From Scor­pion Sting to Snake Bite

Daily Trust - - SPORT - with Mah­mud Jega mm­jega@dai­lytrust.com 08054102925 (SMS only)

Re­ports from Zam­fara State have it that the mil­i­tary Op­er­a­tion Harbin Ku­nama [that is, sting of a scor­pion in Hausa] is mak­ing progress be­cause the ban­dits that have laid siege on ru­ral and semi-ur­ban com­mu­ni­ties all over the state are flee­ing in all di­rec­tions. Pre­vi­ous ef­forts by po­lice­men and lo­cal vig­i­lantes to pro­tect com­mu­ni­ties from th­ese ban­dits only in­vited dread­ful reprisal at­tacks from them. In some cases, ban­dits would en­ter a vil­lage at night and while ev­ery­one is cow­er­ing in his house, they will pin­point the homes of vig­i­lantes and im­por­tant per­sons, drag them out and hack them to death.

A mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion to rout the ban­dits be­came pos­si­ble be­cause af­ter many years of suc­cess­ful op­er­a­tions, they ex­panded from hit and run tac­tics and be­gan to cap­ture and hold ter­ri­tory. In many com­mu­ni­ties in Zam­fara State the ban­dits hold ter­ri­tory from just out­side the town to deep into the bush. Peo­ple could not go to the farms, rivers or quar­ries. Though the ban­dits have some firearms, they are mostly armed with tra­di­tional weapons such as clubs, spears, dag­gers, swords and dane guns. Th­ese were enough to sub­due most ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties but as the Army moved in, the ban­dits fled. They will not go very far; they will sim­ply mi­grate to nearby states and try to re­sume well-pay­ing ban­ditry.

Driv­ing on the Gusau-Fun­tu­aZaria high­way on Mon­day last week, I en­coun­tered dozens of mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles con­vey­ing war ma­te­rial to­wards Zam­fara State. I saw th­ese heavy duty Mack trucks con­vey­ing Ar­moured Per­son­nel Car­ri­ers. When the Nige­ria Army first bought those trucks in 1979, there was con­tro­versy be­cause they were said to be Amer­i­can Army stores aban­doned in Viet­nam in 1975. Viet Cong guer­ril­las and the North Viet­namese Army seized, re­fur­bished them and sold them to us. We couldn’t main­tain them prop­erly and very soon, the car­casses of th­ese trucks were to be found in ev­ery Army bar­racks in Nige­ria. They stood there for many years un­til they were sold in the 1990s and en­ter­pris­ing Nige­rian me­chan­ics soon put them back on the road. Ap­par­ently the Army re­tained a few of them be­cause I saw them con­vey­ing equip­ment to Zam­fara last week.

The Nige­rian Army is busier th­ese days than it has ever been at any time since the Civil War ended in 1970. For some years from 2013 the Army was car­ry­ing out an Op­er­a­tion Za­man Lafiya in the North East. That is, to live peace­fully. The name made Ben Bruces­tyle com­mon sense be­cause Boko Haram was the anti-the­sis of liv­ing peace­fully. By ex­plod­ing bombs in crowded places, ab­duct­ing young boys to go and fight for it, ab­duct­ing women and girls to go and be­come its fight­ers’ com­fort women, killing ev­ery­one who does not agree with its ide­ol­ogy and cap­tur­ing Nige­rian ter­ri­tory and call­ing it a “Caliphate,” Boko Haram needed a les­son in Za­man Lafiya.

Now, when the hy­per­ac­tive Lt Gen­eral Tukur Bu­ratai took over as Army Chief last year, he re­named the op­er­a­tion from Za­man Lafiya to Za­man Lafiya Dole. Na­tive Hausa speak­ers should for­give Bu­ratai be­cause the new name was lin­guis­ti­cally odd. “Dole” means com­pul­sory; Bu­ratai was try­ing to say that “we must live peace­fully whether Boko Haram likes it or not.” Army spokes­men later found the name Op­er­a­tion Za­man Lafiya Dole to be too long and cum­ber­some so they short­ened it to Op­er­a­tion Lafiya Dole. Lin­guis­ti­cally, this was even more in­con­gru­ous than the first change. But never mind the name’s lin­guis­tic cor­rect­ness. The im­por­tant thing is that Op­er­a­tion Lafiya Dole has been a smash­ing suc­cess, mil­i­tar­ily speak­ing, and it has re­duced Boko Haram to a faint shadow of its former self. Sure it is still po­tent enough to prevent mil­lions of IDPs from re­turn­ing to their homes but this is only a mat­ter of time.

The Nige­rian Army has been giv­ing Hausa names to its op­er­a­tions for as long as i re­mem­ber. Dur­ing the Ba­bangida era the army did a ma­jor ex­er­cise around Jaji which it called Op­er­a­tion Ruwan Zafi, that is, hot wa­ter. For many years dur­ing the Gowon and Obasanjo mil­i­tary eras the army’s an­nual sports ex­er­cise was called WASA. The acro­nym stood for West African So­cial Ac­tiv­i­ties but wasa in Hausa means play or games. I do not know when this tra­di­tion started but it looks like it dates back to colo­nial times. The first mil­i­tary coup of Jan­uary 1966 was code named Op­er­a­tion Damisa, i.e. leop­ard, by its chief plot­ter Ma­jor Chuk­wuma Nzeogwu. At least dur­ing the Civil War Gen­eral Gowon used English names for his op­er­a­tions, such as Op­er­a­tion Tall Man of 1968. It is not my in­ten­tion to dis­turb the Army’s tra­di­tion of us­ing Hausa names for its op­er­a­tions. I only wish to rec­om­mend to it a few more op­er­a­tions to dis­lodge other crim­i­nals that have been mak­ing life mis­er­able for us in re­cent years. Just like Boko Haram and the Zam­fara ban­dits, th­ese crim­i­nals too have seized ter­ri­tory and oc­cu­pied it in our lives. Since the po­lice, SSS, civil de­fence and other agen­cies have failed to dis­lodge them, I plead with Bu­ratai to go and get ap­proval from Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari to launch some more op­er­a­tions to rout them.

For ex­am­ple, the on-go­ing mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion to ap­pre­hend the armed herds­men that sacked Agatu in Benue State and later ex­tended their op­er­a­tions into Enugu State should have been code named Op­er­a­tion Tunin Saniya. Tunin Saniya means to be gored by a cow. I think this name is ap­pro­pri­ate be­cause any war­rior herds­man who hears it im­me­di­ately has an idea of what it means to be gored by a long-horned cow. They will not at­tack Agatu or any other com­mu­nity again. We need an­other mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion in this coun­try to rout high­way rob­bers. Trav­el­ling on many of our high­ways is a night­mare be­cause day and night, some­times in the mid­dle of the af­ter­noon, men would ap­pear in po­lice or army uni­forms and flag you down. Just when you think you are talk­ing to state se­cu­rity men, they will let it be known that they are rob­bers. A friend who was stopped on the KanoKaza­ure high­way said the men clad in mil­i­tary uni­form told him, “Look, we are thieves. Just come out of the car.” I sug­gest to Gen­eral Bu­ratai that he should call it Op­er­a­tion Shurin Rakumi, that is, kick of a camel. A camel is a very pa­tient an­i­mal but when it is pushed to the wall, it can kick with great force, just like its cousin the gi­raffe. I think such a name will send a mes­sage to high­way rob­bers that we have been very pa­tient with them since the days of Dr. Oyenusi and Mighty Joe so we are now ready to give them a camel kick.

Fi­nally, we need in this coun­try an Op­er­a­tion Ci­zon Maciji against com­mu­nal war­riors, peo­ple who fight over the own­er­ship of pieces of land and those who sum­mar­ily kill other cit­i­zens on al­le­ga­tions of blas­phemy. Since cler­ics, tra­di­tional rulers, school teach­ers, par­ents and po­lice­men have all failed to tell restive youths that no one should be killed out­side con­sti­tu­tion­ally en­shrined pro­cesses, it is time for Bu­ratai to un­leash an­other op­er­a­tion. Ci­zon Maciji means bite of a snake. From the looks of Bu­ratai, he re­minds me of a king co­bra.

Trav­el­ling on many of our high­ways is a night­mare be­cause day and night, some­times in the mid­dle of the af­ter­noon, men would ap­pear in po­lice or army uni­forms and flag you down

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