By Chioma Onuegbu
A former Military Administrator of Akwa Ibom State, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (retd), has advised the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to adopt what he called “winning the hearts and minds of the people strategy” to quell Boko Haram insurgency in the country.
Nkanga who expressed concern over the renewed attacks by insurgents and the recent killing of farmers in Borno State, said government should understand that residents of communities under siege by the insurgents could provide better information on what should be done.
His words: “I said it from the beginning, that insurgency is a low-intensity conflict, and that the first thing to do is to win the hearts and minds of the people. If they, government did that from the beginning, the insurgents will have nowhere to hide today.
“The people in the armed forces fighting the battle are human beings like us. The insurgents gained so much ground because the people in the affected areas are protecting them as they were made to believe that it is a fight between the North and the South or between Christians and Muslims.
“However, I sympathise with the people that lost their lives because government that is supposed to protect them is not protecting them. It is unfortunate”
Nkanga also faulted the rehabilitation of ex-Boko Haram militants, saying repented members of Boko Haram could even be responsible for the renewed attacks.
“They will say that Boko Haram members have repented, and bring them into the society to continue with their activities. They are lamenting now, I don’t know who they are deceiving. If only they can be honest,” he added.
Questions should be asked about Boko Haram—Group Captain Ewang (retd)
On his part, a former Military Administrator of Ogun and Rivers states, Group Captain Sam Ewang , retd, said nobody outside could suggest a specific strategy of dealing with the insurgents without getting to know the proper happenings in the theatre of war.
He said: “You have to decide on several possibilities and then at any particular time adopt one that you think is the most applicable. You must know about what is going on. You must understand the pattern of behaviour of the insurgents, especially who they are.
“To quell an insurgency, there are so many things involved. Since it is not a regular war it doesn’t have a straightforward front. You can deal with this group today, suddenly another emerges. They may not even be staying in the country. That is why they are insurgents. It may not even be one group.
“You will need to determine what they are capable of doing. Where do they come from? They may not even be Nigerians. Who trained them? What were they trained on? What is their strength? What are their culture, tradition, and environment of operations? All these things help.