Sometimes You Lose Battle To Win War, Says Irabor

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Lucky Irabor, in this interview with reporters in Abuja speaks on the efforts of the military in the battle against Boko Haram insurgents, Okodili Ndidi was there

How have the strategies used to fight terrorism in Nigeria evolved?

Some of our tactics have changed, but our vision remains the same. We want to bring an end to beginning of all terrorism. We are achieving these in collaboration with stakeholders in national security and defence.

Globally, terrorism has evolved in the last two decades. The case is not different in Nigeria. What we are doing differently is to be ahead of this evolving trend. The Armed Forces of Nigeria is more prepared for all scenarios.

Unfortunately, it will do us more harm than good if we go public to reveal all we have done or what we have stopped doing or will do.

The good news is that in all scenarios, Nigeria will win.

Let us never forget the words of Winston Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Since the war against Boko Haram / ISWAP started, the military has lost some major battles in the North East. What is being done to avoid future defeats?

A better way to look at it is that in the last 20 years, the military has won major battles in the Northeast.

We have won most of our battles and that is why we are winning the war. This is not just an opinion, it is the fact. The most recent evidence from the Global Terrorism Report confirms this.

A war is made up of several battles. In a perfect world, you plan to win everything, but perfection never happens in war.

Sometimes the way forward is backwards. Sometimes you lose a battle to win the war.

There has been a recent wave of military takeovers in Africa? Is the military approach a remedy to poor governance?

First, let me make it clear that the probability of non-democratic leadership in Nigeria is zero.

Rather than go back to our past, we have learnt from it. It is no longer an option. We are passing this message down the ladder.

Like Nigeria is doing, other African countries must strengthen their democratic processes rather than subvert it.

Our findings reveal that one main reason for these negative events is when a leader overstays and loses focus. This causes government institutions to weaken and eventually the non-democratic take over.

Some security stakeholders believe that the final stage of the war against terrorism will be faster if the country hires foreign fighters (mercenaries)

Where lays the loyalty of the foreign fighter? To Nigeria or self?

The men and women of the Armed Forces fight to protect Nigeria not because they are paid to do it. It is because we see it as a duty.

Certainly, we will continue to collaborate with other global powers and defence institutions, but we are not going to outsource our primary responsibility.

What is the military leadership doing with respect to complaints from some officers about injustice and unfair disciplinary procedures? 

There is a lot of misinformation and disinformation about the administrative codes and procedures of the Armed Forces.

Like our global partners, the military does not operate with court orders. A court martial is different from a civil court. The military has means to maintain discipline and order.

How much support is the military getting from civil society, non-governmental organisations; especially on the non-kinetic approach to rebuilding peace?

Just as nobody can use only one finger to write, the Armed Forces of Nigeria cannot right all the wrongs in security by itself.

There is a lot of work that some of these organisations have put in especially to protect women and children in the Northeast. A lot more still needs to be done on the non-kinetic approach to achieving peace.

Don’t forget that with respect to land area (size), the Northeast region is larger than the Southeast, Southsouth and Southwest regions combined.

The terrain is difficult for most organisations. Many have provided support to communities in sectors such as health, education, construction and agriculture.

We are also making sure that resettlement is being done at places that are certified as safe.

What we need is for more citizens to join the building of a better, safe and prosperous nation.

Is there a rising concern of child soldiers in Nigeria

That children have been exposed to violence does not mean they are terrorists. In the last six months, we have witnessed thousands of adult men and women surrender to our troops.

Yes, some of these children are as young as 12 years old and have been trained on weapon handling.

For us, these children need to be given better parenting; knowledge and wisdom to make them grow to be responsible adults.

There is a need for moral and social re-development to rebuild their character.

It is less than a year to the national elections. Will the military be playing an expanded role?

The question is why should it be necessary for the military to go beyond its constitutional role?

The Armed Forces will continue to uphold the constitution and keep improving the state of peace in Nigeria.

We are going to keep our role simple – give support to the electoral body when we are requested to.  Citizens would be given an environment to make them vote for their candidate of choice without fear.

I guarantee you that hope will triumph over fear in 2023. (NATION)