By Ahmad Sajoh
The people of Mubi had spent close to four weeks as hosts to a multitude of internally displaced persons from Gwoza Borno State. The Government Day Secondary School Lamorde which is opposite the newly constructed Army Barracks was over flowing with desperate, hopeless and fear stricken people. Two days earlier, Madagali which is the first major settlement in Adamawa State bordering Gwoza had also fallen to the insurgents. Fear and panic had pervaded everywhere in Mubi town. It was under this atmosphere that all of a sudden, the 480 soldiers who fled to Cameroon during the battle of Gamborun Ngala returned to Nigeria and to Mubi. Their presence raised a lot of panic and apprehension. For some time, no one was able to understand what was happening. And in a town where there are no Radio or Television stations, the rumour mill took over. Some thought it was an invasion by the insurgents disguised as soldiers. Others felt it was a re-enforcement of some sort.
And because sometimes there are nasty experiences recorded by the townsfolk in hands of soldiers, additional troops raise a lot of dust. For those who may not know, Mubi town has been under a Six-to-Six Curfew for the past two months. The curfew hours in Mubi are longer than anywhere in Nigeria. Even areas with more serious Security Challenges have their curfew hours between 7pm to 5am. But in Mubi it is 6pm to 6am. Moreover, sometimes the people are reminded of the curfew hours in the evenings with horse whips and Jackboots. When you travel to Mubi, be sure to get there before 5pm otherwise entry into the town is denied travellers after that time, you either sleep at Mararraba or at the Gate of the town till 6am the next Morning. So any additional troops in to the town may spell harsher treatment in the minds of the people.
But these are different kinds of soldiers. They look like a rag-tag army. Most of them wore incomplete accoutrements. It is either that they have different trousers from the top, or different tops from the trousers with no belts. Most had bathroom slippers as footwear. Some of them had guns, but most had none. It was a pitiable sight. They all looked very hungry and uncartered for. They took over the local transport business, riding on every available keke Napep, and leaving the townsfolk almost stranded. As of Wednesday the 27th of August, they were still scattered all over town. We leant that the Unit Commander in Mubi had no orders to receive them into his unit by Tuesday when they arrived. But by the afternoon of Wednesday, such orders may have been received, because they had started converging at the new Barracks. That again is what the rumour mill say.
It was indeed quite ironic that both the internally displaced persons and the returnee Soldiers are taking refuge within the same Lamorde precinct of Mubi town. One thing I found very discouraging from the sight of the returnee soldiers is the story about “tactical manoeuvre” issued by the Defence Headquarters or the lie that they have returned to the frontline. There is nothing to suggest any tactical manoeuvre from the sight of these soldiers. They bore similar looks with the internally displaced persons across the road from their Barrack. They did not exhume any confidence as fighters who are manoeuvring to return to the battle field. Rather they look like people who feel lucky to have escaped alive. The mare fact that our soldiers were sheltered (or should I say under the custody of) Cameroonian Policemen was indeed humiliating. But to say they went across the broader as a tactical manoeuvre is to insult our collective intelligence.
It is an undisputable fact that for all humans, survival is the first law of nature. Even soldiers are bound by that law. So what must have happened is that our gallant soldiers realized the futility of reckless bravery and obeyed the first law of nature by escaping the superior fire power of the insurgents. And if the only viable escape route is the Cameroons, well, survival is survival, period. Between Maroua in Cameroon where the soldiers were held and Mubi where they returned is distance of over 500 kilometres. Gamborun Ngala where they fled and Gwoza the Headquarters of a fake Caliphate are far closer to Maroua than Mubi. If it was a tactical Manoeuvre, why didn’t they regroup and return to Gamborun Ngala or even Gwoza? How come they returned as displaced fighters rather than as a Military formation complete with their military hardware and other essentials?
Perhaps it is now imperative that the President, Commander in-Chief as well as the Defence Headquarters have start facing the realities of the begging need for a change of tactics in the war on insurgency. There are too many conspiracy theories woven around the insurgency that just does not add up. There are too many deceptions allowed to sail through the official reports that get to the President and even the public through the Media. When Governor Kashim Shetima raised issues related to the insurgents being better armed than our troops he was ridiculed and called a liar with no military experience. Today he has been vindicated. The Chief of Army Staff is also saying the same thing albeit in a different language. He was quoted to have said that once the military hardware the Government had ordered arrive Nigerian Soil, they will go on the offensive. Even the Federal Government has admitted lack of relevant weapons to tackle the insurgency with the request of $1billion loan to address insecurity challenges. Governor Kashim Shetima deserves an apology.
When Admiral Murtala Nyako raised a number of questions related to Command and Control as well as line of responsibility under military operations, they could not accuse him of lacking in military knowledge; rather they slammed him with the charge of Treason. Yet all the denials, insults and accusations did not stop the insurgents from gaining grounds at the expense of our troops. Presidential spokespersons and political spin-doctors have kept hammering on the often belated charge of Northern leaders sponsoring the insurgency to stop the President from contesting for a second term. These are all lies that have *transformed our soldiers from the most professional fighting force in Africa to refugees in the hands of Cameroonian policemen.* (Gendarmes are policemen not soldiers) that is the reality weather one likes it or not. The sooner we brace-up to this bitter truth the better.
We can defeat this insurgency and we should. But to do that we need to address certain obvious lapses on the part of our command and control of the situation. The first problem had to do with our inability or lack of the political will to make both our operational and tactical commanders take responsibility for failures in our military operations. Only seven people were killed in Kolfata, Cameroon, and two operational Commanders were instantly dismissed. Conversely, in Nigeria after several deaths and even a disgraceful escape by our soldiers in an operation code named “tactical manoeuvre” no one took responsibility or was made to take responsibility for the glaring failure. No one as of yet has been publicly indicted or punished for the disgraceful attacks on Giwa Barracks, and the Maiduguri Air force Base. No one was punished for the lies told about the alleged initial rescue of the Chibok girls which turned out to be hoax. The excuse about safeguarding Military secret is bunkum. The Military is maintained by the people so there is nothing so secret regarding operational failures that the owners of the trust should not know.
The second lapse has to do with effective intelligence gathering and utilization. In all the cases of mutiny or mutiny by proxy as the case when wives demonstrated as opposed to their husbands in Maiduguri, the charge is that the insurgents had better intelligence on our troop movement than we
had on their movement. It was so humiliating that Cameroonian Authorities issued a ban on intelligence sharing with Nigerian military and security Agencies because of the fact that the Nigerian system is compromised. Yet, no one has investigated this weighty charge and no one has been made to publicly face punishment for compromising the safety of our troops and jeopardizing the fight on terror. Rather, what we get are reckless and unsubstantiated charges on a political party by the spokesperson of one of the security Agencies.
Another Major problem is the neglect of the welfare of troops. These soldiers I saw coming from Maroua certainly look very distressed. They are neither well kitted nor confident. They look truly neglected. The last of the factors to be considered is the relationship of the military with the civilian population in the areas of operation. A lot still needs to be done to cultivate the peoples’ goodwill. If our soldiers are perceived as if they have come to oppress the people, then it will be difficult to enlist the support of the people in their operations. The civilian population should not be allowed to perceive the attitude and actions of our military as akin to an occupation Army. We need to win the heart and minds of the people. Once that is done, the people will form part of both the intelligent gathering system and even the fighting force as is seen by the activities of the civilian JTF.
Sajo is a public affairs analyst