By TAJUDEEN KAREEM
Prosecuting a war is not a tea party. Certainly the battle against insurgency requires a lot of tact, borne out of deft planning and constant review of strategies. While the Nigerian Armed Forces is set to finally crush the cankerworm in the North East, it cannot but be very distressing to see a few misguided elements trying hard to misinform the larger society on the conduct of the war against insurgency in the North East as well as other threats to national security.
The media is now awash with all forms of jaundiced analysis and ill-informed social media messages on the conduct of the operations in the North East. Not the least annoying is the attitude of media practitioners who ought to know better and read between the lines before lending their medium to those who are patently out to do mischief.
It may not be out of place to suspect that the writers of malicious articles against the military are sympathisers of Boko Haram terrorists. It is time for well meaning Nigerians to interrogate the motives of those who are out to distract the armed forces from routing insurgency from the land.
While every Nigerian has a right to show concern on the progress of the war against insurgency, it is unpatriotic to vilify the person and character of the officers and men saddled with the management of the theatre of war. A bad example in patriotism is the story of one Chijioke Jannah published recently by Daily Post.
The arguments of this writer is built on a faulty pedestal; a jaundiced opinion that is oblivious of the essence of air power in modern warfare. It is trite to say that no war, no matter how small or big, in contemporary history can be determined without a dynamic and energetic air power. The greater duty of the Air Force, as indeed demonstrated by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) in the North East, is to provide air-to- air cover for the ground troops when they launch into operation. Indeed, the various interdiction missions carried out by NAF have greatly contributed in degrading the Boko Haram forces while clearing the battle field for the ground troops to advance and launch devastating blows on the insurgents.
More significantly, the NAF is also primarily engaged in ensuring re-supply of essential materials and logistics items to the men on the battle front, even as it also ensures the prompt evacuation of injured soldiers and those who pay the supreme price.
It is curious that a civilian who loves his country will suggest ‘carpet bombing’ as a strategy to fight insurgents operating on Nigerian soil. Pray, how do you guide against collateral damages and avoid hitting innocent civilian targets? This is indeed a myopic suggestion based on warped comparison of different war situations in Syria and Nigeria!
It is rather curious that the writer was uncomfortable with the transparent disposition of the Chief of Air Staff who, quite uncharacteristic of the military, gave a detailed account of the cost of prosecuting the war in the North East. Pray, why will anyone quarrel with the Air Force for disclosing number of sorties against the enemy base and the cost of aviation fuel consumed? In fact, it is discernible that such transparency has enhanced international confidence in the Nigerian Military. It has apparently increased the level of cooperation from the international community.
Although the principal duty of the Air force, in any warfare, is surveillance, reconnaissance and evacuation; the Nigerian Air Force Special Forces are not only flying, they are engaged in active combat in the North East. This is in spite of several humanitarian interventions carried out by air force personnel
Reports across the country indicate that the Nigerian Air Force, with demonstrable passion, has established field hospitals to cater for the regular healthcare needs of Internally Displaced Persons who are victims of Boko Haram insurgency. To the admiration of beneficiaries, various vitamin supplements, eye tests, medication and glasses and even eye surgeries have been freely provided while over 150 other surgeries for various conditions have been recorded.
The NAF has magnanimously provided antenatal and reproductive tutelage to mothers, especially young girls to curb VVF and child mortality. Indeed, the interventions of the NAF are far-reaching. The story of free medical services provided to indigenes and residents of Bameke area of Shasha, Lagos State, to celebrate the yearly air force day as well as the various medical outreach programmes in other IDPs camps in Maiduguri, Yola and Abuja.
Education has not been relegated to the background for the IDPs with the establishment of NAF comprehensive schools and Air Force Military Secondary School, Jos. Widows have been receiving empowerment and support to enable them make meaningful living and take care of their children. Nigerians should read stories of how NAF is in the forefront of promoting the girl child education in the country by going ahead to commission a new girls’ school named Air Force Girls Comprehensive School.
It is quite myopic to assess the efforts of the Nigerian Air force solely on direct combat. Winning the war is as good as keeping the peace. That is why NAF has sustained a night patrol over Maiduguri in addition to deploying its special forces to keep watch on the University in the town.
*Kareem is a public policy analyst, based in Abuja.