Can Nigeria’s military win the war against terror?


By Emma Onyilofor

Some Nigerians applauded President Goodluck Jonathan’s tough talk against terrorism when he visited Maiduguri recently. He dismissed the amnesty request made by elders of Borno state when he categorically stated that he will not grant amnesty to Boko Haram on the grounds that it is a faceless terrorist group. Prior to the Borno elder’s request,

The Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Saa’d Abubakar made a similar request, in line with the views that had variously been expressed by sections of the northern elite, including the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF). Hawkish commentators believe that Boko Haram does not deserve amnesty and should not be granted amnesty. Such commentators allege that the scourge of Boko Haram has persisted because of the perception of G Jonathan as a weak president.

They typically allege that if Boko Haram had sprouted during the tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, they would long have been history. They swear that he would have meted out the Odi treatment to the hotbeds of Boko Haram insurgency in Northern Nigeria and peace would have since returned to the region. My question to such hawks is, did peace return to the Niger Delta as a result of the Odi massacre?

Not at all, rather the insurgency became bolder and more daring. Infact, the Odi massacre became a major turning point to the low intensity agitation existing in the region at that time. The aggrieved militant groups of the Niger Delta terrorized the region putting our national oil infrastructure at grave risk. The Federal Government’s Joint Military Task Force moved in to restore sanity to the region.

They succeeded in bloodying the nose of the militants but failed woefully in imposing peace in the region until the late President Musa Yar’Adua offered amnesty to the militants. Boko Haram is a different kettle of fish. The worst enemy you can have is one who is willing to kill himself in order to hurt you. It requires a bizarre mentality to load bombs on yourself or in a car and head for your target knowing fully well that you are on a journey of no return. As vicious as the Niger Delta militants were, they all wanted to live.

None of them deliberately sought to kill himself. It is catastrophic for any nation to have thousands of suicide driven insurgents within its borders. It is double jeopardy if the insurgents have learned to operate through widely scattered cells, making it hard to contain them. Consequently, I am tempted to ask, is this a war that can be won through military might? My answer is a capital NO. The pattern across the world is that military successes in the fight against terrorism are routinely matched with reversals.

That is why our Joint Task Force routinely announces the capture or killing of leading Boko Haram commanders and the capture of large cache of arms and few days later the group engages in lethal strikes somewhere else. A case in point was the killing of 52 Boko Haram members after Mr President left Maiduguri, and two days later the insurgents shot two PDP leaders in the state. A week later they successfully sacked a prison in Gwoza, Borno State. If military power is a deterrent, America and its allies with their vast military superiority would have since won the global fight against terrorism, especially in countries like Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan etc.

If military power can do it, Israel would have achieved peace with the Palestinians. In the past two years Israel invested more than ten billion dollars in Israeli Defense Force (IDF) operations in Palestine. But the IDF killed or captured only about 1500 Palestinians, most not proven terrorists. Worse still, IDF could not stop suicide bombers from hitting targets within Israel. America and its allies have consistently maintained that they cannot negotiate with terrorists. Surprisingly that policy is changing.

Today, they are beginning to talk of winning the hearts and minds of communities where Islamist terrorists have their havens. Beyond that, they are beginning to consider the possibility of negotiating with terrorists because the war cannot be contained. The human costs are simply appalling. In Palestine, like in Northern Nigeria, the lives of thousands of innocent people have been disturbed, permanently changed or destroyed by only a handful of terrorists. Killing people without trial or proof of guilt invites anarchy. This brings me to the story of a 5-year old boy in Maiduguri who witnessed the brutalization and death of his father in the hands of soldiers.

Few weeks later, the boy was sent by his mother to buy detergent with N5. He got to the shop and said to the shopkeeper that he will like to buy a bomb. Soldiers were alerted and they subsequently questioned the boy. He told them that his mother sent him to buy detergent but he will rather buy a bomb. Why do you need a bomb? He said he needs it to kill the soldiers who killed his father. In effect, as you get rid of one generation of terrorists, their bitter children are taking their place. This is precisely why Israel has not achieved peace with its neighbours and it is precisely why America and its allies are beginning to consider winning the hearts and minds of communities bearing the scourge of terrorism.

I think it is pragmatic for Mr President to reconsider his position on granting amnesty to Boko Haram for the simple reason that Islamist terrorism is a war that we cannot win through military power. Besides, the most respected voices in the North have requested for amnesty and turning it down can only strengthen the resolve of Boko Haram to continue fighting and encourage many Northerners who have been sitting on the fence to join the struggle. It is in our collective interest to work towards a closure of this scourge because the next phase of the insurgency may not be limited to the North. May the Almighty grant us the wisdom to solve our problems.

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  1. I thought Yaradua gave the Niger Delta Militants an ultimatum to hand in their weapons or d amnesty is foreclosed wt a possible very tough repercussion. How wl d president couch his amnesty statement to cver d ghost BH. Who will respond and if they fail can we profer possible action and to whom it wl be directed. May be d proposers of d amnesty will be held accountable. It is a delima if we must be sincere. God help this British mistaken and dliberate unification miscalculation called Nigeria.

  2. Caliboi Okpara on

    Nigerian soldiers are in Imo state and other eastern part of Nigeria brutalising innocent citizens while boko haram are killing people daily in the north. How do you think the soldiers will win the war.

  3. Ebuka Amaechi on

    Can d Nigerian millitar y win d war against d Terrorists?for any one to profer an ecceptabl and non biased answa to this sensitive ques- tion,The following realities must be takn into consideration.(I) The moral and loyalty of the millitary to the authorities. (2)Religious interests of the Millitary in a given assignments. (3)The command structure at a given environment.(4)The rule of the leaders of the Communities the millitary might found their services requird (5)Ethnicity/Tribal clorations in a multi- ethic setting such as Nigeria.Haven conside -erd all above,I wish to submitt in view of Nigerias divergent and multi-religious interests,suspicions, loyalty to the States of origion,as against the National interest by all Nigerians, have constituted the greatest challenges to the Nations millitary figh wt the Terrorists present threat to the corparate existence of Nigerian State.Until the Constitution is effectively ammended to remove the clauses deliberately inserted by the millitary Juntas to keep the Country open for millitary interventions,I honest ly dont see the millitar y wining the determi-ned Boko Haram Terrorists.May God help Naiga to over come.

  4. Shemira moth. Chikwelu on

    Those so called respected voices from the north ought to have told the boko haram members to cease killing innocent civilians before  talking of amnesty.  Yes the truth is that  one cannot win a war been fought with ghost, cause as its this boko harams are ghost as they are faceless, and one can’t blame the president. For refusing to grant them amnesty ,what are  they agitating for? What is their grieve?. What is the actual reasons for slaughtering innocent Christians ? going to. Churches to burn people?  if I may ask ,if the ibo Christian are blood thirsty like them  and started killing northerners in their place of worship In eastern part of the country , would they  have been granted amnesty As well.?   In Niger delta , people know what they are agitating for , but this faceless  people , what is their demand ? One must see reasons with the president.  First they must come out and tell the masses what they are agitating for , those northern voices need to see reasons with mr president, all the people slaughtered  won’t they be paid compensation ? All this should be taken into consideration  with properties destroyed, 

    some of those voices knew those boko haram faces  but because it’s part of sabotage against the regime of Jonathan  so they ll prefer  him to fail.. Unfortunately  he will continue.,  it’s well known that to fight terrorism is a difficult thing  of which well developed. Countries have never won such wars. In the case of Nigeria the military will not succeed in the overall  context of it as always the civilians will be the one to suffer casualty.  But in other for the country to forge ahead if we decide to remain one country , cause based on the way the boko haram is going about it . seems like American  prophesy of 2015 or beyond may manifest . But should in case we ll move on as  one nation.the BH must  stop all hostility against  civilians ,  cause they aren’t fighting  Nigerian armed forces rather they are fighting unarmed civilians in Churches and parks, and then  come out with genuine facts of what they are agitating  and then mr president will then consider the issue of amnesty and compensation  to those civilians slaughtered including property wasted.  I rest my case.

  5. And all of you,the intellectuals thinks we the igbo will forget the generation of our families you killed unjustly without trying to reach out to their communities ??and the only advise from all of you across this country is for igbo to foget about it and move on. You have said the truth about killings ..the same thing you narrated about Isreal and Palestinians are also the same story of Igbo and Nigeria.. I pray that Boko Haram will Understand the value of life and face the Goverment so that Government can be able to Understand their main reason of killing innocent Nigerians weather hausa ,igbo or yoruba and every other nigerians .. But it is good that you have said the truth about killings and how difficult it is for generations to forget about their families killed in cold blood in front of them and many were watched starved to death kids, pregnant mothers,old men,women and almost every living thing in that land.. With your narration in this write up ,do you think igbo are not angry ?? or does not need people to addressed to them why did this happen ??? Nigeria cannot work and will never work unless we go back to the drawing table(said Ojukwu) if not more deadly insurgency deadlier than Boko Haram will soon emerge .. If the president dialogue directly with boko haram , will boko haram turn to be the voice of Northern leaders ?? because already they are looking for power , Jonathan doesn’t want to make them the leaders of the north that is why he want the known leaders and stakeholders of the north to meet with boko haram,discuss with them ,find out what their demand is and then present their leaders to the Government ,just like the Niger Delta leaders did for Yaradua’s simple .. let Nigerians know directly from the northern leaders the legitmacy of any group to kill innocent people at will.. Nigeirans have not even known the reason for this insurgency and people are calling for amnesty ?? amnesty to people with the idiology to Islamize Nigeira ? don’t you think that if you give amnesty to this type of group you have already institutionalized their struggle ?? Never and ever grant amnesty to terrorists .. It is a dangerous…very dangerous.

  6. THIS SUCH A STATEMENT PORTRAY THE WRITER AS A FOOL THAT, the most respected voices in the North have requested for amnesty and turning it down can only strengthen the resolve of Boko Haram to continue fighting and encourage many Northerners who have been sitting on the fence to join the struggle, LET THERE BE MORE DEATH THERE WHO CARES AND WHO IS LOOSING IN WHAT LAND IS THE WORLD NOTING

  7. Boney London on

    You can’t defeat terrorists with tanks and heavy weapons. You defeat terrorism with intelligence. The US has been able to decimate Al Qaida with intelligence and the drones. The Nigerian Military loves a show of force and that does not win modern day warfare.

  8. Say the truth on

    Nigeria should be divided to allow northerners continue with their rothen nature.we can’t continue with them,i can’t underatand why mr jona I still waitin.spain successfully defeated terrorists after the madrid bombing.England successfully nailed them after london subway bombing.American homeland have not seen bombings since 9/11/2001.why should we give in?all these continue cos we have glorified enemies like satan sa’ad within.People whose head isn’t working can be with us,lets start the secession movement now.

  9. Be carefull! this is a confusionist. I want the security agents to be strong and carry out their work with courage. With God on their side they will overcome.

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