As the execution of the war on terror progresses in the main theatre, the North East of Nigeria, the military is worried that the cooperation they needed from the local population to go all out against the criminals has not been forthcoming. The intelligence they had hoped to get from the natives who are on ground is coming in trickles if at all and the military is justifiably disturbed by this turn of events. Actually, the soldiers are beginning to see the unwillingness of the people to help with intelligence as a challenge that is slowing down the pace of the war, a situation that is giving the terrorists ample time to remobilise and reinforce.
The Director of Defence Information, Major General John Enenche, disclosed this much recently and lamented that there is a high level of connivance and even mischief on the part of the local population whose tardiness in coming out with vital information that can help make Boko Haram a thing of the past is becoming a major cause for concern. He also said that they are not just high level collaborators with the terrorists but that they also still believe in the ideology that is driving the insurgents.
To corroborate the anxiety of the military high command, it was widely reported in the media that some parents in those areas were actually donating their children to serve as suicide bombers for the terrorists. The allegation of connivance against the local population can be further proved with the ease at which the terrorists successfully attacked the oil exploration team in Maiduguri. That ugly incident necessitated the marching orders from the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo to the service chiefs to relocate to the frontlines.
Before now, Nigerians were beginning to extol the prowess of the military in effectively checking the reign of the terrorists. The military itself believed that the war on terrorism in the North East had been technically won with the claim of outright decimation and tactical degradation of the once dreaded Boko Haram. To that extent, Nigerians applauded the military, especially under the present command, as they were made to beat their chest in self-adulation.
However, that expected response to the outcome of the war is perceptibly measured as the military has been, advisedly, restrained in their assessment of the management of the conflict. Part of the reason for this is the resurgence of the terrorists who have unrelentingly been attacking soft targets in a manner that is beginning to constitute an embarrassment to the soldiers in spite of their gallant efforts.
A world leader was once reported to have said that war is too important to be left to Generals alone. The implication of this statement is that a lot more than force is required in a war situation. There must be the political will to execute it which goes beyond military capability. There must also be the cooperation of the civil population in the war effort. A lack of it can be disastrous indeed. That help from the local population can come in many ways such as information on suspicious movements in the area in conflict and refusal to collude with the enemy, in this case, the Boko haram terrorists.
Unfortunately, in our view, and if the lamentations of the Defence Information chief is anything to go by, the war on terror in the North East has still a long way to go. It is realistic for the military to expect some form of assistance from the local population particularly in the area of intelligence gathering. With all their might and power as well as the advances in science and technology, the soldiers still need human beings to guide them in the decidedly unconventional war that they are waging and against an enemy that is suicide-prone.
It is sad, in our opinion, that what the military is complaining about is happening. The local population in question are the ones bearing the brunt of the insurgency that has led to the dislocation of the kind of life they were used to with many losing their homes and means of livelihood and ending up in camps as refugees. Beyond the pride the military will derive from winning the war and satisfying themselves that they have fulfilled their constitutional obligations of preserving the nation’s territorial integrity against external aggression, the people in that zone owe themselves a duty to help the military save them from the anguish of war and its devastating effect on their social and economic life. We hate to imagine that the local population in the North East are deriving pleasure from the hardship and suffering they are going through.