By Levi Obijiofor
Every day, the federal government’s fight to suppress Boko Haram insurgents, a sectarian organisation that enjoys the use of violence to inflict maximum pain on the citizens, gets more complicated, more demoralising, and extremely nasty. Ever since the armed forces took the battle to the north eastern part of the country to dislodge Boko Haram terrorists who have set up camp in the forests, I have always held the view that the army is engaged in a difficult and hazardous war in which it is increasingly complex to identify the enemy.
It might sound somewhat paradoxical but in the current war directed at Boko Haram, you will find that traitors in the army and Federal Government officials who are unwilling to commit to the war efforts constitute the unseen enemies. This explains why the military campaign has been stalled for more than a year. Consider this.
I was saddened to read in two newspapers last week a report in which a high ranking army general was quoted as practically begging the government to provide funds to enable the military to perform its core duty of defending the country against Boko Haram and other threats to national security. The Vanguard and the Punch reported on Thursday, 22 May 2014, that the Chief of Accounts and Budget of the Nigerian Army, Major-General Abdullah Muraina told participants at a training session last Wednesday that the army was finding it extremely difficult to secure funds to execute the war against Boko Haram and other insurgent groups.
That was a shocking revelation. It showed the extent to which the Federal Government was truly committed to the war against Boko Haram. You do not boil an empty pot and expect soup. The army general even appealed to the government to release funds to enable the military to tackle the security challenges facing the nation. He said: “It is our humble appeal that government could evolve other means of funding and supporting military operations other than the normal budgetary allocation.” He also proposed that “a special operations fund could be included in the defence budget and placed under the control of the Chief of Army Staff for immediate disbursement to the required operation areas”.
You would expect that a government that is genuinely committed to fighting a terrorist group that has destroyed so many lives should not be reminded of the importance of providing funds to soldiers for successful execution of the war. Muraina made it clear that lack of funds has stalled the ability of the army and other security agencies to have an impact on the war against Boko Haram insurgents in the north.
Although Muraina’s comment could have devastating repercussions on the morale of troops currently engaged in the battle to destroy Boko Haram and end their run of bomb explosions in parts of the country, he must be commended for his boldness in telling the government the truth.
When a country is engaged in a battle to defend its territory, the last thing you would expect from a high ranking member of the army is a statement that suggests or conveys the message that federal troops are starving, ill-equipped, disorganised, ill-trained, and lack strategies to successfully crush the enemy. You could imagine the Boko Haram leaders gloat and squirm when they heard that comment. They will see themselves as terrorists on the edge of victory.
It does not matter how Boko Haram leaders perceive that comment. When the government shirks its responsibility and obligation to equip soldiers who are sacrificing their lives to defend the nation, someone has to tell the government the truth. It does not matter if President Goodluck Jonathan and his officials have suddenly developed some kind of hearing impairment.
Why, for goodness sake, would Jonathan commit to the fight against Boko Haram if he knew or if his field commanders informed him about the paucity of funds, including the lack of state-of-the-art weapons and other equipment necessary for winning the war? We must ask serious questions about the level of commitment of the government. To what extent did Jonathan know that the armed forces were seriously constrained by lack of funds and he still sent the troops to fight Boko Haram terrorists?
If the army leadership and the heads of other security agencies knew that the soldiers and intelligence services lacked the human and financial resources to properly and effectively undertake this important national assignment against Boko Haram, the question must be asked whether they advised Jonathan. Ahead of any war, it is the duty of military commanders to make a fair assessment of the capability of soldiers and their readiness to confront the enemy.
The war against Boko Haram has turned bizarre and something of a logjam because we have various individuals, politicians and groups who empathise and sympathise secretly with the ideology that Boko Haram espouses, including Boko Haram’s determination to take the leadership of the country by force.
Public opinion holds that some politicians provide financial and moral support to Boko Haram. If that is the case, why is it that Jonathan has not moved quickly to apprehend, try and incarcerate these enemies of the state? Some people have even suggested that Jonathan knows the sponsors of Boko Haram but has been too frightened to confront them.
Levi Obijiofor is on linkedIn