"As opposition elements persistently condemn President Goodluck Jonathan’s handling of the security situations in the North Eastern axis of Nigeria, even when the country’s and other allied security forces are beginning to record victories over the deadly Boko Haram insurgents, the President’s Chief of Staff (COS), Brigadier-General Jones Oladehinde Arogbofa (rtd) said there was no other way to fight a non-conventional war than the approach of the Federal Government.
The COS, a retired officer of the Signals Corps of the Nigerian Army and holder of a Masters Degree in Military Arts and Science from the United States Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, said what Nigeria is facing in the insurgency that is a major issue in the postponement of the 2015 general elections, is “an asymmetric warfare.”
According to him, “What we call asymmetric warfare is not the kind of thing that we just pick and go; no it doesn’t work that way. Asymmetric warfare involves a lot of things, a lot of patience, a lot of care and a lot of carefulness.
“For example you can’t go to a community and say because there are insurgents there, you sent soldiers there to wipe them out.
“In an insurgency, enemies quickly mix with the innocent people and you want to save lives as well as eliminate the insurgents. You can’t go about killing innocent people. Defenceless people like children and women are the people we should be concerned about. They are the people we are trying to defend.
“What people who are ignorant about these things want him to do is to go ahead and take Alpha jets, or whatever, go bomb them and kill them all. The President presides over everybody in this country. He won’t go and kill the people he is protecting and presiding over. He will go to that place and ensure that the insurgents are stopped. That’s what he is doing.
“The painful thing is that the same people who criticize the approach of the President see positive results coming now and they refused to acknowledge it. They refused to say look this man is performing but the truth is that we are getting results.”
Arogbofa also blamed the lack of preparedness on the part of the Nigerian forces to handle “that kind of war” and their seeming slow march to victory saying on the fact that the military was not adequately prepared and equipped for it.
He said, “insurgence is not only in Nigeria, it is all over the world. In Afghanistan, in Iraq and even the Arab spring was a child of insurgency. It is a modern perception of warfare in the world that we are living in and so you need to train the men. You need weaponry that will be able to contain such kind of warfare, and here is a president that wants result.
“The president needed to acquire the right weapon. We need to re-equip the system that is going to fight the war and to do a whole bunch of other things. Probably, you may have to even retrain. If you’re buying new equipment that will meet the present military requirement, you are going to train the people to be able to handle such equipment. So it is not an overnight affair.
“Over time the president has been doing the best he could and now things are happening in a positive way. The insurgents are being taken care of by the president because over these past few years, he has been able to study the situation and be able to get the right equipment. And being a military General myself, I say kudos to him, because you need a man who is very patient, who is very understanding and who is willing to do it right, to be able to survive insurgent warfare.”
The Oka-Akoko, Ondo State-born retired soldier commended the Nigerian forces for the successes recorded so far in their latest onslaught that has seen the retaking of several occupied territories from the Boko Haram group saying: “the victories are something to be celebrated by all Nigerians.
“Let somebody tell me anywhere in the world where war over insurgents has been a one night affair. It took America probably about 14 years to handle Bin Laden and it took a lot of efforts, a lot of weaponry and lot training, before they could handle the terrorist. People should also stop associating Boko Haram with Goodluck Jonathan.
“Boko Haram has been there before Jonathan. There had been Maitatsine at a time in Kano State and religious unrests in Kaduna, Bauchi and in many other places. Boko Haram has been an issue that has been coming overtime from one government to another; it only reared its head in this period.
“My personal view is that there must have been some political mixture into the insurgence. May be that is why they have a foothold. If not so, if every Nigerian says we don’t want violence, Boko Haram will not have a place to stay. The members are human beings and not out of this world. They have mothers, they have fathers they have brothers and sisters.”
Arogbofa also decried a situation where all the blames of the insurgency are being heaped on the President.
According to him, “The Chibok Girls abduction was a local government occurrence. An event happened in a local government and the president is being accused of it. Of course we know he is the Chief Security Officer of the nation, but at the same time, we have three tiers of government. So if an event happens, we should look at it from those strata.
“We should first go to the local government and see what happened there. You, who is the local government chairman, what have you done? Then we go to the State and ask the governor the same question before you go to the president. But you took the battle straight to the president and accused him of a whole lot of things. That is unfair.”
Speaking on the achievements of Jonathan and why Nigerians should vote for him for a second term, Arogbofa said, “The president has done exceedingly well in all areas. Some government will come and they will talk about three-point agenda, some eight points, some ten points agenda. Whatever the number of agendas but Jonathan came and said all agendas, road infrastructure, electrification, health, education, transport and the rest.
“Name any sphere and you will discover that Goodluck Jonathan is making history and history is going to vindicate him because there is going to be a time when all these hullabaloos, all these cries will come to an end and people will settle down and they will ask questions about Jonathan’s achievement. And they will discover that he has done more than anybody could comprehend in the face of difficulties, serious challenges and many crises.
“There is freedom for everyone under his government and nobody has been detained by his administration. That is the kind of leader we should have in this country. He came and built about 14 universities. Every state today has a Federal University. When he came, only 5,000 of about 35,000 kilometers of federal roads across the country were in good condition and in the short period of time he has spent, he has increased the number of kilometers of motorable roads to 35,000.
“He created The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), which is funding all the universities. If you go to all the universities you will discover that none of them will say that they have received less than N18 billion within the period of time that Jonathan has been in power. Things were so terribly bad before he came but he has been putting them right.
“I can continue to talk and talk about his programmes for youths, adults, elderly and women. Let somebody come and challenge this man in any sphere and then you will see what Jonathan has done. He is not a Messiah, he is a human being, but he has done such a good job that I believe that in the nearest future, the name of Jonathan will be written in gold in this country.”
THE COS also defended Jonathan’s handling of corruption, a subject that has become the main campaign issue by the major challenger, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari stressing that the war against graft is being fought in all fronts.
According to him, “This is one of the governments I have seen that has been transparent in all its ramifications. It is unfortunate that the government has a very formidable opposition and it is also unfortunate that we have people who are feeding the community, the average Nigerians, with lies.
“The law court is there. Let me ask a question, how many people have been taken to court for fraud in this country under Jonathan? Even if the government is not doing it, are there no other bodies that can do it if they discovered that people are fraudulent? People just come up with stories and build up some figments of imaginations in their heads and then bring it to light. There is no corruption in this government.
“The railway was not working before but today people can ride on it. I want to link that with corruption that people are talking about. If the government says that so much money is to be released for railway, and it is released, people seeing the railway working will say ‘waooh’, these people are chopping money. It doesn’t happen that way. They should go and look at what that money is used for.
“People come with all kinds of imaginative thinking. People talk about corruption. If I tell a lie, it is corruption. They believe that corruption is just on money. That’s not the way it is. Even my conduct, my integrity and so on, they border on corruption. If am sitting before you now and am lying to you about what is not happening here, I am corrupt. This is so because I will be misguiding the people and that is not supposed to be the situation.”
Arogbofa therefore advised Nigerians to “vote wisely because you have to vote right. Your vote is your bank. It is your surety. It is what guarantees your tomorrow. We have gone to talk to the electorate by way of campaigning and we have told them that this is what we have done, this is where we started, this is how far we have gone and this is what we are doing now and this is what we will do.
“They should look at it. They should ask themselves when was the last time I rode on a train from Lagos to Osun for example? Then, is the train available now, and am I riding on it? They should ask themselves when was the last time I got to the airport and I was treated into a beautiful airport environment? And they should ask themselves, are we getting better on the road? And are we getting better in terms of electricity supply and medical attention in this country? They should ask themselves and they will see all the answers to these questions.
“It is not sufficient for somebody to say Jonathan is this or Jonathan is that. That is not right. That is not the way to convince Nigerians for their votes. We need to vote right. We need to vote for a winning team. I believe a political party needs to offer a superior argument in order to win the next election.
“What we are doing now is offering a superior argument that we have performed. Today the hunger that was in our land before is not what we have today. Nigerians are feeding today because agriculture is working. It is a practical thing. Today, nobody is incarcerated in prison for no reason. Nobody has tampered with the judicial system. We have allowed them to run their show as an autonomous part of the government.
“Our people should compare that with the time in the past where a woman who has a family and children will be picked up and treated like a non-human being. People were treated with disrespect and so on and so forth. I sincerely believe that they will see a change and true transformation.”