By Wale Adedayo
Nigeria’s Islamic extremists, Boko Haram, have certainly gained a new status for themselves following the flow of heavy weaponry, mainly from North Africa, into the organisation’s armoury since last year. Anti-aircraft guns, armoured tanks, anti-tank weapons, land mines and assorted military equipment continue crossing into Boko Haram’s hands in Borno State from Libya, Sudan, Chad and Mali.
Yes, there was almost a similar scenario at the height of MEND’s war against the Nigerian state in the Niger Delta. But only a few of MEND’s weapons were sourced from outside the country. Most of the weapons used by MEND were supplied by Nigerian military officers, who sold the equipment and pocketed the money. MEND never had access to armoured tanks. Its cadres’ knowledge of the creeks was a major ingredient in the militant group’s invincibility at the time.
Today, the casualties being suffered by the Nigerian military in the country’s North-East as the armed forces battle Boko Haram is at least 30 times what obtained with MEND. It is the first time in Nigerian history that a whole company of soldiers’ll be wiped out. Not even during the 30 months civil war did organized rebels successfully raid a Nigerian military barracks killing officers, men and seizing members of their families as hostages. These and more have taken place in Borno and Yobe states.
It is an established fact that as at today in North-Eastern Nigeria, we are at war. Any pretension to the contrary is like living in a fool’s paradise. Thus, there is an urgent need for a substantive Minister of Defence. The lackadaisical attitude by President Goodluck Jonathan to the fact that Nigeria is at war is a further confirmation that former President Olusegun Obasanjo got his facts right in the letter he wrote. We cannot be at war, and there is nobody to captain the team prosecuting that war because many are dying with dangerous consequences hovering in the air.
It is the same need in the Foreign Affairs Ministry. Events leading to President Nelson Mandela’s burial proved to the discerning that Jonathan is acting like a joker in governance. Only a substantive Foreign Affairs Minister can be taken seriously by his/her counterparts from elsewhere. Yet, till date, Nigeria does not have one despite the glaring needs for a quality and well-experienced individual to fill this vacancy.
Without a quality Foreign Affairs Minister, how do we stem the tide of the current mess from North Africa? Who will take a ‘supervising somebody’ serious outside Nigeria? The ministries of Defence and Foreign Affairs remain the engine rooms of ANY nation at war. Yet, our president, in his typical lackadaisical manner is not perturbed about the absence of substantive persons to man these portfolios. This is sad, and very dangerous.
I am aware there is a presidential committee mandated to find a peaceful solution to the war with Boko Haram. But in other climes, the committee would have been disbanded with absolutely nothing to show for its inauguration apart from propaganda seeking to claim success where it had none. There is need to go back to the drawing board concerning dialogue despite the necessity to rev up both military and diplomatic moves against Boko Haram.
But the most important, for me, remains our indifference to those countries who allow heavy military weapons to pass through their soil for the killing and maiming of innocent souls in Nigeria. These equipments are not things you can package in a handbag or cars. The logistics off transporting them involve either government approval or connivance of highly placed persons in government. Either way, the governments of Libya, Niger, Chad, Sudan and Mali are directly or indirectly responsible for the inflow of these heavy weapons into Nigeria.
When you allow weapons of war into my territory for the killing of my people, you have declared war against me. Nigeria is yet to show its anger against these acts of aggression by countries who depend a lot on our diplomatic support for many things they want from the international community. Targetting these countries for punishment will be a direct blow to Boko Haram’s primary supply routes. It is either they cut off Boko Haram or Nigeria cuts them off. Whichever is of benefit to them is the one they should pick.
Jonathan should wake up from dreamland and do the needful to stop this continous disgrace of Nigeria in the comity of nations. We can, and should stop the flow of weapons to Boko Haram from North Africa. The time is now. Jonathan must, and should act.