That 48-hour Ultimatum To Defeat Boko Haram By Emmanuel Asiwe | TimeTestedNews

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For a government that has repeatedly claimed to have technically defeated Boko Haram on several occasions, it is curious for the new Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Major General Ibrahim Attahiru to issue a 48-hour ultimatum to the troops of the Nigerian Army to defeat and clear the murderous Islamist terrorist group out of Borno State. The ordinary Nigerian may not be a soldier or military strategist but this kind of glib talk is laughable where it not pathetic. It was obvious that having been in office for less than three weeks, Attahiru was obviously trying to convey a sense of urgency by putting a spin on what appears to be an embarrassing and shocking inadequacy by security forces, to end the orgy of violence. Yet, in view of the contradictions, Attahiru’s ultimatum was most unexpected, inane, vacuous and painfully discouraging. Save for its value as mere public posturing and empty grandstanding, the innocuous ultimatum is hopeless. Amidst the ongoing carnage, it was evident Attahiru was less than forthcoming in his assessment of the situation. Regardless of what might have informed his misguided optimism, false hopes are unhelpful in this dreadful matter of Boko Haram.

The details of the new service chiefs’ counter-insurgency strategy may not be known yet, but it is reckoned that they are well aware of the dire security situation and the public expectation is that they should hit the ground running so that the killing, maiming and terror would at least be contained. This has not happened. The reality must therefore be recognized and addressed very urgently and honestly, and the COAS needs to do more to reassure Nigerians of their safety, beyond empty bravado and silly ultimatums. No one believes that an insurgency that has been raging for over 10 years and reduced the northeast region to a killing field will be defeated in 48 hours. Some communities in Borno including Kirenowa, Kirta, Wulgo, Chikingudo in Marte and Ngala Local Government Areas were reported to have been attacked and taken over by Boko Haram, which boasts of a strong physical presence. The COAS, who on Sunday addressed the troops of the Nigerian Army Super Camp 9, Dikwa gave the order that the insurgents should be cleared from the reported areas in the next 48 hours. He said: “Areas around Marte, Chikingudo, Wulgo, Kirenowa and Kirta must be cleared in the next 48 hours.”

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The COAS, who said he had spoken with the Theater Commander and General Officer, Commanding 7 Division, told the troops that: “You must not let this nation down. Go back and do the needful and I will be right behind you. You should be rest assured of all support you require in this very onerous task. You are aware of the recent attack on Dikwa and Marte; you should not allow this to happen again, go after them and clear these bastards.” Commending the efforts of the troops in the fight against Boko Haram, he said: “I am here to deliver the greetings of Mr. President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buhari. I have spoken with your commanders, we are going to provide you the equipment and weapons you need to end this war. We are also going to address the issue of overstay in the theatre. No more issue of over stay.”

Nigerians read Attahiru’s statements with an admixture of cynicism and genuine apprehension. Against the failure of the former service chiefs to provide security as a basic ingredient of national governance, the question must be asked on behalf of Nigerians: is there something in the counter-insurgency effort that Nigerians need to know and no one is saying? Obviously, this indolence explains the lack of urgency, or modicum of seriousness, to match the bravado of the insurgents, but is this attitude an affirmation of the kind of Nigeria the new COAS desires? Was Attahiru just expressing in the most juvenile manner his helplessness? Surely, no military with the resources available to the Nigerian armed forces would respond so feebly to the tenacious effrontery of a ragtag insurrectionist group wantonly violating its territorial integrity.

Unconventional war may be new to Nigeria, but the intelligence apparatus ought to, by now, have overcome initial setbacks and become proactive in operations to stave off senseless attacks on hapless Nigerians. The increased dimension of the Boko Haram attacks and their havoc-wreaking tactics are too devastating to be considered with levity and treated as a trivial nuisance as the COAS would want the world to believe. The toll of Boko Haram killings, bombings and kidnaps is unquantifiable. If the COAS can afford to put a bold face on the precarious security situation, then it is pertinent to question his willingness to frontally address the insurgency, beyond mere lip-service.

Irrespective of Attahiru’s state of mind, the point must be made, and with emphasis that, a war between Nigeria and Boko Haram has been raging and the insurgents are not losing to the extent that they can be dislodged from their strongholds in Borno in 48 hours; rather they seem to be winning. Not only have people been massacred and villages sacked, territories have been occupied and flags hoisted to establish the occupation of conquered lands. All the territory recovered by the Jonathan administration is now being threatened or has been recently recaptured by Boko Haram. This is the simplest understanding of winning. So, Attahiru should not be deluded that he is grappling with a mop-up operation; rather Nigeria is contending with a murderous band of religious bigots and fanatics. This, by all means, demands whatever resolve the army can muster to confront the murderous sect of misanthropic elements bent on frustrating the progress of human civilization, with dastardly, but cowardly acts of bestiality.

The spate of killings across the north in the past three years and the inadequacy highlighted in the military’s response to the terrorists’ brazen assault on the Nigerian state may have forced the new COAS to talk tough. This is understandable. But Attahiru ought to have carefully weighed his statements, and think before talking. What is totally obnoxious and reeling of myopia is the belief that Boko Haram can be defeated in 48 hours. Either way, it betrays extreme naivety or callous disdain for public opinion; worse still, it conveys a message of contempt for disciplined leadership. It reduces an important national security agenda to an absurdity. Well-meaning Nigerians are not likely to side with this kind of thinking, especially as the COAS did not say what will happen if the army fails to defeat Boko Haram within his 48-hour deadline. This gaffe stretches good judgment, demeans the office of COAS and dresses Nigeria in the garb of a banana republic, lacking the wherewithal to fulfill its national security obligations.

While the efforts of the Nigerian security forces on the frontlines are commendable, the security forces ought to assume a more offensive posture in engaging the terrorists. The past weeks have largely seen the army only responding to the activities of the terrorists. Why would soldiers wait to be attacked before reacting? Much as the men in the trenches are doing their best in the prevailing circumstance, the ease with which the insurgents have operated is worrisome. The standing view is that the Nigerian army is not asserting with the necessary force, the full authority and power of the state in dealing with Boko Haram. The glory of the Nigerian armed forces must be restored. And the time is now.

In any event, Boko Haram has been vigorously pursuing its grotesque campaign of human savagery and barbarism with remarkable success. The worst is already happening, and Attahiru cannot treat the unending bloodbath flippantly. Boko Haram has declared a caliphate over captured areas; hoisted its flag and instituted quasi-administrative structures to govern territories under its control. Nothing can be more suggestive of Nigeria’s threatened disintegration than those acts. And the COAS should make no pretence about it. What is now required is the dexterity and strategy to prosecute the war. In this regard, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru must rise up to his responsibility as Chief of Army Staff (COAS).