Upon assuming office in May this year, General Muhammadu Buhari will place a call to the President of Niger Republic – Mahamadou Issoufou – and explain to him that Nigeria intends to escalate hostilities with Boko Haram and all other terrorists who have been using Niger as launching pad to attack Nigeria. He will tell Issoufou to expect a high-power delegation of Nigerian military and foreign relations experts within a couple of days. He will tell (not ask) Issoufou that, as a fellow non-radical, true Muslim, his full support for the impending military actions is non-negotiable. Issoufou, a fluent French speaker, may not speak English very well, but he is ethnic Hausa. Buhari may speak Hausa to him or they may get French and English interpreters; it does not matter as long as the message from Buhari is clearly understood – that Nigeria intends to kick up a lot of dust (literally and figuratively) in the desert towns and villages around its border with Niger.
Buhari will also place a call to the Chadian President – Idriss Deby – and relay a similar message to him. He will praise Deby for his 1984 courageous defeat of pro-Libyan forces in eastern Chad. He will pander to the camaraderie and es spirit de corps they both share as former military members and conclude by telling Deby (not asking him) to fully support the on-coming onslaught on the Boko Haram fighters who use Lake Chad and its environs as safe havens to which they run after attacking Nigeria.
Finally, Buhari will call the Cameroonian President – Paul Biya – and relay to him the same discussion he had had with Issoufou and Deby. Buhari will remind Biya of the favor Nigeria did his country under Obasanjo when, in June 2006, it ceded the Bakassi peninsula to him under the Greentree Agreement. Obasanjo took a lot of flak for that at home while Biya scored big for his country. Buhari will remind him it is time to return the favor. Again, Buhari will tell (yes, tell…not ask) Biya to fully support Nigeria in its up-coming escalation of hostilities with Boko Haram terrorists who have been launching attacks on Nigeria from the Cameroonian western border area.
Buhari will then dispatch no more than a five-man delegation comprising of the Ministers of Defense and External Affairs along with the Chief of Defense Staff (CDS), the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and the Chief of Air Staff (CAS) to all three countries. Their message will be clea: Nigeria intends to cordon off a section of the northeast, starting from the border with Niger just north of Gashua in Yobe State, southward to Gashua itself and to Damaturu; then southward from Damaturu to Biu in Borno State; and further southward to Jimeta in Adamawa State, and eastward to the Nigerian border with Cameroon. Nigeria intends to mass its forces on the western fringes of those towns and begin sweeping through the towns, villages, farms and deserts, taking on Boko Haram elements. Nigeria expects the insurgents to flee when overwhelmed; and they would flee into western Cameroon, western Chad and southeastern Niger. Nigeria expects Cameroon to also cordon off parts of its northwestern region from its border with Nigeria near Jimeta, to Garoua, just across the border inside Cameroon, northward to Guider and then northward to Maroua. Nigeria expects Chad to also cordon off parts of its western territory from Maroua, northward to N’Djamena and further northward to Haraze-Al-Biar, and from Dagana to Lake Chad itself, then through lake and up to kanem on the eastern side of the lake. Nigeria expects Niger too to cordon off parts of its southwestern territory starting from its border with Nigeria’s Yobe State near Maine Soroa, to Nguigmi and all surrounding towns and villages leading easterly towards Lake Chad. This swath of land, on the Nigerian side, will, of course, encapsulate Maiduguri, Bama and Mubi and a host of other towns in which Boko Haram operates at will. Nigeria’s plan is to push northeasterly into Lake Chad. Nigeria will expect Cameroon to push northwesterly into Lake Chad, while Chad pushes southwesterly into the lake. Niger will push southeasterly into Lake Chad. These pushes will be synchronized and coordinated with the respective countries such that Boko Haram’s Waterloo will be in and around Lake Chad.
The thinly veiled message from Buhari to the presidents of these three countries will be that if, for whatever reasons (internal political considerations, money, equipment, personnel) they cannot fully cooperate with him, Nigeria is coming through their territories like a freight train anyway. The USA does it. Russia does it. Israel does it. They all do it, even sometimes preemptively, to safeguard their country and their people. Nigeria is about to stand up and protect its sovereignty. Nigeria will kick do what it has to do to protect its people. Buhari will demand the three countries share with Nigeria locations of any of their military units stationed in parts of their territories under discussion, to include exact town or camp names, grid coordinates, unit names, designations, numerical strength and types of weapons on hand. Commanders of all four countries will understand that the reasons for wanting those pieces of information include positive identification of friendly forces to avoid fratricide.
Buhari will invite the French, British and American ambassadors to Aso Rock – separately. To the French ambassador, he will ask for French government’s understanding of and acquiescence (if not full support because of its close ties to Niger, Chad and, especially Cameroon) to what Nigeria is about to do. To the British and American ambassadors, Buhari will seek support of all kinds, promising them that Nigeria will not summarily execute anybody but will conduct its military campaigns in accordance with relevant provisions of the Geneva Convention Articles. Buhari will then travel to Paris, London and Washington to personally meet the leaders, reminding them that it is in the overall interests of everybody, and especially those of the West, that terrorists everywhere are decimated in place before they spread. Nigeria will not be asking them to commit boots on the ground.
For Washington and London, Buhari will ask for technical assistance in areas of intelligence – Imagery and Signal. Nigeria needs real-time satellite coverage of the conflict areas – the Nigerian sector as well as the Nigerien, Cameroonian and Chadian sectors. For Imagery intelligence, these countries have more versatile Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) otherwise known as Drones. These Drones fly quietly just above the clouds and can hardly be seen with naked eyes even during the day. They are equipped with highly sophisticated cameras that can film and take still pictures of areas under coverage. Those films and pictures can be accessed by ground control in real time while the Drones are still in the air. These Drones operate well whether during the day or at night, irrespective of weather conditions. And, of course, there are no pilots onboard. So the threat of losing a pilot if shot down by Boko Haram is eliminated. A few other countries (Israel and Iran included) also manufacture Drones. But Nigeria needs to ally with those who can provide robust support. (It is public knowledge that India is currently trying to purchase Drones from the US to use in monitoring Kashmir.) Of course, Drones can also be armed with highly sophisticated weapons of different kinds, the kinds that the US has used successfully in Yemen, Iran and Afghanistan. But no country will sell those kinds to Nigeria.
For Signal intelligence, Nigeria needs to be able to eavesdrop on radio, telephone and internet communications of terrorists operating in the troubled areas. These countries have means by which this can be done. Now, they will be reluctant to share the technology with Nigeria or even compromise methods by which they conduct eavesdropping operations, but they can find ways to help if they trust us and they believe it is also in their interest that Boko Haram is not allowed to take root in Nigeria.
Beyond Imagery and Signal intelligence, Nigeria needs Human Intelligence. Human Intelligence is simply “snitching” on people and reporting it to government. This, however, is a long-term process that may not be very helpful for the immediate need of crushing Boko Haram. It behooves the Buhari administration to revamp the Directorate of Military Intelligence, National Security Organization, Directorate of State Security and similar organizations that have failed to contribute significantly to unearthing sponsors and foot soldiers of Boko Haram.
Nigeria needs the immediate support of aforementioned countries in the areas of Financial Forensic Investigation in order to unearth and unravel the sources of financing for the Boko Haram terrorists. Somebody is providing them funding for their weapons! If we follow the money, we will get their sponsors.
Buhari will seek the support of America and Britain in supplying all sorts of arms and ammunition to Nigeria – light and heavy weapon systems. Of course, Nigeria will pay for these…these are not aids items…these are going to be business deals. But these would be conscientious business deals.
Buhari will tell these presidents that without their help, Nigeria would disintegrate; that he plans a massive assault – a Powell Doctrine-like overwhelming force operation – which he expects should be over within a few months. He would promise them unfettered access for the Red Cross, the Red Crescent and all United Nations organizations that want to monitor the operations. The operations will, of course, be open to local and international media. The operations will be conducted according to the internationally recognized Law of Land Warfare.
Upon securing the support he needs, Buhari will invite the Minster of Defense and the CDS to his office. He will bring in the Minister first and tell him that from that moment on, the CDS reports to him (the Minister) directly. Yes, the constitution allows the CDS to report directly to the president, but until he has the time to tinker with the constitution, he would make the CDS accord full respect to the Minister and re-construct the chain-of-authority in a way that eliminates the kind of nonsense that happened when CDS Badeh disrespected his Minister of Defense. Then he would invite the CDS in, having the Minister sit in on the meeting. Buhari will then tell the CDS something along these lines: The Honorable Minister is my trusted representative. I will take seriously ALL staffing recommendations, to include appointments, retirements and sackings from him. I will take seriously his budget recommendations. You have overall operational control and responsibility during all conflicts and training exercises. I expect you to apprise him of all major actions before they are taken and if they are time-sensitive and can’t wait for you to appraise him, do so immediately after the fact. I will always call him – not you – for explanations. You should not leave him high and dry, devoid of necessary information to brief me when I ask him to do so. Now, if you feel you can’t work with him, you come to me directly with your complaints. I will be fair. But from now on, I do not want to see you in my office unless you are with him.
Buhari will now turn to both of them: “I expect the COAS and CAS to be primarily stationed no further south than Jos and no further west than Bauchi. I do not want to see either of them in Abuja or outside the northeast unless the Minister approves it. If they need to communicate with the CDS, as I expect them to do regularly, the CDS must go there. Also, I no longer want to see a Major General as the Public Relations Officer of the Ministry of Defense. Find better ways to employ all my Generals. The PRO should be no more than a Lieutenant Colonel. I expect to be personally briefed every week on our progress. I expect a regular, nationally televised briefing to Nigerians and the international community by the CDS until this is over and we re-deploy our troops to pre-mobilization status.”
To the CDS: “I know you have a list of weapons you have requested and did not receive before I was elected; those are now on their way and should reach us in about 30 days. You need to update that list to reflect what your needs might be after you have heard my expectations of you today. I leave the operational details to you as I do not want to micro-manage your operations. But I promised our international partners an overwhelming but quick sets of operations. That means you should use every available man and woman under your authority. It means you should employ every weapon in your armory. It means you should call up all the training our men and women have undertaken. I do not need an army unit sitting idly in Lagos, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Enugu, Ilorin, Calabar or any other part of Nigeria while the northeast burns. Overwhelming force means if Boko Haram sends 50 fighters forward, we should meet them with 50,000 fighters. If they come to us, we should meet them head-long. If they don’t come to us, we should go to them. If they come with AK-47s, we should come with fighter jets, attack helicopters, indirect artillery fires, 50mm guns, full and semi-automatic weapons, shoulder-fired grenade launchers, hand grenades, AK-47s, pistols, knives and razor blades. If they are comfortable fighting us in the morning, we will fight them all day and all night, depriving them of rest and recuperation. We should attack them frontally and we should conduct ambushes and raids. We should set booby traps for them and we should conduct sabotage attacks on their fortifications. We will overwhelm them with “shock and awe” so they don’t ever think of coming back. I want all fingers on all triggers. Remember, some of the fights will be unconventional, needing guerilla warfare tactics. We will have to fight them in the streets of some of our towns and in the crevices of some of our villages. We should do so with overwhelming force. We want this to serve as deterrence to future terrorists. When we go through these villages, all possible escape routes should be blocked and every single house is searched. Those terrorists who surrender, we should capture and send immediately to the rear for interrogations. And those who wish to keep fighting, we should send to their Maker with dispatch and without mercy. With Imagery Intelligence and Signal Intelligence support from our allies, you should strive to always conduct intelligence-driven, full spectrum operations. Try to not send your force into any “blind” situation. At the very minimum, you should have credible Human Intelligence about the target before setting off. We should not maltreat the people we are trying to protect, but we should not send a piecemeal force to take any target. Remember that we have to hold the places we have cleared to prevent the enemy from coming back and surprising us from the rear as we move forward. I know you are not a soldier, let alone an infantry man, but you wear those stars for a reason. You should be able to sit the COAS down and have him show you his plans, which should be along the lines of what I just explained, incorporating the COA’s plan for air support in every major operation. If any of your service chiefs are confused about anything and need me to set them straight, have them give you their resignation letters and you pass those on to the Minister. There is no room for mediocrity and arm-chair generalship in this government. I expect you to form no more than three rotations of troops in and out of battle in case this thing takes a year or more; although if we use overwhelming force, it shouldn’t last longer than two months. Go ahead and psychologically prepare your troops for the long haul so that if the conflict ends sooner, they will be pleasantly surprised. You may now leave. Save whatever questions you have for the Minister. I won’t take too long with him. He will join you outside shortly. Thank you for your service to our nation.”
Once the CDS leaves, Buhari says to the Minister: “I have gotten the assurances from both the Senate leader and the Speaker of the House that my extra-ordinary request for funds to prosecute this war will be approved quickly. I will make sure you get what you need to fight this war. But you need to make sure these weapons and other equipment get to the units and to the soldiers. While the military guys are doing their own thing, you need to go through that ministry and fish out those who have been diverting funds and materiel meant for our military. There should be no sacred cows. Any person you suspect should be immediately transferred out of Abuja pending the outcome of investigations. You must project the image of a no-nonsense, incorruptible Minister. You don’t have to be brash or rude or dictatorial. But you have to be proactive, firm and fair. If you do the due diligence over every issue before bringing your recommendations to me, you will have my support. Our loyalty should be to the troops. Make sure every single soldier, whether deployed to the northeast or not, is not owed his salary for a single day. Make sure no soldier pays for his own uniforms. Make sure no soldier pays for his own medical expenses…deployed or not. Make sure all casualties we sustain are treated with dignity and respect; that the families left behind are catered for, especially the spouses and children. Make sure the deployed soldiers’ deployment bonuses are paid on time. By the way, I have approved your recommendation for increase in the salaries of our military personnel. Those in the ranks of army Corporal through Captain will get 100% increase. Majors and Lieutenant Colonels will get a 50% increase. Colonel through Major General will get 30% increase and Lieutenant General and General and Field Marshall (if we ever get one in the army) will get 10%. The same is true for the equivalent of these ranks in the Air Force and the Navy. Deployment bonuses will be 30% of basic salaries for everybody. All pay increases take effect immediately. I want you to inform the CDS before you go on national TV to make the announcement today. If I didn’t tell you before your appointment, let me reiterate this: I want you and the CDS to work together like brothers. Your relationship should go beyond the office. He should be able to predict you and you should know what he wants before he even makes the request. Although I have made him subordinate to you, do not abuse your office or rub this in his face. Treat him with dignity and respect. He has earned his rank and has sacrificed a lot for this country. And I have confidence in him otherwise I would have replaced him. I do not want unnecessary acrimony. That does not mean you should be intimidated by the uniform or the gun. But your disagreement with him should be civil and about what is best for the military. I do not want to hear about any petty, self-aggrandizement quarrels. If I have to help run your ministry, it means I do not need you.”
No, this writer is not privy to any specific plan by Buhari to fight Boko Haram. Let no one hold him responsible for anything I wrote above. These are just some of what I think, from experience, need to be done in order to win this war. President Goodluck Jonathan could have done the same thing, except that he lacked credibility with the rank and file Nigerian troops and foreign leaders that could help.