Demola Rewaju: Boko Haram and the security expert in us all

by Demola Rewaju


It is easy for us to look at the situation from outside and conclude that we know better than the generals of warfare who are in command at the helm of this battle. My favourite Inspiration FM radio now has an in-house security expert who has no military title in front of his name and I would love to see his credentials.

This is the post I set out to write yesterday before that funny feeling of empathy overwhelmed me and I ended up gushing about how Boko Haram would win if we lose our humanity. If you didn’t read that post, please click here now and read it before anyone accuses me of insensitivity but regardless, I do not intend to be insensitive in this piece but as emotionality usually clouds the reasoning, I am not responsible for whatever anyone thinks at the end of this piece.

One of the problems of watching too many detective series like Jack Bauer’s 24, CSI and stuff like that is that we all suddenly become experts in subjects that are obviously complex and beyond us. Unfortunately for us, there is a real world to live in and it does not end within 24 hours or after a couple of weeks. Of all the most difficult wars to prosecute, the top two are insurgency and guerrilla warfare. The faceless enemy is difficult to fight when he engages in the hit-and-run tactics that helped North Vietnam defeat America’s greater might. Add to that the passion that fuels insurgency and you may agree that the Boko Haram are more motivated than our Armed Forces.

I may agree with that part of Kashim Shettima’s summation of the situation but it was clearly uncouth of him to have made that statement in public where he had no way of preventing Boko Haram fighters from listening in.

Another factor makes this kind of warfare difficult and it is that the war is being prosecuted in what we may consider ‘enemy territory’. The three states (with a combined land mass of 60,000square metres) which the army have managed to confine them to – Yobe, Borno and Adamawa are states where little difference exists between the people and those from the neighbouring Chad and Niger, even up to Mali.

It is easy for us to look at the situation from outside and conclude that we know better than the generals of warfare who are in command at the helm of this battle. My favourite Inspiration FM radio now has an in-house security expert who has no military title in front of his name and I would love to see his credentials. On twitter, facebook and across other social networks to the pages of newspapers and on television, everyone knows what to do about the Boko Haram except the men who should know exactly what to do.

It is very embarrassing to the armed forces of a nation when a ragtag group of guerrilla fighters can commit murders for four hours without any hindrance. It speaks a lot of our military training and expertise if they cannot successfully prosecute a war against Boko Haram in the shortest possible time and prevent them from carrying out brazen attacks. Every single death that occurs any day is an indictment of our military forces and of the political leadership of the country for which Goodluck Jonathan as Commander-in-Chief must take responsibility. This year alone, close to a thousand have been killed and these killings, especially the audacious ways in which they have been executed have led to two questions: is the military incapable of fighting Boko Haram or are they unwilling to fight Boko Haram?

My answer to the first question is that the military is simply incapable of fighting Boko Haram. They lack the motivation, they lack the intelligence and they lack the manpower to fight Boko Haram in a terrain that Boko Haram understands better than our soldiers do. The total number of active soldiers in Nigeria is not up to 100,000 by any statistics I have seen and I have been generous – it could be as low as 62,000. Growth since 2001 has recorded a negative decline of -19 which means the army is losing 19 soldiers for every intake. With some on duty protecting pipelines in the Niger Delta, protecting military bases across the nation, on anti-violence duties in Abuja, Jos and other parts of Nigeria and at least one or two guarding the governors, commissioners, House of Assembly members, LG chairmen and what have you across three states, we do not have the numbers to fight Boko Haram or protect the innocent lives of pupils in their schools.

Churches, schools and mosques are the three priority targets of Boko Haram and bloody civilians like us know that should be where the soldiers protect. Problem is that there are too many churches, schools and mosques to protect in vast areas across those three states. Think of the fact that Boko Haram usually storms a place in numbers of up to 200 atimes, you will see why one or two soldiers deployed to defend a school will rather abandon their duty post than wait to face Boko Haram. We simply do not have the numbers.

Our army is more equipped than Boko Haram (never mind that civilian Shettima) but all your gadgets and equipment will only be useful when you know where the enemy is or where he will attack. When you don’t, they are as useless as a limp penis is to a prostitute. This is where intelligence comes in and judging from the impunity with which Boko Haram is operating these days, we have a poor intelligence network. Lack of intelligence on these people is a fault of successive governments since the time of Alhaji Shehu Shagari (happy birthday to him) when Maitatsine first came up. It takes years to get intel – even Jack Bauer took years to infiltrate the Salazar brothers in Season 2 of the 24 series.

As to the question of willingness and the allegations of sabotage I beg to differ from the growing opinion that top military officers have been compromised and are unwilling to prosecute the war fully. The Nigerian Armed Forces is one of the proudest institutions in this country and I do not believe they have compromised, the answer is what I have said already: they lack the intelligence and the manpower to prosecute this war. Intelligence by the way refers not to I.Q. or brilliance but to information about the enemy’s strengths, his positions, his armoury, his capacity and his thinking.

My suggestions? I think we all need to shut up for a while and let the army do their job the best way they can with all the might at their disposal. The best of us on this side can only be marginally better at prosecuting a war against insurgency using guerrilla warfare means which leads to the second solution – if we are so smart about security issues let more of us join the army. The Boko Haram crisis may be contained in a matter of weeks, months or years but insurgency never dies off. Your country will still need your ‘military expertise’ four years from now when you’ll be graduating from the Nigerian Defence Academy.

Thirdly, Goodluck Jonathan should swallow our collective national pride and ask for help from countries that have dealt with insurgency and guerrilla warfare of which America is the most obvious alternative having recently fought wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Israelis can help us with training those of us who would join the NDA soon because they are best at the culture of perpetual standby for warfare which would be the case in some parts of the north for years to come even if Boko Haram is suddenly wiped out tomorrow.

Fourthly, a political solution must be sought and I imagine that once Goodluck Jonathan is out of power, Boko Haram will lose mass support in several communities in and outside Nigeria, very close to the border. Since that may not happen until next year or 2019, Goodluck Jonathan should urgently dissolve that useless Presidential Committee on Amnesty that has done absolutely nothing except assuage the egos of some wasted politicians.

In all, we must never lose sight of the true enemy which Boko Haram is only a symbol of but as Tunde Leye pointed out in this piece, Boko Haram had a predecessor called Maitatsine. The true enemy in the ultimate sense of it are the conditions that make it possible for some parts of the country in the North-East and South-South to breed an army of angry, jobless youths whose hearts are easily manipulated to perpetrate violence against their fellow men. Until massive development comes to the North-East (and the South-South), they will always be flashpoints of violence.

Our anger must be directed at the Boko Haram, our sympathy must lie with the victims both dead and living but our support must continually be for the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic and its Commander-in-Chief. When we cross these feelings, we make things more difficult for our country. Some are angry with Mr. President, others are angry at the victims (one she-diot I unfriended on facebook yesterday said something like “I blame these northerners for starting this crisis but shebi na demselves dem dey kill, wetin concern us? And why didn’t those people abandon their villages before Boko Haram came?…such a silly girl).

Whether we are angry with Goodluck Jonathan are not, he is the president at least until next year and between now and then, many more may yet die so our thoughts of support must go to him and our gallant but outnumbered fighters in the north.


Demola Rewaju blogs from

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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