Agenda setting for new Defence Minister
By Abba Dukawa
All eyes are now on the country’s new Defence Minister, retired Major-General Bashir Salihi Magashi to consolidate the technical victory against Boko Haram insurgency and other insecurity challenges facing the country.
In the early stage of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, Boko Haram suffered one loss after another until the authority boldly declared on national television that Boko Haram had been technically defeated. That“technical victory,” apparently, is fast becoming a Pyrrhic victory with the renewed wave of attacks by the insurgents on soft targets.
In a wave of attacks by various militant groups spanning a 10-year period, families have lost their loved ones.
Many women are now widows. Children have become orphans with no hope for the future. Many lives and properties have been lost and a large number of citizens rendered homeless.
The latest insecurity challenges facing the country are kidnapping and attacks carried out allegedly by herdsmen on some communities in the North and South.
During Magashi’s ministerial screening at the Senate, when reacting to a question by the Senate Chief Whip, Orji Kalu on insurgency in the country, he said relationship among the service chiefs was not cordial.
“Regarding the issue of the service chiefs, in my own view, we are caught in a situation where you find out that each commander or service chief tries to please the nation.
“Anytime the service chiefs conduct operations, you find radio coverage that the Air Force has done this, the Army has done this; thank God we are not near the ports where we can see that the Navy is also involved.
“If the Navy was around here, then the three services would have been on the same collision course. In an ideal situation, where I served as an ECOMOG commander, it was a single unit that was overseeing the needs, the aspirations, and welfare of our troops in combat zones,”he said.
He also elaborated that:“In Nigeria today, what we call command structure is now being seen as weakness. We have almost disseminated all our forces and I do not think the current structure is a true reflection of the manpower requirement in this country. We only have divisions probably by name, but I do not think we have the required manpower to man them.”
He added that to fight an insurgency or general insecurity, the Army, Air Force and the Navy should have a common troop working together and should not operate independent of one another with a need for a single commander who should take care of reinforcement, operations and change of troops, among other needs.
I know the General has wealth of experience in warfare having served as Chief of Staff of ECOMOG in Liberia. What the people of the nation expect is a military victory not technical victory.
Militants of all kind should be boxed into a corner where they would be forced to negotiate peace terms which should be devoid of exchange of cash.
What Magashi and the President need to do is to understand that the only action that will curb insecurity in the country is for service chiefs to relocate to the hotspot areas.
The Chief of Army Staff has accused the nation’s soldiers of not being committed, so he should permanently be in Borno, where he would coordinate his troops.
The Chief of Defence Staff should have an annex office in Zamfara rather than sit in the comfort of his office in Abuja. The Chief of the Air Force needs to also be on his toes. We need a new paradigm in terms of methods and personnel to fit into the sophistication of these crimes.
Nigerians need to see a different approach in terms of choosing the right personnel to dispense with the responsibilities of safeguarding the country. The present Chiefs seem to have reached their nadir and the motivation to deliver the right modules for effective security is tellingly missing.
Some people of country have been saying that it is about time the President revisit the appointment of his service chiefs. Let these seem-to-be-tired chiefs leave the scene for more robust and result-driven younger minds that will come up with a new perspective on how to combat the insecurity challenges.
The army should be trained in counter-terrorism strategies and tactics, asymmetric warfare and desert warfare. The Nigerian military has lost its morale due to overstaying in the battlefront, lack of proper medical attention, as well as poor salary and allowances.
Those within the ranks of the military who give controversial orders that impede efforts to crush the insurgency should be court-martial led and punished appropriately. There is need to reduce the shortage of security personnel by creating a National Guard and a Special Force Unit tasked with the responsibility of protecting the nation from internal and external aggressors.
It is about time the President goes beyond mere sloganeering, and sprouts to action. We are tired of weather-beaten rhetoric that has become so repetitive and boring. For about 11 years, the country has had its own bitter taste of different kinds of insecurities which practically stalled development in many areas that have direct impact on human capital development indices.
Finally, I am wishing the new Defence Minister Allah’s guidance to witness real victory against all kinds of insecurities facing the country not “technical victory.”
Dukawa is on the staff of The Triumph and can be reached at email@example.com.