Boko Haram attacks won’t end soon—Retired general
A former Commandant, Nigerian Army School of Infantry, Brig.-Gen Williams Obene (retd.), has said the Federal Government has failed in its war against Boko Haram by not declaring a total war against the terrorist group.
In an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH on Friday, the retired general, who said he pioneered the Nigerian Army Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Insurgency Centre when it was established under the infantry school, said Nigerians should not expect an end to terrorist activities soon.
Obene said, “Professionally speaking and as an expert, I will tell Nigerians to brace for more sporadic attacks; more attacks that will be targeted at soft and vulnerable targets for many weeks, many months and many years to come. I have my references.”
He said punitive measures could not bring insurgency to an end.
According to him, when insurgency is coloured with religion and ideology, it is very difficult to end it.
Obene said, “It is expected because Nigeria is under attacks by terrorists. We have advocated from the onset that Nigeria lost the opportunity to declare full war on terrorism. But in the wisdom of government, it decided that since it was a local thing, it would offer them (insurgents) amnesty with its carrot-and-stick strategy.
“From the onset, when the Federal Government offered amnesty, Boko Haram stated unequivocally that it did not need any amnesty. I thought that was the strongest signal that government received and it ought to have acted differently. The government decided to go soft in order to bring everybody on board and that has failed.”
The retired general said although there was a state of emergency in the most affected states (Yobe, Borno and Adamawa), there was the need for President Goodluck Jonathan to declare a full war against the terrorists.
He stated that President George Bush of the United States declared total war on terrorism after the 9/11 attacks and the war was still ongoing.
Obene said it was not too late for the Federal Government to declare a total war on Boko Haram. He added that once the war was declared, all political machinery would be brought to a halt. He stated that the war would be stronger and more effective than an emergency.
He said, “What I want to say from the professional point of view, which politicians and the military will not be able to say, but which we who are neutral can say is that insurgency is not something to wish away.
“The Nigerian government thinks it can wish away insurgency; the Nigerian population thinks that Jonathan is not doing anything and that the people who are fighting the insurgency are not doing anything. We cannot wish away insurgency from this nation.
“It took 26 years for Sri Lanka to deal with insurgency. Since 1948, Israel has been fighting insurgency. Since 2001, America has been fighting terrorism. Nigeria cannot be an exception. It is a plague that has come to this nation.”
The ex-military trainer said if there was any attempt by terrorists to infiltrate government and military structure, the state should also infiltrate the structures of the terrorists.
He said, “From the strategic position of Mr. President, one will take seriously his statement that insurgents have infiltrated the government, politics and even the security agencies. That is a very powerful statement.
“If it is true, it is the duty of those sectors the President mentioned to begin to look inwardly and clean up such moles that have been planted to give vital information to the enemy. They should also be treated as saboteurs and terrorists.”