The Security Bits section (page 15) of Thisday Newspaper December 27, 2014 carried a piece written by one Colonel Timothy Antigha, the Chief of Staff, Directorate of Army Public Relations. Half way through it, I almost shed tears, tears of sorrow at what I would call the shallow understanding of men in high places. I know, at the end of this, I would be dismissed as one lacking in military warfare, one who needs not and should not talk when military men talk, especially of the rank of a Colonel. But just give me your ears for a minute.
Col Antigha spent more than half of the piece trying to proof the hunters were not responsible for the recapture of Mubi, that in itself says a lot. A wise elder once told me that when a man begins to try to proof a point by all means when no one has asked him to proof it, he has something he is trying to hide. When a millionaire begins to try to prove that he is richer than a known pauper, something is wrong somewhere. Col Antigha in a swift change of direction, however, asserted the hunters provided human intelligence; intelligence, the very thing some of us have muttered under our breath is the secret ingredient needed to surmount Boko Haram. In deed Col Antigha agreed to this, albeit passively, when he said, “… it takes more than weapons to end terrorism and insurgency.”
In his proof that hunters were not responsible for the recapture of Mubi, Col Antigha used two points as his bases; (1) the hunters do not have modern weaponry where as Boko Haram benefited from large cache of arms from the fall of Libya and purchase from the black market (he forgot to mention the looting of Nigerian Army armories); (2) Boko Haram outnumber the hunters. Let us look at these two points one after another in conjunction with some portions of Col Antigha’s writing to see if indeed his writing stands logic on its feet (or on its head) and if he actually believed what he wrote.
Judging by his first name, Timothy, Col Antigha must be a Christian; as such he would be familiar with the story of David and Goliath. David a mere boy, whose only fight was with lions and bears (just like these hunters) defeated a man trained in the art of war from his youth who also had the advantage of superior weaponry and defenses. It is true superior weapons confer an advantage to an opponent, but that alone cannot and should not be used as a yard stick to judge who will ultimately win; other parameters need to be considered, two of which he mentioned: intelligence on the enemy and the population of trained fighters. But if Col Antigha insists superior weaponry is all that is needed to win a fight, then we have our proof that Boko Haram is better armed than the Nigerian Armed Forces, since the latter has consistently failed to dislodge and uproot the former from its supposedly captured territories and strongholds of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states. But it he agrees that in addition to superior weapons other factors too come into play, then his argument that because the hunters do not have sophisticated weapons and as such cannot defeat Boko Haram cannot fly.
Hunting may be a bow and arrow business, but is the Colonel aware that the lethality of these arrows can be more than even AK-47s? A man with a limb damaged by a gun or grenade can still survive if given the right and prompt medical attention, however, a man given even a scratch by a poisoned arrow would undoubtedly die. With a poisoned arrow, you do not need to aim for the heart or head; you just shoot anywhere provided you can get a wound on your victim. I have witnessed a few communal clashes; have listened to stories of men from these conflicts so I know what happens with these crude instruments.
Col Antigha’s assertion that Boko Haram has more fighters than the number of hunters cannot be verified and so cannot stand. The population on both sides is not registered so how did the respected Colonel come to the conclusion that one side is more populated that the other. The question to be asked here is is population really a factor in who wins an encounter? This is not a mob action where the group with the most population pours on and over powers the less populated group. This is like a hide-and-seek game, where success depends on one’s ability to unearth the opponent’s position; here population size counts but very, very little. A fall out of this argument by Col Antigha is that when Boko Haram over ran a Barracks in Borno State, they must have come in numbers large enough to be more than the entire personnel of the barracks; except of course that story too was the imagination of fifth columnists bent on dampening the morale of soldiers. But if however, that actually happened, then population is of little importance.
In continuing his defense that the hunters did not dislodge Boko Haram from Mubi, our Col Antigha had this to say; “Besides, human beings naturally celebrate achievement and cherish the limelight that comes with it, so how come no hunter has been identified or interviewed …” Col Antigha as a public relations man may be comfortable with field men posing before cameras to show their faces to all including the enemy, however, these hunters know better; they prefer to play in the background rather than to the gallery. There is wisdom in hiding who you are from the enemy; there is wisdom in the enemy not knowing where his death blow will come from; whether from afar off or from the person next to him. That element of surprise confers advantage. When these hunters begin to grant interviews, throw parties to celebrate victories, their identity will become public knowledge, that edge of surprise will be lost. Col Antigha should understand that the Army finds it difficult to confront Boko Haram precisely for this reason; the army cannot tell who really Boko Haram is. They do not wear uniform, they do not grant interviews, they do not throw parties to celebrate victories; when they appear in their videos, their faces are covered – remaining invisible in plain sight is the name of the game if one must survive against the enemy. The respected Colonel Antigha should know this.
In his argument, Col Antigha made a statement that tends to negate (at least to me) all his arguments; he said “Additionally, most Boko Haram insurgents are non-Nigerians …” Every man knows that in every contest, playing on home ground offers you an advantage even when confronting a superior opponent. If indeed these Boko Haram fighters are non-Nigerians fighting in Nigeria, they are fighting on foreign soil, however, the hunters are fighting on home ground. They know the terrain better, they know where to lead the Boko Haram fighters so they could be cornered, they know where to run to should the need arise, they know the hiding places, they have walked the terrain several times both day and night. Shouldn’t our Colonel see these as portent advantages these hunters had over Boko Haram that would lead to their success? Boko Haram is not using fighter jets or helicopters so they were forced to walk the ground, the ground that the hunters have superior knowledge of. Boko Haram may have superior weapons, superior knowledge of war, but with the kind of equipments the Colonel described, it is only when you see an enemy that you kill, and when an enemy knows the terrain more than you, you are at a disadvantage, you can’t see him; where as he can see you. Carrying a belt-fed gun means nothing if you can’t see the enemy to shoot, however carrying even a blunt knife or poisoned arrow means everything if you can sneak quietly behind your enemy.
I appreciate the fact that the Nigerian Armed Forces are engaged in an unconventional warfare against Boko Haram; I also appreciate the fact that they are doing the much they can with the little at their disposal, what I do not understand is the Armed Forces like their Commander in chief attributing every single event to “fifth columnist bent on undermining the Armed Forces of Nigeria”; May be like-father-like-son.