It has continued to amaze Nigerians how the terrorist group- Boko Haram- has been growing in numbers. The more the military claims to decimate them, the more they multiply and continue in their unfortunate campaign of death and destruction. This has triggered the question whether everybody in the North is now a member of the insurgent group as they appear to outnumber the nation’s soldiers.
Boko Haram has continued to attack and kill soldiers in their numbers and it does appear as if the Boko Haram is generative judging by some factors. It also appears that Nigeria is witnessing for the first time a massive resignation of soldiers who drop their guns for the fear of being killed. It used to be said that once someone joins the military, there is no free exit.
Today, people are walking away from the military as many Nigerians appear no longer interested in enlisting in the military unlike in the past when applications for entrance into any arm of the military was oversubscribed, and admission very difficult.
Some analysts attribute these disturbing developments to a deep fall in the morale in the military following widespread stories of conspiracies within the security set to keep the insurgency going on because of the pecuniary interest of officers and men benefitting from the huge budgetary allocation for security while the hapless soldiers die in the battle field almost without care. It is also common knowledge that the military men and women relative to the growing population of the country, is small in number and most often overstretched.
It is also believed that the poverty and the illiteracy predominant among the youth in the north east region of the country make the youth susceptible to manipulations making them victims of very weird ideological indoctrination and monetary inducement that push them to this nihilistic level.
Renowned security expert and columnist, Ben Okezie alluded to the fact that the military is overstretched. He told BDSUNDAY on Friday that the number of Nigerian soldiers is just around 300,000 and they are fighting in many different fronts.
“They (military) handle road checks, they help internally to check kidnapping, banditry, and many other things and they are also checkmating the Niger Delta boys and you expect them to do magic? Nobody doubts the fact that Boko Haram has drastically reduced. Some years ago, the Boko Haram was having 18 Local government areas under its control. When they are attacked by the military, some of them will run away, some of them will melt into the local communities.
“In that part of the country, they have a larger percentage of the youth who are jobless, who don’t go to school. You can see that many of them ride motorcycles (Okada) and do other menial jobs. So, when they are offered $200 to join Boko Haram, they willingly join, since Boko Haram is affiliated to foreign terrorist organisations such as Al-qaeda, al-Shabaab and they have access to funding in dollars. So, they use the dollars to recruit these boys, indoctrinate and arm them because they are getting arms from unstable countries such as Libya and Iraq,” he said.
He also blamed the low morale on diminishing level of patriotism in the country, adding that recruitment into the security forces especially the military is suffering because of the poor state of the economy occasioned by the crises caused by the Covid-19.
“You can see what the economy of the country looks like now, there is no money. Check the police when were they paid last? All the governors are scaling down their budgets because they have been told that there is no money. This is also affecting the military. You can see that they stopped anything recruitment because anybody they recruit now, they have to kit and pay them,” Okezie said.
On the question of soldiers resigning from the army because of alleged fear of being killed, Okezie debunked the report as mischievous.
He said: “When we said that soldiers were resigning, it is for certain period, the people that wrote that report, they were just being mischievous. In the military, you come in and you go out, you are recruited, you are not conscripted. It was during the Biafra war that you are conscripted because that war was for the country and if you are conscripted unless you are asked to leave; if you leave they will shoot you and kill you.
“But when you are recruited on your own free will, you can go anytime. That is why you see a soldier who stays for two or three years and if he is no more comfortable he can tender his resignation. Some stay to the end if they enjoy it. Some because of bad health, they leave; some because they want to further their studies they will leave. So, the army just gathered those who want to leave from six months to one year and added them together, it is not that they all left at a go.”
He however, called on Nigerians to encourage the military because they make a lot of sacrifices even as he tasked the leaders not to shortchange the fighting men in order to revive their fading morale. He also expressed optimism that when things improve many people will come back to join the army.
Also speaking to BDSUNDAY Friday, Katch Ononuju, public intellectual, said Boko Haram appears to have overwhelmed the military in Borno because the army appears Balkanised leading to mistrust within because of alleged infiltration and the so-called repentant combatants that President Muhamamdu Buhari allegedly pushed into the army.
He said: “Buhari continues to reintegrate unrepentant Boko Haram combatant into the army and those people turn their guns against other Nigerians wearing uniform. Buhari is directly complicit in the killings by reintegrating those boys, giving them guns in the field which they have turned against other Nigerians. That is why we now suffer incredible death tolls. How can we not fight a band of terrorists? It is because those who sponsor them are among us.”
He also expressed hope that the military will regain their strength and cohesion when they are reorganised after President Buhari leaves power in 2023.
A cleric in part of the North East, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said Adamawa, Yobe and Borno States appeared to have been overrun by members of the Islamist group.
“When you go to some parts of the core North East States, it appears that all the youths there have enlisted in the insurgency. No day passes without cases of attacks. Religious centres are burnt down, people are killed and other unprintable things happen which government closes its eyes against. This is the worst time to live in Nigeria,” the cleric lamented.
The cleric explained that many youths in those places now willingly join insurgency as they are not being catered for by anybody.
“Don’t forget that because of the religion that allows polygamy, a huge number of men marry many wives and raise numerous children that they do not cater for. These children usually serve as low-hanging fruits for recruitment by Boko Haram. That is why it appears that everybody is a Boko Haram,” he said.