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The War on Terror And The Story of The Weeping Soldiers: Has Buratai Lost The Confidence of His Troops?

Last week, a video clip showing soldiers weeping and calling out the Nigerian Army for “setting them up” after they were ambushed by members of the Boko Haram terrorist group made its way into the public space. In the video published by most major media houses in the country, the bitterly angry soldiers left no one in doubt that they were being sacrificed for the selfish and self-serving interests of a few high ranking individuals within the Nigerian military formation and others along the corridors of power.

A depressing account…

Now make no mistakes. The battered soldiers whose armoured personnel carrier was set ablaze by explosives planted by the terrorists were not the first to suggest that there was more to the “war on terror” in the northeast than the public is being told. Many informed Nigerians including the former head of state and civilian president General Olusegun Obasanjo, and former army chief, Theophilus Danjuma have all called to question, the sincerity of the Nigerian Army in executing the “war” that seem intractable despite hundreds of billions of naira, thousands of men and materials extended to it.

Recall that recently, the Chadian army led by its president mounted an intense onslaught on the terrorists that Abubakar Shekau reportedly took to the cameras to negotiate terms of surrender. Many Nigerians on social media had expressed concern that the Chadian army with budget that is probably less than half of what its Nigerian counterpart gets were able to smoke out the terrorists from their hideouts, kill them and take hold of their enormous cache of weapons.

Nigerians were shocked that while Tukur Buratai, the Nigerian army chief and his team were just content to snatch Boko Haram flag from the terrorists (since December 2015), the Chadian troops ably led by its president took the war to the murderous group, decimated and dared them to do their worst. From the information shared by the media about the incidence, the operatives from Chad even made its way into the Nigerian territory in pursuit of the fleeing murderers.

A long tale of failure…

The message from the incidence earlier in the year before the deadly coronavirus cocooned all of us to our closets was simple: Muhammadu Buhari, Tukur Buratai and senior security operatives in Nigeria have simply betrayed the country after sinking hundreds of billions of naira into a bottomless cesspit. The reality is particularly disturbing: a ragtag army of untrained fighters constantly and consistently embarrassing military officers trained and maintained with humongous budget. Many find this hard to believe.

In the melee that dominated public conversations concerning the resounding victory of the Chadians over the terrorists, an old video clip of General Buhari in 2014-2015 expressing disbelief that Nigeria required military support from our neighbours to defeat Boko Haram surfaced. Buhari at the time was angry that the image of Nigeria was being desecrated by the continued menace of the terror group. The general promised to personally lead the war and crush the terrorists if elected president in 2015. Sadly, this is 2020, Muhammadu Buhari has been president since 2015 and yet, it took the intervention of Chad to deal a fatal blow to the terror gang.

Double Trouble

That Buhari and his army chief failed the expectation of Nigerians is not the whole story. Many consider it curious that under the reign of a “no-nonsense” general, the terrorists have not only continued their killing spree in the northeast but that other terror groups are gaining a foothold in several other parts of the country.

From Katsina to Sokoto, Kaduna to Plateau, Delta to Ondo, there appears to be no respite for millions of Nigeria who have to either flee their homes to remain alive or stay back and risk death in the hands of murderous groups who apparently have overwhelmed the security agents and planted themselves firmly in these communities and strike the villagers at will, killing whoever and whatever stands in their way, raping any woman they can lay hold of and robbing anything that catches their fancy. They operate for hours and retreat undisturbed to their enclaves and when next they feel like, they strike again.

The sad thing is that in these communities, there is zero trust in the security agents. Matter of fact; many of them are certain that the security operatives are working together with the killers. In the video report mentioned at the beginning of this presentation, the soldiers seem to be suggesting that some officials of the army sabotaged them by leaking information about their movement to the terrorists. Incidentally, they were not the first to make the allegation. Several persons including soldiers and senior army officials have all frequently alleged that some persons within the army pass information about troops’ movement and location to the terrorists. Some have alleged that supplies meant for the army are often diverted to the terrorists by unnamed officials.

See no evil…

Interestingly, nothing has been done about any of these by way of investigations, identification and punishment by the army. If at all anything was done, then it must have been kept away from the public.

Many are however convinced that there are some evidence to support the alleged conspiracy between some military personnel and the terrorists. One, they question why for example, the terror group often strike the military with precision especially when it appears the military is gaining the upper hand in the northeast? Secondly, why was Chad able to achieve such sensational success against the terrorists in a war the Nigeria Army has been waging for several years with mixed results? Thirdly, why is there some lingering suspicion that there are officials who do not want an end to the war?

When will Buhari do the needful?

Think also about the mutation of the terror group in several communities. How many of the murderous herdsmen in Kaduna, Benue and Plateau have been arrested and successfully prosecuted in the last five years? How many? Has Nigeria become such a wasteland that armed groups are allowed to freely kill citizens without consequences? Does the life of the average Nigerian mean anything to the rulers in Abuja?

Perhaps this takes us back to where we began: the continuing relevance of Tukur Buratai. What is so remarkable about this man that he must remain the chief of army staff even after his tenure of office is long past? Buratai hasn’t done so wonderfully in the fight to eliminate Boko Haram terrorism, the morale of the troop, many analysts believe, is at an all-time low, the welfare of the personnel hasn’t seen so much improvement and it does appear that joining the army is the least most desirable thing for millions of Nigerian youths who have other employment options.

What really has Buratai achieved? If he has achieved something substantial, is that enough to turn military leadership in the country into a traditional stool that the occupant sits on for life? Is there any proof that he is the only man who is capable of leading the Nigerian army?

If he has failed as many believe, why then is President Muhammadu Buhari reluctant to inject a new measure of enthusiasm into the morale of the troop by removing a general who has apparently lost the respect and corporation of his men? Why is this too difficult for the president to understand? How many more embarrassments does the country have to endure before Buhari realises that a state that cannot guarantee the security of its citizens has lost the very reason for which it exists?

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect ROOT TV's editorial stance.


Okafor Chiedozie
Okafor Chiedozie is an economist, political writer and amateur Igbo historian. He pursues these and other interests out of Abuja.