From DDI to DDMO: Is the DHQ sabotaging the efforts of the FG?
By Dr. Abubakar MS
Nigerians need not be told that the cardinal objective of the Buhari Administration is the total defeat of Boko Haram insurgency, banditry and all forms of criminality. President Muhammadu Buhari knows very well that he swore with the Holy Qur’an that he is going to provide security for all Nigerians. The commitment of the president to tackling insecurity particularly, insurgency in Nigeria is why the president, paying attention to the report of elder-statesman Ahmed Joda who made it clear that solving the insecurity problem in North-East Nigeria will require contextualized solutions that can only come from men and women of the region, decided to appoint some Nigerians from the region into sensitive positions in his government. While it is true that President Buhari has defeated the insurgents, it is also a fact that the insurgency is yet to be uprooted from the region and Nigeria at large. This is so because the kind of insurgency confronting Nigeria is fueled by violent extremism that leads to terrorism (VETLT). Simply put, it is an ideological thing that cannot be defeated by boots and bullets. International terrorism experts in the United Kingdom and NATO have recognized this great feat of the Buhari Administration, and that was why experts like David Otto advised the Burkinabe government to learn from Nigeria. President Buhari as Commander in Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces since 2015, performed creditably well in harnessing his Service chiefs to crush Boko Haram insurgency and this is the reason the North-East is relatively safe today.
Information Management (IM) is the systematic ordering, processing and channeling of information within organizations forms a critical component of modern military command and control systems. Information management is critical to any military operations in the world. In fact, it is not only critical to conventional forces, even irregular forces like insurgents and guerillas know the strategic use of information in warfare because of its unique ability to motivate, re-invigorate and charge troops to victory, or demoralize and extinguish morale among fighters. The way the Nigerian Armed Forces work is that all the three services: Army, Navy and Airforce have their respective public relations department. Same with the Defense Headquarters which has the Directorate of Defense Information (DDI) to synchronize, synergize and harmonize information relating to the Armed Forces of which the President is the Commander in Chief. The Directorate of Army Public Relations as well as its sister in the Airforce have done an excellent job since 2015. Nigerians still remember how now retired General SK Usman managed information about the Boko Haram insurgency in such a professional manner that was characterized by truth, equilibrium between national security and freedom of information, troops morale and strategy and the objectives of the government. The people managing the DHQ watched with great admiration and provided the necessary support and coordination until when Boko Haram insurgents ran away and pledged loyalty to international terrorists which saw the emancipation of a new group termed ISWAP (Islamic State in West Africa Province). ISWAP tried to re-enter the North-East and take control of some territory but they were met with stiff resistance by the Nigerian military. One of the reasons the ISWAP insurgents and/or terrorists couldn’t make any headway was because of the strategic and innovative leadership and command style of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Burutai who is always in the theatre of operations to motivate troops and encourage locals to provide credible intelligence. Some of the innovations the Chief of Army Staff introduced into the counter-insurgency include: the Super Camp, the Army aviation, innovative intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and the Army Media Operations.
Recently, precisely just last week Wednesday, I heard that the DHQ was finally setting up what it called Directorate of Defense Media Operations (DDMO) which was a subtle way of copying the Army Media Operations Centre set up by General Buratai last year October to coordinate all Army operations. The Army Media Operations Centre is being manned by competent Army officers trained in and outside the country on defense information management. The DHQ in its attempt to set up the DDMO sent some people to Pakistan to study a similar kind of Operation. Nigerians and indeed the government thought that the whole idea will add value to the counter insurgency efforts of the Buhari Administration. Delivering his address at the launch of the DDMO, Major General John Enenche, the Coordinator of the DDMO, in the fourth paragraph of his address, said: “The purpose of this establishment is to ensure that the Armed Forces of Nigeria communicates its operational activities through one channel to the general public. It is envisioned to achieve ‘INFORMATION DELIVERY FOR POSITIVE EFFECT,’ at strategic, operational, tactical and other levels of our target audience.” I was happy when I read that the DDMO’s objective is geared towards “positive effect,” which will in the end safeguard our national interest, boost troop morale and rattle the insurgents and/or terrorists.
But I was gripped with shock when I read the press release made by the Coordinator of the DDMO today. Multiple online newspapers reported that 47 soldiers were allegedly killed after an ambush by Boko Haram insurgents at Girigi village. The media platforms claimed that the Coordinator of the DDMO told them that the troops were killed following an ambush by insurgents when the latter attacked the armament supply that was transporting bombs and other ammunitions to the troops locations. The outcome was an explosion that killed more troops than the insurgents. Now I am yet to fathom how this information will make any positive effect on troops and Nigerians as well. What I certainly know is that it will gladden the terrorists and to my mind, apart from the news of Abraham Amuta, the NYSC member who voluntarily joined Boko Haram in January, no news can make them happy in recent times like this one delivered by the DDMO.
General H.R Knicerbocker, an American general defined morale as “when a soldier thinks his army is the best in the world, his regiment the best in the army, his company the best in the regiment, his squad the best in the company, and that he himself is the best blankety-blank soldier man in the outfit.” I should like to say that any information that the DDMO is going to disseminate should by all means boost or at least, sustain the morale of our troops. That’s the only way we can say that the information was geared towards a positive effect. Not only that, it must be fact checked and scrutinized thoroughly before dissemination because this matter is beyond statistics; we are talking about national security and the life of soldiers who also have families and dependents. I am also yet to be convinced that the DDMO, which claimed to speak for the Armed Forces of Nigeria liaised with the Army and/or Operation Lafiya Dole before it released this information.
Some naïve people would say that there is no need for this piece but I beg to disagree because the time has come that we must take sides in this fight against insurgency; we are either with the insurgents or with the Armed Forces. There is no middle ground here. The kind of report released by the DDMO has the potential of demoralizing patriotic citizens but most especially the average soldier. James Ulio in his article titled Military Morale which was published in the American Journal of Sociology wrote that, “Military morale is in a large sense inseparable from civilian morale because each reacts upon the other and both are in large measure based on fidelity to a cause. But there is a certain kind of morale that is distinctly military. It begins with the soldier’s attitude toward duty. It develops with the soldier’s command over himself. It is a spirit that becomes dominant in the individual and also in the group. Whether the soldier has physical comforts or suffers physical hardships may be a factor but is seldom the determining factor in making or unmaking his morale. A cause known and believed in; knowledge that substantial justice governs discipline; the individual’s confidence and pride in himself, his comrades, his leaders; the unit’s pride in its own will; these basic things, supplemented by intelligent welfare and recreation measures and brought to life by a spirit of mutual respect and co-operation, combine to weld a seasoned fighting force capable of defending the nation.”
Could it be that the choice of Major General Enenche by the CDS as Coordinator of the DDMO was done not based on merit but other pecuniary considerations? I find it ridiculous that when the DHQ has a professional media man in the person of Brigadier Onyeama Nwachukwu as DDI, the CDS went ahead to appoint Major General Enenche, an engineer by training to coordinate and manage military operations of a complex country like Nigeria. Furthermore, instead of appointing any officer with expertise on media and defense information management to deputize for the DDMO, an officer from the Ordinance Corp was asked to do that.
Nigerians like my humble self are not perturbed by this sinister report because we know that the troops were not killed in action, that is if it is true that they were killed. They died of wounds sustained in an accident. In any case, it is not true that 47 soldiers died of wounds. The DDMO, being headed by an engineer needs to call the DDI to lecture it on defense information management.
In conclusion, I will like the DDMO and other related information handlers of our military to consider these factors as they go about disseminating information relating to Boko Haram insurgency:
What do we need and/or choose to share?
What can we share?
How do we share information?
Assess risks to mission and risk to force from the start of design and planning through execution.
Having said that, I believe the DDMO will henceforth be meticulous and strategic in information management.
Dr. Abubakar MS. Mobile: 07011653611.