The immediate past Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen General Azubuike Ihejirika, on Friday warned that giving undue attention to frivolous and baseless accusations could divert the attention of the country and its security agencies from the challenge to eliminate the scourge of terrorism in the country.
Ihejirika was reacting to claims by an Australian hostage negotiator, Stephen Davies, that the insurgents mentioned him and a former Governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sherrif, among the sponsors of Boko Haram.
He made the comments while speaking at a meeting of the Alumni Association of members of Regular Course 18 of the Nigerian Defence Academy, at the National Defence College, Abuja.
Ihejirika said if the accusations against him were to have taken place in the developed countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, the issue would have been given not more than an hour’s attention for it to be dismissed.
He said the insurgents were making moves to exploit the existing diversities in the country to achieve what they have not been able to achieve through violence.
He stated also that he did not have any apologies to those who shared the conviction that he was high-handed in the way he handled the insurgents during his tenure as the COAS.
He said, “If this accusation was made in a country like US or UK, it would not be discussed for one hour because they would wave it aside; but they are exploiting our traditional fault lines, a multi-religious multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and young democracy.
“We cannot allow national security to be toyed with; the need for security awareness in spite of the effort I put in at the time and the effort being put by the current leadership of the Armed Forces, the need for security awareness still persist.
“I want to urge all Nigerians to join hands to support Mr. President, and members of the Armed Forces in their onerous task to rid this country of terrorism; I want to further advise that baseless, unfounded and frivolous allegations like this have the capacity of diverting our attention, away from the main problem.
“Nigeria must exist before you can hold a single political office and there is no compromise in the effort to have a peaceful and united Nigeria. And therefore, I have no apologies at all whatsoever to those who thought I was high-handed. I use to explain to them the Nigerian Army is not high-handed, but every Army makes a lot of efforts to ensure that its troops operates within the rule of engagement.”
Ihejirika who listed some of his efforts to crush the insurgents disclosed that the Nigerian Army under his leadership recruited 9,000 soldiers in 2013 to beef up the strength of the military and to monitor the borders more effectively.
He also urged Nigerians to avoid utterances that could adversely affect the morale of troops which he described as very dangerous.
Ihejirika stated further that the allegations indicated that the terrorists were waging a media warfare to achieve what violence had not given them.
He said, “That we are where we are today is a lesson to us, the lesson is that the terrorists are not sleeping; what they cannot achieve through bombing they want to achieve through media warfare, war is no longer fought in the traditional three dimension of air land and sea; we have clearly seen the fourth dimension of warfare.”
He said that was not angered by the attention given to the allegation because of his belief that “we are yet to come to term with the motives of the terrorists and their desire to bring this nation down.