After reading various social media posts praising Chadian President Idriss Deby’s gallantry in overrunning Boko Haram’s armoury, I tried to put myself in the shoes of Major General Olusegun Adeniyi.
Until recently, he was the commander of Operation Lafiya Dole. I imagined a sleep-deprived General Adeniyi.
I have never met Adeniyi. I heard his name after Boko Haram ambushed his convoy in Jakana. War does not grant generals time to take a break. And as any Nigerian who has ever had an encounter with a Nigerian soldier knows, General Adeniyi must have returned to the battlefield determined to give the insurgents a bloody nose. He was disappointed not because his troops were cowardly, but by a combination of bad terrain and poor kitting.
After mobilising his troops back to the battlefield, the politically correct technically defeated band of insurgents did not confront Adeniyi; it was a heavily armed and resilient force that met them. Leading an army determined to take the battle to the gates of the enemy, Adeniyi realised that the spirit of his troops was willing but that the armaments were no match to the arsenal of the enemy. Speaking to a poor phone camera, his words are worth more than the estimated $80 million each quarter that is spent prosecuting the war.
Speaking with Section 2 Commander in attendance, Adeniyi said inter-alia that “Boko Haram has fired more than a hundred mortar bombs; eighty to 100 RPGs; in addition to eight to 10 gun trucks firing” at his troops from all sides. He emphasised: “We have not run, and the soldiers are not misbehaving or disobeying orders. We have casualties. But we are not running as you can see over there we lost about 20 MRAP tires here. We have changed close to 250 Hilux tires due to the terrain. This is what we are facing in the Timbuktu triangle, sir. We are not running, we are fighting as a system to curtail the situation and achieve your mission, sir.”
Adeniyi was saying that the battle is not technically over, but on the verge of being technically lost. His words leaked to the media and before he could do further damage to himself and the morale of his troops, he was plucked from the field and dumped in the army research unit in Abuja. This is a familiar story in government’s prosecution of this war.
The true story of the Boko Haram war has not been told and bloody civilians are not allowed to speculate. Military budgets tend to end up in a bucket of red tape while soldiers on the battlefield become objects of insurgent target practice.
Chad is a small country with a population less than Lagos. A dictator, propped by France, rules it but if you arrive anywhere in Chad; within minutes, local GPS would locate you and decipher your mission and those you’ll be interacting with. They are well policed. Boko Haram has drawn Chad into the fray because of its boundary with Nigeria, but more for the vanishing resources of the Lake Chad basin that it needs to feed its legion of doom.
Weeks ago, Chad lost over 100 soldiers to the insurgents. When 100 coffins are draped in blue, gold and red in a country of 15 million, morals need to be spruced up and Idriss Deby; its rebel-transformed president has had enough. Deby dusted off his battle gear and sprung a surprise on Boko Haram, killing the urchins and capturing their well-stocked armoury. So scorched was the earth under Shekau’s feet that he momentarily hide under his wife’s abaya as he lost his penchant for morbid humour in an audio message to rally a decimated group. And so it became a saying, that Buhari’s army have killed its tens but Deby has killed his thousands.
It is a sad day for any Nigerian patriot to read the posts talking about this. Our war strategy calls for full investigation. It calls for questioning of things, a re-strategising, a tactical introspection because Nigerian troops are the best fighters in the world. This is not blind loyalty; our soldiers have medals to show for their bravery from successful operations from Lebanon to the liberation of Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The shame of having a Deby take the momentary glory is egg on our faces and those of our leaders. This government promised to rout Boko Haram since 2015 but now live on lame excuses. Our army has moved from tactical retreat to technical defeat. Deby has destroyed the legend in which Buhari, under Shehu Shagari chased Chadian rebels well into their own territory almost capturing Ndjamena before being recalled.
Indeed the times have changed, but Nigerian soldiers still have what it takes to capture Shekau and his thugs. We won’t get there by despatching those who mercilessly kill our soldiers for rehabilitation and education abroad under a dubious amnesty programme for so-called reformed terrorists. That plan would not be the justice that our fallen heroes deserve.
To turn the tide won’t happen with obsolete equipment. Somebody should be bold enough to win back the honour of the Nigerian army that successfully prosecuted a fractious civil war and won back unity. Maybe its time to change guards, oil the tanks of war and change the narrative because the one that brought technical defeat is a shame.
We can’t let this narrative of Adeniyi killing tens and Deby his thousands be our defining moment. A call for redemption is the call for change of tactics – maybe for a whole number of heads to roll. That is the call of national pride.