LAST week, the story broke that Chadian forces were operating inside Nigeria against the Boko Haram insurgency. And they seemed to be making a lightning success of their operation, because by last Thursday, they had taken Malam Fatori, after two days of fighting.
Last Sunday, these forces were in control of Gamboru Ngala as well as Abadam; and were fighting a major battle to take Damasak. Cameroonian forces also joined the fight and were reported to have taken the border town of Banki and pushing towards Kala-Balge. By Tuesday this week, reports emerged that the French Airforce, which has bases in Chad, was overflying Nigerian territory and providing intelligence to their Chadian and Cameroonian allies.
Agency pictures also appeared showing rows of armoured vehicles and assault helicopters of the Chadian Army being used in operations in Cameroun and in Nigeria. It took a while for officialdom to own up that these forces were operating within Nigeria, with Mike Omeri finally saying they were here within the context of the Multinational security project; and there were no reports that the Chadian forces were fleeing from Boko Haram or abandoning weapons.
The second leg of these developments originated from South Africa, when it emerged there, that mercenaries numbering about 100 (but described as private military experts) were on their way to Nigeria to help in the fight against Boko Haram. South Africa’s Defense Minister warned these alleged mercenaries of consequences, if they travelled to fight in Nigeria without government imprimatur or as part of a government deployment:
“There are consequences when somebody leaves the country and provides any form of military assistance that is not part of the government’s deployment.”
The story emanating from South Africa said these men were former members of the old, apartheid-era South African Defense Force. These were ex-military men used to fight ANC guerillas by the racist regime, in the days of the struggle against apartheid. Even the African Union last week also decide to raise a 7, 500 man force to help tackle the Boko Haram menace, which has rightly become seen as a danger to the entire region and Africa.
Chadian troops gather on February 1, 2015 near the Nigerian town of Gamboru, just accros the border from Cameroon. In a deserted Gamboru, Chadian forces carried out clean-up operations after entering the town and retaking it from Boko Haram, which seized control months ago. AFP PHOTO / MARLE
The resort to these foreign forces of course flies in the face of territorial integrity and national pride. But it merely underlines the weakness of Nigeria’s forces today and the deterioration of the Nigerian armed forces. This is a great pity, given the proud tradition of our forces, and their heroic efforts around the world dating back to the pre-independence period.
At 1400HRS GMT on Tuesday this week, the BBC broadcast a special programme on the state of Nigeria’s Armed forces, and some of the participants in the programme included the National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki and human rights lawyer, Femi Falana. The NSA agreed that the Army’s capacity had deteriorated over the years, as a result of a combination of factors, some of which were directly related to the years of military dictatorship.
The programme also had an expert who reminded how our army used to be one of the best-equipped and trained in Africa. In the final analysis, according to the programme, the army today suffers from low morale; the high level of corruption with an annual defense budget of about $6.5b, but which doesn’t deliver on the needs of the troops. There is also a problem of training of the forces and armament. It was a very instructive programme in every sense.
And my takeaway (apologies to Lagos Governor BRF) is that there is the need for the political will to confront the enumerated weaknesses in order to re-build Nigeria’s Armed Forces. I think one of the problems of the past few years, was the refusal of the government to accept that Boko Haram was not a conspiratorial design by its Northern enemies. It is therefore a tragic irony that Nigeria, that used to dominate its neighbourhood, is now having to depend on Chadian and Cameroonian forces and even South African mercenaries.
A security sector reform is an imperative; not as designed by imperialist countries and institutions, but home grown, and with the strategic focus of rebuilding armed forces that can effectively defend our country and enhance our position as Africa’s largest economy. Military power must be commensurate with our economic and geopolitical aspirations. The deployment of foreign troops to fight Boko Haram is an indication of how weak we are at the moment. We must rebuild our armed forces fast to face whatever challenge appears in future!
Gen. TY Danjuma and the Niger Delta mob
LAST Wednesday, General TY Danjuma, former Defence Minister and one of the most respected leaders in Nigeria today, called for the immediate arrest of Niger Delta ex-militants who threatened to plunge the country into war, if President Goodluck Jonathan is not re-elected in this month’s presidential election.
The trio of Boy Loaf, Tompolo and Asari Dokubo had issued the threat of war, at the Government House, Yenagoa, with Bayelsa Governor, Seriake Dickson and Presidential Adviser on the Amnesty Program, Kingsley Kuku, in attendance. General Danjuma reacted to their threat by calling for their arrest and punishment, for ‘unguarded utterances’, that ‘were provocative and inflammatory’. Gen.TY Danjuma, who is never known for ambiguity on any issue, added that: “the statements were very reckless coming from irresponsible individuals and they should be condemned, in fact they should be arrested”.
Gen. Danjuma spoke the mind of a lot of Nigerians, who wondered why there was no disclaimer from the presidency or any proactive action from the security forces that would have sprung to action, if the statements had come from individuals not located in the president’s corner of the political space.
But expectedly, the Niger Delta mob responded the following day led as usual by Chief EK Clark. Clark was “disappointed” by Gen. TY Danjuma, asking why the General didn’t “condemn the attacks on Jonathan in several states of the North instead of calling for the arrest of the ex-militants”, according to a Vanguard report. Tompolo actually “accused Danjuma of sponsoring terrorism in the Northern part of the country”. For that allegation, he said TY Danjuma should also be arrested and prosecuted.
Sponsoring of terrorism
Not only that though, he said “the devilish treaty that brought the Southern and Northern Protectorates together in 1914, expired last year…If not for President Jonathan there would not be a Nigeria anymore”. Asari Dokubo, in his own reaction, said he “felt sorry for Danjuma for calling for his (Asari’s) arrest and other Niger Delta activists”. Even Kingsley Kuku, a presidential adviser, said: “Danjuma misfired by calling for the arrest of the Niger Delta activists”. Boy Loaf asked Gen. TY Danjuma to “apologise and hide his face in shame or face humiliation”. Others who stuck out their necks for the Niger Delta ex-militants and against Gen. Danjuma’s call, included retired Brig. General Idada Ikponmwen, a certain Captain Beck Hitler, even Urhobo Ovo and Ijaw Kene Patriots, amongst others.
While no rebuttal came from the presidency, apropos of the threat to wage a war on Nigeria, by the ex-militants, by the beginning of this week, the PDP, through spokesperson, Olisa Metuh, finally warned Chief EK Clark and his ensemble of ex-militants, to ‘be mindful of what they say at this period of the nation’s political history’. Olisa Metuh was “disturbed over provocative statements of some people which could provoke other parts of the country” adding that “Jonathan was not an Ijaw President or the South South zone of the country alone but the president of all Nigerians”.
Olisa Metuh spoke the truth, but it might just be too little too late! In truth, if President Jonathan loses the coming election, the provocative utterances as well as the bellicosity and threats of Chief EK Clark and the ex-militants, would be a major contributory factor. There is nowhere in the world where democracy can be achieved by the sort of threats these characters regularly issue against other Nigerians. They have never won empathy for President Jonathan with their threats and insults; and because President Jonathan has never denounced these threats, Nigerians in other parts of the country believe they operate with presidential support.
The attitude of the ex-militants is one of the many factors responsible for the noticeable alienation of the Jonathan platform and campaign from other parts of Nigeria. Nigerians will go to the polls on February 14th, and it is not looking like they will be afraid of the threats of war issued by these ex-militants. We will never have democracy by threats, insults and abuses! When the mob surfaced last week against Gen. TY Danjuma, they missed the point. Danjuma’s statement reflected the feeling of people around the country, with the exception of those who share the sentiments of the Niger Delta warlords.
Let us collectively save the Emir of Ilorin’s palace
I WAS back in Ilorin last week, and I gathered that Bukola Saraki’s government in Kwara has finally sold the houses in the Kwara State House of Assembly residential complex, in Ilorin. I have an emotional connection to that complex.
It was an estate built by the construction company, Dumez, when constructing township roads in Ilorin in the 1970s. We used to attend parties there. But it was abandoned thereafter to the African bush. When I was appointed GM of KWTV in 1997, I got our reporters to do a comprehensive report on the complex, thus bringing it to the notice of officialdom.
Then Military Administrator, Col. PAM Ogar, visited the complex and decision was made to reclaim and renovate it. The governor commended KWTV for our report. In 1999, it eventually became residence for Members of the House of Assembly. With its sale, Bukola Saraki has finally sold ALL government houses in Ilorin. First to go were all the government residences in the GRA as well as the land in the Ministry of Agriculture, which spread over a huge swathe of the city.
They had allegedly perfected plan to sell the Ilorin Eid praying ground and had also parceled out plots within the old Ilorin Teachers’ College. It was the collective resistance of the Ilorin community, under the aegis of the IEDPU that stopped them in their track.
The Emir of Ilorin’s Palace and Central Mosque are all that remains to sell. Allah protects His place of worship; but no one can take sale of the palace beyond Bukola Saraki and his henchmen in government, if we are not alert. This is an appeal to Ilorin’s people to “shine our eyes”! If we lose focus, even the Emir’s Palace can end up being sold!