Insecurity: Zulum’s call for mercenaries

WORRIED by the dire security situation across the country, particularly in relation to terrorism,  Borno State governor and chairman of the North-East Governors Forum, Professor Babagana Zulum, recently urged the Federal Government to hire mercenaries and collaborate with Nigeria’s neighbours to end the terror scourge. Speaking during the fourth meeting of North-East Governors Forum held in Bauchi, Bauchi State, Zulum lamented the low impact of military tactics in the fight against terror in the  zone. He said: “Service chiefs have been changed and expectedly, a new strategy by the new chiefs should be formed, as insecurity in the North-East is taking a turn for the worst because the tactics presently employed are having limited impact.”  Zulum further advocated the conversion of all boarding schools to day schools in places where kidnappings had occurred, while calling for the protection of critical infrastructure to avoid the recurrence of the terrorist attacks on electricity infrastructure that had left Borno State in darkness for the past seven weeks.

To be sure, Governor Zulum’s advocacy for the use of mercenaries in the counter-terrorism operations in the North-East is not new. Time and again, the governor has canvassed the viewpoint in the face of the reign of terror in the state, across the North-East geopolitical zone and in the North in general. He has sought to draw attention to what he perceives as the apparent lack of commitment on the part of the troops prosecuting the war.  Given the pervasive threats to life that Governor Zulum and his colleagues have had to contend with on a daily basis, his position is understandable. With Borno being the epicenter of insurgency, the governors certainly knows where the shoe pinches. In spite of the claims by the Federal Government that the war against terror is being, or has been won, years of terrorism have ravaged the state and left it prostrate. However, hiring mercenaries may not provide the immediate solutions that Governor Zulum and many other Nigerians envisage.

If Nigerian soldiers are not showing enough commitment to the fight against terror, the appropriate thing to do is to find out why. Is the problem, for instance, about motivation and provision of sophisticated weapons, and better working conditions in general? Are those who pay the supreme price being properly recognised to serve as motivation for others? Are the channels of complaints in the different services (Army, Navy, Air Force) truly open and unencumbered by prejudice? What care does the system have for the families of the fallen gallant officers and men?

As Nigerians are well aware, the biggest price a United States soldier can pay is to lose his or her life during the call of duty. The country and system take good care of the officers and men, and motivate them to give of their best at all times. In the United States, mercenaries are called special contractors and are well motivated to execute their mandates at all times. In Nigeria, though, the system provides little or no motivation for military personnel, and nearly everybody tends to run away from reality. Instructively, the immediate past Chief of Army Staff, Lt-General Tukur Buratai, gave a dismal picture of the security situation in the country when he appeared for screening as an ambassador-designate at the Senate. Buratai declared that the counter-terrorism war could drag on for as long as 20 years. According to him, the terrorists had infiltrated and melted into communities. With decades of poor governance, it is certainly not hard to see how people in the North-East would latch onto “kind gestures” by members of the terror groups looking for new recruits.

Generally, military barracks across the country are a reflection of the state of affairs in the services. They are filthy and unsightly, and certainly cannot compare with the palatial houses where members of the National Assembly reside. In the military, there is hardly any dignity in labour. In sum, then, the country still has a long way to go in curbing the terrorism scourge. On current evidence, members of the Armed Forces, particularly the men on the frontlines, are not being treated with dignity. The internet is suffused with videos of distraught soldiers complaining of abandonment by their superiors and by their government, of lack of the needed weapons, and of massive corruption by the military top echelon. These issues and many more have to be revisited, and fast enough. Nothing will be gained by the government importing mercenaries into the country without listening to the outcry of the men on the frontlines.

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