Goodluck Jonathan’s national security advisor has a simple message for the Nigerian military: “If you don’t want to fight … get out of the army.”
Speaking at the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House in London on Thursday, Sambo Dasuki said the cowardice of Nigeria’s army is the reason why a multinational military base in Baga fell to Boko Haram terrorists earlier this month in a bloody attack that deeply embarrassed Jonathan’s fragile government.
“We had a lot of cowards, and it turned out there was a problem in the recruitment process,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of people who we believe joined because they wanted a job, not because they wanted a career in the military. And it’s most of them who are running away and telling stories.”
Soldiers at the base, which was attacked the first weekend in January, claim they deserted as a means of survival only after repeatedly calling for reinforcements that never arrived. Although the base was labeled as a multinational base intended to provide security to the Baga area, which borders Lake Chad, only Nigerian soldiers were stationed there.
Boko Haram has used building political tension ahead of Nigeria’s presidential election to further disrupt daily life in the country’s already disenfranchised north. On Feb. 14, Jonathan will face Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the north running on a platform of increased security.
Jonathan has faced international criticism for his inability to control the Islamists, who took responsibility in a YouTube video this week for the attacks in the Baga area that left up to 2,000 dead and 3,700 structures destroyed. Many of these casualties occurred when Boko Haram attacked the civilian population in the days following the military base attack, when the military was not present to protect them.