With the arrival, a few days ago, of six Super Tucano jet fighters, Nigeria is set to put to rout the assorted terrorist groups in the country, but experts say Nigeria needs the political will and attitudinal change in order to win the low-grade war.
Considering the might of the Nigerian Army, especially at defending the West African region from internal aggressions amid commendable peace missions, one would have thought that by now, the Boko Haram terrorists, bandits and kidnappers should have been wiped out outright.
Rather, the notorious groups are thriving, expanding their territories, killing innocent people and destroying properties. Moreover, the difficulty in tackling these criminal elements and terrorists by the once-revered Nigerian Army is surprising to many, especially those who witnessed the military prowess of the army at the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, Bakassi, and some other international engagements.
The Nigerian government, which has shown little will power to tackle the country’s security challenges, is at it again.
It is celebrating the acquisition of six Super Tucano jets, which arrived Nigeria penultimate Thursday, and some people are commending the government, expressing the optimism that with the military jets, the days of Boko Haram, bandits and kidnappers are numbered.
But some keen observers think otherwise.
Terfa Gekwe, a retired military personnel, from Benue State, explained that it is not about the ammunition, but soldiers in the right spirit to fight, smooth logistics, better welfare for families of slain soldiers and willingness to share intelligence by all security operatives and communities where the wars are raging.
“The Brazilian-made Super Tucano turboprop light-attack aircraft can only achieve result when the pilots are not ambushed, when right security intelligence is shared and secured, and morale needs to be very high for the pilots to hit the right targets because families of the dead colleagues are suffering today,” Gekwe explained.
‘Change of attitude is what Nigeria needs’
The retired security personnel, who runs a security firm for luxury estates in Abuja, insisted that Nigeria does not need all the sophisticated weapons to win the war, but internal purging of the system to fish out saboteurs of military efforts, apologists and financiers of terrorist groups in the country and better collaborations with locals.
“You need to show example by freezing accounts of suspected financiers, make open show of the killing of captured terrorists and forget the idea of repentant Boko Haram, if they cannot lead the way to the group’s hideout, then they are still working together. Do you ever think terrorists will let a member go. The solution lies in government’s hand and it knows it,” he further said.
Toeing the same line, Amedu Tyem, a Plateau State-born serving senior security officer, regretted that the Nigerian government is announcing acquisition of jet fighters, which should have been secret, because “your enemy should not know your strength if you must win him,” he noted.
He queries the source of the ammunition terrorists are using in shooting down military jets and that the government and the Nigerian Army should have tackled this challenge before acquiring jets that could be shot down soon by the waiting terrorists.
“I am a trained security officer and I know the kind of gun that will shoot down a fast jet. Such guns are not in the market, they are classified and can only be acquired by security institutions, so where did the guns come from, or are they saying it is Niger Delta when all the borders in the north are open to Niger, Mali, Chad and Libya by extension,” Tyem noted.
As well, Peter Ogah, an activist and forensic lawyer, argued that buying jets when government is more than willing to negotiate with bandits makes no sense, rather the government should not have made noise about the jets, but bring them in secretly, use them to strike bandits and terrorists persistently until they all die or run away with their sponsors.
“It is very disappointing that terrorists will shoot down military jet and nothing happens to them. The government is not telling us the truth, who are they, where did they get such guns, how did they know when to target and shoot right. If the government gets serious and sincere with the fight, it will force the Army to bring expected result. Which African country will want Nigerian soldiers now, when it is obvious that they cannot fight their own battle? Government should task the Army,” Ogah said.
Ogah also thinks that the government should have insisted on getting foreign help rather than wasting lean resources on jet fighters that would be shot down soon by the so-called technically defeated terrorists.
“If we engage the United States of America or even France as foreign partners in the fight against terrorism, they will come with their personnel and equipment as well, including jets. Who is advising Nigeria and why are we always taking the easy road?” Ogah lamented.
For Ogah, the Nigerian government should be sued for the lives lost during the #EndSARS protest because trigger-happy soldiers should use the same passion in shooting innocent protesters to attack terrorists and bandits.
Also, considering the billions spent so far on security with little or no results, Marcus Angwe, a political scientist and newspaper public affairs analyst, thinks that security is now a money-making venture and that somebody is getting richer with the six Super Tucano jets deal.
“Do you think the six jets would have been possible if no jet was shot down? I see collaborations among a network of wicked people who want to live on the blood of innocent Nigerians. It is only in wars you shoot down jets because of the big guns required, what if it is a mercenary jet that shot down our own jet? We all need to wake up, we need to task government; we need to protest to the Army on why they are chickening-out,” Angwe said.
Toeing a different line however, Gerald Mburi, a novelist and documenter of civil unrests in Africa in the last five decades, fears that the jets might be for military operations in the South East of the country, following Army threats in recent times.
“In my three researches on civil unrest in Nigeria, I have discovered some dominant factors, which are huge challenge to security and one of them is the partiality in handling insecurity across the country. You cannot say a group is terrorist, another cultural group, and the other gunmen, and achieve same result. If those flying the new jets are Boko Haram or bandits’ apologists, we will achieve no result. We need soldiers whose mission is to avenge the blood of innocent Nigerians killed directly or indirectly by these terrorists, to launch the attacks”, Mburi said.
The novelist, who is also a security consultant due to his extensive documentations on insecurity, noted that the rate at which soldiers are absconding from battlegrounds with the terrorists is alarming and pointer to the need for reorientation and purging of the military.
“From experience, it is not just weapons that fight wars, but the soldiers handling the weapons are the most important and you need them to be 100 percent across board, else they will drop the weapons. Like they say, ‘who wan die'”, he enthused.
In their conclusion, many concerned Nigerians and security observers are insisting on boosting the morale of soldiers, sharing intelligence and collaboration among security operatives, working with communities affected, freezing accounts of financiers of terrorists, non-negotiation with them, making open show of their execution will save the country and not buying all the weapons that saboteurs will take to the enemies.
“Boost soldiers’ morale now, before giving them weapons as financiers are doing to their recruit terrorists and they are getting results,” Gekwe concluded.
It’s a game-changer in the counter insurgency war – BMO
The Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) has expressed the optimism that the arrival of the turboprop A-29 Super Tucano fighter jets which it described as “a light attack aircraft, a versatile tool, rugged, well-armoured and available with the state-of-the-art avionics, was a game-changer.
The group says the new acquisition will further enable surgical strikes at the heart of various counterinsurgency operations by the troops of the gallant Armed Forces of Nigerian (AFN).
In a statement signed by its chairman, Niyi Akinsiju and secretary, Cassidy Madueke, BMO posited that these air assets would add impetus and renewed vigor to the fierce counterinsurgency operations in the North-East and the fringes of Lake Chad region, including the battle to eliminate bandits in the North-West.
“The propeller-driven warplanes, which include munitions, spare parts and a maintenance package is tailored for counterinsurgency operations and will greatly bolster the nation’s efforts to combat and efficiently degrade the terrorists and other sundry elements.
“BMO makes bold to note that, no African country has the Super Tucano in its inventory and the government of President Muhammadu Buhari would not relent in its effort to degrade all the agents of destruction in the country while retooling the Nigerian security services,” the group said.
BMO also highlighted how the Buhari administration has been upgrading the airpower of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) in the past six years, emphasising that, “This is a major milestone, a huge stride in the fight against terrorism. It is historical that since the civil war, Nigeria has not experienced a concise planning and acquisition of this amount of air assets which shall enable a swift termination of this prolonged asymmetric warfare.”
According to the group, “We are optimistic that these new birds would complement the strategic onslaught against the terrorist elements by members of the AFN and orchestrate a narrative of success in their favour. The AFN is being repositioned as a formidable force of stability, not just in the Lake Chad region, but the greater Sahel.”
BMO further said: “The Super Tucano’s value for improved targeting capabilities and lessened risk of collateral damage makes it a game-changer in the decade long warfare. It would ensure Nigeria continues with her willingness to lead in combating regional threats to peace and security in the sub region and the continent at large.”
“No doubt, the procurement of these strategic platforms would lend a lot of effective air assets in the operational context of the knockdown of the terrorists’ logistics hideouts. We believe the NAF would be providing close air support to the ground troops as they embark on a merciless counteroffensive strike on the Boko Haram/ ISWAP elements in the restive North East.”
Too early to say they are game-changers – Rtd Captain
Speaking to BusinessDay Sunday on the benefit of the Super Tucano, Aliyu Umar Babangida, a retired Army captain, said: “Certainly the Air Force adding the aircraft to her inventory grants her some very significant leverage in the operations…and that’s the force multiplier aspect.
“How, the aircraft are deployed and their impact on the North East operations is where we will begin to say if they are indeed ‘game changers’ or not. Only events as they unfold, can underscore our expectations…”
The retired captain further said, “I am confident that within the next 90 days, a Gap analysis of the Super Tucano, and its deployment by the Air Force should indicate if they are game changers or not. And do not forget the adversary; be they insurgents or bandits, are not sleeping.”
On the allegation that the major problem with the fight against insurgency is the very attitude of the soldiers themselves, particularly, the allegation of fifth-columnists and those who have turned the security challenge into money-making venture, Aliyu Babangida said that he had always maintained that humans, regardless (be they soldiers or not) are social in nature and creatures of habit.
“The Nigerian soldier is no less Nigerian than any citizen in Nigeria. It is thus, amazing that given the miasma of sleaze and financial heist and misappropriation we see daily; given the propensity of persons in this country to abuse our national currency openly…to the rather primitive stage of littering our nations legal tender on the floor while threading on it… given these rather infantile and sybaritic appetite for primitive accumulation among Nigerians (the leaders and the led), it is indeed amazing that such a nation and the citizenry actually demand discipline and stoic dedication from her soldiers, that such soldiers should actually fight and die hard, while those they fight and die for party hard and recklessly?”
According to him, “Exemplary leadership, responsible citizenry also influence the values and priorities of our soldiers on the battle field.
“If humans be social beings and creatures of habit, the soldier is no less, and will eventually mirror the finer dynamics of his environment, and its nuances, and that will include doing as his leaders do.
“To put it succinctly, we must not engage in squander mania while expecting fellow humans or citizens or soldiers to live and die, fighting in the midst of lavish and stupendous show of ostentation, by citizens, private and public.”
On the allegation that the Presidency may be complicit in the gale of insecurity sweeping through the country, the retired soldier, who also fought in the ECOMOG wars, said: “The president, presidency, and government cannot offer what they have not to give.”
According to him, “Put another way. An aggregate evaluation of the President and his team is directly proportional to and cannot be divorced from whatever is tenable and trending in Nigeria today.
A president can only be as good as his cabinet, who are in turn, as good as their feats and achievement.”
Journey towards the acquisition
Recall that the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) on Thursday, July 22, 2021 took delivery of the first batch of six A-29 Super Tucano aircraft from the United States.
The director of public relations and information, NAF Headquarters, Edward Gabkwet, an air commodore, announced the development in a statement in Abuja.
Apart from the Tucano fighter jets, Nigeria is also said to be expecting other fighter jets from Pakistan.
After extensive discussions with the U.S. government, President Muhammadu Buhari in April 2018 placed an order for the aircraft.
He had said the procurement would help strengthen Nigeria’s national security, as well as a timely end to the Boko Haram war.
In a letter he wrote to the National Assembly, the president said the Nigerian government transferred $469.4 million to the U.S. government for the purchase.
For years, Nigeria has engaged in a low-grade war with Islamist sect, Boko Haram. The security challenged has over the last five years worsened with the bloody campaign of various categories of terrorists across Nigeria, mainly, the northern part of the country.
Stakeholders in the security sector of Nigeria have continued to emphasise that the country lacked the 21st century equipment to prosecute successful war against the terrorists, who have since resorted to shooting down the nation’s military aircraft.