The security situation across the country now appears to have remained as it was in December last year, with unrelenting attacks by either armed bandits, kidnappers, hoodlums, or Boko Haram terrorists wreaking havoc in the Northeast and other criminal gangs who are hell-bent on destabilising the country.
Despite demand by well-meaning Nigerians for the removal of the erstwhile Service Chiefs and several efforts made by elder statesmen to end the ravaging insecurity, some analysts say the situation may require the involvement of experienced ex-military officers to tackle, considering the recent aggravation of the problems in all the six geo-political zones in the country.
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President Muhammadu Buhari had, due to the worsening situation and strident calls by Nigerians, on January 26 relieved Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, Lt-Gen Tukur Buratai, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas and Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar of their appointments as Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, and Chief of Air Staff, respectively.
Gen. Lucky Irabor, Lt-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, Rear Admiral Auwal Gambo and Air Marshal Oladayo Amao were subsequently appointed to occupy the respective positions with the mandate of taming ravaging security challenges in the country.
The challenges, ranging from banditry, kidnapping, terrorism and other societal vices have been described as enormous – a development that has consumed a large chunk of the nation’s financial resources.
In February, hundreds of people were trapped in towns and villages after Boko Haram fighters dislodged Nigerian troops in the Marte Local Government Area of Borno State.
Credible sources confided in this newspaper that the terrorists loyal to the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) also hoisted their flags in many places including military outposts in New Marte and Kirenowa, the biggest town in the local government.
Before then, the Chief of Army Staff, Attahiru, had issued a 48-hour deadline for the troops of Operation Lafiya Dole to recapture Marte from Boko Haram terrorists. He also directed them to reclaim Kirenowa, Kirta, Wulgo, Chikingudo, and many other communities around Marte and Ngala local government areas.
However, despite the directives, security the situation was said to have remained at the lowest ebb with the recent attack in Dikwa, Borno State, where the terrorists reportedly launched an attack with the aim of stealing weapons at the military super camp in the historic town.
Security analysts interviewed by Daily Trust submitted that the service chiefs cannot tackle insecurity challenges alone, adding that the experiences of retired military officers as veterans in the war theatre would be required to defeat the ‘monsters’ that have resolved to bring Nigeria to its knees.
Other analysts, however, argue that engaging retired military officers would not solve the problems, noting that some of them contributed to the menace while in service because they made fortunes out of the worsening situation.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, on April 13, 2021, said the Nigerian Army has begun to engage some of its retirees to assist in tackling the rising insecurity in the country.
Attahiru, who disclosed this while declaring open the First Quarter 2021 Veterans Affairs Directorate Workshop in Port Harcourt, with the theme ‘Harnessing the skills of retirees for national security’, did not reveal the category of people to be engaged from among the veterans.
The COAS, represented by the Army Chief of Administration, Maj.-Gen. Abdulrasheed Aliyu, said veterans still had a lot to offer, despite their retirement from active service. He revealed that “we decided to engage them considering that Nigeria is currently faced with diverse security challenges, and everybody has a role to play toward securing the country.”
“To this end, our retired and discharged personnel also have a role to play, especially at this time when our nation is faced with insecurity. So, this seminar seeks to tap into the wealth of experience of our retirees in tackling the nation’s diverse security challenges.
“It is also organized to prepare and strengthen the participants to play an important supporting role in curbing the spate of crime and criminality,” he said.
But a retired colonel who does not want his name in print said, “Many officers who retired in recent times are not patriotic to offer any useful advice to our troops or offer any help to them,” arguing that their main focus when they were in service was to acquire wealth.
“Do you think these retired officers who made fortunes while the destruction lasted in the North East, would want an end to insurgency? I want to believe you are aware of the comment made by a retired army chief recently that it would take more than 20 years before Nigeria could defeat terrorism,” he said.
He added, “Those of us that served in the military decades ago were not interested much in the worldly things, that was why the new security threats did not emerge during our time. If there would be any help or advice from veterans, it shouldn’t be from those who left the military in recent times.
“If Nigeria needs to engage retired officers, they should not be recent retirees. They know about these recent happenings, they know how they can be solved but they don’t want it solved because of their interests.”
In his submission during a telephone interview, Maj. Muhammed Bashir Galma (rtd) stressed that retired officers cannot go to the war front again, adding that the only thing they can offer is advice on how to tackle the menace.
“The only way a retired officer can be called upon is to give advice. We have followed all these ways. Look, do you have any other idea different from what we are doing now, we are ready to appraise and try it. You know, we cannot be saying in the newspapers or the radio this is what should be done.
“That is what we call reserve. If you want, you can call it volunteer. But I cannot go to the field and fight now; we can advise because of experience.”
Also speaking in an interview with our correspondent in his office, a former director of Army Public Relations and incumbent Publicity Secretary of the Alumni Association of the National Institute (AANI), Brig.-Gen. Sani Usman (rtd), said there is need for Nigeria to identify capable hands and give them a timeline.
He said: “The whole of Nigeria is well-blessed with human resources that are doing marvellously. The whole idea is identifying capable hands that could deliver and give them timelines and for our Key Performance Indicators (KPI) can help.
“The problem is that we don’t want that. We are only sacrificing willingness to serve with the ability to serve, and that is why people that are not performing are there. We should stop sacrificing the ability to serve with a willingness to serve.”