As the military continued its onslaught on the Boko Haram insurgents in the Northeast, former General Officer Commanding, GOC, Infantry Division of the Nigerian Army, Kaduna, retired Major-General Garba Wahab, has warned the Federal Government to watch its back.
His warning, according to him, was premised on the fact that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS militants, are already facing stiffer opposition in their host countries. Following that, he warned that the group may just relocate to Libya and Nigeria.
To this end, he advised the Nigerian government to be on the lookout, so as to save the country of “possible coordinated breach of security” that may bring the country to its knees.
Speaking in an exclusive interview, Gen. Wahab who also said ambush, was inevitable in any military operation and nobody, no matter the rank or designation can prevent it because it is not known before hand, however commended the military, for the feat it has achieved so far, in its war against the insurgents.
Gen. Wahab, spoke in reaction to the recent ambush by members of Boko Haram in Malamfatori axis of northern Borno State, which claimed the lives of celebrated Army officer Lt. Colonel Muhammed Abu-Ali and six others.
He reiterated the need for accurate intelligence gathering, which, he noted, remains the only way for the military to be on top of their game, as well as being the only means to overcome insurgency, which he said may take the country 13 years to completely eradicate.
On whether the country was really winning the war against Boko Haram, the retired GOC, said: “the direct answer to that, is yes. But unfortunately, we don’t keep records in Nigeria and that is the problem we have. If we have records, we can always check back to arrive at decisive decision. For instance, we should be able to know whether the insurgents have gone back to regroup or not.
“We are winning, but then, we need to be cautious now that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are having problems back in Iraq and Syria. The possibility of the group relocating to Libya and Nigeria is very high and that is what we need to look out for and be careful about.
“What could be done better, is, improved security awareness that will involve everybody. We need integrated approach and that means everyone must be informed to work and live as security agents.
“Where are the local governments in Borno State? At the level we are, there are some things the civilians would have taken over as part of nation building. It is not the military that will build the schools, hospitals, roads or bring teachers, doctors etc but the civilians. The military will not rule that place but the civilian.
“Any weapon recovered from wrong hands whether small or mighty is not a waste of time even if it a single rifle because it can cause serious damage to the entire country. And the question we should ask is, where and how are the weapons getting into wrong hands? If we can provide sincere answer to that question, then we are not far from having a peaceful country of our dream as responsible citizens.
“What many don’t know is that not all the Boko Haram members carry arms. They are organised. For instance, when they are going on suicide bombing operation in the past, it was always beyond one person but host of others who use different vehicles to monitor film and supply fuel. So you have about five persons doing different things in a single illegal operation.
“At one point, we had to establish check points to monitor movement but people were shouting. Fortunately, banks have been able to stop funding Boko Haram so they have not been able to buy vehicles or materials.”
On the recent ambush, he said: “the guys (officers and men) there on the zone know what is on ground and that is why they are deploying the way they deem fit. But when it comes to ambush, nobody can prevent it. Don’t forget that they are dealing with people they don’t know. Some of the insurgents are members of the communities where our gallant soldiers are operating. Some of them come from outside, but majority are within the same area.
“So, information can only be provided by people within the area and that is why I’m suggesting intelligence gathering to win this war”, he said.
He went further to say “ambush is inevitable in any military operation and can affect anybody. In any operation, the military prepare seriously and that is why you will be told to sweat seriously so you can reduce the level of bleeding in operation.
“Their death is painful though, those things are expected to happen. The only thing is we should see it as a wakeup call or indication that when people are going out, they need to be conscious. They should not take anything for granted. Anybody could be ambushed. Even America with all the sophistication in Afghanistan, they lost some of their men few weeks ago.
“Insurgency is not what you can overcome within the short period of three to five years. It is supposed to take us 13 years. The guys need to be very cautious in whatever they do in that axis at least for now. You cannot say you are going to eliminate insurgents completely. So, their death is very painful but you cannot rule it out in any operation. You cannot,” he declared.