Immediate-past Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh Thursday confessed that when he assumed office as the CDS, he headed armed forces that lacked the relevant equipment and motivation to fight an enemy (Boko Haram insurgents) who were invisible and embedded with the local populace.
Badeh made the confession just as he pointed out that the decision of certain countries (which he did not name), to deny Nigeria weapons to prosecute the war against Boko Haram, added to the challenges the military faced.
Delivering his valedictory speech at his pulling out ceremony in Abuja, Badeh said, “Notwithstanding the modest successes we recorded in the fight against terror, I must say that the task of coordinating the military and other security agencies in the fight against the insurgents, is perhaps the most complex and challenging assignment I have had in my 38 years in service.”
Other challenges he said he faced included “the exploitation of a serious national security issue by a section of the media and the political class to gain political mileage”.
“Furthermore, the activities of fifth columnists in the military and other security agencies who leaked operational plans and other sensitive military information to the terrorists, combined to make the fight against the insurgents particularly difficult”.
Continuing, he said, “The activities of these unpatriotic members of the military not only blunted the effectiveness of the fight, but also led to the needless deaths of numerous officers and men who unwittingly fell into ambushes prepared by terrorists who had advanced warning of the approach of such troops”.
“Permit me to also add here, that nations’ militaries are equipped and trained in peace time, for the conflicts they expect to confront in the future. Unfortunately, that has not been our experience as a nation. Over the years, the military was neglected and under-equipped to ensure the survival of certain regimes, while other regimes, based on advice from some foreign nations, deliberately reduced the size of the military and underfunded it.
“Unfortunately, our past leaders accepted such recommendations without appreciating our peculiarities as a third world military which does not have the technological advantage that could serve as force multipliers and compensate for reduced strength.
“Accordingly, when faced with the crises in the North East and other parts of the country, the military was overstretched and had to embark on emergency recruitments and training, which were not adequate to prepare troops for the kind of situation we found ourselves in”.
“It is important therefore for the government to decide on the kind of military force it needs by carrying out a comprehensive review of the nation’s military force structure to determine the size, capability and equipment holding required to effectively defend the nation and provide needed security” Badeh said.
“Despite these challenges, I am glad to note that a lot was achieved during our time in the fight against terror. The achievements are largely due to the commitment, patriotism, and fighting spirit of our men and women in uniform who saw the fight against terror as a task that must be accomplished no matter the odds and in spite of the campaign of calumny against the military by a section of the media and their foreign collaborators,” he noted.
Expressing happiness with “the teeming populace that have continued to stand behind their military”, Badeh said, “Our true friends who stood by us in our time of need and provided us the weapons we are now using to conduct the operations will always have a special place in our hearts. I must also mention the support and cooperation we have continued to enjoy from our neighbouring countries”.
On his advice to the nation, the former CDS said, “I want to state emphatically that no nation can achieve its full potentials by totally depending on other nations for its defence needs. The lessons of the civil war and ongoing war against terror where certain countries frustrated our attempts to procure much needed weapons are very instructive.
“Again, as I always said, when the nation is at war, it is not the military alone that is at war, it is the entire nation. Accordingly, every segment of society must see itself contributing to the overall war effort by presenting a united front against a common enemy.
“Therefore, I appeal to the relevant agencies of government to mobilize the huge human and material resources we have in this country towards the development of vibrant Defence Industrial Complex that would contribute to meeting our critical arms and equipment needs. This is crucial if we must reduce our total dependence on foreign sources of supply for critically needed arms.”