By Mark Bonaventure
Nigeria is somewhat experiencing security challenges that are not surprising because there are various factors responsible for it. In this case, I would say the Boko Haram insurgency took the country unaware since 2009 when the Boko Haram group began a violent campaign in North-East Nigeria.
The Nigerian Military has been actively involved, recording gains and setbacks simultaneously because it’s asymmetric warfare and not the conventional. The implication of this is that there has to be a constant review of operational strategies because insurgencies worldwide are dynamic and evolve every passing day.
I recall that insurgent activities were aimed at security agencies from the onset of the Boko Haram insurgency. From there, it metamorphosed into hostage-taking. It further transformed into targeting women and children and establishing a caliphate. And today, one cannot point to the actual aim of the insurgents because they have continually engaged the Military in fierce battles.
This fact was corroborated by the former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, when he stated that the Boko Haram insurgency might not end in 20 years. I recall when he made that statement; most Nigerians didn’t comprehend the import of his message because they were not knowledgeable of the dynamics in asymmetric warfare.
He said the terrorists had indoctrinated the people for a long time, making it difficult to defeat them within a short period. He also stated that political and socio-economic factors need to be addressed, adding that many communities in northern Nigeria lacked basic amenities.
With the benefit of hindsight, he was right because Nigeria is still battling insurgency even with the change of Service Chiefs that most Nigerians had clamoured. And was that the solution? Has that changed anything? I still believe that the change of service chiefs was meant to rejig the operational strategies and not because of non-performance as some section of the country would want us to believe.
It could thus be argued that it was a strategic move by the President because there was a need to expand frontiers in the war against insurgency in the country, which in my opinion culminated in the appointment of the former service chiefs as non-career ambassadors to galvanize the much needed regional support at addressing the threat posed by the Boko Haram insurgents.
It was thus speculated that Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai has been posted to the Benin Republic to galvanize support from the West African country. If that news is eventually accurate, it makes much strategic sense because we would be sure that Buratai would put his wealth of knowledge to bear, especially in addressing some of the issues of concern for the country regarding Boko Haram getting logistics support outside the country.
I also wish to emphasize that Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai remain an asset to the county because of his deep foresight on national security. I am sure many do not know. He is also a military historian. It is thus good that he has offered himself once again in service to the country. I dare say that not many would be readily available because he just left one of the most daunting offices in the country in retirement.
It was expected that he would devout his retirement time with his family, but that is not the case, as he has continued in service to the country. I think it high time the country celebrates such individuals. His records in the Nigerian Army are exceptional. Under his tenure, substantial gains were recorded in the war against insurgency and other forms of criminalities.
This act is what I would call patriotism, and I believe with time, all those that saw him in a different light would come around to appreciate him for his display of love for the country. The example of Buratai is one in many cases of Nigerians that have been committed to the growth and development of the country, but he stands out hence this article.
I also need to remind us that such practices are prevalent in developed nations, where individuals with outstanding public records remain helpful to the country even in retirement. And Nigeria should not be left out because the security challenges in the country require that we explore all available avenues towards the restoration of peace and stability.
This, in my opinion, would significantly provide answers to the national security question in the country when we realize that times have changed and there is the need for regional and international collaboration in addressing security challenges.
To put it simply, the involvement of the likes of Buratai with years of experience would assist in no small measure in ensuring that the question of galvanizing regional support for Nigeria in the war against insurgency at the diplomatic level is achieved.
At this point, Nigerians must come to terms with the reality that guns and tanks are not the only potent weapon of war. Diplomacy also plays a critical role. Diplomacy translates military triumph into new arrangements. It implies war planning and the conduct of war in accordance with a strategy that unites political, economic, informational, and intelligence measures with military actions and a well-crafted plan for war termination.
Diplomacy is also the art of pursuing internationally possible. It involves the unpleasant task of interacting persuasively with usually disagreeable adversaries and sometimes tedious friends. I am reminded of the story of a former US ambassador to the Soviet Union, Mac Toon, who went aboard an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean for a meeting with the admiral who commanded its battle group. At the end of their discussion, the admiral leaned over to ask, “What’s it like being an ambassador? I’ve always thought that after I retire, I might want to try it.” Ambassador Toon replied, “that’s funny. I’ve always thought that, when I retire, I might try my hand at running a carrier battle group.” The admiral said, “That’s ridiculous. A naval command requires years of training and experience.” But so do the management of foreign policy and diplomacy if the ship of state is not to be sailed onto the rocks or beached in the desert.
In the case of Nigeria, if we build a diplomatic capability with our neighbours to match our military prowess, we will gain a fundamental building block of national strategy towards addressing the Boko Haram insurgency in the country. And this, in my considered opinion, represents what the ambassadorial appointments of the likes of Buratai would avail the country.
Therefore the time to act is now in our quest towards bringing the Boko Haram insurgency to an end. I can vouch that we are on the right course with a man like Buratai and his wealth of experience. Needless I say more.
Bonaventure is a public affairs analyst and wrote from Badagry.