Obinna Odogwu, Awka
The senator representing Anambra Central in the National Assembly, Uche Ekwunife, has rated the military highly in their fight against insurgency in the Northern part of the country. Although she acknowledged that more needs to be done, in this interview, she urged Nigerians to render maximum support to the military to enable them finish the good works they have started.
There have been varying opinions on the fight against terrorism in Nigeria by the military. As a lawmaker, what’s your disposition towards this?
Being a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I strive hard to enhance my perspective and capacity in and outside of our dear nation. I therefore take more than a passing interest in the progress and challenges associated with our fight against terrorism and insecurity in Nigeria. Over the years, I have been following discussions emanating from the international communities and have come to the sad reality and conclusions that this battle is ours and ours alone to fight our way to victory.
What impression do you hold about our military in the frontline of this fight against insurgency?
I congratulate our military in no small way. Manning the frontline between us and the insurgency, they are doing a good work. The battle may not have been won and lost, but a whole world of commendable successes has been made. The country as a whole needs to support our military to boost their morale; that great driving force in this enviable profession that is a matter of life or death.
From strategy perspective, what advice would you give to Nigerians in general as it relates to dealing with terrorism?
In further appreciating the great works of our military, I make bold to raise a few issues of strategic importance. First of all, the war against insecurity in our country and the sub-region is not a matter for the media spaces because the enemy does not have a clear cut battle front and most of them may be clandestinely interacting within the society. Secondly, to truly appreciate our situation, we must come to terms with the fact that the best we can get in terms of support from the international communities in this struggle will be finance and weapons instead of being involved in the battlefield. This leaves us with few choices and those choices are; to equip our military with up-to-date war equipment. Equipping them must be targeted to surpass whatever weapons our soldier will see in the hands of the terrorists in the front line. Everything should be put in place to ensure that the combat readiness of our troops is such that their psychological comportments remain high at all times. Personal welfare of servicemen and their families should be such that every soldier should serve with pride as in developed countries. Indeed, being a soldier should come with pride and privileges. Above all, we must completely separate and isolate the military from any form of what usually divide us. Professionalism in our military should be devoid of politics, ethnicity and faith.
What is your assessment of the Nigerian military so far?
I must admit that there are other complex factors that come into play in all of these. However, it is important without reservation to congratulate the gallantry and the bravery of our military. Our military has so far been performing well and securing numerous victories against the insurgents within the limits of the resources at their disposal. They have been neutralising and containing many fronts. We are all aware of the pace and speed with which the insurgency was gaining grounds at the onset, if not for the actions of our military, today the story would have been different. I further urge the Nigerian military to be more prepared in going into the battle for the restoration of Nigeria’s security because, indeed, this battle is ours; nothing more, nothing less. The wave of insecurity being faced by our country and her citizens must be seen as a Nigerian problem. Only concerted efforts by all Nigerians in synergy with the Armed Forces can bring about the needed solution. The government must play their role; the citizens must carry out their civic responsibility and the armed forces too. The governors that claim to be chief security officers of their states must wake up in the face of this insecurity. We can’t continue to blame the military if all the stakeholders are not doing what they are supposed to do. In fighting the unconventional wars, all the parties must play their roles.
There have been reports about alleged human rights violation by the military. How would you rate the human rights posture of the Nigerian Army?
The Nigerian Army is currently involved in various internal security operations across the federation and the fight against terrorism and insurgency mostly in the North East. This has brought about more interaction and intermingling with the public with attendant allegations of human rights violations by some of its officers and men. However, it is glaring that the Nigerian Army is doing the best it could in the protection of human rights especially in the last five years. The Nigerian Army leadership recognized the importance of the respect and protection of human rights in the discharge of its constitutional responsibilities through training and strict compliance to rules of engagements and collaboration with stakeholders. These efforts have a tremendous positive impact on the improved professionalism being exhibited by troops as the Nigerian Army continues to maintain a zero tolerance for human rights violations among its personnel. The reduction in the reported cases of such violations is quite commendable. It has also mainstreamed the female gender through greater sense of belonging and creation of the Women Corps. The Nigerian Army is one of the few military institutions in the world that cares, promotes and protects human rights in all its activities. It has established and sustained human rights desks and toll free call centres across its formations and units, and as well, pursued improved civil-military relations. Based on the foregoing and much more, to me, the Nigerian Army is one of the best armies in the world as regards respect for and protection of human rights and would therefore rate the human rights posture of the Nigerian Army as one of the best among world’s armies. Nevertheless, in every profession, sometimes there will be some skeletal mistakes which are bound to take place because of human error but those exceptions cannot be basis or yardsticks for measurement of performance. Our armed forces need our support and Nigerians must support them, stand by them, encourage and motivate them. We can’t continue to demoralize them by constantly castigating them. So, on a final note I must once again send my heartfelt goodwill to our boys in the field, their commanders and all the leadership of our gallant military. May God protect you all and may God protect our dear nation, Nigeria.