On May 29, 2015 Nigerians were hopeful that a former military general, Muhammadu Buhari, now a reformed ‘democrat’ would succeed where his predecessor Goodluck Ebele Jonathan had failed. The fight against Boko Haram, tackling corruption, and growing the economy were high on citizens’ priority list of issues which needed attention. So far, President Buhari has failed woefully. In his swearing in speech President Buhari said, “The command centre will be relocated to Maiduguri and remain until Boko Haram is completely subdued.” Boko Haram has not been subdued, neither has it been “technically defeated”. In recent news, more than 100 Nigerian soldiers lost their lives to Boko Haram in what is now called the Metele attacks.

South African mercenary Eeben Barlow, the chairman of Specialised Tasks, Training, Equipment and Protection (STTEP) International, a privately-owned military, intelligence and law enforcement training and advisory company said on Facebook in a post titled ‘The Ongoing Conflict in North-Eastern Nigeria’: “The recent spate of Boko Haram attacks in northeastern Nigeria have negated President Buhari’s claims when he assumed power in 2015 that the radical Islamist group (many being thugs who have hijacked the religion of Islam for their own purposes) had been ‘technically defeated’. His narrative that Boko Haram was ‘technically defeated’ was false as soon as he uttered those words”.

“There is, in a purely military sense, no such thing as a ‘technical defeat’—something the President, as an ex-military man ought to know. Sadly, he also chose to make the successes of 7 Infantry Division and 72 Mobile Strike Force (MSF) his own, when it wasn’t,” the post reads.

In the post Barlow further writes, “President Buhari and his team were, however, part of the political leader group that led the vocal charge about STTEP’s presence in Nigeria, making it a burning political issue even before they assumed office. Indeed, they made it known that the company’s presence would not be tolerated under his office.

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The initial 3-phase campaign strategy (known as ‘Operational Anvil’) to degrade and destroy BH in Borno State, was rejected by his advisors. Instead, pressure forced only a small part of the campaign to be successfully implemented before we were ordered to pack up and leave.

They were, however, quite happy to allow the armed forces to receive both substandard training and the incorrect equipment provided by both foreign governments and their PMCs—along with the worst possible ‘military advice’. When this approach failed, the military could be blamed for any lack of success.”

Barlow further explained how the military had been used to the point of exhaustion. During the week, a video surfaced online of Nigerian soldiers complaining of how they were being killed by Boko Haram. The soldiers lamented about the lack of sophisticated weapons to fight the terrorist group. In one of the videos, a soldier showed a 1983 Czechoslovakia armour tanker which they used to fight Boko Haram. Despite President Buhari signing the release of $1bn in April 2018, to procure more weapons to fight Boko Haram, for the Nigerian soldier fighting violent extremism the battle remains difficult.

Barlow said, “The reality is that these forces can be defeated. But victory requires more than a few soundbytes. Soundbytes do not—and never have—resulted in victory over an enemy.

Ultimately, the innocent suffer and soldiers die, and every tactical victory Boko Haram achieves merely incentivises them to continue. This also gives impetus to the plans and actions of other radical terror groups across the continent.

North-eastern Nigeria is an example of what can happen when intelligence is rejected in favour of a false narrative.
Don’t blame the armed forces when poor political decisions result in the deaths of people.”