As We Mourn Our Fallen Heroes!

By Ogundimu, Babatunde Solomon

First, I commend the visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the wounded soldiers in Maiduguri, Borno State on Wednesday, November 28 2018, even though it took the Commander-in-chief of the Armed forces 5 days before admitting the catastrophe, and 10 days to visit the injured soldiers and commiserate with the families of the fallen heroes.

Be that as it may, let me acknowledge the supreme sacrifice of our gallant soldiers who have given their all. They died in defence of our lives and safeguarding their fatherland. May God grant them eternal rest, and their families, the fortitude to bear the irreplaceable loss of their loved ones.

As part of Mr. President’s Boko Haram narrative at Christmas 2017, Buhari himself gleefully announced “the final crushing of Boko Haram terrorists in their last enclave in Sambisa forest.” A few weeks later, the government held a celebratory Town Hall meeting in Maiduguri in which Ministers and other top-level officials used such language as “completely decimated… structure degraded… leadership dismantled” to describe the militant group.

‘Normalcy’, one said, had returned to Maiduguri, but that was turned on his head on Wednesday while addressing top military officers at the Chief of Army Staff Annual Conference in Maiduguri, Borno State where he told the military that the war against Boko Haram is a must win, and that they must be committed to the task of eliminating Boko Haram from the face of earth, which brings to mind that the crushed militia is now worse.

To actually prove this, Nigeria recorded one of the heaviest causalities on November 18 when Boko Haram terrorists attacked the 157 Task Force Battalion at Metele, Borno State killing scores of soldiers.  This audacious attack, among other recent attacks undermine the disingenuous claim by the C-in-C that his administration has “technically defeated” the islamists. As the Metele offensive shows, it is an empty claim.

In his bid to walk the talk of eliminating Boko Haram from the face of the earth, Mr President must zealously analyze the state of equipment and hardware available to our soldiers, and “technically” investigate the huge funds voted for military arms and ammunition, particularly for the anti-insurgency war in the Northeast. Following the narrative of soldiers that was circulated in an online video, the soldiers complained about the lack of modern weapons to fight the war citing an example of T72 tank which was made in 1983 by Slovakia, and can’t fire more than two rounds before it will hang. They also alleged that they were being used by their “ogas at the top” to make money. All these point out the fact that the president needs to review the anti-terror strategies, probe the allegations raised by these soldiers, and also punish moles within the rank and file.

It is evidently true that no country in sub-sahara Africa can conveniently defeat islamists terrorism on its own. This administration should intensify its efforts in seeking international help in terms of intelligence, technology, equipment and financial aid in combating the war.

If we must win the war against Boko Haram terrorism and eliminate it from the face of the earth as said by Mr. President, we have to take politics out of this war against Boko Haram and stop looking for quick fixes such as declaring technical victories that still leave soldiers and villagers at the mercy of Boko Haram terrorists. Also, there should be proper equipping of these soldiers and the rotation of those in the frontlines to avoid mental fatigue, and thus facilitate their retraining and retooling for subsequent redeployment, while those who have previously not experienced the war are deployed on a scaled up basis to ensure effectiveness.

In addition to all these, the welfare and well-being of the soldiers have to be the most important consideration, in terms of the regular payment of their salaries and allowances, the provision of medical treatment for those who are injured, and adequate care for those on the frontlines of this war. The era of “working like an elephant and eating like a rat” must be brought to an end in the Nigerian Army.

Finally, in order to ensure that “the labour of our fallen heroes never go in vain”, it is imperative that immediate measures be put in place to shove up the confidence and morale of our soldiers, to avert further losses and stop restiveness in the military in a war where posting to the battle front is increasingly seen as a death sentence.

  • Ogundimu, Babatunde Solomon is a graduate student of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta and the Convener, ‘Go On With One Nigeria (GOWON)’.  

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