Chief of Army Staff Lt. General Tukur Yusuf Buratai raised eyebrows on Tuesday last week when he said apathy among the younger generation of soldiers caused recent setbacks in fighting operations. Speaking at the Army Headquarters Transformational Leadership Workshop for midlevel officers and soldiers in Abuja, Buratai said, “It is unfortunate but the truth is that almost every setback the Nigerian Army has had in our operations in recent times can be traced to insufficient willingness to perform assigned tasks, or simply insufficient commitment to a common national/military cause by those at the frontlines.
He also said, “Many of those on whom the responsibility for physical actions against the adversary squarely falls are yet to fully take ownership of our common national or service cause.” Buratai added that the Nigerian Army has had successes over the years in the grooming of military leaders and that this was evident in the many successes it achieved in operations as well as the performance of troops in international and multinational operations. However, Buratai said, “Professional capacity is not a sufficient condition to succeed in a task. Willingness to perform the task is equally necessary.”
The Army Chief spoke against the backdrop of reports in recent times suggesting that reverses have been suffered in the fight against Boko Haram and a seeming resurgence by the degraded terrorist group. Between May and June this year, Boko Haram’s Islamic State in West Africa Province [ISWAP] faction launched several attacks against army formations at Gajiram, Kareto, Magumeri, Gubio, Borgozo and Sabon Gari, all in Borno State. Although most of the attacks were repelled and many insurgents were killed, the army was reported to have lost many men and some equipment to the terrorists.
Buratai and the Army Command’s answer appears to be to push blame for the setbacks on others. This was the third time in recent times that Buratai blamed others for setbacks. Last month, when he received members of the House of Representatives Committee on Army led by its Chairman, Remande Shawulu at the Theatre Command Headquarters in Maiduguri, Buratai accused “defeated politicians” of being behind the security challenges bedeviling parts of Nigeria. He said, “The myriad of security challenges we are facing now in the North West, North Central and other parts of the country, I want to believe and rightly so, is the fall-out of the just concluded general elections. There are several political interests, politicians in particular not happy with their defeat and therefore trying to take revenge, sponsoring some of these criminal activities.”
Late last month, the army also alleged that foreign interests were working to derail the May 29 handover date. It said in a statement by Colonel Sagir Musa, the acting Director, Army Public Relations that “unpatriotic individuals, groups and foreign interests are determined to cause mischief and exacerbate the security situation in this country in particular and West African sub-region” in order “to cause disaffection and divide the coalition MNJTF to give room for ISWAP and its defeated local franchise, Boko Haram terrorist group, to resurrect.”
If the Army Chief says there is unwillingness to fight on the part of soldiers and their commanders, we must believe him because he possesses the best information. We however doubt the wisdom of saying this at a public forum, instead of in a private army forum. Besides, low morale and unwillingness to fight must have been caused by some factors. The most likely suspects are poor welfare, poor logistics, delayed rotation of troops where some units overstay their deployment to the war front by many months, poor equipment which enables the insurgents to attack and overrun army battalions, poor intelligence, infighting among the Generals, and rivalry among the military services, not to mention allegations of corruption.
It is well within the powers of Army Chief General Buratai to deal with the problem he identified. Where he needs the help of political bosses, he should seek it very fast. We expect the Army Command to move decisively to end the Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorism. The last thing we want to hear from them is blame games.
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