By Philip Agbese
I respect Festus Adedayo as writer, public affairs commentator, analyst and author. Consummating his articles anytime fills the void in knowledge and information. But I read the article captioned, “Chad’s Idris Derby As Odogo’s Wife, The Incriminator,” (published in Sahara reporters dated, April 11, 2020), and was staggered by its unpardonable gaffes.
Definitely, I want to believe it was not intentional. I sighted the writer’s dilemma in the hanker to speak the truth on the counter-terrorism battles of Nigeria from 2009 between former President Goodluck Jonathan and incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari.
I perceived his desperation to spin the truth he knows on Nigeria’s battles with terrorism these years, but was hamstringed by the deficiency of facts and accuracy. It is understandable because the dreary terrain of terrorism battlegrounds makes access to precise and trustworthy information on the war extremely difficult.
Nonetheless, Adedayo cannot be permitted to escape with some inappropriate representations, which I have reasons to believe it is not deliberate. It even includes the wrong insinuations which reeks throughout the otherwise nice piece. I concur with the writer religiously that Chad’s President Idriss Deby is one heck of an adulterated and debased military cum civilian dictator on the Chadian political corridors.
The public commentator upbraided him rightly as treacherous, tyrannical, an excited betrayer and worse enemy of humanity by his overt romance with Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists. I prefer to call them armed criminals anyway.
An African adage says, “When the wind blows, the fowl’s anus is exposed.” President Deby preposterously exposed himself by hyping “yesterday’s” battles with terrorists in the Chadian enclave of Kelkoua, on banks of Lake Chad in her sovereignty, April 4, 2020.
Let’s pardon Deby’s empty boasts. But I am yet to understand Adedayo’s wisdom, which figured Deby’s action as heroic or an act of valour! If I properly discerned Deby’s history, he is a rebel himself, as leader of the Patriotic Salvation Movement and ardent student of the Moummar Gaddafi’s tutelage of armed revolutionary radicalism.
What has baffled me is the writer’s tenders on Deby’s hoax or ruse on fighting terrorism. Adedayo wrote; “it must be said that his rout of Boko Haram has revealed that Nigeria under Buhari is nothing more than a pusillanimous military leadership. The fact must be stated that fighting this insurgency seems to be, for the military Generals in the war theatre, a mercantile activity that must be prolonged for the sake of the belly.”
This is absolute gibberish! It reconfirms my earlier position about the writer’s desolation in knowledge of whatever terrorism entails in Nigeria and the unrelenting battles which clipped the wings of Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists under President Buhari. Its much of bad blood for him to ingeniously infuse the known and politicized campaigns on stampeding President Buhari to sack his Service Chiefs.
Adedayo finally came in his flawed damaging self. He wrote; “So while Derby may have fought his Boko Haram allies as comeuppance for their “betrayal” of their alliance, the Nigerian government, devoid of cronyism and fired by the leadership and determination of the Derby hue, would have made far greater marks than it is making in the war against the terrorists. The first move in this regard would be for Buhari to sack his expired security chiefs.”
In whatever disguised manner the commentator has sprouted this issue, we know, it is this overriding interest that has triggered the piece. President Buhari has repeatedly said he is satisfied with the performance of his Service Chiefs and it is needless to over-flog the issue. And I have reason to believe him.
Very often, Nigerians assume a simplistic understanding of terrorism wars. It is the writer’s first blunder. I believe that is also the conviction of the writer when he submitted that “Nigeria slipped from a country known, before now, for her military prowess, into a hub of global jokes, a sissy if you like. Strategic experts have located a troubling metastasis of the cancer.”
But the security experts he relied upon for this conclusion have no slightest idea about terrorism and its tempo in Nigeria before the Buhari Presidency. I know, terrorism wars are not easy to crack anywhere in the world because of its asymmetrical nature.
America with all its sophistry has been in the Middle East fighting terrorism, since 2002, but no end in sight yet. The war has engulfed over a trillion dollars of America’s funds. That Nigeria has been able to decimate and defeat Boko Haram terrorists in four years is enviable and commendable.
Nigeria has curbed the rage of terrorists to the extent that they are unable to trouble Abuja again; their plots to make ingress into Southern Nigeria has also been guillotined and the push-back of insurgents has confined their operations to the Lake Chad area. How else could Nigeria or efficiency of the Service Chiefs be expressed?
And so, because of certain partisan motivations, we prefer to condemn the impressive efforts of President Buhari and his Service Chiefs in combating Boko Haram terrorism. Adedayo like some other Nigerians are under the false illusion that President Idriss Deby has done a wonderful job by leading Chadian troops to the battlefield to battle Boko Haram and destroy their armoury bunkers. Nigeria through Gen. Buratai has performed similar feats and posted better streaks of victories against terrorists.
But terrorists have an amazing resilience. When the battle gets tough, they recoil into sleeper cells, recuperate, replenish and stage greater onslaughts at targets. Deby and anyone else should not be deluded that the “Operation Anger of Boma,” has erased all vestiges of Boko Haram in Chad or the region.
It is this indefinite character of terrorism that Nigeria is still under the spell of remnants of Boko Haram and with their dislodgment from Sambisa forest. Chadian territories offered them conducive recuperation abodes when they chased out of Nigeria. Deby and his praise singers just have to look further afield.
So, it is a fluke for Adedayo to say, “The Chadian Army also said with confidence that the terrorists had been driven “out of all the islands of the lake… Chadian soldiers are currently stationed deep on the islands of Niger and Nigeria, waiting for these friendly countries’ soldiers to take over.” No nation has the power to station his army in the territory of another country without a permission. Chadian Army are not stationed anywhere in Nigerian territory. The writer must not swallow hook and sinker or jump at every propaganda reeled by Chad.
The insinuation that President Buhari should have also personally led Nigerian troops to the frontlines to confront terrorists because he is a retired Army General is misplaced. President Buhari and Deby cannot operate on the same template. Buhari is far older than Deby, no reasonable person would expect that both should have the same physical stamina now.
It is false conclusion to claim that “Billions of dollars are voted for hardware, software and military welfare yearly which allegedly slip into the bottomless pockets of the Generals and their collaborators in government. Moles within are also alleged to collect fat dividends from the insurgents for revealing tracks of proposed attacks.”
I cannot refute the problem of moles in the military who frustrate Nigeria’s counter-terrorism operations. It is real! But the problem is bigger and has more more tentacles than envisaged by Adedayo. Former President Jonathan once bemoaned that there are Boko Haram spies everywhere including Aso Rock. Politicians, religious and traditional rulers, and other arms of security agencies have spies who work for Boko Haram. But Gen. Buratai has considerably reduced the influence of moles on counter-insurgency operations and it explains the impact Nigeria has recorded on counter-terrorism.
But it is blatant falsehood to mouth that billions of dollars voted for hardware, software and military welfare annually are embezzled under the Buhari Presidency. The statement is too generalized and fluid. Military or security budgets are not opaque. It is open to public scrutiny.
Nigerians are under the mistaken notion that weapons purchased in 2015 for counter-insurgency operations are never exhausted in warfare, but should remain in military armory. Counter-terrorism is a battle which expends and deflates military armoury every day on the battlefield and requires constant replenishment.
Adedayo claims that Military welfare is ignored is also inaccurate. My understanding of the situation is that the Nigerian Government and the National Assembly have not voted enough funds for military welfare. It is not an issue of embezzlement. In the 2020 budget for instance, just one percent of the national budget is provided for all the arms of Nigeria’s security agencies. And 90 percent of it is for recurrent expenditure, comprising salaries and allowances of security personnel.
This is grossly inadequate. And parliamentarians never harkened to pleas to increase the budget for security agencies in the age of insurgencies. So, where does anybody get “billions of dollars” to embezzle? And when we talk about welfare, Gen. Buratai has kept faith with soldiers. He pays their approved salaries and allowances promptly. And by his personal initiatives he has launched various economic empowerment schemes for the Nigerian Army, aside the partnership with corporate organizations for the construction of post-retirement housing scheme for the Army.
It is my honest view that Adedayo overrated and amplified the prowess of President Deby and the Chadian Army. The battle at Kelkoua is nothing spectacular, but the country’s rebellion against its own rebels it has sustained in its territory for years.
Agbese, an author and human rights activist contributed this piece from the United Kingdom.