Today, guest writer, Ayodeji Okuwa, a retired military officer in the United States armed forces, contributes views on insecurity in Nigeria.
Security of lives and property is not rocket science. The issues at stake are straightforward and simple. If the five sub-sections below are addressed with a semblance of compassion, sincerity of purpose and commuted patriotism by the current leadership, the Nigerian siege could be terminated within a short time.
First, who are the culprits? We have a good idea of the perpetrators of these attacks and killings. Are these culprits Nigerians or foreigners? Who are their collaborators in the South-West? These guys are definitely operating with some Yoruba. If they have the capability to communicate and negotiate monetary ransoms, they cannot all be Fulani herdsmen. Who owns the forests where the gruesome killings have taking place? Who owns these herds and who employs the herders? All these folks need to be identified.
Second, what are we dealing with? Terrorism, insurgency, banditry or all of the above? Sincerity of purpose must be the watchword of the government at federal and state levels. This should be classified as terrorism. All hands must be on deck to combat this insurgency, which cannot be done singlehandedly by Nigeria. The proliferation of arms across the contiguous West African nations is a Herculean task but surmountable with a unified front among these countries.
Third, where is the criminal base station? Where do they operate? Nigeria or West Africa or beyond? We have ISWA, Al Queda in Maghreb, etc; if majorly foreigners, we need to know who passes through our porous borders daily with immediate effect. The border gates need to be shut with immediate effect. Even a terrorist cell has a Command Post (CP) and operating units. Are we claiming that these cells cannot be identified? Another challenge is the contest between sincerity of purpose versus saboteurs in the system. This should be tackled head-on, if we want any reprieve. Non-citizens without documentation need to be repatriated. Apprehended terrorists who have kidnapped, killed or raped anyone should be executed.
Fourth, when did this Boko Haram insurgency break out? Government needs to identify the timing to make informed decisions and effect a thorough counter-insurgency strategy in a country where killings, political and otherwise, kidnapping, dismembering for rituals, armed robbery, etc, have always been a part of our country. Neighbouring Ghana witnessed a similar terrorist invasion, the President improvised a strategy that brought back sanity. Aso Rock must establish a confidential timeline to eradicate the Boko Haram menace.
Last, why is Nigeria in this perilous predicament? President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo should have a sincere closed-door meeting. If there is inevitable need for change of strategy, Osinbajo should be bold enough to tell him the truth.
The herdsmen criminal elements have been emboldened to commit crimes with impunity because of the presumed sympathy at the highest level. That is the perception, and perception is the reality until proven otherwise in a nation that thrives on rumours and daily social media fake news.
President Buhari needs to take the bull by the horns and launch an offensive attack on these criminals, no matter whose ox is gored.
Nigeria can be sanitised within a 30/60-day period. Do our leaders have the will to pursue that which is right? A question that begs for an answer.
This analysis is a security professional’s perspective. Nigeria’s challenges require a tripod approach of which security is first and most essential. A Nigerian policy, which entails a consolidation of three strategies, Security, Economic and Political approach, is required for a holistic solution.
From an economic purview, Nigeria has millions of school-age children roaming the streets (mostly in the North) with no education in 2019. In a few decades, the males would be in their 20s, 30s and 40s as supposed herders with no grazing land or routes. Many will end up as bandits, armed robbers and kidnappers because the only business they grew up to know might not be available or sustainable. What is Nigeria’s current and future plan for these teeming youths? What is the government doing to encourage school attendance in the North? What is the policy on training these herdsmen on modern-day cattle ranching, which is season-proof? What is the government doing to improve the standard of education at secondary, technical and collegiate levels in the South?
We can’t do justice to the political perspective without underscoring the ethnic, tribal and religious undertones, which have become phobias in the Nigerian psyche. The contributions of our bad politicians to the polity cannot be underestimated, but that is a discussion for another day. They have unleashed an unprecedented level of mistrust between the leaders and the led over the years.
•Okuwa, a retired Major in the American army, lives in the United States