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Nigerian Army: Rubbing salt on nation’s sore

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By Kene Obiezu

Sir: That all is fair in war is convenient only to cowards who lack the courage to abide the principles of war.

In what can only be interpreted as fresh salt over festering Nigerian wounds, and the latest instalment of epic foolery, the Nigerian Army on Saturday, July 25, against all hues and cries, released 601 supposedly repentant and de-radicalized ex Boko Haram combatants into the Nigerian society upon their graduation from the DRR Camp of Operation Safe Corridor Mallam  Sidi  Gombe State.

Amidst pomp and pageantry and a panoply of pictures, Nigeria‘s enemies, dressed in repentant and remorseful garbs, were let into Nigeria‘s tents. How much more iron can irony   get in a country where the comical and farcical daily compete for public attention with the polemical, the economical and the alchemical?

Could there be a crueller irony than the fact that  it is  precisely at a time when all Nigerian schools are grounded by the corona virus pandemic that criminals who once made the extinction of western education their life‘s work were graduated and considered fit for the fittings of a proper society.

For over a decade, Boko Haram has taken Nigeria on an exhausting   ride of terror,   and as every day becomes the next, it would seem that Nigerians are to be spared nothing.

The Nigerian Army by this action obviously believe that leopards can change their spots. Nigerians do no share this foolish belief in the impossible.

They are rightly alarmed and horrified. But the Nigerian Army seem alarmingly unfazed. In electing to believe the impossible, they have reopened old wounds and are forcing Nigerians to endure the humiliation and terror of living with the very people who plotted their deaths by the numbers.

With the unspeakable atrocities they have undergone at the hands of Boko Haram, Nigerians know the steep cost of believing that anything good can come out of the sect.

Nigerians must worry for the mental state of their army. After over a decade of relentless battering received at the hands of Boko Haram, the army is showing familiar signs of exhaustion in conceding forbidden territories to the savage criminals. Instead of brutal sticks, the army   is suddenly handing out colourful carrots in what can only be perceived as a sop to the enemies of Nigeria.

Every war usually throws up multiple battlegrounds and while it is conceded that it is not every of those battle grounds that are amenable to force, extreme caution must be exercised when more subtle weapons and strategies are to be introduced.

Against a bloodthirsty sect that understands force, lives force and deploys ruthless force in an unjustifiable war against Nigerians, force must be the only response. To give in to any other way would be costly cowardice.

The campaign against Boko Haram has largely exposed the flanks of the Nigerian Army which already had a long and troubled relationship with Nigeria.

With the return of democracy to Nigeria in 1999, the army quietly retreated into the barracks and for the first time in close to 40 years seemed finally content with its constitutional responsibility of protecting and preserving the sovereignty of Nigeria.

That relative quiet was short-lived however when about a decade later, Boko Haram, emboldened by cracks in Nigeria‘s security fabric, floated a campaign that has since threatened to tear the country apart.

The Nigerian military has been left largely exposed. Gallant men have been felled amidst disturbing rumours of institutional corruption most manifest in the paucity of weapons and motivation to fight the enemy.

Nigerians remember the many military coups which shook the foundations of an infant country and set it many years back.

The army owes Nigerians a debt of redemption. Their many sacrifices will never be forgotten. It is why any action that could becloud those sacrifices must be avoided like leprosy.

This reintegration of supposedly repentant Boko Haram killers into communities still reeling from their unspeakable savagery is certainly leprous.

The Nigerian Army must hurry to make amends before it loses its fingers.

  • Kene Obiezu, Abuja.

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