By Dr Muhammed K. Hassan
In the 2015 budget submitted to the National Assembly as reported by media outlets, Mr. President, with a penchant for buying executive jets for his own personal leisure, did not disappoint us. He had a 400 million Naira budget line item as deposit for trade-in for a brand new executive jet. It is no wonder that the Presidential Air Fleet has more modern and functioning airplanes than the whole aircrafts of Nigerian Air Force (NAF) put together.
In this time of insecurity, Nigerians deserve to know why this administration has failed to deal with Boko Haram before the elections so that they can decide if they want to continue on this path of failure. One of the reasons is, instead of arming the NAF with modern fighter jets, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ) has been building a fleet of brand new presidential executive jets. While Jonathan is busy junketing the globe in his brand new executive jets, the struggling NAF is left with obsolete aircrafts to fight insurgents. The Nigerian citizens especially in the North East have been left in the mercy of marauding insurgents taking over our territory. With this kind of careless defense strategy from the President, how can the country defeat Boko Haram?
According to the well known intelligence and defence information company, IHS Jane’s website, http://www.janes.com/article/45858/nigeria-wants-to-procure-scorpion-isr-and-light-attack-jet, “The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) currently fields a very limited offensive counter insurgency (COIN) capability in the guise of 11 Chinese-built CAC Chengdu F-7 fighters; as well as 21 Aero L-39ZA Albatross, 12 Alenia MB-339, and 12 Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet trainer and light strike platforms. It also fields seven Russian Mil Mi-24 ‘Hind’ assault helicopters”. Based on this available information on the main assets of the NAF, it is clear that it is handicapped. It may be one of the reasons why the Jonathan’s Government could not defeat Boko Haram.
Note that the 12 French built Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jets have been the main fighter Jets in the fight against Boko Haram in the last six years. For those who do not know, Alpha jets are out of production since 1991. They have some of the most obsolete surveillance capability one can think of due to low computing and imaging processing power of the electronics on board. The Jets were designed for the attack of long range fixed targets like Barracks in conventional warfare and not close and highly mobile targets like Boko Haram’s pick up trucks convoys. To summarise the capability of these alpha jets, it is like trying to use the early version of the black and white Nokia 3310 phone for facebook and internet browsing today instead of the smart phones like blackberry Z30, or iPhone 6. For all his promises of defeating boko haram, Jonathan is trying to use these jets as his main fighting air power to defeat them. Imagine GEJ and his military commanders using these to find Shekau!
The Chinese made Chengdu F-7 jet fighters were acquired by Obasanjo in 2005 and delivered up to 2010 as reported by Janes. Obasanjo and “Made in China” goods have one thing in common: Unreliability, and high failure rates when and where it matters most. The Chengdu F-7 were among some of the Jets that have been crashing and burning down during this conflict. I believe any fighter pilot that is asked to go on mission with any of the unmaintained jets, will definitely make his last prayers before flying one.
I am not going to talk about the Czechoslovakian made Aero Albatros L39 and the 12 Alenia MB339 military trainer jet aircrafts. Those are so old that they are suppose to be in the museum, and not for training our Jet Fighter Pilots. The old Russian MIG helicopters are among those crashing helicopters we have got, and some did crash recently and were in the news.
Boko Haram burned some of these jets down when they attacked Maiduguri in March 2014 as shown in the pictures released online by the insurgents. This begs for explanation, why were even some of the Jets parked in Maiduguri, the epicenter of Boko Haram, instead of outside the region?
Why would Air Marshall Bade allow this? At least we know that for security of defence assets, in most war setting situation, long range Jet Fighters are kept out of conflict regions and are most of the time signaled to come in for attacks. For example, will the US Air force park their most important jet fighters, the Northrop Grumman B2 stealth bombers, in Baghdad waiting for terrorists to come and burn them down? No! Anyway this is a story for another day.
How can rag tagged insurgents be moving in convoys for 100’s of kilometers within Nigerian borders unchallenged with air power and be able to establish a caliphate in Gwoza? In a pathetic show of comedy, instead of the President to acquire real drones like the Raptors from General Atomics, Stalkers from Lockheed Martin to stop the terrorists from moving in large convoys, he had his own drone made for him in Kaduna. This president is unserious! The Kaduna made “Gulma” drone he went to launch some months back, one can buy something better than it for three thousand dollars (600 thousand naira) on Ebay website.
The President in his usual characteristic comical display of “C in C” powers praised the toy Gulma drone and said that it will be used to fight Boko Haram. Even on the launch day, the Gulma drone was a sitting duck on display inside a building. It was not flown to demonstrate its capabilities to fight Boko Haram and only God knows how much was spent in building Gulma. What a fraud and a joke!
As an expert in radar systems and electronics, I can say without mincing words that these out of style aircrafts the NAF uses in this battle against boko haram with not so good night vision capability, magnetometers, vision cameras, gyroscopes, and other must have sensors on board fighter jets, cannot find Shekau and his rag tag army. These military assets are incapable of accurately tracking highly mobile insurgents targets like Boko Haram that move in large convoys to attack our towns and villages.
Does it bother Jonathan that his Air force is in shambles since he came to power and cannot fight Boko Haram? NO! The reason is his measure of how successful and strong the economy and his country is, is not by the fighting power of his Air force. The President measures the prosperity of his country and its military strength with how many new jet owners we have since he came to power, and how many executive jets he has acquired for himself. O boy, we are in serious trouble.
Do not despair, there is a new strategy and fighter jet for fighting Boko Haram and it is the PVC. PVC stands for the Permanent Voters Card. Yes, it is a weapon that Nigerians must acquire to defeat this incompetent government and Boko Haram. No matter what, every citizen must get this fighter jet, the PVC, since the Government has failed to get fighter jets for its Air force to fight Boko Haram. The way to use the PVC fighter jet is to come out on the election day, line up no matter the heat and inefficiency of INEC on that day, to cast the vote, defend the vote against external aggression of riggers and their collaborators so that we can have a new government that will arm the Air force. The new Government to be headed by Muhammadu Buhari, has better strategy of defeating Boko Haram. It will sell all these unnecessary executive presidential jets acquired by Jonathan and buy the fighter jets and drones needed to send Boko Haram parking. His presidency will need only 2 executive jets: one for use and one as a spare in case of maintenance. GEJ has already bought 4 jets since he came to power in addition to the 9 Jets he met in the fleet.
Finally, we have to ask how many Presidential Jets will be enough for a child that grew up with no shoes?
Dr Hassan can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org