Tackling the Insurgency
The nation is under siege; the people are distraught and hope seems to be a scarce commodity in the land. No arm of government seems to inspire hope again. It is the stories of bombs, deaths and rumours of bombs. This sounds like the biblical apocalypse. Is it already here with us? Boring re-affirmations of what shall be done without lifting a finger to get it done follows another and many more continue to perish in the rain of bombs. Kidnappers are on the prowl taking innocent children away from schools. The leaders do not simply care. It is business as usual accentuated by the focus on the 2015 elections. It seems that the leaders do not mind if the population is decimated before the elections in as much as they will have the opportunity to run for seats. Is anyone out there listening? Can Nigerians scream? Would screaming do the magic of awakening the leadership from slumber? If we scream, will anyone hear us? Where are the statesmen, the nation builders, the bridge builders, the bi-partisans? Where are the men and women who understand that life is the most fundamental of the fundamental rights. Rights, entitlements, positions of authority are only for the living? If we are on this auto pilot, as it were, of mutually assured destruction, who will the leadership rule over?
No, we cannot continue with this season of hate, deaths, malfeasance and destruction as one tragedy follows another. We want to hear and see something new and we know it is possible. Another Nigeria of goodwill, good governance, abundance, care and fellow feeling is possible. It is also feasible and in the collective interest of all. Another Nigeria of a bi-partisan approach to combating terrorism, where we stand shoulder to shoulder to say no to devils masquerading in human flesh, who spread death and hate. The opportunities of this unity of action are there. But who understands the currents and is discerning enough to see them? The most basic duty of government is the protection of life and property and a government that cannot fulfill this basic duty is not worth that appellation.
This discourse seeks to make a number of recommendations on the way forward for a resolution of this crisis and to forestall future unnecessary crisis. The first recommendation is that our leaders in government and opposition should admit and acknowledge that this crisis had its origins in our politics of a winner takes all, although it has degenerated and gone out of control of those who thought they would benefit from it. It started like a joke taken too far and today, it seems to have been chartered and given a franchise from Al Queda. Thus, the consideration and resolution of the national question is central to winning this war and preventing another in the future. The resolution of the critical issues of good governance, power sharing, devolution of powers, nature of federalism including its fiscal aspects, citizenship, economic and social rights and a sense of belonging to all will promote peace, tolerance and respect for life and property. It will also facilitate a “nip in the bud” approach for future insurgency. In this direction, the opportunities provided by the National Conference should be grabbed with both hands by all stakeholders. The participants must make far reaching recommendations and should not be content with the status quo. But the caveat is that the President and the National Assembly should not allow their personal egos to get on the way. The President has set up a conference that he is at a loss as to what to do with its resolutions. The earlier a referendum bill is sent by the President and passed by the National Assembly, the better.
The second recommendation is that our leaders whether elected or in opposition should put heads together and come out with strategies to fight the insurgency. This is on the condition that the elected leadership opens the door and extends a hand of fellowship to the opposition for the rescue of the sinking ship of state. It is nothing to be ashamed of to ask for and get ideas from fellow Nigerians to arrest the drift considering that human lives are involved. We did not seek in 2011 to elect the most brilliant man or woman as president. We elected as a president, a fellow who we thought can coordinate our affairs and lead the most brilliant of men and women to achieve results. There can be no economic growth and development without peace and stability. Indeed, the 2015 elections may not hold in some parts of the country if the bombs continue to rain.
The third suggestion is that we need to use all the resources at our disposal in this struggle. Nigeria once paid for satellites and they were supposed to be deployed for various uses. Now that we have this challenge to our sovereignty, if this satellite is still in orbit, we should activate its antennas to gather sufficient intelligence on the movement and deployment of these terrorists. What is the fun in paying so much for such complex scientific innovation if we cannot use it to save lives and defend property? Is the satellite still in orbit, in perfect order? If the answer is in the affirmative, what are we doing with the pictures it sends down to earth? Do we need to re-programme it for specific military purposes? Or do we have another scam on our hands in the name of deploying a satellite?
Nigerian soldiers and policemen have excelled in peace keeping missions outside our shores. We were pivotal in stopping the wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone. We have demonstrated a commitment and competence as our brothers’ keeper – the ECOMOG initiative. So, why are appearing helpless like a basket case; attack after attack and all we get are promises of action which never materialise. Thus, the men and women who made this our feat possible are still around. If they have retired, those they trained and imparted knowledge upon are still alive. So, we have the personnel to engage these terrorists. Therefore, a fourth recommendation is to mobilise our gallant officers and men and provide them with a conducive environment to excel on home soil. We must give them the greatest encouragement and latitude within the law to operate and flush out these cowards. The fifth is that we have built up a lot of goodwill in West Africa and in the international community. Now is the time to present the goodwill which I liken to a cheque to the banks – our neighbours and international friends. We have to request for assistance. There is nothing to be ashamed of about seeking for help when you are attacked. They can assist us with intelligence information; use their troops to stop terrorist mobilization against us from their territory.
On another note, let no one consider the uprooting of trees or burning of the Sambisa forest since its notoriety as a safe haven for terrorists. Such action will further accentuate the ecological imbalance in the region and expose residents to another hardship beyond the terror. This forest may not be as thick as the jungles in the South. What is needed is proper policing and surveillance over the forest.
The sixth recommendation is that we need to temporarily close down and police all our borders. Media information suggests that some of the attackers are from neighbouring countries who should be our friends. Yes, the borders may be porous; this insurgency provides us the opportunity to reorganise our immigration and homeland security regime. The member states of the Economic Community of West African States understand our predicament and will raise no eye brows if we place strict limitations on entry into Nigeria considering the life and death options that we face. The seventh is that we need to seek greater collaboration with our neighbours and get them to fully understand the gravity of our challenge. It is totally unacceptable that Nigerians will be abducted and taken to nearby countries and their police and security authorities do not assist us to track the abductors down. It is also unacceptable that terrorists will attack us and flee to a neigbouring country or use such country as a base to attack us from time to time. It is either that country destroys the base and gives us a guarantee of non-repetition or we exercise our right to self defence; enter the territory, apprehend the terrorists and destroy their base.
Stories making the rounds suggest that the insurgents are better armed than our soldiers. This is unbelievable. For the last ten years, we have been spending a lot on security. The eight recommendation is that now is the time to do an audit to find out how the monies appropriated for the purchase of military hardware and training has been spent. This is part of the oversight duty of the National Assembly. But it should not be a sensational probe. It should be done discretely to unearth the facts while providing further support to our armed forces. Various sums of money have also been budgeted for security votes since the return to civil rule at the presidential and gubernatorial levels. What value have we added to our security with this money? It is possible for the legislature to review the achievements of this vote and use it as an opportunity to streamline future allocations. We cannot continue to provide a slush fund for occupants of executive offices considering that they manage money in a way and manner not anticipated by the people and the legislature. Oversight over the security vote has become imperative and it is the ninth recommendation.
Allied to this is the tenth recommendation of undertaking an operational needs assessment for our armed forces and security agencies. What exactly do they need that they do not currently have? How will these new equipment put us in good stead to fight terrorism? We need a pragmatic resource allocation approach that seeks to provide these critical needs within the shortest possible time bearing in mind, the context of available resources. New resources can also be mobilised for the war against terror. If the war on terror is properly prosecuted through the mobilisation of all Nigerians, it is possible for private sector operatives and citizens to donate reasonable sums of money towards the enterprise. The caveat is that sum money must be managed transparently for contributions to be sustainable. Lagos State Government raises a lot of money from the private sector for its security operations. Can we replicate that model at the federal level?
The President needs to assume full control and be seen to be fully in control of Nigeria considering his title as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He therefore needs the most competent men and women around him who would advise him and implement his policy instructions. Therefore, the eleventh recommendation is that the President may consider reshuffling his chief security officers, advisers and others who are charged with implementing the policy against terror. He should set realistic targets for his officers and benchmark their performance based on their performance contract. Of late, while concentrating on the seeming failures of the Commander-in-Chief, Nigerians have forgotten the persons of the National Security Adviser, Minister of Defence and the Service Chiefs. The President can only be in one place at one time. He therefore needs the most competent assistants to succeed in tackling this challenge. A leader is as good as his team.
Mr. President, as our twelfth recommendation, for the next two months, please forget the 2015 election and concentrate on eliminating or at least, reducing the insurgency. You can only be a president of living Nigerians. You cannot preside over our lifeless bodies. This same advice goes to the leadership of opposition parties. Not every security slip should attract a political condemnation. Political maturity sometimes demands clear headed non condemnatory responses considering the gravity and solemnity of the murders and kidnaps. We need our President to make great speeches that galvanise and mobilise Nigerians against a common enemy. Recommendation number thirteen is that we need presidential speeches filled with “quotable quotes”, and saturated with inspiration and hope. Such speeches should be immediately followed up with positive implementation and action. This will restore the hope of citizens in their government and bring the unity needed for the struggle.
The judiciary has a role to play in tackling the insurgency. Those who are brought before the courts and charged with terrorism and related offences must be given expedited trial, from day to day until judgement is delivered. Nigerians need to see more people in jail or facing other sentences pronounced by the courts for taking away human lives and liberties. We need to send a strong message to these cowards that the arm of Nigeria justice is long enough to bring them to book. We can take a cue from the Oscar Pistorius trials in South Africa. The activation of the judiciary to be a principal partner in the fight against insurgency is recommendation number fourteen.
For the media, while we seek to hold government accountable to the people, it is our duty to mobilise the citizens against our common enemy. Recommendation number fifteen is that we need a regime of reportage that moves the citizens to understand that they have a role to play in fighting insurgency. The media needs to unearth facts, engage in investigative journalism, separate facts from rumours and fiction and thereby provide the citizens and authorities with a clear template to proceed on the war. Before the CNN intervention in the “bring back our girls campaign”, we did not get deep information such as interviews with the parents of the girls or some of them who managed to escape.
For the religious faithful, the portrayal of this insurgency as Islamic for now will not facilitate its resolution. It is clear that Islam has nothing to do with pre-meditated murder, cruelty, kidnap and sexual slavery which are the identified hallmarks of Boko Haram. Whoever calls himself a faithful of any modern religion while promoting this agenda is a perverted fellow and deserves to be put away from the fellowship of civilized humanity. Therefore, recommendation number sixteen is for religious leaders to stop stoking the fires of the divide so that we do not fall into a bigger challenge than the one we intend to stop.