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Published On: Thu, Feb 20th, 2014

Playing ostrich with the war in the North-east

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With Ali M. Ali

Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed-Mao Zedong

I don’t understand this. Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno state, a courageous man and patriot, I must say, sneezed and federal authorities caught a bad cold. Soon after he made that weighty declaration of the inferior firepower of the Armed Forces involved in prosecuting the war on insurgency, the presidency and the military high command have been on a ‘frenzy’ mode.

Clearly pained by the renewed upsurge in the cycle of violence in his state, he reported to he commander-in-chief that the soldiers involved in fighting the war came a little short in the weaponry department to fight the elements.

The death toll in just 72 hours last week is surreal that it belongs to fiction. Nearly 200 dead in one week. Just look at the shocking statistics. On the evening of February 11th,a Tuesday, the hounds unleashed their macabre ballet of death. They mowed 39 souls, razed 2000 houses in Konduga. Two days later, they returned. By the time they were done, their signature mayhem was all over the ruined town. Torched houses, shops, and public buildings including the central mosque litter the landscape. A day earlier, which was on Wednesday February 12th,they had ambushed and killed nine soldiers in Madagali Local government of Adamawa state. On February 15th,they struck again, killing 106 in Izghe in Borno state.

It is instructive to note, that Adamawa is the home state of the current Chief of Defense Staff, Air Marshal Badeh. A couple of weeks ago, Badeh talked tough.

At the change of guard of service chiefs ceremony, he boasted that his tour of duty as CDS will end the rebellion of Boko Haram by April. His confidence didn’t reassure the circumspect. The cynical even dismissed it as ‘shakara’. This is a word routinely used to dismiss empty boasts like the one Badeh made. Since the rebellion began, the military has not walked its talk. Badeh was not the first Chief to get drunk on the trappings of his new office and be flippant.

Former Police Chief, Hafiz Ringim was the ‘pioneer’ of ‘shakara(ing)’ a serious matter as arresting the Boko Haram menace. After a visit to Borno and overwhelmed by the sheer size of operational vehicles and logistic support donated by the government of Shettima to operationally deficient police, an excited Ringim boasted that the days of Boko Haram were numbered. A few days later, his days were almost ended. A suicide bomber nearly snuffed life out of him after his bomb-laden car missed the police boss by whiskers on his home turf at the force headquarters.

To say that sent jitters down the spine of Ringim is like saying the sun will rise in the east and set in the west. Nigeria’s vibrant social media community was most acidic in taunting the hapless police chief. It wove a joke around it that went viral. It went like this with a rhetorical question. What is the difference between ‘shakara’ and ‘action?’ ‘Shakara’ is Ringim threatening boko haram while ‘action’ is boko haram attempting to snuff the life of Ringim.

Badeh has since recanted. Suffice is to say the resurgence of orgy of violence may not be unconnected to Badeh’s flippancy. It may be the sect’s way of taunting the four star air marshal to ‘’come and get us’’.

Governor Shettima is not known to be flippant. He couldn’t have made that weighty declaration for the fun of it.The man wears the shoe. He knows where it pinches the most. In any case he is not the first governor to express this reality. Governor Gaidam of Yobe state had expressed exact sentiments.

Truly stated, recent reality suggests that the once fearful Nigerian Armed Forces that has earned international laurels in peace keeping operations in troubled spots on the continent of Africa has been reduced to a whimpering and battered ‘retreating’ bunch.

In bloody encounters in the recent past, the ragtag army has ‘bloodied’ the ‘professional’ better ‘trained’ army. Last December daring attacks on military installations in Maiduguri in which five aircrafts were ‘incapacitated’,33Artillery regiment leveled,79 Composite Group of the Air Force torched and the latest ambush of nine soldiers among a harvest of woes, paint a profound picture of a well trained but ill equipped army to deal with an insidious enemy. The Military High Command should spare us the PR talk that they are ‘on top’ of the situation. As I write this last night, reports indicate that the elements have visited their insane fury on unlucky villagers at the nation’s border with Cameroun.

A well-trained but ill equipped army can’t subdued a ragtag army with a sophisticated weaponry. The sooner the fat cats who run the show realize this, the sooner it will end.

The rank and file of the army that routinely sacrifice limbs and lives deserves our prayers and undiluted love. I am yet to see a group of professional that confronts death daily like these courageous patriots who sacrifice their comfort for our well-being.

The buck passing by the Presidency in response to Shettima’s declaration, is not unexpected. That it was specifically anchored by the “attack’’ lion, Doyin Okupe, is not bewildering. Expecting him not to dismiss Shettima is like expecting Gulak to be civic. Some people ‘eat’ by playing ostrich.

All sane minds should rise against the senseless carnage in the North-east. Only the deranged operating on the fringes of lunacy would dismiss the ceaseless bloodbath as strictly a geopolitical zone affair.

The President should summon the political will to surmount this nightmare. How does he do that? Arrest identified originators of the sect that are, in the main, recruits of political thuggery. Secondly, equip the military with the right weaponry. In turn, the military should intensify intelligence gathering. Playing ostrich is just that-playing ostrich.

 

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