by Mike Kebonkwu
North, South, East or West, the story is the same; insecurity hangs in the air like the sword of Damocles. The military has virtually taken over police duty and overstretched in its internal security operations across the country; yet, the situation has not shown any remarkable improvement. Our thesis is that it is a familiar lesson of history that we cannot fight insecurity and insurgency through offensive military action alone. This is because the crises of insecurity and insurgency sometimes are organized crimes with political patronage.
To deal with insecurity there has to be a coherent and coordinated institutional approach by the government with the political will. There must not only be good laws but they should be capable of enforcement. Besides adequate policing, the police should have accurate data and criminal records of men of the underworld and kingpins of criminal gangs. We now appear to be in a perpetual state of insecurity which is no longer defined by status; whether you live in the usually secured highbrow area or in the slum and ghettoes, nobody is safe anymore.
Some time ago, the immediate past Chief of Defence Staff, a four-star General was killed along Jos Keffi road. It became news items because he was a prominent person in the society whereas this is a lot of the ordinary Nigerian on a daily basis which is hardly reported in the media.
Abuja – Kaduna road has been taken over by kidnappers and armed robbers and there appears not to be any serious effort by the government to restore the confidence of travellers along that route even though you encounter some stationary patrol vehicles of security agencies along the way. The government appears fixated that the criminality in the country is caused by poverty. If that is truly the case, then worse days awaits us because we will have more poverty as the unemployment market swells with an army of new graduates every year from our institutions of learning.
The worrisome aspect of insecurity in the country today is that every geo-political zone is under relentless siege from hooligans and gangsters. In the South-south, militancy and oil bunkering has remained with us in spite of the security outfit in those zones since early 2000. In the South-east, we are confronted with the menace of armed robbers and cultists who operate with audacious ferocity while the Nigerian Army has been embroiled in a tango of python dance with them. In the Southwest, armed robbers, kidnappers and ritualists hold sway. Again the security forces are deployed on the streets and roadblocks, yet the activities of these hooligans and bandits have not relented.
In the middle-belt area, herdsmen activities have made life a living hell to the people that they can no longer engage in their farming activities. Whole villages have been sacked and destroyed and the government prefers to engage in blame games and victim-blaming. In the Northeast, the Boko Haram that started as a local insurgency has transformed into a full-blown terrorist organization with a global franchise. For the first time after the Nigerian Civil war that lasted for about 30 months, the Nigerian Armed Forces are taking an acid test in its combat efficiency. We may find it difficult to accept, but it is true and we have to come to the reality that our armed forces have become rusty with poor equipment to engage a determined enemy like the Boko Haram insurgents.
The cost of the fight against insecurity and insurgency may never be known. There may never be any official data or statistics from the government; only God knows the casualty figures in troops, civilians and material. We are at the mercy of armed herdsmen, insurgents, kidnappers, armed robbers and cultists and unable to police our porous borders.
The crises of insecurity are sustained by the failure of good governance and the inability to make and enforce good laws. While we cannot legislate crime and criminality out of existence, we can at least manage it through good laws, adequate policing and enforcement. There is no fine relationship between poverty and insecurity but there is abundant evidence between insecurity and poor governance anywhere in the world.
The most troubling aspect of the fight against insecurity and insurgency is the government continuous campaign that it can only be solved if the international community comes on board and perhaps take over the fight. We want the international community to provide intelligence for us in our own soil, we want them to give us equipment and train our troops, we want aids to feed the displaced people and rebuild damaged infrastructure but we are up in arms when they tell us how our troops should not conduct the war against insurgency.
We may not write off the Nigeria Police Force completely in its ability to fight crime although a major concern is that some elements in the force are complicit in organized crimes in the country. This is in addition to the corruption in its rank and file which makes it difficult for citizens to have confidence in the force. The military can interface with the police where necessary but does not have to usurp police duties. Rather, the police should be better equipped, motivated and with a new code of discipline instead of the bunch of personnel that you have today who are not very different from the criminals they are trained to combat.
It may be perceived as political suicide to suggest that the government should declare a state of emergency in security. People in government are wont to tell us in their cavalier manner that the police and the security forces are up to the task but the reality on the ground suggests something different.
We are blaming our failure to provide security to our people in Europe and America for not selling weapons to us. If we depend on them for everything, we should also be ready to accept it when they dictate to our government and the military on the dos and don’ts in conducting the military operations against the insurgents. Of course, they would spy and monitor our government and security agencies through the numerous organizations in the name of support and technical aids.
This is where I sympathize with the Nigerian Army when it declared UNICEF persona non grata and suspended it from its theatre of operation in the Northeast hoping that it had the support of the federal government. The Nigerian Army was to reverse itself less than 24 hours after the United Nations and the American government we were told started breathing on the necks of the army and the federal government. This is the dilemma of a neo-colonial state with leadership inertia incapable of developing its own industrial complex for growth. Perhaps if the military understands the dialectics of post-colonial relations to developing countries, it would not have been too swift to expel or suspend UNICEF staff. Aids to Third World countries from the west are not altruistic but tied to their overriding economic and security needs. Osama Bin Laden was fished out from Pakistan through CIA agents operating under the cover of humanitarian doctors immunizing children from preventable diseases.
So, these organizations must spy on you because you depend on their home government who do not want the crises to end because they have to sell their weapons, they have to bring technical experts to train your troops and exploit your natural resources. They are to identify legitimate targets and give the red line beyond which you must not cross. This way, the wars are unwinnable.
This brings me to the hues and cries about the Amnesty International report on the behaviour of our troops in the fight against insecurity and insurgency across the country. The government and the army have dismissed the report as not verifiable and correct and capable of demoralizing the fighting forces. Whatever their misgiving against the report, we cannot afford to discard the report with dismissive cant and platitude that it is not verifiable.
Rather than continue to live in denial, I think it could just be the right material to use to educate our gallant troops without vilifying them. However, obvious cases of infraction should be punished. To call our souls ours in the fight against insurgency and insecurity we have to develop our own military-industrial complex. We can start by manufacturing those basic things like ammunition, personal rifles and graduate into manufacturing of other war machines like India, Pakistan and South Africa have done.
Our taste for western goods extends to even news items from the media. News items are only confirmed to be correct when beamed from foreign media. Even our leaders have taken to speaking to us from abroad on important national issues. To avoid being in this awkward position in the fight against insecurity and insurgency, the government should be willing to come out with fact sheet of its activities to the local media rather allow wild speculation by social media and international agencies.
Source: The Nation