For peace, security, dreams die first – The Guardian Nigeria

War We talked over the phone and he told me that he was fine, but said we should continue praying for him. These were the words of an unnamed friend of Late Captain Benjamin Sule, when the military officer s death was announced in Ikom Barracks, Cross River State.

The late Sule got married in September, 2013 and shortly after his wedding, was posted to Borno State, where the rampaging Boko Haram sect was prosecuting a fierce war against the state. He practically barely enjoyed the honeymoon when he heeded national call and never returned home, until August, 2014, when he was pronounced dead in the hands of the insurgents.
Sule was not the only young and promising officer of the Nigerian Army killed by terrorists in the North East in the course of prosecuting the war.

Obviously, these young officers had their different dreams and aspirations before joining the Army, one of which was not to die in the hands of insurgents.

For instance, Late Major Dalaky was killed in April 2013 in Yobe State. Popularly known as Major Dalaky amongst his friends and colleagues, he hailed from Gombe State. An old boy of the Nigerian Military School, NMS, Zaria, he was a member of the 50th Regular Course at the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna State.

He was survived by two children and his wife.

Dalaky and Sule s dreams died with them in their prime. This cannot be good news to the military authorities and Nigerians alike. While other soldiers are having sleepless nights, other Nigerians, particularly the ones that are not within harm s way could not sleep due to angst.

Who knows where these terrorists will strike next? That was what was on the lips of everybody until words came from the military that there was a solution to the challenge.

This was greeted with mixed feelings by a cross section of the populace. Antagonists spurned it because they saw it as political, because the Army hinged the solution to election postponement.

The military actually sought the postponement of the February 14 and 28, 2015 elections for six weeks to enable it concentrate on the war against Boko Haram.

Indeed, the military made real its promise to liberate many north-east communities under the control of Boko Haram terrorists in the last two months to the admiration of many Nigerians and the international community.
True to his words, over the past few weeks, the Nigerian military, with the help of its neighbours, Chad and Niger, employing intensive, aggressive operations, have continued to gain massive advantage over the terrorists.

The first weeks of March saw the military sweeping along the western shore of Lake Chad and retaking towns like Baga and Doron Baga, which had been largely turned desolate and occupied by the deadly insurgents. Meanwhile, the Nigerian army s 7th Division struck eastwards from Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, and recaptured Bama, the second largest city in the area. The Nigerian forces went on to recover a large expanse of territory and lifted the threat to Maiduguri, which was previously under regular attack.

In all, about 30 towns and villages were recaptured.

On March 27, just a day to the Presidential elections, the 7th Division again mounted an attack on Boko Haram which led to the fall of Gwoza in Borno State. Since Gwoza had been the capital of Boko Haram s self-proclaimed Caliphate , many claimed this was the Nigerian Military s biggest victory, yet. But more was still to come.

On April 10, the Nigerian Army announced that it had recaptured four more towns from Boko Haram insurgents operating in the North-East.

The towns included Bita, Izge, Yamteke and Uba in Askira Uba and Damboa Local Government Areas of Borno State. Army spokesperson, Sani Usman, said troops from the 3rd and 7th division of the Nigerian Army, supported by colleagues from the Air Force, took part in the operation.

On April 19, the Nigerian Army had landed in the dreaded and expansive Sambisa forest with the possibility of finding and rescuing the abducted Chibok girls from the Boko Haram terrorists. According to the report, the operation to liberate the terrorist enclave may not last more than one week as most of the strikes and special operations have knocked out the enemy defence systems.

But latest information has it that the routing may be delayed due to landmine that had been laid around the forest, which needed to be cleared. Indeed, a soldier was said to have died as a result of the explosion of one of the landmines.

Also, according to a military source the sustained aerial bombardment by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) for weeks had made it possible for the Army to move into Sambisa, which is regarded as one of the final battles in the Boko Haram war.

With the move into Sambisa, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Kenneth Minimah believes that the insurgence is near its end.
I will tell you that militarily, they (Boko Haram) have been defeated, but as armed groups, thieves, armed robbers, or people who go about to steal, burn markets and loot to go back to the forests that will continue for a while , he told journalists.

Minimah also pointed out that getting into Sambisa should arouse fresh hopes of finding the Chibok girls.

He said: Yes, by the time we capture Sambisa forest completely, we will be able to find out where the Chibok girls are.

Because as it is now, anybody you ask, they will say they did not see them, they are not here, they are not there. But when we capture Sambisa forest we will be able to know where they are and government will take it up from there.

Save for the brief setback experienced by the military recently in Sambisa forest, perhaps the war could have reached end point. Indeed, the military ran into landmines planted by the insurgents, resulting in the death of a soldier.

This has necessitated a brief retreat to enable them re-strategise.

Meanwhile, the Director of Defence Information for the Nigerian Military, Maj.-Gen. Chris Olukolade, who has assured Nigerians that the federal government would continue to do everything to vanquish the terrorist, pointed out that the terrorists will never again take over any community in the country. The military advance is still continuing and the tempo of the mission is high, we have entered the final phase of the mission.

He has also noted that the areas left to be captured are very minimal; what is important now is the stabilization of the territories taken back and the mop up operations as well as the cordon-and-search operations that are ongoing.

Interestingly, the successes of the military have started to result into refugees being able to return to their homelands.

In Gwoza, the air of normalcy is seeping into the atmosphere as civilians return to their homesteads to begin a new life.

Interestingly, encomiums have started pouring in for the military from different quarters, particularly, from the corps of retired officers.

For instance, President Goodluck Jonathan recently said with their recent success, which had overwhelmingly turned the tide against Boko haram, the Nigerian military had proven beyond any doubt that it remained fully capable of defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria.

The question on the lips of Nigerians is: How did the military turn the tide against the insurgents? But at a recent interaction with journalists, Chief of army staff, Lt-Gen. Kenneth Minimah, said there was no magic involved.

The Army boss explained that about three to four key factors were responsible for the dramatic turn of events against the insurgents. These, he said, include change of military tactics, enforcement of discipline through the court-martials, procurement of new and appropriate weapons, and the agreement with the neighboring countries of the Lake Chad basin commission (LCBC) to join the war.

The army boss said the obsolete weapons and the difficulty in acquiring the right kind of arms and ammunition marred the counter- terrorism and counter insurgency war in the North-East.

His words: It is common knowledge that the Nigerian Army has been demanding equipment from the government. It is common knowledge that part of the seething problems of the war against the insurgency has been requisite modern equipment for the Army and Armed forces.

It is common knowledge that the equipment the Army had was old, aging; obsolete equipment and that we were doing local repairs to maintain them.

It is common knowledge too that our troops were running away from the battle. It is also common knowledge that the government was doing everything it could to buy equipment for the army.

The equipment that arrived changed the battle dynamics, changed the battle platform. Everything reversed, and the terrorist started running.

That is what happened.

The personality of the chief of Army Staff, utility of the equipment that arrived, changing the dynamics, changing the individual solders, that is what we have done.

So, for the common man who does not understand, let him have his rights to free speech, he can interpret it any way he wishes.

He also explained why some officers and men of the Nigerian Army had to be court martial led, noting that the gale of desertion from battlefield, cowardice, sabotage and general state of indiscipline were more damaging to the counter terrorism efforts than even lack of arms and ammunition.

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