In his inaugural address to the nation, Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari gave a strange order for the Military Command Centre or the Headquarters to immediately relocate to Maiduguri till terrorism is defeated. Since he made this speech, many so-called military “experts” or analysts have suddenly sprung up to voice their opinions on the matter which has the capacity or otherwise to solve or deter our efforts at fighting terrorism.
Of all the opinions I have read or heard, either for or against it, I must confess I saw little or no logic in most of the opinions offered other than ethno-political arguments. I soon saw how quickly ignorance spreads.
Before we go further, let me make some clarifications. I am not a military expert, neither do I lay claim to be. I have no military experience or training save for my three weeks camping for the Nigerian Army Short Service Combatant (SSC) Commission for which I couldn’t make the final list in 2014. If there is anything I know about the military is purely from my interactions with my soldier friends when I went for National Youth Service where I stayed briefly at a military barracks in 2013 in Adamawa state.
Having said that, let us get back to our task. In my opinion, most of us, or perhaps our military “experts” are missing out on some basic points which are crucial in our understanding of the fight against terrorism. The issues are not made easier when we continue to look at them from purely ethno-emotional lenses.
First, we need not be reminded that Muhammadu Buhari is the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces by virtue of his position as President of the Federal Republic. The 1999 Constitution under which he took his oath of office, confers upon him certain powers under section 218(1) to “determine the operational use of the armed forces of the federation.” My simple, layman understanding of the term “operational use” includes but not limited to the establishment of bases, formations, command, divisions and subdivision in any component of the armed forces in any part of the federation. If the commander-in-chief then, in his wisdom, chose to relocate the command centre to any part of the federation for operational efficacy, this writer sees nothing wrong in that!
Perhaps, some fears are due to geographical factors. One of the arguments is that moving the military headquarters out of the Federal capital Territory (FCT) will not prove effective. They support their argument with the fact that the command centre is not the infantry, hence a waste of time to relocate. I immediately reached out for my copy of the 1999 Constitution again, I am sorry to announce that nowhere and no clause made the President’s action in this matter illegal!
A prominent military analyst have defined a commander-in-chief as someone who keeps himself abreast of the situation, make expedient decisions for an operation or battle, assign combat mission opportunely and completely, disseminate the decision to units and sub-units, organise interactions, render total support to troop operations and put the decisions into effect firmly and resolutely. We are not used to these kinds of radical decisions made by a true commander-in-chief perhaps this is why we are used to pot-bellied generals, commanders and lazy soldiers as products of a below-efficient military brass.
Moving the higher echelons of the military to the troubled spots will make them have quality briefs, reports and field orientations, which is about all that is needed in the fight against terrorism.
We must be quick to admit that there are no hard fast rules to fighting groups like the Boko Haram. This is where we must quote the great Prussian military strategist, Carl von Clausewitz, in his classic, On War where he writes, “Everything in war is very simple, but the simplest thing is difficult.” On the surface, fighting Boko Haram and defeating the terrorists look easy, but fully conquering it involves a lot of complexities which are too detailed to be written in a single article. If we are looking carefully we would have found out that the group itself is not as strong as they have been made to look, but for the reckless (in)decisions by the politico-military establishment, the group would just have existed in the footnote of history. If Boko Haram militants can flee on the advancement of the Chadian and the Cameroonian Armies, finding comforts on Nigerian soil under the full glare of the “almighty” Nigerian army, then there are things we are not just doing right!
It is at this point that the risky decision to relocate the full presence of the Nigerian army at the troubled areas makes some sense. If Boko Haram can after then prove stronger than the entire army, then the time has come to take a long, hard look at the army itself!
Napoleon Bonaparte is considered one of the greatest generals in history. He achieved this feet, not by siting at the comfort of his Command or Headquarters in Paris, he was always leading the battle himself. His entire military campaigns were directed by a single commanding mind. He received quality field reports, intelligence and battle briefs thanks to his presence on the battle ground. We might not have remembered him today had he just sat at his high command barking out orders like we have today in the Nigerian military.
Adolf Hitler missed out on Napoleon’s great strength by relying too much on information from his high command in Munich during the World War II. He and his generals were almost never on the battle field. They sat comfortably at the headquarters to analyse contradicting field reports. Little wonder the well-equipped German army fell like a pack of cards. The rest is history.
I cited these two examples just to show how long our generals have slept. Like I wrote in an earlier article, How to Fight Terrorism, I argued that there are no conventional rules when it comes to fighting terrorism. Several minute details often prove critical or decisive which is part of the complications which Clausewitz wrote about. Roads get clogged, troops refuse to report to their assigned stations for mobilisation (or leave and return home after they have reported), equipments are inadequate or out of date, troops are not trained to use equipment which is up to date and so on. All these notwithstanding, we are aware relocating the military command to Maiduguri might not end the menace of Boko Haram overnight, but it can be part of the solution. This is my humble opinion on the matter!