How General Muhammadu Buhari Will Defeat Boko Haram By Biodun Ladepo

*Bloggers comment: one of the most articulate write up on realistic short term solution for ending the lingering insurgency in The North East of Nigeria

Upon assuming office in May this year,
General Muhammadu Buhari will place a
call to the President of Niger Republic –
Mahamadou Issoufou – and explain to
him that Nigeria intends to escalate
hostilities with Boko Haram and all other
terrorists who have been using Niger as
launching pad to attack Nigeria. He will
tell Issoufou to expect a high-power
delegation of Nigerian military and
foreign relations experts within a couple
of days. He will tell (not ask) Issoufou
that, as a fellow non-radical, true
Muslim, his full support for the
impending military actions is non-
negotiable. Issoufou  a fluent French speaker, may
not speak English very well, but he is
ethnic Hausa. Buhari may speak Hausa
to him or they may get French and
English interpreters; it does not matter
as long as the message from Buhari is
clearly understood – that Nigeria
intends to kick up a lot of dust (literally
and figuratively) in the desert towns
and villages around its border with
Buhari will also place a call to the
Chadian President – Idriss Deby – and
relay a similar message to him. He will
praise Deby for his 1984 courageous
defeat of pro-Libyan forces in eastern
Chad. He will pander to the camaraderie
and es spirit de corps they both share as
former military members and conclude
by telling Deby (not asking him) to fully
support the on-coming onslaught on the
Boko Haram fighters who use Lake Chad
and its environs as safe havens to which
they run after attacking Nigeria.
Finally, Buhari will call the Cameroonian
President – Paul Biya – and relay to
him the same discussion he had had with
Issoufou and Deby. Buhari will remind
Biya of the favor Nigeria did his country
under Obasanjo when, in June 2006, it
ceded the Bakassi peninsula to him
under the Greentree Agreement.
Obasanjo took a lot of flak for that at
home while Biya scored big for his
country. Buhari will remind him it is time
to return the favor. Again, Buhari will
tell (yes, tell…not ask) Biya to fully
support Nigeria in its up-coming
escalation of hostilities with Boko Haram
terrorists who have been launching
attacks on Nigeria from the Cameroonian
western border area.
Buhari will then dispatch no more than
a five-man delegation comprising of the
Ministers of Defense and External
Affairs along with the Chief of Defense
Staff (CDS), the Chief of Army Staff
(COAS) and the Chief of Air Staff (CAS)
to all three countries. Their message will
be clea: Nigeria intends to cordon off a
section of the northeast, starting from
the border with Niger just north of
Gashua in Yobe State, southward to
Gashua itself and to Damaturu; then
southward from Damaturu to Biu in
Borno State; and further southward to
Jimeta in Adamawa State, and eastward
to the Nigerian border with Cameroon.
Nigeria intends to mass its forces on the
western fringes of those towns and begin
sweeping through the towns, villages,
farms and deserts, taking on Boko
Haram elements. Nigeria expects the
insurgents to flee when overwhelmed;
and they would flee into western
Cameroon, western Chad and
southeastern Niger. Nigeria expects
Cameroon to also cordon off parts of its
northwestern region from its border with
Nigeria near Jimeta, to Garoua, just
across the border inside Cameroon,
northward to Guider and then
northward to Maroua. Nigeria expects
Chad to also cordon off parts of its
western territory from Maroua,
northward to N’Djamena and further
northward to Haraze-Al-Biar, and from
Dagana to Lake Chad itself, then
through lake and up to kanem on the
eastern side of the lake. Nigeria expects
Niger too to cordon off parts of its
southwestern territory starting from its
border with Nigeria’s Yobe State near
Maine Soroa, to Nguigmi and all
surrounding towns and villages leading
easterly towards Lake Chad. This swath
of land, on the Nigerian side, will, of
course, encapsulate Maiduguri, Bama
and Mubi and a host of other towns in
which Boko Haram operates at will.
Nigeria’s plan is to push northeasterly
into Lake Chad. Nigeria will expect
Cameroon to push northwesterly into
Lake Chad, while Chad pushes
southwesterly into the lake. Niger will
push southeasterly into Lake Chad.
These pushes will be synchronized and
coordinated with the respective countries
such that Boko Haram’s Waterloo will be
in and around Lake Chad.
The thinly veiled message from Buhari to
the presidents of these three countries
will be that if, for whatever reasons
(internal political considerations,
money, equipment, personnel) they
cannot fully cooperate with him, Nigeria
is coming through their territories like a
freight train anyway. The USA does it.
Russia does it. Israel does it. They all do
it, even sometimes preemptively, to
safeguard their country and their
people. Nigeria is about to stand up and
protect its sovereignty. Nigeria will kick
do what it has to do to protect its
people. Buhari will demand the three
countries share with Nigeria locations of
any of their military units stationed in
parts of their territories under
discussion, to include exact town or camp
names, grid coordinates, unit names,
designations, numerical strength and
types of weapons on hand. Commanders
of all four countries will understand
that the reasons for wanting those
pieces of information include positive
identification of friendly forces to avoid
Buhari will invite the French, British and
American ambassadors to Aso Rock –
separately. To the French ambassador,
he will ask for French government’s
understanding of and acquiescence (if
not full support because of its close ties
to Niger, Chad and, especially
Cameroon) to what Nigeria is about to
do. To the British and American
ambassadors, Buhari will seek support of
all kinds, promising them that Nigeria
will not summarily execute anybody but
will conduct its military campaigns in
accordance with relevant provisions of
the Geneva Convention Articles. Buhari
will then travel to Paris, London and
Washington to personally meet the
leaders, reminding them that it is in the
overall interests of everybody, and
especially those of the West, that
terrorists everywhere are decimated in
place before they spread. Nigeria will
not be asking them to commit boots on
the ground.
For Washington and London, Buhari will
ask for technical assistance in areas of
intelligence – Imagery and Signal.
Nigeria needs real-time satellite
coverage of the conflict areas – the
Nigerian sector as well as the Nigerien,
Cameroonian and Chadian sectors. For
Imagery intelligence, these countries
have more versatile Unmanned Aerial
Vehicles (UAVs) otherwise known as
Drones. These Drones fly quietly just
above the clouds and can hardly be seen
with naked eyes even during the day.
They are equipped with highly
sophisticated cameras that can film and
take still pictures of areas under
coverage. Those films and pictures can
be accessed by ground control in real
time while the Drones are still in the air.
These Drones operate well whether
during the day or at night, irrespective
of weather conditions. And, of course,
there are no pilots onboard. So the
threat of losing a pilot if shot down by
Boko Haram is eliminated. A few other
countries (Israel and Iran included)
also manufacture Drones. But Nigeria
needs to ally with those who can provide
robust support. (It is public knowledge
that India is currently trying to
purchase Drones from the US to use in
monitoring Kashmir.) Of course, Drones
can also be armed with highly
sophisticated weapons of different
kinds, the kinds that the US has used
successfully in Yemen, Iran and
Afghanistan. But no country will sell
those kinds to Nigeria.
For Signal intelligence, Nigeria needs to
be able to eavesdrop on radio, telephone
and internet communications of
terrorists operating in the troubled
areas. These countries have means by
which this can be done. Now, they will be
reluctant to share the technology with
Nigeria or even compromise methods by
which they conduct eavesdropping
operations, but they can find ways to
help if they trust us and they believe it
is also in their interest that Boko Haram
is not allowed to take root in Nigeria.
Beyond Imagery and Signal intelligence,
Nigeria needs Human Intelligence.
Human Intelligence is simply “snitching”
on people and reporting it to
government. This, however, is a long-
term process that may not be very
helpful for the immediate need of
crushing Boko Haram. It behooves the
Buhari administration to revamp the
Directorate of Military Intelligence,
National Security Organization,
Directorate of State Security and similar
organizations that have failed to
contribute significantly to unearthing
sponsors and foot soldiers of Boko
Nigeria needs the immediate support of
aforementioned countries in the areas
of Financial Forensic Investigation in
order to unearth and unravel the
sources of financing for the Boko Haram
terrorists. Somebody is providing them
funding for their weapons! If we follow
the money, we will get their sponsors.
Buhari will seek the support of America
and Britain in supplying all sorts of
arms and ammunition to Nigeria – light
and heavy weapon systems. Of course,
Nigeria will pay for these…these are not
aids items…these are going to be
business deals. But these would be
conscientious business deals.
Buhari will tell these presidents that
without their help, Nigeria would
disintegrate; that he plans a massive
assault – a Powell Doctrine-like
overwhelming force operation – which he
expects should be over within a few
months. He would promise them
unfettered access for the Red Cross, the
Red Crescent and all United Nations
organizations that want to monitor the
operations. The operations will, of
course, be open to local and
international media. The operations will
be conducted according to the
internationally recognized Law of Land
Upon securing the support he needs,
Buhari will invite the Minster of Defense
and the CDS to his office. He will bring
in the Minister first and tell him that
from that moment on, the CDS reports to
him (the Minister) directly. Yes, the
constitution allows the CDS to report
directly to the president, but until he
has the time to tinker with the
constitution, he would make the CDS
accord full respect to the Minister and
re-construct the chain-of-authority in
a way that eliminates the kind of
nonsense that happened when CDS
Badeh disrespected his Minister of
Defense. Then he would invite the CDS
in, having the Minister sit in on the
meeting. Buhari will then tell the CDS
something along these lines: The
Honorable Minister is my trusted
representative. I will take seriously ALL
staffing recommendations, to include
appointments, retirements and sackings
from him. I will take seriously his budget
recommendations. You have overall
operational control and responsibility
during all conflicts and training
exercises. I expect you to apprise him of
all major actions before they are taken
and if they are time-sensitive and
can’t wait for you to appraise him, do so
immediately after the fact. I will always
call him – not you – for explanations.
You should not leave him high and dry,
devoid of necessary information to brief
me when I ask him to do so. Now, if you
feel you can’t work with him, you come
to me directly with your complaints. I
will be fair. But from now on, I do not
want to see you in my office unless you
are with him.
Buhari will now turn to both of them: “I
expect the COAS and CAS to be primarily
stationed no further south than Jos and
no further west than Bauchi. I do not
want to see either of them in Abuja or
outside the northeast unless the Minister
approves it. If they need to
communicate with the CDS, as I expect
them to do regularly, the CDS must go
there. Also, I no longer want to see a
Major General as the Public Relations
Officer of the Ministry of Defense. Find
better ways to employ all my Generals.
The PRO should be no more than a
Lieutenant Colonel. I expect to be
personally briefed every week on our
progress. I expect a regular, nationally
televised briefing to Nigerians and the
international community by the CDS until
this is over and we re-deploy our troops
to pre-mobilization status.”
To the CDS: “I know you have a list of
weapons you have requested and did not
receive before I was elected; those are
now on their way and should reach us in
about 30 days. You need to update that
list to reflect what your needs might be
after you have heard my expectations of
you today. I leave the operational
details to you as I do not want to micro-
manage your operations. But I promised
our international partners an
overwhelming but quick sets of
operations. That means you should use
every available man and woman under
your authority. It means you should
employ every weapon in your armory. It
means you should call up all the training
our men and women have undertaken. I
do not need an army unit sitting idly in
Lagos, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Enugu, Ilorin,
Calabar or any other part of Nigeria
while the northeast burns. Overwhelming
force means if Boko Haram sends 50
fighters forward, we should meet them
with 50,000 fighters. If they come to us,
we should meet them head-long. If they
don’t come to us, we should go to them.
If they come with AK-47s, we should
come with fighter jets, attack
helicopters, indirect artillery fires,
50mm guns, full and semi-automatic
weapons, shoulder-fired grenade
launchers, hand grenades, AK-47s,
pistols, knives and razor blades. If they
are comfortable fighting us in the
morning, we will fight them all day and
all night, depriving them of rest and
recuperation. We should attack them
frontally and we should conduct
ambushes and raids. We should set booby
traps for them and we should conduct
sabotage attacks on their fortifications.
We will overwhelm them with “shock and
awe” so they don’t ever think of coming
back. I want all fingers on all triggers.
Remember, some of the fights will be
unconventional, needing guerilla
warfare tactics. We will have to fight
them in the streets of some of our towns
and in the crevices of some of our
villages. We should do so with
overwhelming force. We want this to
serve as deterrence to future terrorists.
When we go through these villages, all
possible escape routes should be blocked
and every single house is searched.
Those terrorists who surrender, we
should capture and send immediately to
the rear for interrogations. And those
who wish to keep fighting, we should
send to their Maker with dispatch and
without mercy. With Imagery Intelligence
and Signal Intelligence support from our
allies, you should strive to always
conduct intelligence-driven, full
spectrum operations. Try to not send
your force into any “blind” situation. At
the very minimum, you should have
credible Human Intelligence about the
target before setting off. We should not
maltreat the people we are trying to
protect, but we should not send a
piecemeal force to take any target.
Remember that we have to hold the
places we have cleared to prevent the
enemy from coming back and surprising
us from the rear as we move forward. I
know you are not a soldier, let alone an
infantry man, but you wear those stars
for a reason. You should be able to sit
the COAS down and have him show you
his plans, which should be along the
lines of what I just explained,
incorporating the COA’s plan for air
support in every major operation. If
any of your service chiefs are confused
about anything and need me to set
them straight, have them give you their
resignation letters and you pass those
on to the Minister. There is no room for
mediocrity and arm-chair generalship
in this government. I expect you to form
no more than three rotations of troops
in and out of battle in case this thing
takes a year or more; although if we use
overwhelming force, it shouldn’t last
longer than two months. Go ahead and
psychologically prepare your troops for
the long haul so that if the conflict ends
sooner, they will be pleasantly surprised.
You may now leave. Save whatever
questions you have for the Minister. I
won’t take too long with him. He will join
you outside shortly. Thank you for your
service to our nation.”
Once the CDS leaves, Buhari says to the
Minister: “I have gotten the assurances
from both the Senate leader and the
Speaker of the House that my extra-
ordinary request for funds to prosecute
this war will be approved quickly. I will
make sure you get what you need to
fight this war. But you need to make
sure these weapons and other equipment
get to the units and to the soldiers.
While the military guys are doing their
own thing, you need to go through that
ministry and fish out those who have
been diverting funds and materiel
meant for our military. There should be
no sacred cows. Any person you suspect
should be immediately transferred out
of Abuja pending the outcome of
investigations. You must project the
image of a no-nonsense, incorruptible
Minister. You don’t have to be brash or
rude or dictatorial. But you have to be
proactive, firm and fair. If you do the
due diligence over every issue before
bringing your recommendations to me,
you will have my support. Our loyalty
should be to the troops. Make sure every
single soldier, whether deployed to the
northeast or not, is not owed his salary
for a single day. Make sure no soldier
pays for his own uniforms. Make sure no
soldier pays for his own medical
expenses…deployed or not. Make sure all
casualties we sustain are treated with
dignity and respect; that the families
left behind are catered for, especially
the spouses and children. Make sure the
deployed soldiers’ deployment bonuses
are paid on time. By the way, I have
approved your recommendation for
increase in the salaries of our military
personnel. Those in the ranks of army
Corporal through Captain will get 100%
increase. Majors and Lieutenant
Colonels will get a 50% increase. Colonel
through Major General will get 30%
increase and Lieutenant General and
General and Field Marshall (if we ever
get one in the army) will get 10%. The
same is true for the equivalent of these
ranks in the Air Force and the Navy.
Deployment bonuses will be 30% of basic
salaries for everybody. All pay increases
take effect immediately. I want you to
inform the CDS before you go on
national TV to make the announcement
today. If I didn’t tell you before your
appointment, let me reiterate this: I
want you and the CDS to work together
like brothers. Your relationship should go
beyond the office. He should be able to
predict you and you should know what
he wants before he even makes the
request. Although I have made him
subordinate to you, do not abuse your
office or rub this in his face. Treat him
with dignity and respect. He has earned
his rank and has sacrificed a lot for this
country. And I have confidence in him
otherwise I would have replaced him. I
do not want unnecessary acrimony. That
does not mean you should be
intimidated by the uniform or the gun.
But your disagreement with him should
be civil and about what is best for the
military. I do not want to hear about
any petty, self-aggrandizement
quarrels. If I have to help run your
ministry, it means I do not need you.”
No, this writer is not privy to any specific
plan by Buhari to fight Boko Haram. Let
no one hold him responsible for anything
I wrote above. These are just some of
what I think, from experience, need to
be done in order to win this war.
President Goodluck Jonathan could have
done the same thing, except that he
lacked credibility with the rank and file
Nigerian troops and foreign leaders that
could help.

Biodun Ladepo,
Los Angeles, California, USA


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