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Published On: Thu, May 29th, 2014

Okonjo-Iweala, Jonathan and the army

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By Ola’ Idowu

The truth they say is a bitter pill to swallow, but who wouldn’t swallow a bitter pill if it helps you get better? The much vilified Nigerian Army recently accused the Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy NgoziOkonjo-Iweala of underfunding them in their battle against Boko Haram, with the Minister firing back that her ministry has released N130 Billion to them in the first quarter (Q1) of the year which includes N80 billion of personnel costs and another N3.8 billion to them recently.

A quick look at the country’s 2014 budget shows that the Federal Government is to spend N968 billion on defence about a quarter of its N4.9 trillion budget. Do the math and this translates to the Defence Ministry (MOD) and indeed the army receiving N322 billion in every quarter of the year (i.e Q1-Q3). For the first quarter (January-April) the coordinating minister for the economy was only able to release N133 billion approximately leaving a deficit of N189 billion (i.e N322-133). Of the lot released N80 billion is for personnel cost amounting to about 60% being spent by the MOD on recurrent expenditure and the remaining N50 billion which is roughly 40% on capital expenditure.

Thus with a shortfall of N189 billion in the first quarter alone it means roughly N113 billion (60%) is still outstanding for soldiers salaries, welfare provisions and maintenance in the past four months of the year alone and we are in the fifth month going on to the sixth. It also means N76 billion from the first quarter is outstanding to buy modern equipment and fighting gear for our troops. It would thus be foolhardy for anyone to be blaming military commanders or MOD chiefs for paying soldiers on the frontline against Boko Haram N15,000 of their monthly salaries instead of the N30,000 they are meant to receive.

Boko Haram’s onslaught has helped further expose to Nigerians the fact that we run a voodoo economy where everything works on paper and on power-points but nothing to show on the ground for Nigerians. Rather than plug every black-hole in our public finances by closing down rackets and scams in the economy e.g. NNPC’s short-change of the federation account, fuel and kerosene subsidy payments, unnecessary devaluing of the naira, CBN’s voodoo monetary payment system and monopoly of forex trade etc. we are always being lectured by the finance minister on what GDP means using home-made cake like we are all a bunch of fools she’s doing a favour by accepting to serve her fatherland.

We are a sovereign country and we are expected to know everything about our own country. If $20 billion is missing, the security services and the president should be the first to know, not America. Enough of acting like a school boy president and start acting like the CinC of a free and democratic nation of 160 million people. Even ShehuShagari a grade II teacher was more expressive and talked more intelligently than the current PhD holder of a president we have.

Our leaders need to pray for us, the followers, so that in 2015 we elect the right leaders who if faced with a kidnap situation like we have now, would secretly negotiate with Boko Haram and get all the 246 girls back and release few low-level militants in custody. A leader who would be fully expressive, intelligent, fight corruption aggressively, who is detribalised, leads our voodoo economy away from stagnation to prosperity and makes us proud to be called Nigerians. It is then we would be justified to pray for such a leader and pray God delivers him/her from wicked men and women and people who would lead him astray from doing good. That is the logical sequence as evidenced in the holy book. It’s not us praying for the so called leaders while they keep stealing and corrupting the nation.

I don’t care if Jonathan is the luckiest man from Otuoke or if he is the most blessed person by God; what we care about is that he was voted by 160 million Nigerians and what we need is for Jonathan to please stand up and be counted. This would include asking Okonjo-Iweala to release the deficit of N189 billion Q1 budget for our army so we can be justified to ask them to fight.

For the much vilified army themselves, it’s time to come up with an effective strategy to fight Boko Haram after the safe negotiations for the abducted girls. What has happened to the National War College (NWC) or the National Institute for Strategic Studies (NIPSS) Kuru? Would there be no one in any one of these bodies that can research the terror group and come up with a comprehensive strategy to fight or contain them? Luckily, Cameroon has deployed soldiers to our border with them and we need Niger as well as Chad to do the same so we can close the rear base or exit of Boko Haram. The army can then go after them with special forces on specific target and destroy counterattacks backed with aerial power from the air force and predatory attack from US drones stationed in Chad. The special forces would need careful recruitment and training which we can get from foreign partners.

It would be half-truth to say the army can’t defeat Boko Haram but the truth is it can’t be done conventionally as our soldiers are taught which is why we are losing men and hardware. A typical Boko Haram guy would carry a RPG, machine guns, AK-47 and grenades and would just want to blast his way to glory compared to a soldier who would be conventionally armed with just an AK-47 so when they attack it looks overpowering and the soldiers blame their commanders for not supplying them with enough ammunitions. Its a wrong way of fighting a faceless and nimble force like Boko Haram who attack indiscriminately with none or shifting front lines. We need to fight with superior strategy. That would include blocking all their retreat routes, locking them down to a particular location – which becomes a frontline somewhat – and then using aerial bombardments as well as special forces. For the guys and well paid commanders at the MOD it is simple commonsense, otherwise the army would keep been insulted as ineffective by everyone.

Ola’ Idowu wrote in from the U and is reachable on frenchcoast2@gmail.com

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