Abubakar Musa Shinkafi
Baba Marafa left us on the July 6, 2016, making this my third personal tribute in what has so far been the longest and toughest three years of our lives in all aspects. We have no choice other than to abide by what is stated in the holy Quran: “Every soul should taste death” (Surah Al-Imran, 3:175).
This year, I choose to concentrate my tribute on an analysis of the late Marafa’s views on security matters, bearing in mind how critical an issue this has become in his home state, Zamfara. Even in death, I was astonished by how much wisdom and foresight words from interviews he gave years ago have to offer. It is all there in the archives for anyone who cares; ranging from intelligence gathering to capacity-building for frontline agencies, in particular, the Nigeria Police.
The late Marafa’s reputation was legendary among security personnel because it was widely known that he offered his best to his country at every opportunity. Hence, in respect to his profession, it is only right that his good deeds as a resolute security expert should be acknowledged and remembered.
Marafa strongly believed that matters of security were a collective responsibility and no individual, organisation or institution was exempted from the duty of protecting the life and property of ordinary citizens. This universal involvement is today neglected by our society and thus our pursuit of peace is failing. The government is always saddled with the burden alone. In various interviews, Marafa, while always acknowledging the key role of government security agencies, also drew attention to the relevance of others such as community leaders, civil society, religious leaders, families, and retired service personnel. Furthermore, he greatly emphasised that synergy between these groups and the security forces was necessary for success.
In a similar vein, Marafa stressed the importance of building confidence between local communities and the police, noting that it shouldn’t be taken for granted. This point has been echoed often by President Muhammadu Buhari that the more efficient the police, the more confident the government and citizens will be. Hence the commitment of this administration to restoring the NPF as the primary internal security agency is commendable and a honour to one of Marafa’s viewpoints, having served on different committees to reposition and restructure both the Nigeria Police and State Security Service in 1985 during the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida and that of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2008.
Elsewhere, in another interview with Ibrahim Samaila Ahmed on NTA about emerging threats to society, the late Marafa succinctly noted that there was no substitute to intelligence gathering and action. The late Shinkafi further maintained that security information does not have to be 100 per cent correct. Even if it is 25 per cent, what is important is detecting suspicious action before it gets out of hand. He pointed to the case of the Maitasine riot in Kano and emphasised the importance of information gathering.
In his words: “Many people, including the findings of the report on the Maitasine riot, blamed the security system for not measuring up; the truth is that we had some understanding of this kind of situation but could not anticipate the actual manner in which it occurred, even though there were signs that something new was showing its ugly head.
“If the information had been treated with greater seriousness and acted upon, the aftermath of the first riot on December 18, in Kano, which resulted in 4,000 deaths (including Marwa) could have been avoided.”
Today, the lesson remains that local information gathering is of utmost importance. Information given to the security agencies might seem trivial or even critical of the agencies, but such should be encouraged. We must guard against complacency. On several occasions, I have argued with colleagues and friends that if we, the citizens of Nigeria, are as loyal and organised as the bandits and their informants, we would probably have a much safer society.
At some point before its explosion, Boko Haram was not appreciated as a menace requiring serious attention. In similar vein, it is important to note and give consideration to all that is known about other movements early enough to discern those that may be threats to security.
Viewed in this light, it is important for government and security agencies to welcome any security gathering and information sharing platforms even when they may appear redundant or tedious. Security experts have emphasised the value of targeted intelligence gathering and actions based on it are quite effective in protecting the life and property of citizens. Collecting intelligence to build up a detailed knowledge of threats to the country is very important. The assessment and investigation process help security personnel to make decisions about how to respond to these threats and what protective measures to take.
Finally, I will share a conversation I had with Baba Marafa regarding deployment of technology. I explained to him about the concept of Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technologies. DPI surveillance technologies are communication surveillance tools that are able to monitor the traffic of Internet data, including content data. I interpreted DPI in the light of the emergence of a new mode of government that allows the surveillance of mobile phone communication, fixed line phones, email, and Internet communication in which police and secret services can monitor citizens in order to catch criminals and terrorists.
Baba Marafa then shared his own experience. He told me that in the late ’70s and early ’80s, he brought in two technology experts from Germany to lay the foundation for our security surveillance system. He said that immediately he left office in 1983, the two inspectors got frustrated and left Nigeria due to lack of cooperation from his successor.
Thankfully, President Buhari has raised similar concerns about the deployment of technology to safeguard our porous borders. Perhaps, if the expatriate inspectors were allowed to lay the foundation in the late early ’80s, it would have been much easier for us to employ artificial intelligence (AI) as a cutting-edge biometric technology.
Agreed, technology on its own will not solve our security problems, but when our security services use technology to target its response specifically at law-breakers, civil society may be encouraged to engage and cooperate with a security policy that listens to the people and acts on their behalf.
•Shinkafi, PhD, wrote via [email protected]