The Boko Haram War: Why Nigerian soldiers are no longer motivated to fight
By Priye S. Torulagha
War is a very serious business because it involves life and death situations. Although, soldiers are trained to fight, destroy, kill and possibly die or be captured while doing so, nevertheless, they are human beings. They express the same emotions like other humans. They have wives, husbands, children, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, grand-parents and so on and so forth. Thus, they want to live and take care of their families, just like other human beings. Therefore, due to the enormity of the implications of fighting a war, it is very essential for any government that wants to initiate or engage in a war to provide a convincing reason to justify why it is necessary for people to go fight, kill and be killed. Likewise, the government must be fully prepared by mobilizing the population and resources before sending soldiers away to engage in warfare.
If the government provides a clearly convincing justification, then people, particularly soldiers, would be motivated to go fight, kill and be killed or captured. Likewise, if the government takes proper and effective care of the welfare and other needs of the soldiers, then, they would be highly motivated to fight valiantly. Unfortunately, in the war against Boko Haram, the Federal Government of Nigeria has not provided a convincing reason why Nigerian soldiers should go fight, kill and be killed or captured. In addition, the Federal Government, acting through the Nigerian Army, has repeatedly failed to take proper and effective care of the welfare and needs of Nigerian soldiers, including equipping them with modern and appropriate weapons. Moreover, the policies, utterances, actions and inactions of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and the Nigerian Army have greatly contributed to the dwindling level of motivation on the part of Nigerian soldiers to continue to fight Boko Haram.
Like their civilian counterparts, many Nigerian soldiers seemed to have critically examined the policies, utterances, actions and inactions of the Federal Government and the Nigerian Army and realized that the Boko Haram war is not a worthy cause for them to risk their lives. Perhaps, having drawn such a conclusion, many, including senior and junior officers, as well as infantry men and women, have probably lost confidence in the ability of the political and military leadership of the country to prosecute the war to a successful conclusion. This, in turn, has contributed to the dwindling level of motivation on the part of many soldiers to fight a war which is increasingly being viewed as a financial chess game, initiated and instigated by those who have political, religious and financial axes to grind, in one form or another.
In reaction to the dwindling level of motivation or lack of commitment on the part of some Nigerian soldiers to continue to fight, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), perhaps, in frustration, made a controversial statement which castigated them, thereby, further adding to their lack of motivation. For instance, in June, 2019, Gen. Buratai declared:
It is unfortunate, but the truth is that almost every setback the Nigerian Army has had in our
operations in recent times can be traced to insufficient willingness to perform assigned tasks
or simply insufficient commitment to a common national/military course by those at the
Many of those on whom the responsibility for physical actions against the adversary squarely
falls are yet to fully take ownership of our common national or service cause (Sahara Reporters, 2019, June 19).
Then, on Thursday, August 15, 2019, the Premium Times reported: “The Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, has taken punitive measures against senior military officers under whose watch a key brigade fell to Boko Haram terrorists last week” (Ogundipe, 2019, August 15).
Thus, the statement made in June 18, 2019 and the action being taken to punish the culprits, as reported by Premium Times on August 15, 2019, clearly indicate that the war is not going well, despite previous statements made by the Chief of Army Staff, official spokespersons of the Nigerian Army, the Federal Minister of Information and Culture and the presidency that Boko Haram has been technically defeated. On the other hand, it is an admission that Boko Haram is actually doing much better militarily while Nigerian troops are facing a number of problems.
Although, many Nigerians knew as far back as late 2016 that the war was not going well, as demonstrated by commentaries made on social media, nevertheless, the presidency and the Nigerian Army kept telling the world that the war had been won. In fact, in late December 2016, during the Guards Brigade Regimental Dinner, Maj. Gen. Lucky Irabor, the theater commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, handed over a captured Boko Haram flag to President Muhammadu Buhari, thereby, creating the impression in the minds of many Nigerians that the organization had surrendered, after Sambisa Forest had been retaken by Nigerian troops. Thus, after many denials, the head of the Nigerian Army has finally admitted in July 2019 that the war is not going as expected, by criticizing Nigerian soldiers for not being sufficiently motivated to fight the war.
The Purpose of this Article
The purpose of this article is to explore and identify the reasons why an increasing number of Nigerian soldiers are losing faith in the war, thereby, resulting in their lack of motivation or commitment to engage in combat. In this regard, it is argued here that the policies, utterances, actions and inactions of the presidency and the Nigerian Army are responsible for the dwindling motivation or lack of commitment on the part of some Nigerian soldiers towards the Boko Haram War.
In order to successfully explore the issue, it is necessary to examine some pertinent theories which deal with human needs and motivation. Abraham Maslow conceptualized the theory of the hierarchy of human needs. According to him, human beings have five basic motivational needs, namely, (1) physiological needs dealing with oxygen, water, food, physical health and comfort; (2) Safety need which requires being safe from danger, attack and threat; (3) belongingness and love need which involve the need for positive and loving relationship with others; (4) Esteem need which involves the need to feel valued and be self-valued; and (5) self-actualization need which is a burning desire by every individual to develop to his or her full potential (Maslow, 1954).
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory implies that leaders need to understand the importance of meeting the basic needs of people, if they want them to be motivated, loyal, dedicated and productive, whether in an organizational setting or in a political state. The alternative implication is that if the motivational needs of the citizens are not met, they are less likely to be loyal, dedicated and productive. Translated, if the needs of Nigerian soldiers are not met, they are less likely to be loyal, dedicated and motivated to fight the Boko Haram War.
Although controversial, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is buttressed by Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y (1960). McGregor seems to divide leaders (managers, supervisors, directors) into two categories: namely, those leaders, managers and supervisors who have a very negative image of employees or subordinates (Theory X) and those that have a very positive image of employees or subordinates (Theory Y). Accordingly, managers, leaders and supervisors who view subordinates or employees or citizens in a negative manner are more likely to regard them as being passive, lazy and ambitionless, hence, must be led, coerced, threatened and punished to compel them to work. On the other hand, leaders, managers, and supervisors who view subordinates or employees or citizens in a positive manner are more likely to regard them as capable individuals who are willing to work with minimum supervision if given the enabling environment to thrive. Thus, Theory Y leaders, managers, and supervisors incline toward establishing an enabling organizational environment that meets the interests, needs and expectations of the employees, thereby, motivating them to work and achieve the goals of the organization.
In applying McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y to the Nigerian situation, it is obvious that many Nigerian soldiers, like many Nigerian citizens, do not appeared to be motivated any longer because both the presidency and the Nigerian Army tend to incline towards Theory X, rather than Theory Y in dealing with Nigerian soldiers in particular and the Nigerian population at large. This means that the Federal Government and the leadership of the Nigerian Army are not providing the enabling environment for Nigerian soldiers to fight effectively and win the war against Boko Haram.
Chris Argyris (1964), also influenced by Maslow’s concept of self-actualization, maintains that the way organizations are structured and managed tend to conflict with the personality and actualization needs of employees because organizations generally seem to treat employees like children, without taking into consideration their self-actualization needs that are crucial in motivating them to increase productivity.
Thus, if Nigerian soldiers feel that their needs are not being met because the political and military leaders treat them disdainfully, then, they are not likely to perform at their optimum level in the battlefield.
Having briefly examined Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y and Argyris’s organizational treatment of employees, it might also be necessary to examine a model or a rubric which is useful in analyzing organizational effectiveness. Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal (2003) developed a four-item rubric or model, otherwise, referred to as “frames,” for analyzing organizations. The four frames are: (1) structural frame, (2) human resources frame, (3) political frame and (4) symbolic frame. The structural frame examines the manner in which an organization is structured as well as how people are grouped or classified to work. The human resources frame looks at job descriptions, the manner in which employees are treated, including wages, working conditions, opportunities for promotion, health and other benefits, as well as interpersonal and group dynamics. The political frame looks at the power structure and the conflicts emanating from the internal politics of the organization. The symbolic frame examines the organizational culture and symbols that help to integrate the interests of employees with those of the organization, thereby, increasing synergy and productivity.
Factors which Contribute to lack of Motivation by Nigerian soldiers to Fight Boko Haram
Having identified some crucial theories which deal with human needs that contribute to motivation, it is now necessary to identify the specific factors or reasons which have contributed to the dwindling level of motivation or commitment on the part of Nigerian soldiers towards the Boko Haram War.
It should be noted that, at first, Nigerian soldiers, paramilitary police forces and intelligence agents were highly motivated to fight Boko Haram with the hope of crippling the organization. However, the motivation was dampened as soon as many soldiers got to the battlefield in North-Eastern Nigeria and realized that the war against Boko Haram is not a straightforward military affair. In other words, the soldiers realized immediately that Boko Haram is a multifaceted organism that defies military logic due to the political, religious and financial nature of the war. The level of motivation dropped considerably in 2014 during President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration as Boko Haram launched successful attacks and captured a large chunk of territory to establish a Caliphate. However, the Nigerian Army, under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minimah succeeded in recapturing the territory to enable elections to take place in March 2015. The following provide the reasons why Nigerian soldiers started losing faith in the war.
First, Boko Haram was established by some of the most powerful political, religious and military tycoons in Northern Nigeria. Some of the individuals were (are) high government officials, religious leaders and senior military officers. Due to the favorable status of the organization in the eyes of some powerful individuals in Northern Nigeria, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), a former military head of state of Nigeria, openly declared in 2013 that an attack against Boko Haram was an attack against the North ((Shiklam, 2013, June 4). He warned the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration from clamping down on Boko Haram by saying ““the Federal Government stop clamp down of Boko Haram insurgents, saying Niger Delta militants were never killed or properties belonging to them destroyed.” (PointBlank, 2013, June 2). Those statements from a former head of state of Nigeria, poured a political cold water on the aspirations of President Jonathan and Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, the then Chief of Army Staff (September 3, 2010 to January 2014)) from launching an all-out war to defeat Boko Haram. This compelled both men to exercise political caution in handling the Boko Haram, in order not to offend the sensibilities of powerful northern political and religious elites and the masses who conceptualized that the war against the group was being staged by Southern Christians to wipe out Northern Moslems.
Second, some of the highly connected individuals provided intelligence and encouraged some soldiers, police officers and intelligence agents to help Boko Haram with logistics, intelligence and materiel. Some of these Nigerians, especially, soldiers, actually crossed over to fight with Boko Haram against Nigeria.
1. A Nigerian soldier in Bama was shocked when he realized that some Boko Haram fighters were actually Nigerians soldiers who had trained with him in Kontagora. Due to the fact that some Nigerian soldiers were actively assisting Boko Haram, the Nigerian Army “arrested several soldiers fighting in the north-eastern part of the country for alleging giving vital security information to members of the terrorists group, Boko Haram” (Omonobi, 2014, October 13).
2. In another occasion in 2014, a Nigerian soldier commented that a Nigerian Army officer directly contributed to having Nigerian soldiers killed by Boko Haram fighters. He narrated the manner in which the officer gave two different military uniforms (green and desert camouflage) to the Nigerian troops and allowed the Boko Haram to ambush and decimate the unit that wore the desert camouflage (Dockins, 2014, April 5).
Afraid that they were being sent to be slaughtered, many Nigerian soldiers mutinied and refused to go and fight. They could not trust some of their officers and neither could they trust some of their comrades since some soldiers were actively aiding Boko Haram against the Nigerian Army (BBC, 2014, August 19). Concerned that it was losing control of its own troops, 54 Nigerian soldiers were sentenced to death “for mutiny, assault, cowardice, and refusing to combat Boko Haram“(The Telegraph, 2014, December 18).
The fact that some senior and junior military officers and infantry men were actually fighting for Boko Haram was confirmed when the Nigerian Army actually tried some senior military officers for aiding the enemy. Al Jazeera reported in late 2014 that “ten generals and five other senior military officials have been found guilty in a court-martial“(2014, December 18),
Third, gradually, patriotic Nigerian soldiers, policer officers and intelligence agents realized that the war was not a war but a political chess game instigated by some powerful individuals to score political points. This realization began to create doubt about the sincerity of the war. It should be noted that during and after the Bama confrontations with the Boko Haram in 2014, during Jonathan’s administration, many Nigerian soldiers started to feel that they were merely being used as canon-fodders to feed the insatiable appetites of the political chess players who wanted to effect a regime change in Nigeria. It was during this period that many Nigerian soldiers started to leave their post without leave (AWOL) to save themselves from being sacrificed politically. This led to the arrest and trial of many run-away soldiers who preferred not to fight again, unless they were sufficiently equipped with effective modern weaponry.
Fourth, Nigerian soldiers, since the start of the war against Boko Haram, have repeatedly complained that their needs are not properly being taken care of by the higher-ups in the Nigerian Army. They complained that they were not sufficiently equipped to fight Boko Haram. In other words, many patriotic Nigerian soldiers felt and continue to feel that they are being treated as sacrificial lambs since they are not sufficiently equipped to confront Boko Haram militarily. Some also complained about the lack of payment of their allowances (Anyadike, 2018, October 30). Mr. Roland Owie, a former senator who represented Edo South agreed with the soldiers by saying “Their morale is gone because many of their colleagues are dead and they are not being motivated through welfare, intelligence and superior equipment” (Gabriel, 2019, September 7).
Fifth, Nigerian soldiers seemed to have noticed a change in attitude towards Boko Haram when Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) became president in 2015. This is evidenced by a shift in policy which allowed captured Boko Haram fighters to be released based supposedly on the view that they had “repented”. Hence, on a number of occasions, captured Boko Haram fighters, including some important military commanders, have been released. Again, in line with the policy, the Nigerian Army released 150 Boko Haram fighters in July 2019 (Idowu, 2019, July 23). Thus, the frequent release of Boko Haram prisoners of war by the Federal Government creates a psychological feeling that Boko Haram fighters are more important than Nigerian soldiers, perhaps, due to religious and ethnic affiliations. The policy also seems to reinforce a feeling in the minds of many Nigerian soldiers that it is not worth the risk to fight Boko Haram. Indeed, who would want to risk his or her life to fight a war knowing full well that those enemies captured are likely to be released by the army to enable them to rejoin their organization with the possibility of fighting against Nigerian troops again.
If the Federal Government and the military establishment pay attention to the psychological effect that the release of Boko Haram fighters might have on Nigerian troops, they probably would stop releasing captured Boko Haram fighters on the grounds of “repentance” while the war is still on. Unfortunately, neither the Federal Government nor the Nigerian Army is paying attention to the concerns raised by Nigerian soldiers about the release of Boko Haram fighters while the war is still on.
Sixth, some Nigerian soldiers appeared to have lost their motivation to fight after realizing that some elements within the security forces were and are actively involved in assisting Boko Haram to carry out operations against them. It might be necessary to cite three cases to refresh the mind:
1. The kidnapping of the Chibok girls in April 2014 would not have been possible without active participation of some members of the security forces. For Boko Haram to invade the Chibok Government Secondary School and abduct 276 students in a security zone without detection by any unit of the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Airforce, Nigerian Police Force and various intelligence agencies boggled the mind. As a result of the failure of security, there are still about 100 Chibok girls under Boko Haram custody.
2. Similarly, in a characteristic Chibok style, Boko Haram was able to penetrate a security zone and abduct 110 students from the Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi without any unit of the security forces intercepting them. The funny part of the entire episode was that Boko Haram returned 100 of the students on religious grounds by passing through security checkpoints without being detected. Thus, it returned the girls and disappeared into the horizon without being accosted by any unit of the security forces. The organization refused to release one of the students (Leah Sharibu) because she is a Christian and not a Moslem.
3. The increase in Boko Haram/ISWAP attacks against military targets and the successful killing of many Nigerian soldiers, including officers, between 2017 and now, indicates that there are still a considerable number of Boko Haram “moles” or “sympathizers” in the Nigerian Army.
These incidents, no doubt, contribute to the feeling by many Nigerian soldiers that the Boko Haram War is not a war but a staged drama intended for political, religious and financial gains. Many Nigerian soldiers, like most Nigerian citizens, are probably convinced that both the Chibok and the Dapchi abductions were staged events in which some members of the security forces actively participated. Similarly, some Nigerian soldiers are convinced that the increasing Boko Haram attacks on military targets are done through the active support of some soldiers who have a religious or financial interest in ensuring Boko Haram’s success.
Seventh, it seems that many Nigerian soldiers do not support the idea of paying Boko Haram to release abducted victims. The reason is that each time Boko Haram is paid to release some abducted Nigerians, the organization is able to buy more sophisticated weapons and recruit more fighters to fight Nigerian troops who are battling them. No sensible soldier would want to fight a war against an enemy that he or she knows is receiving payments from the government. The payments keep Boko Haram afloat financially, thereby, enabling it to buy weapons and recruit more fighters. In other words, it is a no-win situation for Nigerian soldiers who realize that their own government is making it possible for the enemy to be militarily resuscitated whenever it is about to be defeated.
Eighth, the manner in which the presidency and the Nigerian Army communicate information about the war seems to contribute to lack of faith on the war by some Nigerian soldiers. The reason is that the facts on the ground in the theater of war are rarely communicated to the public in a clear and understandable manner. Hence, most Nigerians do not really know what is happening. Indeed, there is no sensible human being that would be motivated to fight a war, in which he or she knows that the government and the army constantly muddle up the facts about what is actually transpiring in the battlefield. Can you imagine a Nigerian soldier who has just lost some of his comrades in a Boko Haram ambush to read in the newspapers and to hear on television an official report by a military spokesperson or a high government official denying or under-reporting the fact. Thus, each time the military establishment, especially the spokesperson of the Nigerian Army, denies a report of a high casualty rate, the morale of the soldiers in the battlefront is drastically reduced because the denial shows a lack of empathy and sensitivity to the plight of the soldiers risking their lives.
Indeed, each time the Nigerian Army and the Federal Government denies a fact about what has taken place in the battle field, the soldiers lost confidence in the military establishment and the presidency. In other words, who wants to fight and die for a cause in which the government is not willing to tell the truth? No soldier wants to fight a war where he or she cannot trust the government of telling the truth about what happened to him or her, in the event that he or she dies. It is not surprising that Senator Roland Owie strongly believes that President Buhari is not being told the truth about what is really going on (Gabriel, 2019, September 7). Perhaps, President Buhari is actually not being told the truth, hence, his assertion that Boko Haram has been degraded to the point that the members are now to be treated as bandits, even though Nigerian soldiers are being killed more today than in the past ( Punch, 2019, September 10).
Ninth, it is predictable that Nigerian soldiers are not happy about the allegation that the Nigerian Army buries some of its fallen soldiers in unmarked secret graves in order to hide casualty figures (Parkinson, 2019, July 31). Although, the army vehemently denied the allegation, nevertheless, the soldiers in the vicinity of the burials probably know exactly what has been going on. Moreover, since it is infantry soldiers who are most likely to carry out the secret burials, it is quite possible that some of them might have informed their comrades and family members about whether secret burials are taking place or not. Therefore, it is very crucial for military authorities to visualize the potential implications before releasing any information to the public concerning the war against Boko Haram. In particular, military authorities should understand that the soldiers in the battlefield are most likely to be affected negatively by any information that does not accurately reflect what actually happened in any confrontation with Boko Haram.
Tenth, it is probable that a considerable number of Nigerian soldiers are suspicious that something fishy is happening to the funds allocated for prosecuting the Boko Haram war. They wonder why the funds do not generally flow downwards to the point of taking care of their basic needs and equipping them with appropriate and effective arms to fight the enemy. The likelihood of massive pilfering of funds is backed by the fact that some retired and active senior military officers have been charged for embezzlement of military funds (Emmanuel, 2018, May 15). While conducting an investigative report on corruption in the military procurement system, Premium Times, quoting Transparency International, reported: “a network of Nigerian military chiefs, politicians, and contractors worked together to steal more than N3.1 trillion through arms procurement contracts between 2008 and 2017” (Ibid). After repeated demands for better military equipment and their upkeep, it is understandable why some soldiers are no longer motivated to fight. Why should they if some people are accumulating private wealth through the embezzlement of funds that are designated for the war while others are paying with their lives. A Nigerian Army officer noted that the “war is winnable if the generals give us what we need. Instead they buy soft-skinned Hilux. That is not a weapon…Give us MRAPs.” (Anyadike, 2018, October 30).
Eleventh, it seems that some Nigerian soldiers are wondering why is it that whenever they are almost at the point of knocking off Boko Haram militarily, the Federal Government and the army either directly or indirectly create situations that allow the organization to recover. Indeed, on many occasions, the Nigerian Army has come very close to inflicting a crushing defeat on Boko Haram. Yet, things happened to prevent the army from knocking out the enemy. This creates a feeling of endlessness to the war, thereby, feeding the conspiracy theory that those who are benefitting politically, religiously and financially from the war do not want it to end.
Twelfth, perhaps, as a result of Boko Haram’s desire to establish an Islamic Caliphate, it seems that there are some Nigerian soldiers who strongly identify with the religious and political aspirations of the organization. Those soldiers create problems for their patriotic comrades by destroying the espirit-de-corps that is essential for soldiers to fight together. Thus, it seems that many soldiers who are battling Boko Haram are not sure whether their officers and colleagues will turn the guns against them or betray them in support of Boko Haram. The anxiety emanating from lack of trust contributes to the reasons why some soldiers do not want to risk their lives anymore.
In this regard, it appears that the Boko Haram ambush of a military convoy made up of soldiers of Super Camp 3 and the 231 Battalion of the Operation Lafiya Dole on September 7, 2019 was due to intelligence penetration. It certainly seems that the Boko Haram was fully aware of the mission of the military convoy, hence, laid an ambush. Following the ambush attack, the insurgents carted away a gun truck and N15.492.000 meant for the payment of the daily allowances of about 20,000 troops (Ogundipe, 2019, September 8). This ambush would not have taken place without someone in the Nigerian Army passing critical information to the Boko Haram about the mission of the convoy.
Thirteenth, the fact that Boko Haram, particularly the wing that is associated with the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) has been very effective in attacking military targets, implies that there are some Nigerian soldiers, intelligence agents and government officials who are aiding the organization. In fact, 2018 and 2019 have seen a remarkable increase in Boko Haram/ISWAP attacks against military bases. The period has also seen an increase in the number of deaths involving Nigerian soldiers, both officers and non-officers. Due to the successes, the organization has been able to capture critical Nigerian military hardware. It is safe to say that increasingly Nigeria buys the arms and the Boko Haram/ISWAP uses the arms to fight Nigerian troops. In other words, Nigeria is technically buying arms for Boko Haram to fight against Nigeria. James Reinl wrote “How stolen weapons keep groups like Boko Haram in business” (2019, April 19).
Fourteenth, Nigerian soldiers are human beings and not robots. Hence, like their civilian counterparts, they are probably disturbed by the high level of insecurity in the country and much concerned about the general lack of political will to take proactive measures in curbing herdsmen attacks, banditry and kidnappings. Some tend to feel that the government is not doing enough to mobilize the security machinery of the state to clamp down on the increasing lawlessness in the country.
Fifteenth, as Nigerians, some soldiers seem to be losing the appetite to fight Boko Haram because their villages and towns have been ravaged by herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers. In addition, some of them now have their family members in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps and the national government is not doing enough to rehabilitate them. In other words, the Federal Government and the Nigerian Army should not expect some, if not most Nigerian soldiers to continue to take the risk to fight, kill and be killed or captured while their villages and hometowns are being destroyed by ravaging herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers.
Sixteenth, the Nigerian Army is expecting too much from troops whose families live in perpetual fear in North-central, Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, Southwest and South-South zones of the country as a result of herdsmen attacks, banditry and kidnappings. Some of these soldiers would rather prefer to go home to fight to protect their families, villages and towns against the marauding hordes, instead of being used to fight Boko Haram. In other words, why should any Nigerian soldier have the motivation to fight somewhere else while his or her own village or town is being devastated by marauding gangs?
Seventeenth, some of the policies, actions and inactions of the Buhari administration tend to alienate some Nigerian soldiers. When some of these soldiers look at the national security infrastructure, they do not see their own kind at the leadership positions of the security organizations. Similarly, when they look at the national government, they tend to see only Nigerians from certain sections of the country making all the critical national policy decisions for the entire country. Some of them also tend to feel that the Nigerian Army is no longer the “Nigerian Army” due to the lopsided nature of the leadership command structure of the organization. In other words, the Nigerian Army no longer reflects a national character, in terms of the individuals who are making critical national defense decisions. This forces many soldiers to think that they are being treated as second or third class citizens.
Thus, when Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd)) made the allegation that the Nigerian Army is colluding with herdsmen and bandits to kill Nigerians, many Nigerian soldiers probably concurred, even though they could not express their personal feelings openly. This allegation was reinforced when a unit of the 93 Battalion of the Nigerian Army based in Takum, Taraba State, killed three police officers and two civilians and released a notorious kidnap kingpin, Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume, who was arrested by the assassinated police officers. The military action showed that the commanding officer of the unit was allegedly working with the kingpin, hence, he ordered his troops to kill the police officers.
Eighteenth, some, if not most Nigerian soldiers, are probably disturbed by a perceivable double standard in the manner in which national security actions are taken. For instance, the Federal Government was very proactive in proscribing and characterizing the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) as a terrorist organization. Likewise, the Federal Government was very proactive in proscribing the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) and characterizing it as a terrorist organization. Similarly, the Federal Government was very proactive in stopping and arresting the leader of the Revolution Now Movement, Mr. Omoyele Sowore. Yet, the Federal Government has been unwilling to proscribe elements associated with herdsmen who have killed thousands of Nigerians. This double standard affects the morale of many Nigerian soldiers because they expect the same standard to be applied across the board nationally to ensure equity.
Nineteenth, although the Federal Government and the Nigerian Army have denied the rumor that most soldiers sent to fight Boko Haram are from the south, nevertheless, the rumor persists. As a result, it is speculated that southern soldiers who are mostly Christians and Ancestralists are the largest number of casualties in the war (Anyadike, 2018, October 30). This rumor reinforces the feeling in the South and the Middle Belt that the Boko Haram war is being used to decimate soldiers who are Christian, as part of a grand strategy to Islamize the country. Whether true or not, the allegation creates a demoralizing feeling among non-Islamic soldiers who are fighting Boko Haram.
Twentieth, there is no doubt that the security architecture in the country has broken down as the security agencies compete rather than cooperate in tackling insecurity emanating from herdsmen’s attacks, banditry and kidnappings. The rivalry became very noticeable when the DSS issued a report which made it impossible for the Nigerian Senate to confirm the appointment of Mallam Ibrahim Magu as the substantive head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). As a result, for the past four years, Mallam Magu has been serving as an acting head of the agency. It is also inferable that the kidnapping of the 276 students of Government Secondary School in Chibok and 110 students of the Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi was due to lack of cooperation on the part of the Army, DSS and the Police to work together in ensuring a tight security around the schools. This enabled Boko Haram to abduct almost 400 students from both schools without a hitch.
Twenty-first, some Nigerian soldiers probably complain that the Nigerian Army is not sufficiently rotating the troops to distribute the risk of fighting Boko Haram. As a result of the failure, some soldiers are made to remain continuously in the battle field while some have never been rotated to the warfront. By failing to do so, some soldiers remain in the warfront for two or three years without being rotated to allow them to rest (Anyadike, 2018, October 30). This takes a toll on morale of those soldiers who risk their lives repeatedly in the battlefield. In fact, the family of the late Lt. Lirfa Dashe of the 81st Division, 22nd Task Force Brigade, threatened to take legal action against the Nigerian Army because their son served in the front for three years consecutively without being rotated. When he finally returned to Lagos with the hope of marrying his fiancée, he was recalled and sent back to the front, where he finally lost his life when the Boko Haram attacked Jilli army base in Geidam area of Yobe State on July 14, 2018 (Ibid).
Twenty-second, some Nigerian soldiers complain about “overbearing seniors (officers) who have no regard for their welfare; systematic corruption that robs them of allowances; and the poor standard of equipment and medical care” (Ibid). Indeed, there is no army in the world that would be motivated to fight effectively if the senior officers do not care about the welfare of their troops. In fact, Alhaji Abdulkareem Olola Kasumu, the President General of the Afonja Descendants Union of Ilorin, agreed with the observation by noting “…the police and soldiers in the country are not being treated well. They are poorly remunerated and are not happy. They are ill-equipped, so they cannot face those people who are perpetrating crimes in the country”(Oyekola, 2019, September 8).
Twenty-third, it appears that Nigeria is fighting a twenty-first century war with twentieth-century military strategies and tactics. On the other hand, Boko Haram is fighting the war with classic guerrilla and twenty-first century strategies and tactics. Otherwise, imagine the Nigerian Army dispatching a military convoy from Damaturu in Yobe State to Biu in Borno State in a Boko Haram infested territory with merely gun-mounted Hilux trucks without heavy armored carriers and air cover to protect soldiers, supplies and money that would have been used to pay the allowances of about 20,000 soldiers, as shown by the ambush in Azare-Kamuya on September 7, 2019. The lack of a coordinated military effort compelled Mr. Eze Onyekpere, of the Center for Social Justice, to question the tactics being used by the armed forces when he wondered “It appears to be a lack of co-ordination. Someone will attack a military compound and for two or three hours the battle is raging and no one coming to support them. Where is the airforce?” (Munshi, 2018, December 6).
As a result of uncoordinated tactics, Nigeria is sacrificing soldiers, equipment and money unnecessarily while Boko Haram is targeting both hard and soft targets with maximum efficiency and effectiveness. It seems that Nigeria is not interested in winning the war.
Determining the causative factors for lack of motivation through the application of the theories of needs and organizational analysis
Having enumerated some of the factors that contribute to the decreasing level of morale or motivation by Nigerian soldiers, it might be necessary to subject the identified reasons to the theories of needs and the model for organizational analysis.
First, it is obvious that the identified twenty-third factors fall within the bounds of Maslow’s physiological, safety, belonging, esteem and self-actualization needs. These are the reasons:
1. Nigerian soldiers, going back to 2014, have repeatedly complained about lack of appropriate weapons, unworkable weapons and outdated weapons that could not match the velocity or fire power of the arms operated by Boko Haram.
2. As Boko Haram attacks and ambushes against military targets and communities multiply, the concern that some soldiers are moles working for the insurgents increases among patriotic soldiers.
3. The strategies and tactics being used by the higher-ups in the Nigeria Army tend to make some soldiers to wonder about the commitment of some of their senior military officers who tended to place them in places that expose them to Boko Haram attacks without giving them sufficient protection and equipment.
4. It seems that soldiers are not rotated in a manner that distributes the risk of fighting Boko Haram. As a result, some soldiers are compelled to bear an undue risk by being kept in the battlefield for too long.
5. The perceptions that non-Islamic soldiers are disproportionally deployed to fight Boko Haram, creates the feeling that there is a conspiracy to use the Boko Haram war to deplete the Christian and non-Islamic population generally.
6. These concerns make many Nigerian soldiers to feel that their physiological, and safety needs are not being met.
Second, the Buhari administration’s policy of releasing captured Boko Haram fighters on the grounds of “Repentance’ affects some Nigerian soldiers’ morale and sense of self-actualization.
1. The fact that some captured Boko Haram fighters are released due to “repentance”, seems to provide them the opportunity to go back and rejoin their colleagues to fight Nigerian troops again/ This creates a feeling that a final military victory is not possible. In other words, no soldier wants to be placed in a circumstance where the hope of victory is not possible.
2. The fact that the government pays huge sums of money to Boko Haram in order to release some kidnapped civilian victims enables the organization to buy more sophisticated arms and recruit more fighters to fight Nigerian troops. This leads to a feeling that the actions of the Federal Government and the Nigerian Army threaten the self-actualization need of Nigerian soldiers.
3. Since it appears that whenever Nigerian troops are about to crush Boko Haram, the Federal Government and the Nigerian Army often end up taking actions that either directly or indirectly allow the organization to escape and rearm, there is a feeling that the way will never end. This threatens the safety needs of the soldiers who have to fight endlessly.
4. The fact that the Buhari administration loaded the national security system with mostly members of a particular ethnic group and religion, tends to lower the morale and sense of belongingness of some Nigerian soldiers. This creates a feeling that Nigeria does not belong to all Nigerians.
5. Under these circumstances, many Nigerian soldiers seem to wonder why they should sacrifice their lives for a cause in which their sense of belonging has been diminished.
Fourth, in closely examining the leadership style of the president and the head of the Nigerian Army, a conclusion could be drawn that both the presidency and the leadership of the Nigerian Army incline towards Theory X in dealing with Nigerian soldiers who are fighting Boko Haram. As a result, instead of trying to fix the problems that contribute to low morale, the soldiers are being blamed for lack of commitment. Therefore, it is inferred here that the application of Theory X, instead of Theory Y, contributes to the dwindling of morale among Nigerian soldiers who are fighting Boko Haram.
Fifth, based on the factors identified above, many, if not most Nigerian soldiers who are fighting Boko Haram, seemed to have their self-esteem diminished by the actions and inactions of the presidency and the leadership of the Nigerian Army. Many of them are probably thinking that they are being made to fight a war in which victory is not desired, due to the political, religious and financial interests involved.
Sixth, if the morale issue is examined through the structural and political frames of the Bolman and Deal model of organizational analysis, the soldiers are most likely to be blamed for the problems besetting the military in the war against Boko Haram. However, if the morale issue is analyzed through the human resources and symbolic frames, then, the political and military leadership are most likely to be responsible for causing the dwindling level of motivation or morale on the part of Nigerian soldiers. Indeed, it is concluded here that the political and military leadership, and not the soldiers, who are responsible for the dwindling motivation or lack of commitment on the part of Nigerian soldiers to fight Boko Haram.
The situation can be reversed to the point where morale is enhanced, if certain actions are taken by the presidency and the Nigerian military establishment, particularly, the Nigerian Army.
1. President Buhari should reshuffle the leadership of the security agencies in order to reflect national character, with the hope of making all Nigerians feel that they belong to the same country. Right now, it is predictable that many Nigerian soldiers do not feel that the country represents their interests.
2. The presidency and the head of the Nigerian Army and the Chief of Defense Staff must make sure that the needs of soldiers and their families are effectively and properly taken care of. It is too much to ask Nigerian soldiers to risk their lives when the country is not interested in taking care of their concerns and needs.
3. The release of captured Boko Haram fighters on the ground that they have repented should be stopped. It is like a slap on the face of Nigerian soldiers who fight so hard to capture Boko Haram fighters. It saps the morale of Nigerian troops to realize that soon or later, captured enemy fighters might be released by the government.
4. A thorough investigation is needed to ascertain whether the rumor that funds allocated for prosecuting the war are being largely embezzled by some senior military officers.
5. The Nigerian Army and the DSS need to conduct thorough house-cleaning investigations to identify the saboteurs (moles) who are passing information to Boko Haram. There is no doubt that the successes recorded by Boko Haram in recent times against the Nigerian Army are greatly due to the organization’s ability to get tactical intelligence about army movements and operations.
6. The Nigerian Army, Airforce, Department of State Services and the Nigerian Police Force need to develop a collaborative effort in waging the war against Boko Haram, rather than compete unnecessarily for the attention of the president. These services must work together in confronting Boko Haram.
7. The communications styles of the presidency and the Nigerian Army need to be improved to ensure believability. Currently, the language, tone and manner in which the presidency and the Nigerian Army communicate about the war creates doubt, thereby, contributing to low morale among soldiers who feel that the truth is being sacrificed for political, religious and financial reasons.
8. Lastly, the armed forces must be sufficiently equipped with effective modern weapons. Nigerian soldiers cannot face Boko Haram with dilapidated and ineffective weapons.
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