome as the incident was said to have taken place just a shouting distance from the city center.
Perhaps more disturbing is the fact the massacre though grave barely elicited a lame duck response by the federal government.
As expected, the government was readily on hand to offer its usual woeful condolence messages and the assurances of continued pressure on the insurgents so as to restore peace in the area.
That sounds like a broken record. We have heard this refrain over and over again. Yet there is no improvement in the security situation, instead it seems to escalate by the day.
The docile empathy often expressed by President Mohammadu Buhari on occasions like this adds salt to injury and exasperate the anxiety of the people. It’s a case of motion without movement.
Nothing can be more insensitive, when the military high command tried in vain to justify the attack by saying that the villagers did not obtain permission before accessing their farms. When has it become mandatory for farmers to obtain clearance certificate before going to their farms?
The spokes man of the President, Mallam Garba Shehu also hinted that the farmers refused to pay levies imposed by the insurgents adding that that was why they were killed. On his part, Mr. Layi Mohammed, the minister of information equally offered his own reason for the attack.
Which was neither here nor there. The people want to see action not rhetoric’s, not blame game. They expect an end to the upsurge in the carnage of the hapless citizens.
It will be recalled that a similar incident took place earlier in the year precisely in June at the fringes of Sambisa forest where hundreds of farmers were mindlessly beheaded by the Boko Haram insurgents in one swoop.
The inability of our soldiers to repel the rebels apparently emboldened the assailants to repeat this gruesome murder of the farmers. This incessant attack on farmers have a far reaching implication on the food security of the nation. Already products like rice, onion and tomatoes have gone beyond the reach of the average person. Sad.
While we do acknowledge the success so far achieved by our soldiers despite the daunting challenges they are confronted with in the frontlines, their unrelenting zeal and determination to defend the motherland was largely responsible for the reoccupation of territories hitherto taken hostage by the terrorists, however recent developments eloquently suggest a reversal of course in the execution of the war project.
That our men are running out of steam is an understatement. The reason for this inertia is due in part to the obsolete equipment used by our men, the absence of welfare packages to boost their morale and of course the presence of insider mules or informants working with enemy. What can be more devastating?
In anger, some analysts are have called for the immediate replacement of the service chiefs more so when it an open secret they have failed to deliver on their mandate.
They have without doubt over stayed their welcome in the public space and the resultant effect our men have been running in a circle instead of decimating the enemy. The insurgents have been emboldened in their in renewed attack on the people.
Almost six years after the engagement of the service chiefs by President Buhari, one would have expected that that the President would effect changes in the security architecture by injecting new bloods to the system.
But Aso Rock is either not enthused or favorably disposed to the hue and cry of concerned citizens from within and outside the theatre of war. What an irony?
The primary responsibility of any government any where in the world is the security and welfare of its citizenry. Quite clearly, this government has not kept faith with this mandate.
For once, the national assembly members are unanimous in their call to redefine the security apparatus of the nation.
Sadly, the military hierarchy does not seem to be moved by the prevailing circumstances to effect a change or throw in the towel when the ovation is loudest.
Incidentally, the American government under the watch of President George W. Bush suffered similar resilience and defeat in Iraq before 2006.
Donald Rumsfeld, as the defense secretary was under immense pressure to resign but he would not hear of it. The President was equally adamant to the call for a change in strategy.
Worse still, it became a subject of political campaigns. In Washington, much of the blame for the mess in Iraq had fallen on Rumsfeld.
He had failed to plan adequately for the occupation, was slow to develop a counterinsurgency campaign, and had alienated the people with his combative, domineering personality.
He was eventually forced to resign when Rumsfeld saw the handwriting on the wall, as the hammers dangled over his head.
He offered to resign his plum job. But will the President dispense of the service chiefs or will will they resign without any prompting by their employer? Only time will tell.
In conclusion therefore, I advise that the federal government should take decisive steps in dealing with the security quagmire. The service chiefs must be disengaged because the they lack the high moral ground to continue in office.
Again, efforts must be made to procure modern state-of-the-art weapons and ammunition, to avoid further collateral damage to the people: premium must be place on the welfare of the officers and men in order to regain their confidence; recruitment of more foot soldiers must be on the front burner; the military should change its it’s present tactics and strategy in line with international standards of the rules of engagement and lastly we must put aside pride in our search for a lasting solution to our security challenges by procuring where necessary, the services of mercenaries if that will help us in the fight against insurgency.
We have done it before and we can do it again.
I dare to submit that we can decimate the terrorists, not on the pages of newspapers but in real life, * yes we can. History is replete with countries that brought insurgents to their knees.
After all, the Tamir Tigers were defeated by the Sri Lankan government after 25 years of arms struggle. So were the Isis in Iraq. Boko Haram, a ragtag militia group can be grounded by the fire power of our well established military, if the right incentives are placed on the table.
This my stand.
Thomas Ebikabowei Peretu
A public affairs analyst and political commentator.