By Basil Okoh
Former Governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke just gave voice to the most discussed secret in the Nigerian security establishment. Weaponry used by Boko Haram, Ansaru and The Islamic State of West Africa (ISWAP) terrorist groups is sourced mainly from the Nigerian Government through the security forces.
Scandal? No, that’s not the real scare. The real scandal is the brazen and open channels by which these supplies get to the terror groups. All Intelligence Agencies know these channels and also know the principal sources and players in the supplies. The Nigerian Government is the stock owner of the guns and the bombs with which the terror groups kill Nigerian soldiers and citizens.
The shock for Governments and intelligence Agencies across the world is the personalities involved in the transactions and the fact that no arm of the Nigerian Government does anything to apprehend or stop them.
How the terror groups gain access to the armories of the Nigerian armed forces is no secret to the Military high command and the Nigerian Government. There are officers and men who are in charge of ordnance at every military base in the country. Records of the movement of arms and ammunition are the most meticulously guarded documents in every military organization. How then do these weapons leave the ordnance depots to end up in the hands of the enemy?
The motivation, as many people may not believe, is not strictly for cash. The major motivation for depleting the Nigerian military ordnance depots across the country to supply the terror groups is empathy for and solidarity with the jihadists.
Many officers and men of the Nigerian military believe in and are fighting for the causes of Boko Haram and other splinter terror groups. Officers in the Military High Command and top levels of Government are implicated in the well structured and supported supply chain to the terror groups because they share similar belief with the jihadi.
Many officers and men identify and accept the doctrine espoused by the terror groups and see radical Islam as good and proper to purify the North and impose Islamic beliefs on the rest of the country. To these men in military uniform therefore, fighting the cause of Islam and identifying with the jihad of the terror groups is an obligation in faith Superior to the show of patriotism to the Nigerian nation.
The military high command has known this fact since the beginning of the Boko Haram conflict, because many of them, politicians and other highly placed officers in the civil establishment, are implicated in the conspiracy to support the terror groups as a means of advancing Islam and building an Islamic State in Nigeria. Boko Haram has never been an idea and organization without support in the highest echelons of the Nigerian establishment. Muhammadu Buhari acknowledged that before his presidency when he called them “our people”.
To these officers and men, Boko Haram is not the pariah group that the world perceives it to be but a positive force for the Islamic purification of the North and the advancement of the Muslim agenda to the rest of Nigeria. Many in the civil North also believe that Boko Haram and other terror groups are committed to the “noble” cause of Islam and the jihad.
An important reason for the prolongation of the war against terror in the North-east of Nigeria is the unending betrayal by these jihadi officers and men in the military. They see a threat to the cause of Islam from the Nigerian Government and its deployment of military force against the Jihadi and continually work to stop the defeat of the terror groups. They justify the supply of both arms and information to the terror groups by pleading the cause of the Muslim “umma”.
Fundamentalist Islam has always been an attractive platform to win political relevance in Northern Nigeria and has always been exploited by all comers to win the acceptance, adoration and followership of the mass populations.
In this sense, fundamentalist Islam has always been weaponized to win dominance and control of the political institutions and civil structures of the North since Usman Dan Fodio. The war against terrorism is therefore seen by many, including intellectuals, as a war against Muslims and Islam and by extrapolation, a war against the north.
The presence of Christian and Southern soldiers further inflames the perceived conspiracy against Islam and the North. The war against terror in Northern Nigeria has therefore become a Hydra headed monster, convoluted and without a clear knowledge of who is fighting on which side.
Many battles have been encumbered by betrayals as battle plans are leaked, dud weapons supplied, troops are ambushed or Commanders shot from the rear.
These acts of betrayal by known officers and men identifying with the cause of jihad is no longer clandestine but have become mainstream with the ascension of Muhammadu Buhari to the presidency.
Soldiers at the various fronts will tell you that the terror groups are better armed than the troops and that they have real time intelligence on the movement of troops.
In fact International Intelligence organizations have always known the fact that there is no intelligence or plan by the Nigerian Military High Command that will not be leaked to the terror groups in Nigeria. The terror groups have more reliable intelligence on the Nigerian Military than the Military have on them.
Intelligence Agencies also know that the terror groups have access to and influence at the highest decision making bodies of Government. They have cuts in padded security budgets. There are ardent believers in the jihad and committed members of the terror groups in those high level bodies.
Foreign Governments and organizations that at the beginning showed interest in joining the Government of Nigeria to defeat the terror groups have all retreated and withdrawn support. Their contributions in the forms of finance and logistics have fizzled.
International News Organizations covering the war have also withdrawn their correspondents on the orders of the Nigerian Government for reporting the war crimes and theft of food and other humanitarian supplies. Right now, only the AFP is reporting the war against terror in the North-east of Nigeria from across the borders in Northern Cameroun.
The result has been that the war against terror in the Northeast of Nigeria has become shrouded in so much secrecy that conspiracies and misinformation has imposed a dark Dominion and brutish existence over the entire region.
The soldiers, particularly of the Christian and Southern extraction no longer have the motivation to fight and are now all holed up in their various locations. They are dreadful of venturing out to confront the enemy in a war that because of too many battlefield betrayals, have clearly opened the ethnic and religious divisions in their country.
Trust, comradeship and the much needed adrenalin for fighting and survival among soldiers in the battlefield, has been drained through unceasing betrayals by bigoted soldiers and Government officials who have taken sides with the enemy. The tragedy is not in the loss of a war but in the loss of a country which it portends.