On Sunday 17th and Monday 18th of November, 2018, Boko Haram terrorists launched a surprise attack and overran a defensive post by an army battalion, killing at least 44 soldiers and humiliating the nation and the military in a very grisly and extremely barbaric manner. The simple truth is that Metele massacre is just one out of several such annihilation of our troops, most of which goes unreported, unvideoed, or gets covered up by the military authority. This drew a lot of anguish on Nigerians because of the video of it in circulation. That true situation of Boko Haram war against the Nigerian state is much more horrible than seen on that video.
But, this is not a time to play politics with the unfortunate triumph of ISIS affiliated Boko Haram or a thing to trade needless blames against the government and leaders of the country on. It is time for all Nigerians to support our foot soldiers and genuine military leaders in the war against Boko Haram by using any weapon they have from information control to supports in cash and in kind to military men and their families as well as getting the government and responsible officials to account for the loss of lives and the whereabouts of our commonwealths voted for fighting insurgency in the past 7years. Everyone has a weapon to use in joining this war against terrorism. Even moral supports go deeper than can be imagined. Here are some strategies to adopt in effectively defeating Boko Haram and other brands of terrorists as a panacea:
- Recruiting from the right pool of candidates for military service: There is a lot wrong with the recruitment pattern into the Nigerian Army including admissions into the Nigerian Defense Academy(NDA). A good number of soldiers are not naturally inclined for true military culture which has to do with courage, strength, knowledge of combat tactics and endurance, which has in many ways affected the attitude and success of our troops and the entire national security at large. For this, the best candidates for recruitment of soldiers are children of military men, members of Boy Scout, Man-o-War, Peace Corps and other sufficiently rugged paramilitaries who meet the requirements. This will ensure mostly those with the passion, background and military instinct join the army. 50% slot can be reserved for children of soldiers; 30% for Boy Scout/Girls Guide, Man-o-War, Peace Corps and so on while 20% should be open to the general public. The recruitment of ex terrorists and militants into the army is evil, counterproductive and should cease with immediate effect. The recruitment slots for women should be reduced without prejudice for gender issues. We need to be realistic as more operational man powers are needed at this critical time.
- Sacking and court martialling of failed Generals and cowardly Brigade Commanders: While it is true some times that the army lacks superior fire power and sophisticated ammunitions, more true is the fact that the Nigerian Army has made itself a comfortable place for cowardly unproductive senior officers in its ranks by not easing out failed senior officers who lost grounds and intellectually lethargic ones out of the service. It is unfair to fail to sack or demote a Brigade Commander whose battalion gets overrun. If the Army can commence a policy of dispassionately demoting and court martialling failed officers, others will seat up and either shape up or ship out. It is time to stop giving lame excuses of fifth columnists and unsophisticated weapons. We know these problems exist but cowardice has been the biggest undoing of the army, considering the fact that the over 70% of Boko Haram weapons were captured from the Nigerian Army and security services which they are also using to kill our men.
- Generous whistleblower rewards for credible information leading to proactive actions against Boko Haram and other terror groups and diversion of military funds: It is time to bring everyone, soldiers and locals alike, into the war against Boko Haram. We need to place handsome rewards for whistleblowers both in cash and relocation abroad for individuals who supply credible information leading to the arrest, killing or neutralization of Boko Haram terrorist and their plans related cases of graft and traitors in the army. This will be a big relief for war wary Boko Haram members seeking escape from the group but not sure of their security afterwards. The whistleblower strategy is certain to produce great positive results.
- Generous rewards, promotions and honours for gallantry : Soldiers who hold their grounds and repel or defeat Boko Haram , both in defensive and offensive operations should be rewarded not just by promotion but by increased pay of up to a million naira per month throughout their stay in the war zone. Successful officers should be well celebrated and given speaking engagements with oversea holidays as well as other motivations. The families of fallen soldiers should be placed on continuous salary for at least two years as well as guaranty scholarship for their children up to degree level. The dead should be given very decent burials in ways that inspire even the living. Nothing affects a soldier’s attitude to war as the way his fallen or disabled colleagues are treated. Every coward should be court martialled, sacked and given appropriate punishment including death by firing squad if their act of cowardice is proven to have led to the death of their colleagues and civilians. We must be objective and stop being emotional in military matters. Fighting a war is not a civil society jamboree. Military operations are not for the chicken hearted or those in seeking economic survival.
- Giving priority to the welfare of troops: Troops should be well fed, paid, and kitted and not be made to manage bad weapons, poor foods, and inadequate kits. The fact that the country can afford these things and there are already budgetary provisions for most of them means soldiers should not be denied them. There are histories of soldier winning wars with sticks and bare hands but not when their country can afford such. Corrupt Generals should be sacked and tried for manslaughter or mass murder alongside corrupt charges. The welfare of an ordinary infantry private should be one that inspires young boys and even graduates to want to join the army.
- Setting up of special Kamikaze Operations Squads with specific targets on individual Boko Haram Commanders to be captured or killed. It is high time the Nigerian Army and sister security forces adopted special operation methods that are targeted and non-generic. This means training and signing on dare devil volunteers soldiers with specific missions of embarking on kamikaze operations targeted at specific high profile strategic Boko Haram targets especially Shekau, Al Barnawi and key field commanders. We need to match them in the ability to stage no-return operations. There are many soldiers ready to sign on for such if their families will be paid for life and their children trained to the highest levels of education including naming streets or military facilities after them aside giving them very huge pay. I know a handful of such kind of soldiers. We need to change the way we are thinking to start winning.
- Focusing on attacks and daily advances : One of the reasons Boko Haram has time to attack and for which the Army will continue to suffer more casualties is in not focusing huge resources on relentless concurrent attacks and meticulous hunting of terrorists with both conventional and non-conventional means. Defending all the times makes one vulnerable and helpless. We need to keep mass attacking from multiple fronts no matter if there is a fifth columnist or not. Staying in one place makes easy target off our soldiers.
- Adopting Scotched Earth Policy : Yes, we need to face the hard fact. We must destroy whatever we cannot carry when withdrawing from a position and even if the time is not there. The same weapon we say we don’t have are the same weapons the terrorists cart away whenever they overrun army base and equally use to kill our men knowing that more than 70% of the weapons used by Boko Haram were seized from the army. We must tell ourselves the truth. In fact, in their video after capturing Bagga, the Boko Haram commander said the army have enough weapons to fight them, something even the US Army corroborated, hile displaying the huge cache of ammunitions left behind by the Nigerian forces.
- Recruiting enough soldiers to cover operations areas : One obvious operational challenge of the army is lack of enough manpower to cover much of the huge swath of land in the North East and for this, the terrorist often target military posts based on their ability to grossly outnumber and surround them. From my estimation, Nigeria need at least 1million soldiers, of which 300 thousand should be intelligence officers in mufti as civilians but with combat capabilities. We need enough troops to be able to launch multiple concurrent and week-long nonstop attacks and continuous troop rotation. Also, war wary soldiers should be rotated on time with proper transition process that utilizes the experience of the departing batches in synergy with the vigor of incoming ones.
- Effective propaganda and Strategic military-civil information management and control: Wars are fought in multiple domains aside the physical exchange of gun fire. There is the information domain of warfare and the internet domain of warfare, not mentioning biological, chemical, scientific, economic and religious. It calls for multi-dimensional thinking. There is need for the military and security networks to carry the media houses along including the new media. There need to be a collective efforts in fighting the war both in terms of news filter and in terms of internet/platform access for certain locations and individuals. Effective D-notice must be issued and a bill should be passed to legally enhance it even though the constitution already supports such. The importance of the media, both mainstream and social, being the 5th Estate of the Real cannot be over emphasized.
- Signing of a No-Propaganda Agreement on Terrorism and Security issues by The Federal Government and opposition party leaders : One of the invisible forces behind the success of Boko Haram terrorists has been the tacit supports of the group as well as the mockery of our troops by opposition politicians and their cyber supporters on various social media that tends to glorify the decimation of our troops. Hence the leaderships of both ruling and opposition political parties including service chiefs and mainstream media with Internet Service Providers(ISP) plus religious leaders should be made to sign an accord/MoU never to let anyone of their supporters make political or partisan capita out of the security situations in the country especially on Boko Haram attacks. This is to make everyone responsible in the support against our common enemies. The US also worked closely with the media in during Al Qaeda attacks and Golf War 2.
- Creation of Cyber Army and Internet Surveillance Units: “There are no safe neighborhoods anymore, we are all neighbours on the internet”, says James Comey, former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI). I have severally written on the need for the creation of a Cyber Force in Nigeria answerable to the National Security Adviser with units in the Army, Navy, Air Force and the Police. I can help draft out the modalities, TOR, JD, KPI, M&E structure, Organogram, high level proposals and all the necessary documents in that regards for effective operations and proactive national security. Reactive security is very expensive and sometimes unforgiving as damages are seldom reversible. There cannot be a truly effective intelligence without an effective cyber policing. This is so because 83% of crime are connected to or leave clues on the internet and electronic gadgets. This is the new world. To this end, we must endeavour to make the best use of the NigComSats by getting NASRADA to become more responsible. A 2.5meter satellite visibility is not too bad even for a geocentric satellite. We need to bring on the arm chair warriors and the drones to play more key roles. Proactive approach to security is the way up.
- Effective Application of Engineering and Technological principles in the war against terrorism: there are many talented engineers both in the private sector and in the military who have being trying to be of help but have not been able to gain the attention of the right authorities in the military and security system of the country. We need to get our engineers and scientists to work
- Attitudinal change and mental reorientation of soldiers with adequate inspirational and psychological boost is very needed this time. Strategy and weapons alone are not enough to make soldiers victorious; their spirits have to be fired up. There is need for Commanding Officers, Platoon Leaders, Regimental Sergeant Major(RSM) , Company Sergeant Majors(CSM), Quarter Masters, and critical field officers whose booths are on the ground to get needed psychological boosts and counseling occasionally at warfronts in order to lift their spirits. I am very ready to help for free in this regards with necessary spirit lifting inspirational materials and live speeches in support of the military that will appeal to the mind and spirit of even the lowest ranking soldiers. We need a new value orientation and patriotic spirit. The Boko Haram insurgents appear to be winning even though they are not as smart or well trained as our soldiers due to psychological edge. Remember, with the economic hardship and various social issues damning young people resulting in all forms of malady and mental worries, our foot soldiers, who are basically youths are bound to be having same problems too. The mythical picture of Boko Haram terrorists as giants in the minds of our soldiers needs to be changed for good. Our boys must start believing in themselves as superior to those Boko Haram members. They should be ready to die in the line of duty like Boko Haram men without panicking or just withdrawing on sighting the enemy. We need a new spirit of winning to possess our men at the frontlines. The mental state in terms of bravery, self-motivation and tactical aptitude of commanding officers and their key lieutenants should be closely monitored and evaluated. People should not be made to head operational units merely because of their ranks or designations, their mental strength and drive needs to be good too.
- Creation of truly guerrilla fighting units: In all honesty, Nigeria doesn’t have a truly guerrilla trained army and we need them ASAP. I don’t mean guerrilla warriors that end up dressing or kitted like conventional soldiers but who are capable of matching Boko Haram soldiers, herdsmen and Tuaregs in dress and fighting style. I mean rag tag guerrillas that are Tarzans in terms of familiarity and dexterity in maneuvering the specific areas of operations like creeks, rain forest, mountain ranges, or the Sahel Savannah where Boko Haram operate with good pioneering and trap setting skills. These should be treated with same respect as green berets and other elite commandos.
- Proper weapons: The various field forces should be given the best weapons in modern warfare that are quality tested with superior range and long operational endurance. Not tanks and rifles that jam up or cease when hot and have to cool down before firing again or those that make it difficult to respond to enemy fusillades in like terms. Boko Haram terrorists are in the habit of shooting nonstop continuously like there is no tomorrow as well as advancing without withdrawing. This is part of their winning tactics which implies our soldiers need not just quality weapons but generous supply of ammos and consumables to sustain long fires. Let’s I forget, one thing our soldiers must be trained on as learnt from late Col Abu Ali is excellent mastery and dexterity in the use of given weapons, equipment and machineries. Adequate training and retraining is key.
- Shorten the command chains and give high discretionary powers to commanding officers and platoon leaders on ground so they don’t necessarily follow orders that are against the realities they experiencing on ground. Our key military men are the midlevel and junior officers, Lieutenant Colonels down to Sergeants. A brave commander is much better than a brave battalion because the spirit of a battalion are largely determined by the spirit of their commanders on ground. As much as possible, commanding officers should be able to communicate directly to the Chief of Army Staff if they are not sure of their immediate superiors or if something that requires the service chief’s effort arises without having to go through the long chain while time flies due to some superior’s ego. We need to change the narrative in order to change the game.
Christian Okwori is consultant engineer, System Design Analyst, technical writer, inspirational speaker, poet, patriot, and public affair commentator with good military background who believes a greater Nigeria is very possible. He writes in from Victoria Island, Lagos.
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org twitter: @owoichoengine. 08110040649.