The National Security Adviser, NSA, Babagana Monguno, on Friday visited his home state of Borno, where he led all other security chiefs to reassess the ongoing counter-insurgency operation in the north-eastern part of Nigeria.
The visit by the security chiefs comes a day after President Muhammadu Buhari challenged them to end the Boko Haram insurgency in three months. The president gave the order while decorating the recently appointed service chiefs.
On Friday, Mr. Monguno, a retired Major General, led the service chiefs to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, for what he described as a reassessment of the operational strategy with a view to positioning the troops to effectively actualise the directives of the president.
He said he could stake out his neck for the newly appointed military chiefs and vouched for their professional competence and credibility.
Upon arriving Maiduguri, the NSA, who was accompanied by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin, Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Baba Abubakar; and the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, went into a closed-door discussion with Governor Kashim Shettima for nearly two hours before coming out to perform the perfunctory courtesy call session.
“With the recent change of government, there was a tendency to replace old officials with the new structure”, Mr. Monguno said. “And amongst these replacements in the military is the change of service chiefs. This was exactly a month and a day ago in which myself and the new service chiefs were appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari, and given special mandate. The president has left us in no doubt as to what he wants us to achieve, taking into consideration that the most pressing issue facing Nigeria today is the insurgency that faces us in the north-eastern region of the country.
“Ordinarily, we would have hit the ground running since our appointments, but I felt that we should wait for the Senate to confirm the new service chiefs and for the President to decorate them in their new ranks. And as soon as that is done we found ourselves here, the hottest point. That is why less than 24 hours after the decoration we have come here today.
“The purpose of this visit is for all us to come and reassess the operational situation on the ground with the view to effecting the required changes at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels.
“Mr. President has told us that he wants this insurgency to end within the shortest possible time; he has given a time-frame which we are all aware of. His commitment to ending this insurgency is not in doubt. He has charged us to carry out this mission, knowing full well that he has picked the people which as far as he is concerned were the best to end this insurgency.
“And I can assure you that these officers seated before you are the very best which you can get. We are officers of impeccable character, unquestionable, and as far as I am concerned, they have been my colleagues, I have known them while I was in service and professionally and in terms of character they will not be found wanting.
“They have reassured me that they are going to confront this problem to the best of their ability. We do not have any choice than to end this insurgency. The ball is now in our court and we are going to undertake visits to see the troops, familiarise ourselves with their situation, hear from them and then embark on a rapid campaign of counter insurgency.
“While we are embarking on this campaign, which we hopefully should end very soon, we are very optimistic that under the leadership of Governor Kashim Shettima who has demonstrated extreme commitment to ending this insurgency, he would push a bit further by involving the wider society in Borno, as well as collaborating with his colleagues in other states of the northeast that are contiguous, by pulling in the larger civil society to work with the military to end this insurgency.
“I will be misleading the world if I tell that this problem of insurgency will be solved by the military alone – conflict of the 21st Century is different from what we knew during the cold war era. Conflict in the 21st century is undefined, unclear; the borders, frontiers, state actors, non-state actors, are all unclear and hazy. And the only way in which we can overcome this problem is by involving the larger society.
Forget the past
The NSA implored the people of Borno State to forget about the mistrust of the past and join hands with the military to help end the Boko Haram insurgency.
“I know in the past there has been issued of mistrust, issues of suspicion, mutual suspicion and acrimonious relationships rooted in the illusion that the military has been here to decimate the population, and so on and so forth. We want to reassure you that we are part of the larger society of Nigeria – the 170 million people, and there is no way we are going to work against your interest.
“I am from this state. The chief of army staff is from this place. The chief of the air staff is virtually an indigene of Borno State by his virtue of his long stay in this place. The Chief of Defence Staff is a very thorough professional; he is a man who has a very strong relationship with larger communication and he is a man of God in the first place.
“I want you to put it at the back of your minds that we are here to help you, and I want you to know that it is a two-way traffic. We want you to also join with the military in his fight in terms of giving the military valid information and sharing intelligence, by blending the larger society, reassuring them that these are people who are fighting for a good course.
Mr. Monguno said he knew the new alliance would not be “easy after six years of suspicion”, “but this is the time for you to also come in under the leadership of the governor of this state and work with the military.”
Responding, Governor Shettima said Borno residents had been cooperating with the military and other security agencies to end the Boko Haram insurgency that has caused the death of about 20,000 people since 2009.
A visibly elated Governor Kashim Shettima said he and the people of Borno State could not ask for more from the federal government after some the best of the minds ever produced by the military from the state, in the persons of Messrs. Monguno and Buratai, were appointed to lead the war against Boko Haram.
“Even Oliver Twist will be grateful for once, given the number of Borno sons that are in this team of security chiefs,” the governor said, pledging that the residents would support the soldiers in their task.
“We will continue to work for the people by investing in education, so that our children and future generations do not become another new set of insurgents. We have been saying that we are against Boko Haram, that is why we see the establishment of our Civilian Joint Task Force as an act of God.
“We owe them too all the gratitude for the sacrifices they have made so far. We want to end this madness of incessant killings and destruction of people’s property in not only in Borno State, but the neighbouring states of Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe, Taraba and Bauchi in the North East.”
While encouraging the new security chiefs to work hard to defeat the insurgents, the Borno governor said, “If this Boko Haram madness comes to an end, your names will be written in gold; and the country and its citizenry will be proud of all of you here in Maiduguri”.