Interrogating Alternative Rhetoric to Ending Nigeria’s War in the North East

by Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku
war in nigeria

Anyone who has read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, or listened to its audio derivative would have met that unmistakable axiom in its early chapters. Because I cannot regurgitate the phrases word for word, I will just paraphrase. It says: if an Emperor were to give a command to his general, and that general is unable to carry out that command without good reason, you should blame the Emperor. But if it is obvious that the Emperor gave a command in clear and in unmistakable terms, but the general failed with the execution of that command, the only way to make sure that sloppy execution of the Emperor’s commands do not become a recurring decimal would be the execution of the General.

Quickly, two issues that seemingly beseech to be interrogated arising from the modus operandi of Nigeria’s war in the North East include the following: one, in spite of being hyped as a compact fighting force during fracases in Sierra Leone and Liberia, together with sterling contributions at UN Peace Keeping missions around the world, Nigeria seems to have failed miserably to prosecute its own war. Two, from inception of the ‘insurgency’ in the North East (wrongfully so termed), Nigeria has spent billions of naira, with most of it being frittered away or out rightly pilfered allegedly by the Generals prosecuting the war in the North East. Is it that the Emperor, that is President Muhammadu Buhari, commander in Chief of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, GCON, is giving the right orders but that his generals are not carrying out his orders? Is it that the Emperor is giving the wrong orders but that his generals are unwilling or unable to carry out those wrong orders?

For most people, the issues go beyond issues related to the Emperor’s orders and how they are carried out. While some cite issues related to the devastating outcome that would arise from a blanket bombardment of the perceived base and stronghold of Nigeria’s internal antagonists, others have opined that military exigencies alone in themselves cannot and shouldn’t always be the silver-bullet for resolution of conflicts and tension.

Just perhaps to illustrate the above point, we must visit a 2004 incident involving a terrorist attack in Russia, known today as the Beslan school massacre. It involved the abduction of over a thousand people (777 were children according to Wikipedia) and it lasted three days. In spite of entreaties, the terrorists held onto the children and their teachers without food and water while the stalemate lasted. And therefore, Vladimir Putin gave the order for soldiers to storm that school, and take on the terrorists. The incident left 333 people and 186 of the children dead. The result was that even though the incidence established Putin as the undisputed Russian strongman, and a no-nonsense Emperor who would not blink before executing any one of his Generals unwilling to or unable to follow order to kill children, teachers and terrorists, it left a permanent scar on the conscience of Russians.

Recent news indicate that Governor El-Rufai of Kaduna state favours the Putin alternative. He was recently quoted to have said that the surest way to bring the war in the North East to an end would be a total and sweeping bombardment of the Sambisa Forest, famous as base for Nigeria’s antagonists, that is, irrespective of the collateral damage(s) that could arise from such Putinical action.

El-Rufai comes across as one not shy to take tough decisions. Prior to being governor, he was Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT Abuja, where he supervised the demolition of all property encroaching on the Abuja Master plan. Therefore, the suggestion from El-Rufai to the Federal government, to bombard the Sambisa forest, and ‘send the terrorists to heaven’ does not come as a surprise – as a matter of fact, many Nigerians have called for this quick-fix solution. But what comes as a surprise – and especially from El-Rufai is that, first as governor, he once allegedly paid ‘bandits’ ransom. How come he is today proposing sweeping bombardment of an enclave purportedly harbouring Nigeria’s enemies?

Such position –as held by the Kaduna state governor – led Adolf Hitler to bombard London from September 1940 – 11 May 1941. Rather than weaken their resolve and break them, the British drew strength from Churchilian rhetoric and bravado, and together with her allies went on to defeat Germany in the long run.

Nigeria only recently took delivery of specialized fighter jets from the US. The key word here is ‘specialised’, to mean that these implements are well suited for the kind of insecurity situation Nigeria currently faces. And in my discussions with Geospatial Technology Users, they have told me that employing geospatial tools like Geographic Information System (GIS), Google Earth Pro, and the likes, activities on any location on earth can be monitored and changes over time on any one location as far back as 1972 can be examined. With these tools, the activities and location of the ‘insurgents’ in Sambisa forest can be monitored and determined.  All they say Nigeria needs to do is take certain coefficients based on topography, human activity and a reading – just the same thing Barack Obama and Donald Trump did with the targeted eliminations of perceived or verified enemies of their country. After that duo did that, the world experience significant reduction, either with the imagery associated with the ISIS or with the bravado with which they took on interests and capacities related to the US.

I believe Nigeria can do the same – take specific readings or coefficients – and thereafter send in the specialised jet fighters – and this case the recently acquired Tucano Jets or drones – and thereafter Nigeria would likely experience true ‘containment’ or a ‘degradation’ of the activities of ‘insurgents’. An outright bombardment of Sambisa Forest as a military option against these ‘insurgents’ may be cutting our nostrils to spite our face.

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