Abuja Ã¢â‚¬â€ AS Nigeria marked her 51st independence anniversary, a lot of people queried the moral correctness of using the machinery of the military force to quell armed insurgency in this country despite gross insecurity in the land which has reached an all-time-high in the last one year. While some agree that deep-rooted fears and insecurity have assumed a frightening proportion such that no one member of society now goes to sleep with two eyes closed, others argue, however, that the civil police alone should be allowed to grapple with the menace without the army coming into the picture.
Whatever the argument, though, the question to address here is with fusion bombs dropping here and there, armalite rifles barking constantly on the Jos Plateau and monster-individuals hollering at the citizenry nonstop, thus creating the amosphere of an internecine strife in a country that is, indeed, not at war, should our up-and-up mobile soldiers be pulled off the streets even when the conventional police have shown noticeable signs of inability to live up to their expectation?. Worst of all, with law-abiding citizens of this country scurrying into hiding at the mere mension of such names of a fiendish group as Boko Haram, MEND, MASSOB or OPC should our upwardly mobile army feel smugly unpertubbed?
Of course, some people in high and low places have described what is happening in our midst as bold acts of sectarian expression, others say it is just an inordinate display of psychosocial madness. Yet, a great many others think that it is only a form of political communication wherein vandals and hoodlums use murder and destruction to heighten a sociopolitical crisis.
Maybe these people are correct in their analysis, maybe they are not. But whichever way it is, Johana Michael, a topflight civil servant who narrowly escaped death at the bombed-out United Nations(UN) building in Abuja, said, “Anyone who is capable of thinking would not fail to see that Nigerians are affraid, the masses can no longer move freely; they no longer can go to wherever they like to go to and whenever they like. Of course, this calls for great concern of all and sundry citizens of this country including, of course, our armed forces”.
Michael, who claimed he worked with the Ministry of External Affairs, said he only escaped being killed at the UN House on August 26 only by the whiskers. But matter-of-fact, has there been any serious sociopolitical malady that could have engendered so much tension in the land leading to people being inhibited in their movements and social enterprise? Or are we just making a mound out of a mole hill? On the other hand, should hard-faced soldiers be called in to bell the cat or rather permanently confined within their barracks even in our present pseudo-peacetime?
Of course, without mincing words, we dare say that those words of the army chief could be called nothing but treading with caution. Yet, it is a great marvel that certain members of the Nigerian society have tried to denigrate the contributions of the military force in stemming the tide of insecurity in the land. One national daily even commented as follows, “The current state of insecurity in several states across the federation has brought in its wake deployment of troops such that today soldiers have virtually taken over most of our major roads.
“Never in our history have there been such large number of soldiers doing civil security job on the street. But given the temperament of soldiers when provoked by civilians many have questioned the wisdom of such large-scale deployment. As such we cannot turn what started as an ad-hoc situation into a permanent solution for the security challenge facing the nation. Therefore, our soldiers must return to their barracks”.
The question here is in restraining soldiers to their barracks, are we not cutting off the nose to spite the face? In other words, balancing the enormous technical capabilities of the army to call the terrorist bets against the seeming ineptitudes of the police force in the fight against terror, are we not unwittingly sacrificing competence on the altar of civility? Whatever the answers though, let us recall that older and more advanced democracies around the world also use the machinery of their military forces, if need be, to contain armed insurgencies.
For example, just recently, the Obama administration in the United States did not waste one moment in deploying a large-scale combat unit to contain possible civil unrest in their land.
According to the World Socialist Website, “For the first time ever, the US military is deploying an active duty regular army combat unit for full-time use inside the United States to deal with emergencies including, of course, potential civil unrest.
“Beginning from October 1, the First Brigade Combat Team of the Third Division will be placed under the command of US Army North, that is, the army’s component of the Pentagon’s North Command which was created in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks with the one mission of defending the US homeland and aiding federal, state and local authorities”.
Of course, the US example is not an isolated case as it was also on record that there was a defeaning clamour in Britain to involve the army in contending with the recent London Riots.
While agreeing that the menace of terrorism calls for a new approach that should be founded on credible intelligence gathering, let us recall what the army chief said when he recently declared open a two-day conference on this year’s edition of the Chief of the Army Staff Annual Conference.
On that day Ihejirika said, “The aim of this conference is to try to fashion out new approaches to help the civil authorites stem the tide of insecurity in the land ocasioned by revolutionary groups. You may wish to know that there is foreign interference in the whole business and mercenaries are constantly crossing the borderline to come into the country to fuel our internal crisis.
“We know that this is true going by the kind of weapons at their disposal and the kind of expertise they exhibit which can only come through organized training. But if foreign governments are behind this crisis then our best bet is to restrategize in order to march their tactics. And I think that it is only the army that has the capabilities to do that for now”.
We may wish to agree with Ihejirika going by the fact that the terrorists had even made a bold dash at the Force HQ and succeeded. Commenting on the use of the army to quell intractable armed insurrections Oluwo said, “In so far as we may wish to agree that the soldiers’ presence in the streets is a bit asymetrical with the present democratic arrangement in the country, it is not uncommon to use the advanced machinery of the fighting force where the civil police have failed to arrest ugly situations.
“If the Nigerian people feel uncomfortable with the army strategies, the only other option left to us if we must contain terrorism in this country is to send military officers on secondment to the Nigeria Police to cause a critical re-ordering of the rules of engagement in the force. It is only when that is done that the Nigerian Police can have the expertise and the technical know-how to handle the issue at hand”.
Bold suggestion, this is, of course! But even man-in-the-street opinion corroborates Oluwo’s assertions by adding that the machinery of the entire police needs a total overhauling and strategic strengthening if it must live up to the expectation in the present homeland security realities, adding that this is not best done when other agencies like the mobile army are barred from strategically assisting the conventional police force in arresting the monster.
Talking to Daily Champion on the state of insecurity in Nigeria at 51, social commentator, Prince Kunle Oluwo said, “Our country is doomed, Nigeria is in trouble because at 51 she is witnessing the highest level of unpatriotic activities since independence. Not even during the 30-month civil war that ended some 40 years ago did she witness the kind of guerrilla attacks and armed insurgency that she is witnessing today; and even the authorities seem quite incapable to call the terrorist bets. I sincerely think that our security agencies failed us in this regard.”
Oluwo said that to make matters worse the country’s infrastructure of peace, this time, the police organization is no march to the technical pre-eminence of the terrorist groups nor the traditional predominance of their volunteers. He said that as a result what we are witnessing is the obvious emergence of hyperterrocracy in which the masses of this country would be hopelessly defeated through the institution of a gangland regime.
Oluwo who is also chairman and chief executive officer of Agenda for Better, Prosperous and Sustainable Nigeria (ABPSN) said that unless urgent measures are taken now to overhaul the security apparatuses of this country, it is most likely that masked men would someday launch a nuclear attack on the citizenry wherein everyone would burn to cinders.
The question is, can Oluwo be right in his submission? Or is he just one of those pessimistic Nigerians who never thought that Nigeria could ever attain the old-age of 51? On the other hand, what are the authorities doing to contain the situation? Or are the functionaries just folding their arms and watching while the serenity of the country is being twisted out of shape?
Of course, they are not. For example, realizing the grave dangers of overrunning the Nigerian people through a terrorist network, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of this country, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan addressing the military community during the commissioning of the ultramodern office complex of the Military Pensions Board in May last year directed the country’s mobile army to assist the civil police in their internal security delivery efforts. Jonathan noted that the security challenges in the country, at the time, had been somewhat pitched far above the capacity of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and so, thought that the Nigerian Army could be of immense help.
Hence, typical of a father-figure, Jonathan said, “The essence of armed forces in any country is not just to ward off external aggression but also to assist the country’s police organization defend the country from the onslaughts of its internal enemies. Just of late, Nigerians are now living in fear not of external invasion but of internal aggression. Because of the grave implication of this trend in our midst, the fight against terorism should not be left to the police alone. I therefore feel very obliged to direct the Nigerian Army to assist the Police in safeguarding the sanctity of this nation.
“On the other hand, I will make sure that the benefits and allowances of officers and men of the army and the police are paid as and when due. This is because this class of people comprise men and women who keep awake so that the rest of Nigerians can go to sleep”.
Those were the words of a president who has the people’s mandate to direct the affairs of state and the destiny of man; one on whose shoulders the job of securing the lives and property of people in this country squarely rests. But the question is, should soldiers truly be among those security operatives who keep awake so that the rest of us may sleep with both eyes closed?
Of course, without answering that question, it might be pertinent to note here that in sundry other places Nigerians have, before the presidential orders, described Jonathan as either smugly insensitive to the cries of the man-in-the-street regarding widespread guerrilla attacks or even grossly incapable of leading the masses. Yet others said he just did not know what to do about the terrorist onslaught. But is that the case?
One Ministry of Interior official who pleaded anonymity said, “The President has done well by inviting the army to help. At least, that shows that he knows the fighting strength of his army. He also knows that the army has the know-how to halt the terrorist phenomenon”.
However, following those presidential orders, army authorities swung in action and deployed large-scale soldiers to strategic places, albeit, cautiously. For example, Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen Onyeabor Azubuike Ihejirika fielding questions from journalists on how far he had carried out President Jonathan’s directives to assist the police and other civil security agencies said, “So far, since Mr President has directed the Nigerian Army to assist other security agencies to stem the rising wave of crimes and criminality in the country, I wasted no time, after assuming office, to use the soldiers to arrest the incidences of kidnapping in the South-East zone. Of course, it was not easy for me because I was also cautious not to use the full machinery of the fighting force in the process or else innocent people would suffer.
“You see, the reason why violence like the Boko Haram insurrection has proved a bit difficult to handle is because members of this sect live and move among the people. They live next door to law-abiding citizens who might suffer if the army decides to apply maximum force against the sect. Of course, because of the on-going attitude change programme in the service, soldiers have learned not to go full-blast in handling intractable social crisis like the Boko Harm sectarian violence despite the enormous technical capabilities of the service. I must tell you that members of that group are cowards for hiding amongst law-abiding civilians to wreck havoc in some states of this country”.