I have read SPACES FOR CHANGE’s latest study on JTF’s demolitions of residences in Maiduguri in the name of war on terror as published in the Punch Newspapers. Reading it is an incomplete experience in context of our political and security environment if you one fails to read the accompanying anonymous online blog. The reaction of most readers is, as I sadly expected, not just unappreciative, but spiteful and in fact, often violent.
It strongly suggests that Nigerians are thinking more in terms of vengeance, not solutions. People are thinking in terms of exterminations and genocide, unfortunately. Any student of strategy knows that in irregular warfare, the most important factor for success is winning the friendship of the local population among whom you prosecute a bloodly, surgical military operation against embedded guerillas. This is hard for organized armies operating without concealment and employing heavy weaponry due to the weight of collateral damage that must be incurred.
But then, you must still work hard to limit those destructions or you risk beating local public sympathy to the enemy’s side. With acquisition of sympathy comes an ease of recruitment by, and the flocking of volunteers to the terrorist’s cause. I have complained mildly about these tactics sometime back but it was unappreciated. The military can not afford to loose the politics of the war and win its genocide but one fears this might be the state of things there right now. Of course it is a very hard job our troops have there and their courage is outstanding and essential for the nation’s continued existence. They get killed and then have to start looking for a pin in a haystack. Why not just pour a vat of acid on the haystack and make the job of getting rid of the pin more straightforward.
Well, for humanity and for truth and also for the very success of their mission, that will not be possible. They’ll just have to do a little bit more to protect lives. This side to the debate is new to the society and unfortunately to those directly affected, they are voiceless and distant. But it wont be long before the government is put to notice by international organizations or indicators on the battlefields. So, it is an inescapeable tightrope the government must walk. I hope, of cause, that it wont degenerate into a clampdown on free speech and mismanagement of opinions or findings of this nature!