Monday, 2 June 2014

Feature story...Army braces up against opposition forces

…As DHQ accuses foreigners of hampering anti-insurgency operations

Okechukwu Onuegbu
As the long awaited decisive war against the Boko Haram terrorists gathers momentum, the Nigerian Armed Forces have discovered that there are more violent currents sweeping underground than what the eyes can see in the counter-insurgency operation.
The military high command and especially the soldiers at the war theatres in the states under emergency are under serious pressure and they are certainly facing frustrating times as troops brace up to face a deadly foe without the complete or full support of the local leaders and the civilian population necessary for  a decisive victory in any battle.
Investigations showed that the military has opened a second war front different from the battle zones in the northeast or north central regions. The new battle will be wagged without guns and ammunition because it is a war against propagandists and rumour mongers who will stop at nothing and go to any length to peddle false information or misinform the public for the purpose of influencing popular opinion for personal reasons.
It is obvious now that Boko Haram insurgents unknowingly raised the popularity of the country with the ill-advised abduction of more than 200 students of Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS) Chibok, in Borno State on April 14, 2014.
The barbaric escapade of the violent group attracted lots of positive as well as negative international attention to Nigeria and compelled the world to discuss the problems of the country and its struggles against growing civil disobedience especially the rebellion spreading like water hyacinth in the north.
This unfortunate situation also brought to the country many foreign visitors such as diplomats, security advisers and combat soldiers, accompanied by a pack of freelance journalists, filmmakers and correspondents of many foreign electronic and print networks as well as those working for social media platforms.
Apart from grappling with the rising public discontent over its alleged shoddy handling of the abduction of the Chibok girls, the slow pace of the war against Boko Haram insurgents decimating parts of the north, the military has equally complained against the invasion of the north east by foreign reporters and film-makers desiring contact with the Boko Haram leadership.
It has never happened in Nigeria before to see a large number of foreign journalists roaming indiscriminately and independently about on undisclosed personal mission without guides in any state. 
Even the Biafra-Nigerian civil war did not attract the number of correspondents and people who may be soldiers of fortune to the nation like Nigeria has witnessed in the past months.
It was not for nothing that the Defence Headquarters  became alarmed when it noticed that several foreign journalists and private film makers seeking to establish contact with the Boko Haram insurgents were increasing in numbers everyday in Borno state, regarded internationally as the hotbed of insurgency in West Africa.
The military complained that it was especially disconcerting to see how the foreigners were moving about Maiduguri, Borno state capital, around Chibok town and the Sambisa Forest unaccompanied [ie] without security escorts and without informing the local government authorities, the military or the police about their mission in the areas.
The adventurers were obviously risking their lives by secretly raking and prowling through Borno towns and forests where high military operations were taking place without prior notice to the army or any request for necessary armed escorts to guide them round the town or the forests.
What mattered to the journalists and the film makers was how to catch the latest development in the highest trending news on the globe, which is the abduction of more than 200 female students of Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS) Chibok regardless of what the military thinks of their adventure.
There were even allegations that some of the foreigners were in electronic contact with the insurgents using satellite-dependent appliances and phones like Thuraya or Skype among others.
Presently, the foreign reporters are involved in undeclared open competition on who should be the first to locate the Chibok girls or make contact with their captors, not necessarily to win the cash prize on the heads of the Boko Haram insurgents but for the glory of being the first to dare the devils.
Also at the joint security briefing hosted at the National Orientation Agency Board Room and addressed by the Director General, Mr. Mike Omeri supported by spokesmen of security agencies, the number of foreign journalists who attend the briefings match the resident reporters by a ratio of three Nigerians to one foreigner with their numbers increasing to twenty on some days. The foreign reporters represent numerous media outfits such as the BBC, VOA, Aljazeera and various others from the middle east, Europe, the USA and even the Russian news agency was represented apart from online platforms. 
As it were, the pursuit for exclusive new angles to the Boko Haram exploits and ongoing efforts to end the Chibok abduction saga has driven many ‘crazy’ foreign journalists into unreasonable, wild pursuit and insensible risks which included placing themselves in the firing lines of Nigerian soldiers and offering themselves as bait to Boko Haram insurgents in the hope of also becoming kidnap victims.
Olukolade said that the sheer number and wild adventurism of the foreigners was interfering with the military operations in the north east and warned those who insist on moving about on their own that they are doing so at great personal risk.
But as if the existing troubles lined up for the army are not enough, some Nigerians who are obviously benefiting from the insurgency, have started plotting to undermine or destroy the cohesiveness and unity in the army by accusing it of wagging a genocidal war against adherents of a particular religion to drum up international support against the counter-insurgency operation in the north.
This is coming on the heels of the declaration by the president authorising the military to use everything permissible to go after the terrorists and end their rampaging bloodletting campaign.
Defence Headquarters [DHQ] disclosed last week that it has irrefutable evidence to show that plans hatched by some groups have been perfected and are awaiting implementation after the approval, funding and other necessary logistic support expected from powerful northerners especially someone whose state is currently under emergency rule.
According to the DHQ Spokesman, Major General Chris Olukolade, the plot involves multi-media propaganda campaigns targeted against the Nigerian Armed Forces and scheduled to run continuously within and outside the country for several months to whip-up sentiments locally and on the global scene in the hope that people will start condemning the military operation and call for its termination even before the effective resolution of the Boko Haram question.
The military spokesman recalled that a previous attempt last year by the same unscrupulous group failed to achieve the anticipated results adding that the new plan, which would be more forceful, was designed to re-enforce the previous effort.
“This campaign which is to rely heavily on doctored and falsified audio visual materials, some of which are already trending in the social media, is to be coordinated and funded by a prominent political leader whose state is presently under the State of Emergency.”
“The programme, which is also meant to reinforce the ongoing negative media campaign against the military was adopted as an alternative by those who are bent on politicizing the ongoing counter-terrorism operations in the northern part of the country,” Olukolade remarked.
He warned however that “no amount of propaganda by apologists of terror groups, who attempt to cast the Nigerian military and security forces in bad light, can justify the evil acts of terrorism.”
Well-meaning Nigerians are hoping that regardless of the growing array of opposition and criticism mounting against the military establishment over the state of emergency and counter-insurgency operations in the north, the nation’s Armed Forces will maintain the established unity among them and launch into the war theatres of the north to deal decisively with the Boko Haram insurgency.



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