By OKOSUN DENNIS
AS the war against insurgency enters its last stage, especially to wipe out the remnants of Boko Haram, a former Chief of Army Staff, (COAS) Lt Gen Azubuike Onyeabor Ihejirika has called on the government and individuals not to underrate the capacity of terrorists.
“They have so many advantages over us and are capable of doing so many sinister things,” he told the National Daily.
Explaining that he did everything within his capacity as the army chief against the insurgents, he said the terrorists are enemy that are within and outside.
He pointed out that to effectively wipe them out requires a lot of work and active cooperation from the civil populace.
Gen Ihejirika, who spoke with National Daily at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, during the 2016 Igbo Day, called on the elders of the country to show good leadership while at the same time, admonished the youths to show more interest in hard work because these were two factors that would lead to development.
The Igbo Day is celebrated on September 29, every year, in remembrance of the Igbo sons and daughters who were murdered before, during and after the civil war.
He said he took a lot of proactive steps to contain the insurgents as the COAS, reiterating that insurgency is a peculiar form of security challenge facing the country.
I “Insurgency happens to be a peculiar form of security challenge. It is not like the conventional warfare. What we observed when it cropped up initially was lack of cooperation.
“The first thing that occurred to me was that it took a lot of time to get all the stakeholders convinced that insurgency and terrorism are big problems in Nigeria. It took quite some time for people to accept the reality. However, we took some proactive measures by establishing training facilities.
“At Ipaja, you will see the Nigerian Army Dog Centre. It was based on findings that the job one single dog could do, several people may not be able to do it, particularly in bomb detection.
“I would advise that we should at no time underrate the capacity of the insurgents because they have several advantages over us. One of which is that they are enemy that are within and without.
“So, to stamp them out completely, we need to do a lot of work getting the civil populace involved and that was why I established the CivilMilitary Affairs Department. Insurgency is not a war that is confined to one area. Therefore, it requires the cooperation of neighbours,” Lt Gen Ihejirika added.
Commending the present government for its achievement against terrorism, Ihejirika, who was the COAS from 2010 to 2014, noted that one thing that the present government has done was the networking with our neighbouring countries.
For the fact that the president went round and talked to the neighbouring countries, has brought a lot of cooperation in addressing the problem of insurgents in the North East Nigeria.
With better cooperation, we can succeed and that was why we also established the Nigerian Army Language Institute so that French language would be well understood by our soldiers and officers and this would enhance synergy between Nigerians and our neighbours.
In his speech, he said: “Today, we gather once again as we have done in the past 16 years, to reflect on our past our journey so far and build hope for the future that lies ahead. In the previous years, this solemn occasion had been for us, Ndigbo, a time for retrospection largely characterized by thoughtful despondency and yearning for social justice.”
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Regretting that he could not accomplish some programmes before living office as the COAS, he said such project included tree planting. “Particularly in the northern border areas, we need to fight desert encroachment. Desert encroachment has dwindled the resources available in the Lake Child Basin.
“There are so many youths who, otherwise, would have been engaged in farming that are today without jobs. I advocated tree planting as a means of engaging the youths and in fight against desert encroachment. Until we do something about the youth joblessness, the problem of crime would continue to linger.
Lt Gen Ihejirika, who was the chairman of the Igbo Day, advised military officers and soldiers fighting in the North East to continue to persevere no matter the odds, be more united and focussed in their task to see to the total decimation of Boko Haram terrorists.
The Chief host, Prof Anya Anya canvassed for a society that is built on justice and equity emphasising that the Igbo day was “a day of remembrance, deep reflection and retrospection into the past” noting that the theme of the ceremony was germane looking at the peculiar challenge in the country.
The Igbo Day is a national cultural day for the people from the South East Nigeria and the theme for 2016 celebration was: “Ojemba Chetekwa Ulo” meaning -traveller remember where you come from.
The event was jointly organised by Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Lagos State chapter, and Ndigbo Lagos with active participation of Igbo Speaking Community, Aka Ikenga and Igbo Traders in Lagos state. Present at the event which was largely attended included the former Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, Prof Pat Utomi and prominent sons and daughters of Igbo land in Lagos and dispora.