Professor of History at the University of Lagos, Abayomi Olajompo Akinyeye, FHSN, FNAL, has called on the Nigerian Armed Forces to establish a division of irregular warfare that can tackle insurgencies, guerrilla warfare and other forms of war the army is presently ill-trained for.
The Fellow of the Historical Society of Nigeria (FHSN), made this call on Thursday, March 30, 2023, while presenting a paper titled: “From Occupation to National Force: The Army in Nigeria, Past Experiences, Present Realities and Future Prospects” at the Faculty of Arts Monthly Seminar.
Using historical records to describe, in full details, how the Nigerian Army started as an occupational force by the British colonial masters, Professor Akinyeye explicated that at that time, rival ethnic groups were enlisted as garrisons to territories of one another to prevent the Army from fraternizing with the local people to the detriment of the colonial government. He posited that while this structure of the army was useful for the colonial government, it was grossly inadequate for a sovereign nation-state.
The renowned academic noted that the general imbalance in the demography of the officer’s corps and the rank and file led to a lack of acquaintance of the troops with their operational environment thus constituting a major operational constraint. Professor Akinyeye shared that “even though Nigeria had prepared for the eventuality of external aggression, the history of the country so far has shown that its challenges during the colonial period, civil war or current war on insurgency, had been from within.”
He informed that internal security challenges have plagued the country for much longer than the civil war which lasted for thirty (30) months due to the strategy employed which the soldiers were not trained for. He emphasized that the strategy of using guerrilla warfare and other insurgencies such as the Niger Delta militancy and the ongoing Boko Haram insurgencies revealed the Nigerian army’s weak point in inadequate preparation for these forms of wars and intelligence gathering.
He averred that to effectively combat these forms of war and launch a counterattack, the government needs to understand the nature of the insurgency it is faced with and decide if to negotiate or fight. The general rule, according to Professor Akinyeye, is to not negotiate. He explained that this is usually the best form of action when the demands of revolutionary warfare are parallel to the policies of the nation-state.
To further clarify, he cited the example of the negotiation that went awry between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram insurgents. Professor Akinyeye expounded that the insurgents agree to negotiate to buy time to break the spate of government attacks and restock for a more formidable re-attack.
His words, “demands at negotiations are couched in vague and ambiguous terms to attain evasiveness and abrogation later on.”
“In the two recent cases of the Niger Delta militancy and the ongoing Boko Haram Insurgencies where the army cannot be said to have recorded a clear victory, insurgents have followed that typical format of insurgency and revolutionary warfare. They have operated in difficult terrains of impenetrable forests and creeks. They are located close to international boundaries and have safe havens and sanctuaries in neighbouring states. The Niger Delta militants are bordered by the Atlantic Ocean through which they had access to international supplies and are close to Cameroun where they easily had a haven. The Boko Haram insurgents are close to at least three international borders (Cameroun, Chad and Niger) and operate close to the vast expanse of forests in the northeastern part of the country. They can have access to supplies and almost inexhaustible recruitment of cadres for their fighting force.”
“Since the challenges of the Army in the future is likely to be that of insurgency, it is advisable that it should modify itself to respond to these challenges better than it has done in the past. It is in this regard that one will like to suggest the establishment of a corps of irregular warfare in the army.”
The erudite professor advised that the newly established division of soldiers should:
- receive training in guerrilla or irregular warfare;
- be deployed to live among the people and thus feel the pulse of the people;
- learn a second Nigeria language apart from their mother tongue to understand their environment of deployment;
- be made up of a troop consisting of a third (3rd) of indigenes to understand the ways and geography of the community and a third (3rd) of same-language speaking non-indigenes to warn the final third (3rd) and jointly checkmate the aforementioned section should they plan on betraying their duties.
He also urged the government to take time to study and understand how insurgencies operate to be able to nip them in the bud by catering to some of the needs and challenges that give rise to insurgencies. These needs include poverty, poor security, lack of proper basic and social amenities, corruption, poor education, high unemployment rates etc.
Similarly, he recommended that “counter-insurgent forces should desist from collective punishment of communities as have happened in Maiduguri, Ogoniland, Aguileri and Umuleri”, as it would only make them the villain and thus alienated from receiving the support of the community, a factor which is crucial for counter-insurgency operations.
The seminar, which was well attended by the Dean of the Faculty, Prof. Olufunke Adeboye, other notable personalities within the faculty and scholars from other faculties, came to end with an interactive thought sharing, questions and answers session.