By A. A. Abubakar
Compliments of the day! I am still grieving severely over the unfortunate incident of Boko Haram terrorists’ attacks on the233 Battalion, at the Sassawa Military Forwarding Base in Damaturu, Yobe state. We lost some of our best soldiers to this attack, which I believe was avertable had we allowed conscience and exigency to shadow our actions and decisions. First, I am not convinced that the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) failed to do the needful as accentuated by the reports on social media space, whilst taking off our eyes from the real underlying issues. I am prompted to write this open epistle to you because our people say; there can never be smoke without fire.
Madam, you may not understand exactly how I feel, but as a retired officer of the Nigerian Air Force(NAF), it is disheartening to see colleagues in other arms of the military wasted carelessly because of the insensitive disposition to matters of warfare. There are claims that the Federal Ministry of Finance, which you head failed to remit money for the funding of NAF, which is a critical component of the ongoing counter-insurgency operations in the North-East.
Hon. Minister, as you may have been informed or gleaned from media publications, NAF failed to respond on the intelligence report from the Army Forward Base at Sassawa by conducting air strikes because of lack of aviation fuel to propel fighter jets to the location to dislodge Boko Haram insurgents. I am also intimated that the Air Force component of the counter-insurgency operations had their personnel at battlefront grumbling over unpaid two months salaries and allowances, which you know could dampen their morale. This posturing is very sadistic and has either dramatized to Nigerians your insensitivity in the handling of Defence budgets as national emergencies or lack of understanding of the operations of our military in such special engagements.
I consider this as extreme official negligence, steeped in callous and tactlessness. It seems to me, you don’t believe or want to understand the cardinal objectives of safeguarding and protecting the lives and property of Nigerians, which is the responsibility of government the world over. But it is the reason our troops have spent months and years in trenches of the north-east.
Hon. Minister, the failure of troops to overrun insurgents plotting an attack on Nigerian people and the military in the Sassawa incident is not as a result of paucity of funds, but your laxity and wrong perception of defence budgets as just “another item of expenditure.” The voted funds are within reach, but you contemptuously hold it in the vaults of the finance ministry.
I dare say, this is the height of indifference to President Buhari’s anti-terrorism campaigns; it exposes the revival of sabotaging instincts of some demigods in the system. And it is everything about the insensitivity and haughtiness of key civilian players in the counter-insurgency war, who have relinquished their roles in supporting the Nigerian military in effectively combating terrorism.
I wish to remind you that winning the war against terror in Nigeria is not the sole responsibility of the military alone. It is the responsibility of everyone and everybody, including you, to actively play your part. Your deliberate refusal to perform a simple official duty as elementary as release of funds to NAF at this auspicious time has caused us sorrows and grief. The consequences of your sadistic neglect is the defeat we suffered in that encounter.
I do not want to believe the backdoor campaigns of the presence of unyielding saboteurs in the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. I have never believed the theory that there are poisonous bugs in the system ever willing to thwart every progressive effort in Nigeria. By my reckoning, your failure to release funds to the military for counter-insurgency operations has portrayed you as a masked member of this cabal, exploiting every avenue to truncate the progress of the Buhari regime on security.
Are you not touched that the Nigerian military is starved of funding in the battlefield to the extent it cannot even pay NAF personnel on the battlefield salaries and allowances, leading to loud murmurs? Is it not a shame to you that NAF could not fund operational logistics in the battlefield, because you withheld their budgetary votes? Do you know your action placed Nigerians and Nigerian troops at the mercy of terrorists for butchering and indeed, responsible for the blood of patriots spilled at the Forward Base at Sassawa?
It’s difficult to understand that at a time like this, a focal official of government has failed to appreciate that Nigeria is at war with terrorists. And that it is a war the country should spare nothing to win? I want to believe as Finance minister and member of FEC, you know winning or losing the terrorism war would define the future of Nigeria, yet you ignored all.
What this reprehensible conduct has caused is beyond the instant devastation of the terrorists’ attacks on the Military Base. It is also an attempt to shatter the coherence and synergy of the three major arms of the military in co-ordinating the war against terrorism in Nigeria. What you cannot wish away is that every arm of the military is not only important, but indispensable in winning the counter-insurgency war in Nigeria.
The alleged failure of NAF to respond to a signal for assistance from the Forwarding Base in Sassawa and the subsequent terrorists attacks and the death tol have created wrong insinuations and impressions in the Nigerian public. Mischief makers and critics would likely grab the incident to drum up a perceived unwillingness of NAF in assisting the Army surmount terrorism in Nigeria.
But we all know this to be false and far from reality. In any case, those who are not privileged to know that it is you who frustrated NAF would freely peddle this obnoxious lie against its personnel. These are potent weapons of spewing disaffection, bad blood and hatred among the various arms of the military. It is capable of speedily eroding the gains so far recorded in the counter-insurgency operations.
This is really unfortunate, to say the least! It beats my imagination as to whether you are pricked by the gravity of what has happened. Are you even aware of the seriousness of the insurgency? Are you this oblivious of the fact that Nigeria is in a state of emergency with terrorism? Do you know that virtually every day, a soldier is either killed or wounded and innocent civilians are killed or pushed into pains and sorrows from suicide bombings?
Madam, you have no justification or basis to politicize, regionalize or treat with levity defence and security matters, much more, something as serious as the Boko Haram insurgency. Or are you confessing your credentials to Nigerians as part of the gang hell-bent on destabilizing President Buhari’s government?
Lastly, Madam, it must not escape your sight that you have contributed immensely in shedding the blood of the innocent, because the victory of every adventure on earth is decided by the policies and actions of those who stay in the comfort of their homes to sustain it. Please stop shedding the blood of these innocent patriots, by releasing the funds.
It’s needless to repeat that your action has severely demoralized troops in the battle line. And you must urgently revisit your decision on the withholding of funding for the counter-insurgency operations. But inevitably, you and the veiled turncoats must make haste to perform the necessary acts of contrition before the blood of the innocent, killed in that terrorist attack at Sassawa begins to haunt you! Thank you Ma!
Yours in service of our fatherland,
Abubakar is a retired Nigerian Air Force Wing Commander, residing in Minna, Niger State