If President Goodluck Jonathan is not afraid of his national security team, he should demand from them answers to the following questions:Where were those soldiers stationed on Giwa Barracks, Maiduguri, on March 14, 2014 when the terrorists’ attack began? How many of the soldiers were in that facility that day? Those who were absent, where were they and what were they doing before and during the attack? Who was the most senior officer on that installation on the day of the attack? What actions did he take to ensure the terrorists were defeated, captured or killed? Why was there only one tank on a military installation located in the heart of an insurgency area? Why did the tank malfunction during the attack as claimed by soldiers?
Was it due to improper maintenance or was it lack of proper training for the operators? Why were there so many private vehicles in the barracks located in an insurgency hotbed? Why were there so many family members – women and children – in a place that is essentially a battlefront? How did the terrorists make their way, in broad daylight, to the perimeter of the installation undetected? Were there elevated guard posts covering the installations’ 360 degrees perimeter? If so, how come no one saw the terrorists as they approached the installation? If there were no elevated guard posts, why not have some on a post that is more or less a camp in the middle of a battlefront?
Were there observation posts/listening posts (OP/LP)? If not, why not have some in such a volatile area? And if there were, how come they did not see or hear anything? How in the hell could anybody successfully hide 12 Hilux pickup trucks painted in green from security forces? How on earth did the terrorists move nearly 200 fighters in an area under emergency rule? Why is the country awash in so many sophisticated weapons in the hands of unauthorized people? After the December 2nd, 2013 attack on Composite Group Air Force base, was there a vulnerability assessment? What were the lessons learned from the assessment? What reforms did the national security team put in place to forestall a recurrence? Finally, is it true that senior military officers are embezzling funds appropriated for combat?
Jonathan does not owe allegiance to his military chiefs. His allegiance is to all Nigerians. It should be clear to him that were the Nigerian military a limited liability company, it would have folded up by now due to its string of senior leadership failures. Inviting governors to a security meeting like Jonathan did recently sends the signal to the enemy that the federal government is at a quandary and is failing. It will also not yield any fruit as most of the governors know next to nothing about military operations. And even if they did, those of them in the opposition may not readily offer solutions they know would benefit Jonathan politically. So, Jonathan should stop this government-by-committees or government-by-consensus practice. This is the time for executive action. He should find someone who can engage Boko Haram in discussions about political solutions to their demands (the carrot). But he should also find that truly professional military officer (no matter his ethnicity) who will embark on a sustained, full-spectrum, intelligence-driven, overwhelming fight designed to break the back of the insurgency.
Jonathan should have led the country in a public expression of outrage, especially after watching some of the videos released by the terrorists who embarrassed our military on December 2nd 2013 and March 14th 2014. These were the days Boko Haram fighters took the Maiduguri-based Composite Group Air Force base and Giwa Barracks respectively. We now know that in its quest to counter the apparent successes of the terrorists’ propaganda, the Nigerian military may have been lying to the Nigerian public all this while. And if it lied to the public, could it have been lying to the National Assembly which has oversight authority on the Defense ministry? Could it also have been lying to President Jonathan? So far, the terrorists have not been caught in a lie. In fact, they have boldly warned us of their dastardly acts and have followed through on their threats. For example, after the DSS Abuja “jailbreak” attempt (nobody knows the exact story about that incident), they told us they would hit Abuja in revenge for the members they lost. A week ago, they set off bombs at Nyanya bus station, killing over 70 innocent people and maiming scores of others. The terrorists have also been magnanimous enough to provide us with video clips of their very successful operations.
The Giwa barracks attack is the single most humiliating incident for the previously dreaded Nigerian army. I will forever be befuddled by the fact that for 24 whole minutes, the terrorists did not receive in-coming, defensive fire from the army. In this video, you will not see the terrorists scampering for cover in order to avoid in-coming grenades or heavy machine gun fire. It is as if they are attacking a compound occupied by enfeebled Octogenarians. It is a monumental embarrassment for our army.
Even if Jonathan doesn’t win a second term, he should not bequeath onto his successor such a vibrant insurgency as we currently have in Boko Haram. It should be the goal of any patriotic president to save Nigeria from such horrendous carnage. And it is a goal that is attainable.
Abiodun Ladepo lives in Los Angeles, California, USA (Oluyole2@yahoo.com)