Monday 25 August 2014

Nigeria: And when they were down

Oh, The grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men;
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.
And when they were up, they were up,
And when they were down, they were down,
And when they were only half-way up,
They were neither up nor down.
Of trust and less
The Nigerian military has put itself in a rather difficult position of needing support whilst not being quite trustworthy. Too many times they have put a spin on stories that have turned out to be outright lies.
Their engagement with the Boko Haram militancy in north-eastern Nigeria has exposed fundamental rank and file deficiencies in the forces from low morale to not being adequately equipped to handle the insurgency.
The nursery rhyme at the start of this blog almost fully illustrates the almost futile exercise of winning anything until a radical reform of our whole military apparatus is put in place. Sadly, I do not think many well-meaning Nigerians are convinced that this regime has the will, mien or wherewithal to get this done as determined purposeful exercise, a stunt or a fluke.
An aimless march
When they were up, what we have read of is a scorched earth policy of pillage and massacre, extra-judicial killings and lawlessness, many of these highlighted by civil rights groups that there is very little to differentiate what they have done with war crimes.
When they were down, it has been barracks sacked, mutiny against generals, being under-equipped against the absurd but worryingly sophisticated tactics and weaponry of Boko Haram, soldiers let down by their generals, unnecessarily martyred as if sent into battle with their guns stopped or hands tied behind their back. The soldiers are brave because of who they are, not because of example and character exemplified by the military brass. It is a shame.
Recently, it was the wives of the soldiers who were protesting sending their husbands to war unfit for the task to which they were deployed. The real down that the military has passed off as a military manoeuvre depending on who you believe is that 480 soldiers have either fled into Cameroon in flight from Boko Haram or crossed into Cameroon in a military strategy to fight back, who knows? [BBC]
At the same time, Boko Haram declared an Islamic caliphate in Gwoza, the region where they have held sway, and even though the area is under a state of emergency, they act with impunity and writ large, the Nigerian authorities literally unable to project power and unchallenged sovereignty.
The Nigerian military have rejected the claim, but actions would matter much more than words. Ruefully, until we see something different, we have an alternative and illegal power in control in the north-eastern Nigeria.
We are not winning
Back to the nursery rhyme, it appears they’ve gone up the hill and down again, and now that they are only halfway up, they are neither up nor down. There does not seem to be plan, purpose, aim, strategy or any conceivable idea as to how the Boko Haram menace would be arrested and dealt with.
The Commander-in-Chief was ensconced in Germany on some personal retreat away from the chaos of Nigeria does not seem to be a general at war, rather he fiddles like Nero as Nigeria burns, proffering empty platitudes to the realities that Nigerians under the cosh of terror face, literally oblivious of things when buried in the cosy cocoon of Aso Rock – it is both a travesty and an atrocity.
The truth is we are shamefully and inadequately NOT winning this war against Boko Haram, no fanciful pronouncement would take away from the fact that the Nigerian forces are down and fearfully, maybe out too.

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