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An Encounter With Soldier Who Fought Boko Haram For 9 Years, By Yusuf Ozi-Usman

Soldiers at war with Boko Haram

One of the heroes of the war against Boko Haram is a young man, a Corporal in the Nigerian Army, who has just been posted to the nation’s capital from the North East where he was in war front for over nine years.

The Corporal, whose name I prefer to keep to myself, was full of praises to God for keeping him alive from the gruelling battle with Boko Haram insurgents, even from the point of weak structures and none existent weaponry during the regime of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the centre, with particular reference to that of the immediate past government of President Goodluck Jonathan.

The soldier began to narrate the story immediately he settled in my car. I offered him a ride from one of the Abuja satellite towns to the main city, on his way to his place of posting.

After the normal introductions and initial small talks about the government of the day, the soldier, in mufti, said that he couldn’t believe that he would come out of the North East alive because of the intensity of the war.

The heroic soldier, who comes from one of the Northern states, said that he joined the army and was posted to the Northeast immediately the Boko Haram’s battle started around 2008.

He said that at various times, he was posted to different towns and villages, including Madagali, Mubi, Maiduguri and even Sambisa forest.

The soldier, who looked every inch satisfied with himself with gratitude to God, became sober, emphasising the fact that Nigerians should be grateful to President Muhammadu Buhari for saving Nigeria from Boko Haram insurgents whom he said, by now, would have simply taken over the government. According to him, the insurgents were so equipped and operating with high level of confidence that, it was easy for them to enter and conquer anywhere in Nigeria, including the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja.

“As a matter of fact, if the only thing Buhari has achieved in office is the decimation of Boko Haram and rendering the insurgents from power of occupying anywhere they targeted, Nigerians should be grateful to him. We would be offending God by remembering only our stomach, complaining of hunger as a result of Buhari’s policy, whereas the main issue of security which would have rendered us inured to hunger, is being downplayed.

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He said that it was Buhari, who on coming to power, saved the sordid situation, where Nigerian army was reduced completely to the mercy of rampaging Boko Haram, by quickly arming them with weapons that were more superior.

“At a point before the 2015 general elections, we, the soldiers in the war front, were actually at the mercy of the insurgents. They had very sophisticated war weaponry, including modern tanks mounted on Hilux, while we, the soldiers, were using outdated weapons procured during the regime of President Shehu Shagari (from 1979 to 1983).

“In fact, I don’t thing Nigerian government acquired new weapons since the regime of Shagari because no such weapon was added to our war arsenals and or was brought to us in war front throughout the battle. We, in the war front were always wondering where the insurgents got the kind of modern and sophisticated weapons they were using against us.

“It was not that our men and officers were weak or inexperienced; these were the same Nigerian army that had been dispatched to war fronts on peacekeeping missions to other nations and conquered or performed excellently. The battle with Boko Haram insurgents was supposed to be a localised warfare that we could have won within weeks, but, it appeared as if we were fighting the power that was more than what our eyes were seeing.”

The young soldier expressed happiness not just because Boko Haram insurgents have been rendered powerless with the provision of sophisticated weapons by the Buhari government, but also because he is alive to witness the other end of the war.

Just when he was about to start analysing the consequences of such good news to the nation, we reached where he asked me to drop him, from where he would take a taxi to his place of work. [myad]