Since the ‘real’ Nigerian military establishment, noted for its daring and dogged ability to take on all comers in any theatre of conflict; a military that went saw and conquered in places like Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Somalia and several other scenes of more frightening wars around the world, showed up for the final battle to restore normalcy to the North East, courtesy of what troops, airmen and pilots have clamoured for all these while (modern weaponry), the boys have been separated from the men.
However, before the initial date of Feb, 2015 for elections, the military that are specialists in restrictions, were themselves seriously restricted in their ability to procure the necessary arms and ammunition that would have assisted the country curtail the murderous activities of Boko Haram in the country.
In this regard, revelations from security agencies showed that while some politicians who are jostling for positions today did everything to prevent hitherto friendly countries from selling arms to Nigeria to fight the war, using the excuse of human rights abuse of ‘murderers’, others used their personal relationships with leaders of some countries to scuttle already agreed deals on the grounds that Nigeria as a nation, may use such weaponry for ulterior motives.
At the same time, these politicians will come out in their ‘chameleon robes’ shouting to high heavens that the Nigerian military who pride themselves as world acclaimed cannot tame a rag tag Boko Haram group; pretending to not understand that the dynamics of a guerrilla warfare is one that has no rules or respect of conventional treaties on the side of the merciless and murderous group.
Hence with the tide changing and Nigerians expressing a sigh of relief, military authorities are becoming more embolden and eager to see off the menace called Boko Haram so that the once bubbling and highly accommodating North East part of Nigerian can regain its lost glory.
Before the turnaround in the war to dislodge Boko Haram from Nigerian territory however, Nigerian military went through some challenges which tested the professionalism of the armed forces amongst which were cases of soldiers deserting from the battlefront, soldiers disobeying lawful orders, soldiers and even pilots in some cases showing sympathy to Boko Haram killers on the grounds that they practice same religion and troops donating equipment of the Nigerian military to terrorists because of pecuniary gains.
An instance which was spoken about in hushed tones in 2014, occurred when a pilot of the Nigerian air force who was directed to carry out a mission of flying to bomb a band of Boko Haram terrorists who attacked a community, murdered over 50 persons mostly elderly men and women, abducted scores of young girls and children and burnt down the community.
When the pilot got to the scene, from the air, he saw the terrorists in their numbers doing the Islamic prayers. He choose not to attack them and returned to base not minding that this same people killed and maimed men, women and children as well as burnt down their community.
There were also problems of troops getting approved allowances from Commanders on the field as at when due while the amount approved for partaking in a war with a 50-50 chance of survival (N30, 000 monthly) was considered as paltry and discouraging for those who may be compelled to pay the ultimate price for the nation.
So as far back as July 2014, former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Kenneth Tobias Minimah who saw the handwriting on the wall, confirmed the long held secret that desertion, acts of cowardice and indiscipline within the army in the fight against terrorism were some of the greatest setbacks in checkmating the Boko Haram menace.
“While charging Commanders then to put a stop to it, he said ‘the rising acts of indiscipline and unprofessional conduct by troops was unbecoming and should be stopped because the Nigerian Army is a professional organization”.
Blaming the acts of indiscipline on the fact that most people, who joined the military in recent times, do so out of the need for employment and not passion for military service, Minimah said, “Desertion is part of warfare. We must accept that since the era of the Cartagena wars, soldiers had deserted from battle field.
“There is high level of unemployment on ground; most people want jobs and if that job means joining the army fine. It is a source of employment. However, when the reality of the military service comes, he drops his riffles. So desertion will continue to be there. We had desertion in ECOMOG; in the Nigerian Civil war and now it will continue to be there”.
To checkmate these challenges, Minimah came out with certain morale boosting measures including rewards for gallantry like the immediate promotion of 296 soldiers after they successfully repelled an attack by Boko Haram and captured a cache of arms from them.
“He also directed that forthwith, the Army would ensure continued sustenance of the family of any deceased personnel until all the entitlements of the affected personnel have been settled”.
“Similarly, in a bid to ensure the provision of timely and adequate medical attention to personnel who sustain injuries in the course of the ongoing campaign in the North East, he directed establishment of dedicated wards in the Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Kaduna to provide specialized services to affected personnel.
Additionally, personnel whose medical cases merit medical evacuation abroad would be accorded that opportunity without delay”.
The former policy of immediate stoppage of pay of soldiers who die in battle was discarded with and families told they are entitled to their breadwinners pay for about six months in the unfortunate event of loss of life”.
However with the six weeks period requested by the Nigerian military to get the job done following arrival of new weaponry and collaborative efforts of countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, there is renewed vigour from troops to annihilate Boko Haram.
It was gathered that this came about due to certain morale boosting actions and welfare packages put in place by both the federal government and the military authorities themselves.
Firstly, the N30, 000 monthly allowances which was seen as paltry has been increased to N100, 000 per month. The authorities have established a dedicated funding arrangement that take care of the treatment of injured military personnel either in Nigeria or abroad and there is dedicated aircraft that evacuates injured personnel at the shortest notice.
There is also establishment of a Benevolent Fund account to take care of immediate needs of families who lose breadwinners.
Cases of mass promotions and appreciation by the Military High Command for gallantry as witnessed in Baga when troops recaptured the military base and other communities as well as a sizeable quantity of newly acquired arms and ammunition, boosted troops resolve.
The visits to Mubi, Vimtim and Baga by Both President Goodluck Jonathan, the Commander in Chief to encourage troops meant a lot to them. That he came in a military fatigue, mingled with and interacted with them showed a leader who appreciated the super human efforts they were sacrificing for the nation.
With these measures, the morale of soldiers have continued to rise and with a 24 hours logistics rotation flight by the Nigerian air force supplying foodstuff, consumables and the everyday needs of troops even in very rugged weather conditions, it is little wonder that soldiers are heard singing victory songs and dancing at the successful dislodgement of terrorists and recapture of communities.
At a recent briefing by the Defence headquarters on the wonderful performances of troops backed by air force fighter aircraft in Mongonu and Baga, well kitted and gallant Nigerian soldiers on cordon and search operations were overheard saying, “pikin wey say d mama no go sleep, the pikin no go sleep”, “This war must end, anywhere una run to we go pursue una until the end”, “We dey our own na una carry wahala come look for us, now we dey ready for una”.