59 Garlands for the Nigerian Military

By EDITOR on October 5, 2019

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At 59, Nigeria is in war! It is a brutal fact. The Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, NAM, tried to pass this message on Thursday, September 26, 2019 at a seminar he organised for accredited Defence Correspondents in Abuja as part of DHQ’s ongoing initiative to forge common ties with the media to achieve success in the Nigerian military’s peace building efforts.

As I write, the military is collaborating with other security and intelligence agencies in all the six geo-political zones of the country providing support in aid to the police, which is ordinarily the main agency for Internal Security.

Visible progress has indeed continued to be made by the Armed Forces to contain the numerous security challenges confronting the nation almost sporadically and simultaneously in all the six geo-political zones.

President Muhammadu Buhari indeed deserves a hero’s medal as a war-time Commander-in-Chief when, for a moment,  you consider this checklist: terrorism and insurgency in the North East, armed banditry and kidnapping in the North West and North Central, oil theft and associated criminalities in the South West, South East and South South. Your guess is as good as mine that indeed we are lucky that the nation is not on its knees. Immense thanks to our military.

You will get a clearer picture of the challenges when you throw into the mix the critical issues of welfare, personnel, weapons and other necessary logistics. What about the overarching issue of partisan perceptions of the counter-terrorism war? It is a mixed bag. This is where the nation is right now.

Surely, as a nation we are not where we desire to be but definitely we have progressed. There has been a remarkable containment of Boko Haram in the North East States of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe in spite of the incursion of the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP) in the insurgency war primarily fuelled by ideological indoctrination which military warfare alone cannot defeat.

It is fast gaining ground that it is easier to kill members of a terrorist group than to eliminate the ideologies that drive them as the strongest force.

An insurgent held captive by his extremist beliefs is ready to bite the next bullet. The military high command realized this since 2015 and has successfully countered this violent narrative to win the hearts and minds of indoctrinated persons. This was why the CDS created the De-radicalization, Rehabilitation and Re-integration (DRR) programme code-named Operation Safe Corridor (OPSC) in Gombe under Maj. Gen. BM Shaffa as pioneer Coordinator. Over 2,000 former Boko Haram members have embraced the initiative with more surrendering in droves to date. Its success has been phenomenal. In fact, when Gombe State Governor Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya visited the CDS recently, he pledged his government’s support to the brilliant program. 

Recently, I read a comment online by Olajide Abiola who said: ’’If defeating violent extremism required only high tech military hard ware, intelligence and boots on the ground, US should have exited Iraq and Afghanistan several years ago . The war against insurgency is not merely against violent people but largely against hateful ideologies that make men violent’’. That is the message.

Early this year when I visited the ex-insurgents’ camp in Gombe in company of other journalists for two days, I left fully convinced that the military was indeed winning the anti-insurgency war especially after I saw the series of deep and intense de-radicalization therapies such as psychotherapy, psycho-spiritual and drug rehab counselling, social work,     western education, art therapy and other intervention strategies. I have gone this length to show how, the smoking gun approach alone will not suffice. The Gen. Olonisakin-led visionary and synergy-driven leadership has been deep and methodical in its counter-violence offensive against terror gangs operating in the country, courtesy of the resilient service chiefs. Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai (Army), Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas (Navy), and Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar (Air Force) are indeed true national heroes.

In Borno State, for example, where 27 LGAs were under Boko Haram, the military has turned the tide with the restoration of governmental authority, the return of thousands of rescued hostages to their ancestral roots, re-opening of inter-state roads and resuscitation of socio-economic activities as key performance indicators.  

Their resolve to secure the nation for stability, growth and development is unmistakable. The North East could have been lost to Boko Haram if they did not emerge at this time in the history of the nation. The Nigerian Air Force has been very effective in deploying the height advantage and the ferocity of the Mi35 fighter jets to frustrate the terrorists.

Incidentally, Boko Haram’s propaganda has dealt a deadly narrative to divide unsuspecting Nigerians along ethnic, regional, religious and political lines as many see the anti-terror fight as a military affair. This is perhaps why the media reports terrorists’ activities as though they were a State thereby giving it a larger-than-life status. Boko Haram has enjoyed the oxygen of free publicity.

The perception that the anti-terror is unduly prolonged is mistaken. This is fallout of the war of narratives which again compels the need for public support to the defence forces to eliminate the remnant of the terrorists. It is the nation, not the military that wins a war. When the Nigerian troops sacked Camp Zairo and Camp S (Shape) headquarters of the Boko Haram sect in the dreaded Sambisa Forest on December 22, 2016, it was the nation that won. 

In 2011, all patriotic Americans rallied round their military and security forces to take Osama Bin Laden down. Nigeria’s military has the spirit and soul to defend the country. But Nigerians must first know that the nation is in a state of war.


Never in the history of the nation have the military and other security forces been engaged in so many internal security operations as they are now. Insurgency has been contained and curtailed in the North East. The Nigerian forces are still engaged with other national security in a long-drawn duel that all Nigerians must support.

Consequently, thousands of rescued captives have returned to their communities to resume their normal lives. Night life has returned to Maiduguri and its environs. Regular commercial flights into the city have increased. Normalcy has returned to most of the areas affected by the insurgency.

Hotel accommodation in Maiduguri today is scarce as the Nigerian military has significantly fast-tracked the return of peace to the region thereby demonstrating its capacity and will to defend the nation’s sovereignty country against internal and external aggression. The nation owes them a debt of gratitude.

This is the same military whose personnel are doing very well in United Nations peace-keeping operations across the globe. This is the same military that prevented the last presidential elections in the Gambia from slipping into chaos thereby guarding democracy in that country and increasing the confidence of Nigerians in the resilience of our armed forces under the CDS, General Olonisakin and his capable service chiefs.

Of course, concerns will contain to be raised about when and whether the nation will finally see the back of Boko Haram. It is in sight even when considered that historically the war against terrorism lingers because terrorism is driven addictive indoctrination which makes it difficult to fight because minds are involved.

The Nigerian military is a conventional fighting force fighting non-conventional ragtag combatants that do not respect rules of engagement which compel multi-pronged arbitrary reviews, tactical adjustments and strategic manoeuvres which ultimately drag the war on end.

The civilian populace also have critical roles to play in the way the military has ingeniously adjusted its doctrinal focus and training programs to incorporate civilians in promoting internal security through volunteering vital information to security services as a civic duty. Unfortunately, this is not being done. The security of the nation is not the duty of the military alone but everybody’s.

Under Gen. Olonisakin and the service chiefs, the armed forces have garnered remarkable global respect in its grim determination to effectively tackle insecurity particularly terrorism, insurgency, armed banditry, kidnapping, etc across the country.

Nigeria’s counter-terrorism strategy has also become a subject of robust discourse, deep study and increased interest in top military quarters across the world such as a high-powered study group from the prestigious Royal College of Defence Studies in the United Kingdom which has visited the Defence Headquarters in Abuja.

Today, the military under Gen. Olonisakin and the service chiefs have employed synergy, intelligence and information sharing to stabilize the nation in the way it has tackled national security threats employing a mix of kinetic and non-kinetic measures.

 The various intervention operations across the country have remarkably secured and stabilized the nation. Operation Sharan Daji in the North West tackles armed banditry, the rustling of cattle and other livestock while Operation Awatse, a collaboration of the Army, Navy and Air Force in the South West region tackles militants and oil installation vandals around Arepo, Ishawo and Elepete creeks in Lagos and Ogun States.

Operation Hard Punch in Kaduna currently battling kidnapping and banditry in Birnin Gwari and Kaduna-Abuja Road is complementing Operation Safe Haven in the North Central Plateau State and Operation Swirl Stroke to combat deadly herdsmen, armed robbery, cattle-rustling and banditry in Nasarawa, Benue and Taraba States.

Operation Delta Safe in the Niger Delta area protects critical oil installation, routs oil robbery, pipeline vandalism, illegal oil bunkering and general criminality in the oil-rich region.

The top military command under the CDS, is primed on the vision to ensure a well motivated, trained and equipped Armed Forces that is responsive to national security commitments. So far, even in the face of obvious odds, many will attest that the team has been remarkably consistent with that vision.

Defence observers believe these operations are the best gift by the military to Nigeria@59. They deserve 59 garlands.


Emeka Nwankpa, a journalist and public affairs commentator, lives in Abuja.




Posted on October, 5 2019

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