By Lawrence Bilal Audu
Once again, the Multinational Joint Task Force MNJTF is blessed with another battle ready combatant whose dynamic leadership style has earned him accolades while recording tremendous successes in mostly difficult terrains of responsibilities. Although, the Force already has established a good foundation from successive commanders from the days of General TY Buratai through to this moment, worthy of note is the improved synergy, visibility and operational efficiency in its fight against the Boko Haram and ISWAP insurgents in its operational environment between Operation Hadin Kai and the MNJTF, the then Force Commander MNJTF, General AK Ibrahim and the then Theatre Commander Operation Hadin Kai Major General Chris Musa now Chief of Defence Staff CDS, who were said to be in the Nigerian Defence Academy NDA together and are both Infantry generals and perhaps that is why they complemented each other.
The wisdom deployed by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the appointment of Nigeria’s Service Chiefs who have been described by many as very competent commanders who have demonstrated capacity in the various assigned tasks throughout their career, further reinforces Allen West’s position: “We must never forget why we have, and why we need our military. Our armed forces exist solely to ensure our nation is safe so that each and every one of us can sleep soundly at night, knowing we have ‘guardians at the gate.” And as expected the Service Chiefs without wasting any further time hit the ground running while equally recognizing and appointing competent lieutenants to man critical commands as it has always been in military tradition. This saw the deployment of Major General Ibrahim Sallau Ali the erstwhile Theatre Commander Northeast Joint Operations Hadin Kai to the Multinational Joint Task Force MNJTF, N’Djamena, Chad.
The reward for hard work they say is more work, no wonder the CDS in his wisdom thought it wise for General Ali who has justified his position as Theatre Commander to go further into one of the most critical regions which if properly secured, can guarantee the safety of not just the country, but the entire subregion and beyond.
As Theatre Commander, troops of Operation Hadin Kai continued to record gains against enemies of the state with renewed offensive to clear enclaves of terrorists while many continued to surrender. The successful military onslaught by troops of Operation Safe Haven in Plateau and Kaduna States, under the Command of General Ali which led to the recovery of 517 small Arms and light weapons from bandits and criminal elements remains fresh in the memory of all. All these in addition to the arrest of countless criminals, rescue of kidnap victims as well as nipping in the bud potential breakdown of law and order through intelligence gathering.
General Ali who was born on 16 November 1970 in Nasarawa Kano State, Nigeria, started his educational pursuit in 1974, at Lebanon Primary School Kano, before proceeding to Saint Thomas Secondary School in 1980 also in Kano State. He began his military career at the Nigerian Defence Academy as a member of the 39th Regular Course in 1987 and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Geography from the Nigerian Defence Academy in 1991. He was nominated in 1992, to complete his cadet training at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, in the United Kingdom. He was a member of the Standard Military Course 922 at the Royal Military Academy. At the end of his course, he was awarded the Silver Bugle for being the best athlete among all the British and foreign cadets during the course. Ibrahim was commissioned second lieutenant into the Nigerian Army Armoured Corps in April 1993.
It was the renowned former US Secretary of States, General Collin Powell who averred that:
“The day the soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” General Powell could not have put it in a better way to drive home his message about military Leadership and confidence building on troops for victory in the frontlines as this exemplifies the leadership capabilities of Ali who is not only accessible to his soldiers but civilians as well.
The MNJTF no doubt plays a crucial role in promoting lasting peace in the Lake Chad Basin region, which has been affected by the activities of Boko Haram and other extremist groups. The Force is composed of troops and resources from countries in the Lake Chad Basin region, including Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, and Benin. These countries have since its establishment, sustained and coordinated efforts at addressing the security challenges in the region while strengthening cooperation, intelligence sharing, joint operations, and coordinated patrols to enhance the effectiveness of the MNJTF.
As Force Commander of the MNJTF, General Ali expected to lead the troops to continue conducting robust counterterrorism operations against Boko Haram and other extremist groups. This includes targeted military operations to disrupt their activities, dismantle their networks, and degrade their capabilities. Such operations should be intelligence-driven and focused on key areas where these groups operate.
One of the top secrets of the General which has helped him succeed in the past is community engagement and stabilization to ensure lasting peace. It is essential to engage with local communities in the Lake Chad Basin region. The MNJTF must ensure it works closely with community leaders, civil society organizations, and government authorities to address the root causes of conflict, promote socio-economic development, and provide essential services such as education, healthcare, and infrastructure. By addressing the underlying grievances and providing opportunities for livelihoods, the MNJTF can help build resilience against extremism.
The Lake Chad Basin region is beset by a humanitarian crisis, with millions of people displaced and in need of assistance. The MNJTF should collaborate with humanitarian organizations to provide essential aid, including food, shelter, healthcare, and education, to those affected by the conflict. This not only addresses immediate needs but also helps in winning the hearts and minds of the local population.
Promoting regional integration and development can contribute to long-term stability. The MNJTF should continue to support initiatives that foster economic cooperation, trade, and infrastructure development among the countries in the Lake Chad Basin region. This can create opportunities for employment, reduce poverty, and address the socio-economic inequalities that fuel conflicts. Lasting peace requires addressing the underlying factors that contribute to conflict. This includes addressing governance challenges, promoting inclusive governance, combating corruption, and ensuring that marginalized communities have a voice in decision-making processes. Efforts should also focus on addressing poverty, unemployment, and lack of access to education, which can make communities more vulnerable to recruitment by extremist groups.
Although the MNJTF is saddled with a number of challenges which includes commitment from Troop Contributing Countries to swell the ranks of the Force with additional deployment, lack of adequate Mine Resistant Ambush Protected MRAP vehicles for the various contingents in other to achieve completely its mandate. Development partners like the European Union, the United Nations and others must as a matter of fact step up funding and logistics for its operations.
It’s important to recognize that ensuring lasting peace in the Lake Chad Basin is a complex and long-term process. The MNJTF’s efforts should be complemented by diplomatic initiatives, regional collaboration, and sustained international support to address the multifaceted challenges faced by the region.