The Military-Boko Haram Connection –Umar | Independent Newspapers Limited
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The Military-Boko Haram Connection –Umar

Posted: Jul 19, 2015 at 12:01 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Major Abubakar Umar (rtd), in this interview with JULIET OYOYO, speaks on the insecurity in the country, the alleged corruption in the military, and the fight against corruption by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. Excerpts…

As a former soldier, what is your take on the spate of attacks in the North, don’t you think the Boko Haram insurgents are holding Nigerians to ransom, including the government of President Muhammadu Buhari who had promised to end insurgency as soon as he comes to power?

I don’t think that, in the actual sense, that Boko Haram insurgents are holding the country to ransom. We must understand that this insurgency started in 2009 with Mohammed Yusuf and that his assassination or execution led to what you are having today. Now, Boko Haram is a manifestation of so many things. One; because of poverty, particularly in the Northern parts of the country, which is as a result of negligence by the rulers in the North. And, right from time, Northern leaders have been negligent in that they refused to address the basic problems confronting the youths of this country, particularly in the Northern part of the country.

We have the largest number of unemployed youths in the whole country.  Honestly, in a particular city like Maiduguri in Borno State, you see the teeming unemployed youths, and the governments, right from the days of Ali Modu Sherrif, were not interested in solving the problems, rather they were busy enriching themselves at the expense of the masses. On your question as to whether Boko Haram is holding this country to ransom, the answer is No! Buhari has just come to power as a civilian President; just over 30 days now. We should give him some time; things had gone so bad in the past 16 years in this country that it will take a great leader, and a herculean task, to rectify the damage that had been done to the economy of this country.

Muhammadu Buhari actually came with the promise to rescue and restore peace and integrity in this country, and also do away with insurgency, but, as things are going, one will see that Buhari is going on the wrong foot because those who were accused of financing and arming Boko Haram militants are still walking the streets free. They are extremely rich and powerful. Buhari said himself that members of Boko Haram are in the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Did Buhari say that?

Buhari said that, and also said that the government of Jonathan (at that time) is harbouring Boko Haram and we are all aware that Jonathan said that Boko Haram members are in his government. If that is the case, if Buhari can say that and things are not checked, then certainly what they are telling us is that the same people who were saying that, now that they are out of power, are still financing the same Boko Haram since they know them.

There was a recent allegation, even in the international community, that a former Chief of Army Staff and a former governor of Borno State were co-sponsors of Boko Haram. And we are also aware that Jonathan himself went to Chad Republic to see the President in the company of the former governor and there were allegations that these people actually know what is happening in this country and, maybe, the military hierarchy is using Boko Haram to make money. T

he most corrupt and lucrative business today in this country is politics, followed by church services and religious organisations, including the Muslim organisations. These people have turned religion into business. They use it to make so much money at the expense of the masses. The military is the next business venture to the extent that the people at the helm of affairs want the insurgency to continue so that money will be pumped into that area, and with the excuse that they are buying arms, they will continue to siphon the resources of the country.

We are aware that the richest people in this country today are military men. Most of these army chiefs are billionaires and the next thing they do when they leave the Army is to go into politics with the billions they have stolen. One should be very surprised that with the size of the Nigerian Army of 150,000 men and officers who are well trained abroad and within, we cannot contain a few insurgents called Boko Haram. One would ask, where is the money voted every year for defence? As at January 2015, Jonathan voted over a billion dollars for Defence and not a single arm was bought. Nigerian soldiers were running away from the battle front and today the same army general and chief of army staff had the guts to court martial that soldiers that he didn’t give arms to fight. The bottom line is that there is a conspiracy between the Armed Forces and politicians to ensure that the Boko Haram insurgency continues, and they continue to make money at the expense of the nation.

There is not a single politician who comes and wants to be Head of State of this country that will not be involved in the problem of Boko Haram. Why is that so? Why are we transferring this insurgency from one government to another and without solution? Obasanjo, some years ago, when he was in government, established a committee to look into the affairs of Boko Haram. So many panels were set up and so many reports were given but nothing was done about the insurgency up till date.  During Jonathan’s era, he went personally to meet the President of Chad whom people had accused of harbouring Boko Haram and creating a training ground for them in Chad Republic.

And then, nobody seems to be doing anything about it. We are all aware that America brought their own troops and stationed them in Maiduguri with the hope that the Chibok girls would be found and that they will help with the training of Nigerian troops so that we can counter Boko Haram. But as soon as the Americans came, there was a surge in bombings, there was a surge in attacks on military places, places of worship and market places. So, one will in an analogy say that an international organisation or international body is connected with what is happening in Nigeria.

It is clear that when a country is developing, particularly now that we have oil, forces around us, particularly Chad and Cameroun will not want to see us grow stronger than them because our growth will be a threat to them since they don’t have the kind of resources that we have. But then, what is happening to our resources? If there is employment today, good education, good housing, and good healthcare system, we will not have things like Boko Haram. The government of the day is a government that does not care for the masses. It is a government that wants to feed itself. The rich will never care for the poor. The literates will never care for the illiterates. Everybody fends for himself. What we have today as political organisations are a bunch of masqueraders, bunch of pirates, bunch of adventurers, thieves and robbers. You know, Nigeria is the most corrupt and dirty country in the world. It is the most insensitive country in the world where only a human being who wants to suffer will want to come and spend his holidays.

Could one say that all these issues you have enumerated are mere allegations, or do you have facts to back them up?

(Cuts in) They are not allegations. They are in the papers. They are there. We know that Mohammed Yusuf was assassinated by the Police. That he was arrested by the government and that, as a result of poverty in this country and disenchantment of the youths, they have an easy avenue for recruitment. It is a simple fact.

You talked about Boko Haram membership increasing because of unemployment, but it is not only in the North that you find unemployed youths. Why are the Northern youths picking up arms against themselves and, just recently, there was a bomb blast in Zaria, and we were told that it was done by a woman with a baby strapped to her back. Why and how did it get to this stage that women are now used to bomb fellow Nigerians?

You see, I will want to say things as they are. I don’t want to hide anything. There is this rivalry between the North and the South. It has been there right from independence. And, there is a feeling also, in the Northern parlance, that “because the North fought a civil war with the East and defeated them in the Nigerian civil war in 1967-1970, the South-East wants to take a revenge against the North.” These are not allegations. I am sure that if you sit down and look at them critically you will know. And there is also another analogy that, “power should never come back to the North again and that all means should be developed to disrupt the political system in the North.”

This resulted in the increase in the destabilisation of the politics of the North, with the connivance of some northerners. These things are on the increase but the question is that “if Buhari were serious in his proclamations that he wants to do away with Boko Haram, the insurgency in the North, what is the first step he should take, knowing full well that the present service chiefs who were with Jonathan for six years could not contain Boko Haram?” The first thing he should have done was to reorganise the Armed Forces, remove the service chiefs for incompetence and look into their involvement in the siphoning of the funds that were given to them to buy arms. Trillions of naira was spent as tax payers’ money to purchase arms for the Armed Forces, but today there are no arms that can contain the Boko Haram. It is a great shame that Nigeria should hire Chadian soldiers, hire Camerounian soldiers, hire Nigerien soldiers to come and fight our war for us. Nigeria was said to be the giant of Africa, with the strongest Armed Forces in the sub-region, but today we cannot face a rag-tag army called Boko Haram. They are not even an organised army.

They are just almajiris with AK-47 rifles. Another thing is for him to have probed and removed the National Security Adviser who was misinforming the country. He went to Chatham House and was telling lies that they bought arms for this country and that arms were coming. But the soldiers at the battle front were saying they were being killed for lack of arms and ammunition. So, it is the responsibility of the Head of State, as he swore to an oath to protect every individual in this country, to go back to the drawing table and not to be deceived by sycophants who are surrounding him and telling him what he wants to hear. People like us will say the truth even if it means that they want to hang us. We are not ready for lies. We want our country to progress. That is the basis of everything. We can never progress if there is no security in this country, no matter how much money we have. No matter how much money we spend, we will continue to go round and round in circles. 

You just mentioned that some military personnel are making money out of the insurgency. These assumptions by you and others have been criticised by many who see the Nigerian military as people who have made a lot of sacrifice while defending the sovereignty of the country?

The foot soldiers are the ones bearing the brunt, not the Generals or the National Security Adviser. How can they account for the billions of naira voted specifically to buy arms? The top echelon of the army was said to have amassed so much wealth to the detriment of winning the fight against Boko Haram.  Allowances of N100,000 is supposed to be paid to soldiers at the theatre but only N30,000 is given to them. Most Generals posted to the 7th Division in Maiduguri were fronts for the COAS/CODS. One of the officers who was posted to Maiduguri was later posted out for refusing to put his troops at risk in Gwoza, alleging that the GOC, 7th Division, had boasted that by the time he leaves, he would be the richest General in the army.

Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had lamented at his inauguration that despite the huge money spent on the military, soldiers could not defeat Boko Haram insurgents because of inferior weaponry. The war on Boko Haram is seen as the most expensive, consuming three-fourth of Nigeria’s budget without an end in sight.

Don’t you see this as an indictment which many people believe is a ploy to rubbish the military?

It is not a ploy. When indictments of this nature occur, the military quietly hires jobless Nigerians and ask them to protest the allegations just as it happened during the report by Amnesty International. The huge amount the military generals make out of this war against Boko Haram is the main reason the war is without end. You will recall that a pastor was said to have transacted millions of dollars for the purchase of arms in South Africa. The money and the aircraft were confiscated by the South Africa government. You will also recall that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan released a supplementary sum of $1billion to the military and yet soldiers were complaining of lack of the basics, such as night vision goggles, bullet-proof jackets, lack of attack helicopters, out-dated ammunitions, etc.

Most of the soldiers Court-martialled were only being victimised for no reason of theirs. President Muhammadu Buhari should reverse the decision of the courts. Because of the indecision on the part of this present government, a Boko Haram attack on Boni-Yadi led to the capture of three Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) and one Artillery Gun. I hope this government is not giving the impression that it is weak and cannot take decision.