For Western nations, holding elections to restore democracy in Mali is an end, but the prospects of a successful election in the Sahel country is bleak. The country remains divided and the insurgents in Northern Mali remain active.
The second part of the Vanguard Conference focuses on the reconstruction of the polity in Mali, the role of AFISMA and the presence of US drone center in neighbouring Niger Republic.
To discuss issues are: Professor Ogaba Oche, Director of Research and Studies at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, Lagos; Associate Professor, Victor Ariole, Lecturer at the Department of Modern European Languages, University of Lagos; and Associate Professor , Fred Aja Agwu, Senior Research Fellow at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, Lagos.
They are joined by the Vanguard Conference Hall team led by Foreign Affairs Editor, Hugo Odiogor, Kunle Kalejaye and Mrs. Nkiruka Nnorom, both of the Business Desk of Vanguard Newspaper, Lagos. Excerpts:
What should be the strategy for curtailing terrorism in West Africa and in Nigeria?
Prof Ariole: Like our people use to say that: “When a tree falls on a fence, you have to remove the tree before you can rebuild the fence.” Boko Haram is like a fence and Al-Qaeda is like the tree that has fallen on Boko-Haram, which means Boko-Haram to us, is just a small thing, but it has truly gone international and there is nothing wrong in collaborating with all international forces that is against Al-Qaeda and the rest terrorist group, to really brace and exterminate these international terrorist organization.
Nigeria has to prove that she is a regional power, if not anything, but by its sheer seize going by statistics, it has been argued that every one person in West African is a Nigerian, so Nigeria should be more concerned about the security in West Africa.
When the government in Sierra-Leone removed illegally by some military forces, we went there and restored the democratic process it worked and people applauded Nigeria for that. The Liberian case did not work very well because it had the ECOMOG dimension. And recently with Mali Ivorien President Alhassan Ouattara happened to be the president of ECOWAS at the time and President Boni Yayi OF Benin republic, happened to be the president of African Union, at the time all these things were happening. They had different views on how to settle the issue of Mali.
Nigeria was only supportive so that the hegemony of Nigeria as acclaimed by others, will not be seen as getting the forces in Mali out and Nigeria played down a little.
Nigeria should have the attitude of collaborating with international forces like NATO and ensure that there is stability in West Africa. We should also agree that African countries must be democratized and any country in West Africa that is not democratized should be fought against so that nobody comes with the military attitude from behind and take over any country in West Africa.
Therefore, Nigeria should be able to collaborate with any international forces to be able to eliminate these terrorist groups in West Africa, before we can start to talk about how we can control the internal ones like Boko-Haram and other groups in Africa.
As a regional power, it will be ideal for Nigeria not to be antagonist with any foreign power that wants to help in stabilizing West Africa, be it NATO, France etc. Our people are completely down, we are not economically empowered and we need to be empowered economically, before we can think right. The European countries have been able to provide basic needs for their people that is why the people can die for their country. An American can die for his country because they have been brought up to go beyond the physiological means. Economically they can say that they are stable.
Empowering the majority
This is what Africa should be pursuing, that is how to empower majority of the 900 million Africans to be somewhere economically, to be stable and empower not using our resources to buy security gadgets which we don’t produces.
Taking the right dimension in solving our own internal problem
Prof. Oche: The media is awash with recommendations but what I think is lacking at the level of governance and leadership is the holistic perspective of this country both within and outside.
For example, in the recent past some international organizations and NGOs rest have been trying to canvass this perspective of human security as opposed to militaristic approach because it gives a more holistic picture of affairs and it enable policy makers and implementators to understand issues in their inter-related perspective and not just from a state centric perspective.
I think to a large extent that is lacking the level of leadership. The problem of terrorism feeds on problems of poverty, large scale poverty, and I do not think leadership has a proper grasp of the security issues, they do not understand in my own thinking, its complex interaction with the national interest, that is what constitute Nigeria national interest. It is important for them to have a proper grasp of this.
We spoke about the competing narratives that feed the whole process of militancy and extremism, it is something at the level of leadership, they need to understand and evolve policy that can tackle it.
For instance, with respect to terrorism, I spent a lot of time in northern Nigeria and I know for a fact that a lot of extremist and inflammatory Islamic ideas are preached in mosques, especially on Fridays and we do not see security forces trying to oppose this or trying to control this. I think from my own understanding, it is important for them to come down to basics and combat some of these problems. Let them tackle them forcefully, it important that our leaders get to the grasp of the issues and face them as they should.
For instance, people say that Boko-Haram is a ghost and faceless while others are contending that they are not.
Some of these people know they are and they operate at the highest level of our society and yet they seems to operate as untouchable. Why is that the case?
So, how do we get out of this mess?
Prof. Agwu: I think we should build a nation first, because if you have no nation, not in the sense of everybody thinking in the way of our differences, but our differences should exist, but it must be functional, there must be differences that complement one another.
We should a nation, build a national capability. How do you build such national power? You must build institutions which are political institutions, economic institutions. These are institutions that are inclusive, they are institutions that should alienate because today some of these institutions alienate particularly within the context to what we regard as affiliate action, federal character, state of origin.
These are things that are destructive rather than constructive. They make people feel that that they are not part of the Nigeria project and the moment that there are people that are alienated, they are not satisfied, the moment that there is discontent, you will see that our society will be receptive to terror.
If you think that Nigeria is not there for you or that you are not part of it, therefore it is is for some people, then you will be receptive to ideas and actions that will sabotage the Nigerian nation. So, national capability is not just in material terms, but also a physiological terms. People must have a sense of belonging to the extent that if you see somebody planning to throw a bomb somewhere, you will say that this is not the right thing to do. But the moment your society is receptive to terror because of alienation, because of lack of institutions that are inclusive enough, then there is no way you will make any headway in fighting terror.
For instance when the 9/11 incident that happened, it is on record that in some part of these country. Some people were jubilating and it is that sense of identification with terror that has led to the ability of Boko-Haram to have a foothold, for them to receive the message of the Al-Qaeda. It is that reason that made it possible for our own Abdultalab to be initiated into this.
When he was court in the United States over the attempt to blow off Delta air plane, there was no remorse at all and there are many of them like that. In fact, research has shown that for a very long time that there had been warnings that Nigeria was a soft belly for terror that it was only a matter of time for terror to take hold in Nigeria and that is what is happening now in the name of Boko-Haram.
Boko-Haram is a phenomenal that we cannot under estimate because it has international linkages not just with Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb but Al-Shaba in Somalia. There is synergy between all of them, a triangular synergy. For us to combat this, we must build a nation where everybody will have a sense of belonging, a nation where everybody will not feel alienated. But must abolished those dysfunctional institutions like that the so called affirmative action in the federal character, in the state of origin thing which has made of citizen thing irrelevant because even though you are a citizen, if you find yourself in a place that you are not an indigene, that none indigeneship will over ride your citizenship and you will not have any stake in the Nigeria project and so anything goes.
What do you think is working against our attempt to build a strong sate and the fragmentations that we have in those who run the affairs of state?
Prof Ariole : In 2009, I was in Maiduguri and what I experienced was not pleasant . In the day time, you have filling stations that won’t sell fuel in filling stations in Maiduguri. Fuel is sold on the road in Jerry cans. They will tell you that the Emir told them to sell fuel on the road. If you ask the taxi man that is carrying you, he will tell the same thing; that the Emir told them to sell fuel on the road side. This means that the government there is a parallel government.
We claim to have a federal government but in some areas, the state governments are not really functional because there are parallel governments functioning within the state. I was also in Sokoto and I could not find one single newspaper to read because they said there are certain kind of newspapers should not be read.
These are issues that disturb Nigeria in reality, state governments that have been voted in by the people are not really in power, other government that we don’t know, are really in power. Like the case of Bornu, the clear issue is that the Emir is the person in power.
May be it is time we start to think about confederation, that will allow each state to function effectively. In Nigeria, we don’t know what we are operating, whether it is confederation or something else, but we have Emirs ruling in some of the northern states. We have to re-establish the fact that we have a state government that is effective as against hidden governments, not known to others. People should know who is really ruling them is it the Emir or the state government that is elected. So we have to think of having a confederation.