“When one treats people with benevolence, justice, and righteousness, and reposes confidence in them, the army will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leaders,” ― Sun Tzu
To win a war in any form of battle, you must utilise strategy, tactics to subdue the enemy. Be prepared to be surprised and plan to surprise your enemy correspondingly. The enemy uses propaganda as a tool, trying to dominate the psyche of the populace as has been experienced with the decade old insurgency, hoping to divide Nigerians but failing to understand our nation is more connected than ever.
Nigeria security services have been confronting with the utmost zeal and patriotism, the most visible security challenge in recent memory.
They are at war with the two United States – designated Foreign Terrorist Organisations (FTOs) – Boko Haram and an Islamic State – affiliated splinter group, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), which have killed thousands of innocent Nigerians alongside military personnel over the past decade, displaced millions, and caused protracted humanitarian crisis.
Michael N. Castle aptly captured the essence of the supreme price made by the servicemen when he opined that “These fallen heroes represent the character of a nation who has a long history of patriotism and honor”.
The Nigerian Armed Forces has been heroic in prosecuting the counterinsurgency in the Northeast. This asymmetrical conflict has escalated into a huge terrorist activity with an international dimension. Regardless of its external affiliations, the Nigerian security services are frontally cracking this difficult nut strategically with some setbacks, which are inevitable in wars. As of late 2019, the U.S Department of Defense (DOD) estimated ISWAP to have roughly 3,500 members, and Boko Haram 1,500. According to the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), over 4,000 Boko Haram fighters have deserted the extremist group, a vast depletion of their rank and file.
Admittedly, to defeat the bad guys, you must first bring their morale down. Those who follow will start suspecting their leader‘s abilities gradually withdraw their support with a firm belief that they will be defeated. Nobody wants to fight a losing battle – the enemies’ camp would be demoralised.
It is pertinent to state unequivocally that this insurgency is not the first major terror attack Nigeria has faced, even though the deadliest. There has been an avalanche of sects. Amongst there were: the Maitatsine Islamic fundamentalist sect, Odua People’s Congress, (OPC), Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) Niger Delta militants which were all subdued by the security services, and state control has been reestablished in contested areas. Lately the separatist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) joined the cocktail of internal security challenges.
The military institution is unarguably the most important and cohesive institution. The organisation is authorised to use coercive instruments, including kinetic and non-kinetic methods, to defend the territorial integrity of the country by combating perceived threats.
The Government of Nigeria has spent humongous sum uprooting the deep-rooted radical philosophy of the insurgents, which in some cases have support from locals who serve as informants. Regardless of this, our troops would never have a stalemate on the battlefield; rather, the insurgents would be checkmated. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, (SIPRI) 2020 military expenditure data noted that Nigeria’s military expenditure rose by 29 per cent translating to N198.84 billion since 2019.
Inclusive governance is being implemented as both kinetic and non-kinetic approaches are needed in this war. The Armed Forces has launched series of well-planned offensives that will surely become one the decisive events of the war.
Governor of Borno State, Professor Babagana Zulum, is partnering with the federal government to ensure the provision of dividends of democracy to the populace to stop the recruitment drive of the insurgents, and is also resettling Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
Collaborating with neighbouring countries under the auspices of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to deny the terrorists territory from which they launch attacks is another strategy to deal with the insurgency. This is in addition to operational intelligence gleaned from our strategic partners, which comprises the United States, United Kingdom and France.
Effective intelligence and counterintelligence gathering mechanisms embedded to track the illicit flow of cash for terror-related operations in Nigeria has proved to be a game-changer, in stifling the capacity of Boko Haram and their collaborators to raise funds.
The culmination of painstaking analysis through highly advanced intelligence operations led by a multi agency collaboration, coordinated by the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Department of State Services (DSS), Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NIFU), and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) resulted to a countrywide clampdown on suspicious funders of Boko Haram and other dangerous groups.
To begin with, the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), between 2015 and 2016 disclosed that the sum of $782,000 was transferred from Dubai to Nigeria through wire transfers from Bureau De Change (BDCs) operators, to aid the discrete but well funded operations of Boko Haram terrorists. Six Nigerians have been convicted in relation to this. It was reported that an inceptive list of 957 suspects made up of BDCs operators, businessmen, and gold miners were promptly investigated while 400 persons have been detained, N300 billion was found to have been injected to fund instability, 331 corporate and individual bank accounts have been frozen over allegations of suspicious transactions. These moves have degraded their ability to raise money and attract new recruits.
– Akanji, a conflict and foreign policy analyst writes from No. 47 M. L. Wushishi Crescent Utako, Abuja