From Gyang Bere, Jos
Brigadier General Jonathan Temlong (rtd), the first Commander, Multi-National Joint Task Force in the Northeast has cautioned the Governor of Borno State, Babagana Umara Zulum to stop demoralizing soldiers fighting Boko Haram in the Northeast. Temlong said that for the governor who is a public figure to make a general statement that soldiers are collecting bribe without acknowledging the supreme price most of the innocent soldiers have paid to protect innocent citizens in the region is demoralizing those fighting the insurgency war and their families. Excerpt:
There has been issues of insecurity in recent times where the Kankara schoolboys were abducted and released after some days and the governor of Borno State also accused the military of collecting bribe, as a security expert how did you view this development?
I will say Mr. Governor, you are demoralizing the troops who have been fighting in the Northeast, some of their colleagues have paid the ultimate price. The desert of Borno has been soaked with blood of soldiers and their bodies are lying in those deserts. These soldiers left their homes and families with the hope of coming back, but they are not back. The families that they left behind, parents, wives, children and other relations are also being demoralised by the outburst of the governor. The governor should know that these are children of people who ultimately laid their lives and those who are struggling day in, day out in that desert without seeing their families, some for months and some for years and his is not appreciating the efforts of those soldiers, it demoralizes the families too. That is also weakening the national will that is not just there to propel these soldiers to victory, I think is very dangerous. Public figures must know that they are statesmen and for him as a state governor, the soldiers are there to provide military aid to civil authority, to restore government for him so that he can restore authority in those areas. He doesn’t have control of all the areas, and even if he does, he cannot move an inch without heavy escort. What the soldiers are doing there is to restore administration for him, he doesn’t need to move from one point to another with those civil authority. I operated in that area and I know that the late Governor Malls told President Obasanjo that they could sleep with their too eyes close because I defeated those people and that they could leave Maiduguri on the midnight and get to the extreme end close to Niger, that was impossible before, that is what soldiers are supposed to be doing. I am not holding forth for the soldiers that there might be no miscreants among them, and it is also public that a lot of court marshals have been going on. Generals have been reduced in rank, jailed and the rest, which means that the military discipline system is taking care of some of the misdemeanors of some of the military personnel. Therefore, it is not a policy of the military for the soldiers to do what they are doing that he is accusing them of being wrong. The proper thing for the governor to do is either for him to make a formal report to the Commander-in-Chief or to the Minister of Defence. In any case, he can take his phone and call the Chief of Army Staff, the Theatre Commander is with him in Maiduguri, he can easily call him and tell him what he saw than making the whole spectacle of what he has seen or what it was reported in the press of what soldiers are doing, it doesn’t show statesmanship, it shows playing to the gallery for popularity, that is not what we want, not with the blood of soldiers, not the blood of citizens of this country.
Was there any statement made by the governor or action that indicted the military?
He said that soldiers were extorting money at road blocks despite the support they are giving them, they have not seen tangible things and yet, he was speaking from both side of his mouth. He said the achievements of President Buhari in term of security in Borno State was more than the period of President Goodluck Jonathan, so how was that achievement done? If the soldiers rolled back people to the local government occupied by terrorists, it shows that there is an achievement which he has said, he shouldn’t speak from both sides of his mouth. From one side he was praising Mr. President, Commander-in-Chief, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and that praise was because of what the troops did, for him to say they have achieved and in the next face, he was condemning them, I think that is politics being carried too far. The military is a national institution, it is an instrument of state policy, they shouldn’t be dragged in a way that it will demoralize them and if you weaken your military, you are weakening the whole state. If you get your military demoralised, then you can be thinking of packing out of Borno.
Do you mean his statement demoralised or weakened the effort of the military in the fight against Boko Haram?
That demoralised and weakened the military. If you have a brother or son who died in that place and a statement is made castigating them and not even appreciating their sacrifices or if you are the one fighting there and you know that you have not been extorting money and then one miscreant somewhere extorts money and you make the whole issue out of it, how will you feel firing that weapon and you know the other man is hunting to kill you, how will you feel? It definitely demoralises and your parents are demoralised too. What Nigeria needs now is a strong national will behind this military operations for us to win.
Looking at the new turn of event with respect to kidnapping of schoolboys in Katsina State and other cases of kidnapping, don’t you think that is a failure on the security architecture in the country?
I think the strategy needs to be rejigged. Military warfare is a people-centric warfare and it is won by the control or the influence of the population of the country. The population provides the oxygen for insurgency or the terrorist or the population provides the carbondeoxide that will kill them. It is won and lost by controlling and influencing the population and what we need is that the strategy is wrong because we are thinking of a military or a kinetic approach to this operation. Also, it needs a government and whole people approach to solve the security dilemma that we have found ourselves in. These are irregularities who do not have something like a national army attacking you so that you know where they are coming from, but they are citizens of the country who are being recruited by some people aided by others outside and that is why it is population asymmetric. You might not know who a terrorist is, he may be somebody in your community. Somebody might be an informant in your community and in the day time he may be playing with you, but in the evening he goes out or he is controlling by telephone, so you have this complex operation and so it needs an all government and all people approach. As it is now, we are employing just the kinetic elements, we need to organize our society, we need to get back our societies and organize them in a way that they participate in their security, they participate in national defence, that is what is needed to be done, all elements in government need to be involved, today is as if there is nothing happening in this country. If you move outside except now that kidnapping is rampant everywhere, life was going on everywhere, no national is behind the efforts. I give you an example, during the Nigeria civil war, there was an all people approach to that war. Citizens provided vehicles to move troops to the front, citizens provided accommodation for soldiers. Companies like the Nigeria Breweries produced their products with specific stamps of the Army Forces, the same thing with Guinness, including what was given in hospitals, those who donated blood did so because there was need for blood because soldiers were shot and wounded in the war front and they needed blood transfusion immediately, people were coming to donate blood. I was at 44 battalion in Kaduna at a time and I saw it. Once you hear a plane landing at the Air Force base and you see the Ambulance coming in, soldiers wives will start crying and if you go there, you will see pathetic cases of those injured by bombs and some of them needed blood transfusion immediately. There was people approach, people made donations. Today, the approach that is being done to COVID should be applied to the military too to stop the bandits and kidnapping while we have companies like the Dangote and the rest doing one thing and the other and we have visible support, we would have finished this issue.
The governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike alleged that the economy of this country has collapsed, security has collapsed and nothing is working, what do you think could be done to salvage the situation?
I don’t think Wike can look at Nigeria as an island, globally the economy is down. It is less in some areas and it is more in other places, it depends on how strong a country is to push the production system. For us, our production section is virtually nothing. We ride virtually on oil, the agricultural sector that is working, farmers are being killed in their farms, so to boost the agriculture is a problem nor the mining sector. Insecurity has made mining difficult. Governor Wike is lamenting, yes, everywhere in the world, the economy is running into problems, but I say we must change the strategy. Governors have a special role to get their population to be involved, we have the capacity, there are people, even some of the retired people are there, you can deploy the resources to help in building our capacity and increase our role in building national security, this is not science, we have seen civic education that they used to teach in those days, it must be revamped for the citizens to know what is right and what is wrong, who a passive citizen is and who an active citizen is. We are now policing ourselves, I am sure if you go to your local government and you ask your DPO sincerely, how many policemen are policing the area and how many policemen do we have on ground and what is the population of your local government, your town or your village for these people to police, there is no realism. You don’t expect manna to fall from heaven, manna will never fall from heaven again.
President Buhari said recently that the best the Service Chiefs have put in in terms of combating criminality is not enough and the National Assembly and some Nigerians have called for the sack of the Service Chiefs, why do you think the president has refused to disband them in the face of increasing Insecurity?
As a Commander-in-Chief what the president was telling them that their best was not enough, they have to double up, their best hasn’t reached his requirement, it is not as if they have not been working. People expect magic from the security, it is not. That magic will come when people are involved positively because we are dealing with asymmetric society, it is when people themselves are involved. People cannot sit down at the comfort of the National Assembly and start shouting without knowing that their people should be involved in a strategic manner by supporting the security efforts. It is not a matter of blame game and you know that the people have been saying it and I have read somewhere that their oversight function foils corruption. The Senate and the House Committee on Defence, Army, Air Force should be going to Borno and sleeping there with the Army, sleeping there with the men to feel it and asking for the requirement from the commander to see if the country has provided those capabilities and capacity to fight this operation, they are representing us, that soldier that died there is from his constituency, that soldier that is crying there is from their constituency. The father and mother of that child, the children of that soldier are from their constituency, they should do more. It is not just going to Defence Headquarters, Air Force Headquarters, that is not oversight function.
I see them doing what the American Congress does, there are hearing that they invite those officers and sometimes are public, they ask for the strategies, they ask for their capacity to carry out their assigned task and what are their requirements to boost that capacity that they need and they ask them what time will they need and then you hear maybe their chairman will speak on the capacity and capabilities to achieve their objectives. This is not done, our National Assembly should not just be making noice and calling on the president; the Service Chiefs were not elected by anybody. It’s just like me sitting down here and calling MD of a newspaper house to fire his reporter. How many people knew who Buratai was or Sadiq Abubakar before they became Service Chiefs? How many people know them, did they have hand in their appointment? The whole thing stops on the Commander-in-Chief’s table. It is the Commander-in-Chief that is responsible for executing Chapter two of the Constitution and even defending that Constitution which he raised his right hand to swear that he will defend at the national level, the state governors at the state level and the rest and that is why they must come in and be involved in this effort to provide security for the citizens. It is not just a blame game, they are not just doing enough. Tell me, I don’t know who our state security adviser is, they said they have somebody called Permanent Secretary on Security no, we have National Security Adviser appointed separately. Who is the security adviser here? Permanent Secretary securities are civil servants, what military education or knowledge do they have.
There was rumour that some communities were singled out in Plateau State for attack by bandits and the state government quickly convened a security meeting to discuss how the situation can be handled, how best do you think these pockets of attacks can be addressed in Plateau and North-central generally?
In the first place why were those information made public. The director of DSS had released officially that there were plans by criminal elements, where is those criminal elements? It is for the citizens to help in identifying those criminal elements that is why some of these information are made in public space. When the citizens assist in providing credible information and intelligence, they are able to nip it in the bud and for you to take precautionary measures based on the security awareness training that you are facing. So, as a normal person, you will know when to travel, you will not leave very late in the night and say you want to travel, that is wrong, you don’t go and start congregating in red areas, areas that are prune to attack and even with the COVID-19, you know you are supposed to maintain social distancing, you should not be afraid of being attacked, you are afraid of even the unseen enemy, that is COVID-19. That is the reason those information are passed in public areas and I hope and pray that the stakeholders who are called for the meeting when they get back home, they should call to step down the information, but unfortunately they don’t do it. The information is supposed to get down to the grassroots that was why they called them. They are supposed to call similarly stakeholders meeting right down at their local government areas, towns and villages, that is how it is supposed to be and then you take measures, activate your plans for intelligence gathering and observations. The first law of survival is self preservation, unless you are alive, all other things become meaningless.