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Fighting Insurgency And Much Ado About Mercenaries – By Richard Murphy

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Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Zulum, is definitely riding the wave as the year 2020 poster boy of populism. From surviving terrorist Boko Haram’s targeted attacks to being able to show off completed model projects amidst an insurgency, he has certainly won the heart of many Nigerians and the people of his troubled state to the point where some think he should run for presidency in 2023.

But the idea of hiring mercenaries to defeat Boko Haram, as currently postulated by the governor, qualifies as pushing one’s luck beyond the logical or reasonable. As would be expected of the postulations of someone with demagogic populist following, Zulum’s suggestion is gaining traction with some of his fellow governors hopping on the bandwagon in demanding that mercenaries should be added to the mix of efforts to defeat Boko Haram terrorists, who have made the Lake Chad Basin a killing field.

Such desperate suggestion appears justified in the light of the massacre of scores of rice farmers in Zabarmari area of Borno state. At a time of outrage, as the murder of the farmers threw the nation into, there should be no limit or restrictions to the ideas that should be placed on the table in the search of how to deal with the evil entity that is causing the nation sorrow.

So, Zulum’s suggestion should not be dismissed on face value. It should be properly evaluated before being thrashed and consigned to the dustbin of counterinsurgency efforts to ensure that whenever someone comes up with the idea again much efforts would not be dissipated before rejecting it.

First, former President Goodluck Jonathan had infamously hired South African mercenaries for this same assignment. Specialized Tasks, Training, Equipment and Protection International (STTEP), a South African mercenary company, got that contract, which was later trailed by controversies. The fact that Boko Haram remained in existence after that company’s contract terminated attests to the fact that the ventured failed woefully. So, what stops a recourse to mercenaries from failing again?

Secondly, mercenaries, like STTEP, are not in a war for idealism or national interest, they are soldiers of fortune, who fight for the gains. If they successfully neutralize the problem on ground where will their next paycheck from? What stops the mercenaries from contriving situations that allow Boko Haram survive beyond its end point just to ensure that they continue to have a contract?

The issue of how and why the country would pass on the intelligence it gathers on terrorist activities it gathers to foreign mercenaries is another variable that proponents of this arrangement have not considered or at least provided answers about. Another leg of this is how Nigeria will deal with the mandatory non-disclosure clauses in the bilateral and multilateral agreements with international partners. We cannot receive intelligence from other countries and pass same to civilian contractors from third party nations. That alone would cause further degeneration to whatever conditions we are presently dealing with.

Furthermore, the mercenaries would be paid, and paid in foreign currency. The issue here is that if the same money is made available to the Nigerian troops, which would go into procuring much needed equipment and logistics, the kind the soldiers of fortune are able to afford on their contract, the logical outcome is that the troops would perform even better than the paid contractors.

Of course, there are the diplomatic knots and mishaps that could come from when these mercenaries intrude into the territories of Nigeria’s neighbours, something that is inevitable since the terrorists usually operate across international borders. While Nigeria can answer for the actions of its troops sent in pursuit of the terrorists, how much responsibility can we assume for the nationals of other nations that will form part of the mercenaries? Who takes responsibility if the soldiers of fortunes fall short of the acceptable rules of engagement?

At the street level, the clamour for the engagement of mercenaries is a sad reminder of the penchant of Nigerians not to appreciate what they locally. It is syndrome that has made Nigeria synonymous with everything foreign. In this regard, recent development has confirmed that excessive dependency on foreign components is not sustainable. Ironically and sadly, the murdered farmers were part of the success story of Nigeria’s capacity for self-reliance in rice production, something that was once considered impossible. The memory of them should not be desecrated with the engagement of foreigners when they had shown the way that Nigerians are capable.

Thus, the debate about whether to hire mercenaries or not should not be allowed to distract from the reality on ground and the actions needed to tackle them. This includes the fact that there are aspects of Boko Haram’s insurgency that are politically driven. What is needed in this aspect is for concerned parties to pressure those providing political sustenance for Boko Haram to cut off the support. There is the financial component as well and until those with the capacity begin to jail terrorists’ financiers as the United Arab Emirates jailed six persons recently, Boko Haram will continue to ample resources to wage war against humanity.

We must also not lose sight of the people who have made it their life mission to help terrorists advance their propaganda machine. They are the ones that make it possible for Boko Haram to brainwash new recruits and replace the ones being killed by the military. They are the ones that help the terrorists strike terror in the heart of people each time the terrorists carry out their heinous crimes. If these members of Boko Haram propaganda arm decide to sustain a claim that terrorism is alive and kicking irrespective of what the mercenaries have achieved, then their efforts would have been in vain.

It is time to face the reality and accept that we must ultimately look inwards in our bid to defeat terrorism. We owe ourselves the responsibility of channeling the money that would have been paid for hiring mercenaries to our military so that they can have the kind of hardware and logistics that the soldiers of fortune are able to afford. We should, at least for a moment, repose in our troops the kind of confidence we are expressing in foreign mercenaries. We must collective express support for the troops so that they will be inspired by the knowledge that their country is behind them as they risk life and limb in the course of each encounter with the terrorists.

Above all, we must be realistic enough to accept that the problem with Boko Haram’s insurgency remains politics and until the bad politics being played by a few opportunistic persons around President Muhammadu Buhari, and active collaborators in Borno state, is resolved, no foreign mercenaries will help the country. The Nigerian solution remains the only workable solution to the insurgency and that is what we should go for.

Murphy wrote this piece from Calabar.

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Opinion

Facts And Figure: 21 Reasons GYB Stands Out – Part 2 – By Chabor Musa Nyamgul Jnr

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The curiosity that greeted the first part of this series on the glowing stride of an unusual 45 years old who superintends the Confluence State of Kogi from LUGARD HOUSE, Lokoja is profound.

The Young man in Kogi is not one who will fix a road and spend half the said amount in Commissioning the Road. He believes in hard work over propaganda. His strides are Olympic and his commitment to good governance incredible, and that is the enigma called GYB.

Follow me as we present the second Part of the 21 things that qualify Governor Yahaya Bello GYB for higher office, indeed GYB STANDS OUT.

8. Are you aware that in 2017/2018 whilst the media was awash with heavy criticism of GYB and whilst the many political Godfathers that be deployed the Press against him, The World Bank rated Kogi State as one of the 9 states in the Country that successfully reduced unemployment. Facts are sacred.

9. Are you aware that Kogi is not only the safest State in the North, Kogi is the second safest in the nation after the State of Osun. And Kogi has one of the most effective Vigilante Service that at some point have rescued kidnapped Police Officers. GYB has put a lie to the tale of Governors not being effective as Chief Security Officers of their States, having not only shown capacity and competency, GYB has made the Confluence State that shares border with almost 7 states the safest in the North, and the second safest in Nigeria. That’s the enigma called GYB.

10. Are you aware that cited in Kogi State is the third biggest Rice Mill in Nigeria built by GYB and functional. A very great stride that others will spend almost the equivalent in publicity, but with GYB service delivery is the way to go.

11. Do you know that GYB has built numerous skill acquisition centres across the three Geopolitical/Senatorial zones of Kogi, and that fully trained young men and women are given support capital, and that is why the World Bank MDG rating has Kogi amongst the best in Nigeria.

12. Whilst other States are busy profligately spending the Covid19 States Intervention and Support Fund, Kogi State is far gone in building one of the biggest medical facilities in Africa. To GYB “Even though I have my firm reservations on the Covid-19 pandemic, I have decided to spend the Covid-19 funds in building the biggest medical facility in this part of the world in

13. GYB patriotically mobilized the Federal Government and His fellow Governors into a NO SHUT DOWN of the Economy in the wake of the second phase of the Covid19 pandemic. He has maintained that until the Covid19 pandemic is dispassionately interrogated, we cannot afford another LOCK DOWN of the economy. How more patriotic can a leader be?

14. Kogi State is an example of proactive Youth competency and capacity in governance. GYB with a cabinet of average age of 46 has ensured a safe, effective and prosperous Kogi.

You are at liberty to interrogate these fact, as we believe that the enigma fondly called GYB is fit, able and qualified for higher office.

To Be Continued…

Chabor Musa Nyamgul Jnr.
Convener GOT YOUR BACK NIGERIA (GYB NIGERIA).

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Opinion

Gen TY Buratai: The General Who Led From The Front – By Philip Agbese 

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Change is inevitable. But whenever it occurs, what comes to mind is how those exiting would be remembered.

For the outgoing  Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai (rtd), the answer is very simple; he would be remembered as the Army General who led his troops from the front.

That simple description sums up the difference between the outgoing  Army Chief and others and in combat operations it means a lot.

It is akin to putting one’s life on the line to motivate others. Tales of military conquests are usually designed to fit the eppaulets of top commanders whether physically present at the action spot or through delegated orders.

But with Butatai, the courage is constant as he prefers to be in the trenches, feel the pulse of his fighting men and lead the battle from the front when the occasion demands.

He is known to have relocated to the Northeast and personally led various  onslaught against the Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists with great success.

It was through such processes that the outgoing  Chief  of Army Staff has been able to save the lives of no less than 30 million people directly and that of over 160 million people indirectly.

Before Butatai was appointed Army Chief,  Adamawa State which has a population of 4,248,400 people, Borno State with 5,860,183 and Yobe with 3.4 million were all under threats of annihilation.

No less than 20 number of local governments within the three states which are bigger than some countries,  were taken over by Boko Haram terrorists as people were constantly being killed, abducted, harassed and terrorised.

General problems of insecurity pervaded the landscape. In the Northeast, it is said that since 2009 when the Boko Haram started, the groups have killed tens of thousands of people and displaced about 2.5 million people and the zone was experiencing severe humanitarian crisis which left about 7.7 million people in need of humanitarian aid.

In the Northwest, problems of banditry escalated as communities were sacked and people abducted. It was almost the same in the Northcentral were abductions for ransom became the order of the day and attacks on communities increased.

Such criminal activities even extended to the southern parts of the country where cases of kidnap and other criminal activities including secessionist bids heightened.

But by the time General Buratai and his colleagues moved into action  most of these acts of terrorism were curtailed reducing for instance, the number of Boko Haram attributed deaths in the Northeast from more than 5,000 in 2015 to hundreds in 2020.

The presence of the Chief  of Army  Staff, at the battlefield was of great positive effects to the troops.

It made them to push hard until they penetrated the fortresses of the insurgents and subdued them in their numbers within the first six months of his assuming office .

The army was able to sustain the pressure on the terrorists that the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar  Shekau was heard in an audio tape begging for mercy and since then Nigerian  troops continued to dominate the fight foiling every attempt by the insurgents to launch attacks and capture territories.

The  height of it was the release of the over 300 boys at a secondary school in Kankara, Katsina State.

Many did not know the antecedents of General Buratai and probably what made him to be chosen as the Chief of Army Staff.

General Buratai was the Commander of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), a military co-operation between Nigeria, Niger, Benin, Chad and Cameroon to fight Boko Haram terrorism.

He was specifically chosen to head the 5-Nation organisation because of an experience that almost ridiculed the combined efforts of these countries.

In January 2015, Boko Haram attacked the MNJTF headquarters in Baga in Borno State, overran the place and went ahead to massacre innocent civilians in the town.

That experience was one of the lowest points for the Nigerin Armed Forces  as many claimed soldiers took to their heels in what was later described as tactical manoeuvre.

The incident led to the reorganisation of the outfit and General TY Buratai was appointed to head the restructured outfit as the first Nigerian to occupy that position.

From then, the five countries began to witness improvements in their security and Nigeria was able to hold an election in March of that year.

It was not surprising therefore that President Muhammadu Buhari would appoint General TY Buratai as the Army Chief shortly after inauguration as president of Nigeria.

Apart from combat operations, General Buratai during his tenure enhanced civilian military coperation in Nigeria that people no longer see the Army as a force of occupation but as partner in progress.

The army under him has built bridges, roads, hospital and schools for communities in line with the Army’s improved  Civil-Military relations activities or Corporate Social Responsibility.

The Nigerian Army for instance set up an isolation centre at 32 Artillery Brigade, Owena Cantonment, Akure, in Ondo State to help  put an end to Covid-19,  established the Nigerian Army University Biu, and a 200 bed Nigerian Army Reference Hospital in Maiduguri, Borno State to cater for the health needs of soldiers who sustained injuries while fighting the counter-insurgency war and to serve people in the immediate communities among other things. The nation actually knew it had a General in Buratai who led from the front at all fronts!

Agbese wrote from Abuja.

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Opinion

Southwest’s Lingering Conflagration And Its Political Undertone – By Rotimi Akinbile

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Finally, the missing link in the puzzle unfolding in Southwest Nigeria has been discovered with the recent  expose by no less a person than Babafemi Ojudu, Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on political matters.

Ojudu in a widely circulated piece he wrote, narrated how a meeting was arranged between Southwest political leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and leading Southwest political thug, Sunday Igboho in order not to disrupt the Ekiti rerun election in 2009.

The story confirms what many have been saying about the real forces behind Igboho who recently issued a quit notice to Fulani in Yorubaland and has even moved to enforce the order by sacking the Sarkin Fulani and his family from Igangan community in Oyo State.

The boldness Igboho exhibited to issue the threats and the swift manner he moved to enforce his own orders coupled with the fact that he has not been arrested up till now, goes to reinforce the fact that Igboho is not a mere thug but a well equipped tool in the hands of certain politicians.

The question is, who are these powerful politicians that are using Igboho to cause confusion and mayhem in Nigeria. An analysis of the Ojudu narration exposes two things: the first is that Igboho is a political thug available to the highest bidder, the second is that, many of the top politicians in the Southwest are aware of this and they use him when the occasion demands and three, that the political godfather of the Southwest, Tinubu, does not only know Igboho but had used his services in the past to his advantage and even offered him a ‘golden handshake.’

What can be deduced from this is simple: that since 2009, there has been a relationship between Tinubu and Igboho and two, that with Tinubu’s ability to offer a ‘golden handshake,’ that the loyalty of Igboho could be and has been sustained over the years.

This, exactly is why current happenings in the Soutwest cannot be dismissed as mere happenstance by some misguided elements to evict the Fulani from Yorubaland as it bears all the traits of a rehearsed plot.

The whole episode bears the mark of a script well written to draw the attention of the rest of the country to the Southwest and to pressure certain political forces into accepting certain candidates that have not been accepted as eligible to succeed Mr. President.

First, it was the governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu who asked the Fulani in certain parts of his state to vacate those places or be penalised.
Then Igboho fell into the picture and the entire country has not remained the same again.

As one tries to make meaning out of the matter, it will be apt to scrutinise the precedent scenario so as to grasp the full picture of what is going on in the Southwest with Igboho and Tinubu.

In the late 90s, when it was clear that General Sani Abacha was not ready to hand over the reins of government to anyone else, but was bent on perpetuating himself in power, politicians in the Southwest took a decision aimed at forcing the General to quit and sponsored Ganiu Adams to take over the leadership of the Odua Peoples Congress, OPC, from Dr. Federico Fasehun and the OPC under Adams began to unleash mayhem in the Southwest that made governance more difficult for Abacha.

By then, many of the NADECO leaders including Tinubu had gone on self exile and the junta could not identify the real forces behind the OPC. It was much later when Nigeria returned to democracy and most of those self exiled pro-democracy activists returned that the picture became clearer that it was just a political tool to protect and advance the cause of certain interests.

Now the whole drama is being repeated with a slight adjustment to the dramatis personae. Rather than Adams, we now have Igboho, but the people behind the plot, those directing the scenes from behind have not changed.

Clearly, what is happenings in the Southwest is the voice of Jacob but the hand of esau. While it is Akeredolu and Igboho whose voices are being heard, it is obvious that it is Bola Ahmed Tinubu that is somewhere playing the music.

It is well known that Tinubu wants to be President of Nigeria and his quest for the coveted office has intensified in recent times because age is not in his side and this seems his best opportunity given that he belongs to the ruling party and the incumbent is serving his seond term.

But Tinubu has been served sufficient notice that APC cannot hand over the presidential ticket to him as there are many issues dogging his ambition that makes him ineligible for the presidency.

The first is that he has many criminal allegations against him that it will not be good to have him succeed a President who has done much to fight corruption.

The second is that he was the one that nominated the current vice president and it will not be fair to exclude other politicians from the Southwest who have served the country well in order to please him and thirdly, it is the people that will decide their President in 2023 and not any other person.

But Tinubu appears desperate and is trying all including using the old and discarded methods of NADECO to twist the arms of the powers that be. This is why Igboho has been unleashed on us.

But Tinubu’s presidential ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian as it self serving and not based on the desires to transform the country.
Nigeria does not need people who believe in the power of money and violence. It is time the nation is freed from the grip of the old order and allowed to move ahead.

Akinbile is a public affairs analyst and wrote from Akure.

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