Counter-terrorism expert Comrade Oladimeji Odeyemi, is the Convener of Coalition of Civil Society Groups Against Terrorism in Nigeria.
In this interview, he speaks on the war against insurgency, saying that false narratives are being fed to the public about the activities of the armed forces.
There have been reports of an upsurge in Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) attacks in Borno and Yobe states…
From the tactical point of operation, what we are having now are isolated attacks on some soft targets by the few remnants of the Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists. In discussing insurgency in Nigeria, I think we have to look at where we are coming from. That way, we can appreciate the enormous work the Chief of Army Staff and his troops are doingon the field. The relocation of Gen. Buratai to the North-East in April to oversee and coordinate troops of the Nigerian Army in the counter-insurgency has seen the decimation of the terrorists, their hideouts and collaborators. The Boko Haram issue first started as an uprising in 2009. It was a conflict between Boko Haram, a militant fundamentalist group, and Nigerian security forces.
The violence occurred across several states in North eastern Nigeria, which resulted in more than 1,000 deaths, with around 700 killed in the city of Maiduguri alone. And that was how a full-scale war ensued since then. Boko Haram appeared in the consciousness of most Nigerians outside of the North-eastern zone in August of 2011. The escalation of what started as a mere uprising developed into a full-scale war toward the end of 2012 in which from Bornu State the Boko Haram terrorist activities spread to the whole of the Northeastern states.
It was this situation that became the focal point upon which the last administration of President Jonathan lost the 2015 elections after a three year period that produced minimal victories that left open the vulnerability of the military, especially the army. The situation resulted in heavy casualties, low morale and mismanagement of resources. A dangerous situation it was for both the fledgling Nigerian democracy and the continued existence of a united Nigeria.
That is why we are urgently calling onthe Federal Government to raise a strong intelligence force within the army,other security agencies and the citizens so as to immediately commence identification of those unpatriotic elements who may now want to hide under the banner of Boko Haram/ISWAP to destabilise the country and expose our people,particularly our brothers and sisters in the Northeast, to renewed attacks.
Are you saying the reports about attacks in the North-East do not reflect the true situation?
I think we must agree that Nigerians are entitled to their opinions under the right to freedom of expression. Thankfully, the current administration also holds the freedom of expression of Nigerians as guaranteed under the constitution in high esteem. But that right does not give anyone the acquiescence to bolster the activities of those against the interest of Nigeria. It is such a heart-rending development to see some people deliberately pushing the narrative of falsehoods and mendacity from the comfort of their homes and then feeding some members of the public with their concocted lies. This web of fake news has its implications and those spreading it among the populace should know that they are only fanning the member of terror and they are enemies of truth. These people use different platformsto spread falsehood against the military and what the troops are doing in the war front. They are on social media, traditional media, and so on.
But if there is any time for Nigerians to be on the same page with regards to the prosecution of the war against terrorism, it is now. If we don’t support our troops, who do you think will support them? With the benefit of hindsight, I think some political tendencies and interests are actually the masquerades behind some of the seconcocted lies against the military and on going military operations in the North-East. I believe they are spinning all those falsehoods to discredit government of the day and all its achievements including the war against terrorists.
For example, a fellow who is usually on a television programme pontificates and assumes monopoly of knowledge when discussing the war against insurgency. Such a situation makes one wonder if the military even exists at all. Without any verifiable research to back up his claims, this fellow picks on the military and makes the unsuspecting public believe there is nothing the gallant troops are doing on the frontline.
Nigerians must know that it is not every comment or statement about the insurgency war that is objective or a true reflection of what is happening. Not every view should be taken as a true picture of what is going on in the North-East.
To some, the relocation of the Chief of Army Staff, COAS, Lt General Tukur Buratai, to the North- East hasn’t been fruitful…
I can only describe the movement of the COAS to relocate to the northeast as brave, resilient, and patriotic. His two months stay at the war theatres in the North-East region definitely boosted the morale of troops and it has triggered a monumental turn around in the fight against Boko Haram/ISWAP in the region.
From our independent research, the COAS movement to the war theatre has made a visible difference. He successfully led his gallant troops to the battlefield and inflicted heavy losses on the terrorists and this is no mean feat. I think we should laud such a patriotic feat and not allow some social oddities ridicule the efforts.
He has taken a break after two months, to re-strategise because the remaining areas are delicate and there is a need for proper homework. The feelers we are getting are that this might be the last military onslaught in the North-East. However, the offensive by the military must be sustained because the insurgency war is not a conventional war.
What is your take on a video shared on social media making a caricature of the briefing of COAS to State House correspondents during his recent visit to Aso Rock ?
Our coalition was among the first to condemn the edited video which tried to douse and make amockery of the serious issues of security as being propounded with the seriousness it deserves by the COAS. It is rather unfortunate that some Nigerians still feel this is still about politics or jokes.
I think it was an unpatriotic outing from these elements who do not appreciate the sacrifices men and women of the Nigerian Army are making for us as a nation on a daily basis. It is mischievous, evil, and to make a mockery of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice and those who are still on the battlefield ensuring that Nigeria defeats its enemies, is nothing but reprehensible. As we said in our statement on that kindergarten act from the enemies of this country, the authorities should investigate the source of the video and bring those responsible to book.
A Former Military Governor of Kaduna State, Col. Umar Dangiwa (retd.), recently wrote an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, alleging that the President’s appointment of Service Chiefs is lopsided…
I read the letter too and I think he was only playing to the gallery by skewing the narrative of appointments in the country, especially when it comes to a sensitive terrain as security. However, I want to implore Nigerians to resist any narrative of divisiveness such as this.
How can any objective mind accuse President Buhari of bias in the appointment of his Service Chiefs? Who are President Buhari’s Service Chiefs? They are Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin (Christian/Ekiti State); Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant –General Tukur Buratai (Muslim/Borno State); Chief of Naval Staff, Vice AdmiralIbok-Ete Ekwe Ibas (Christian/Cross River State) and Chief of the Air Staff,Air Marshall Sadiq Abubakar (Muslim/Bauchi State). With the two major religions having two each, is that lopsidedness?