Independence Day: National Security And Fight Against InsurgencyThe Government needs to avoid the temptation of treating opposition groups as enemies of the nation.
By Benjamin Bagale
Answers have always been blames and counter blames by the past and present leadership. Agreed, insurgency is not peculiar to Nigeria but a pandemic phenomenon. However, most opinions are that Nigeria would not have found herself in the present situation if she has had good leadership. Weak, inept and corrupt leadership bred vices and therefore largely responsible for the security challenges being faced today. First, the nation passed through a gruesome and tragic civil war, spate of armed robberies on high ways and banks and now it is the reign of terror by Boko Haram, bandits, kidnappers, herders and other criminal gangs.
The activities of these groups have defied solutions as they continue to increase, spreading lawlessness, fear and death in the country. Residents of rural communities have become easy target as they are ruthlessly attacked, killed or abducted for ransom. Farmers are regularly killed while trying to protect their only means of livelihood. Endless violence has forced survivors to stop going to farms thereby resulting in food shortages.
Reports have shown that thousand of children who became orphans are now beggars in the streets. Lives of troops were lost while millions of people who flew their homes are now taking refuge in crowded internally displaced camps across the country and neighboring states. Over six million children are said to be out of school in the northern part of the country while more than six trillion naira so far spent on prosecuting war on insurgency was still considered grossly insufficient.
Analysts are of the opinion that it will take more than ten years under a serious and committed leadership and requiring hundreds of billion naira to rebuild the damaged infrastructure in the northeast alone. This is a big challenge to the federal government, Northeast Development Commission and the governors of the sub region.
Whatever the reasons maybe, it will be difficult for the government to exempt itself from blame. For instance, what defense or cogent reasons can it give to a situation where insurgents and bandits hold rural communities hostage, continue to invade schools with impunity without any serious resistance, abduct hundreds of students and force them to trek long distances for hours to some hideouts without challenge in this era of advanced technology? Such situation betrays all manner of human reasons and explanation.
The fact that virtually all the abducted students and other Nigerians are kept for weeks or months in Nigeriaâ€™s territory that is well known to government and security forces while ransoms are negotiated and paid for their release clearly confirms the authorityâ€™s weakness or alleged complicity in the drama.
Nigerians, who are victims of daily attacks are restless, angry and worried about the obvious lack of commitment to prevent loss of lives. They want to know how the aforementioned violence, dirty transactions and deals are being carried out without fingering any one of those involved. The continued silence or inability of authorities to give satisfactory explanations to the absurdities and dirty deals going on has heightened the fear and suspicion of Nigerians thereby making some of them and even foreign countries to believe and conclude that Nigeria is on the path of becoming a failed state.
The statement is harsh and unfair to the sitting government and the armed forces. Nigeria is our fatherland and heritage. We can express our concerns on events affecting her progress or mourn over them but should never rejoice over them.
Nigerians have been urged to rise up and defend themselves against terrorists. Agreed, they have the capacity to do something positive but the question is how? How can they defend themselves when the law forbids them owning and carrying firearms? Urging them to confront murderous gangs that are armed with sophisticated weapons tantamount to asking them commit suicide.
The other disturbing scenario in the war on insurgency is the feeling that if civilians are easy target of attacks by terrorists because they have no weapons to defend themselves then what should be said about the incessant successful attacks on some well protected military targets? Letâ€™s take the attack on Nigerian Defense Academy (NDA) as an example. Nigerians were shocked and gripped with fear over what happened because if a strong institution like the NDA could be easily attacked then it means no place is safe. The possibility that some Judases had a hand in the attack further compounded the fear, considering the rating, image and strategic position of NDA in the nationâ€™s defense.
Whenever I did something wrong when I was a small boy my father would reprimand me by saying that whosoever disturbs bees in their hives will not go without stings. That was his own way of legitimizing punishment on issues of crime and punishment. Whoever commits crime must be punished. Reports from the Nigerian army have lifted the hearts and hopes of Nigerians. They are happy that the bandits who under-estimated and dared the NDA have gotten more than stings. They got more than they deserved when the Nigerian army raided their hideouts. Many of them were killed, some surrendered or were arrested while others fled. This was the kind of tough actions Nigerians have for long time expected from the government.
It has been said that the best way to fight and defeat a strong enemy or opponent will be by having information on his strength and weakness. The Boko Haram insurgents are well aware of this fact. Unlike the bandits whose minds are ruled by the desire to make easy money, the Boko Haram are different because they are victims of indoctrination and massive propaganda. They are so ideologically brainwashed and blinded to the extent that they can hardly think and behave like rational human beings. Like most extremists around the globe, they believe they are in the service of God who has mandated them to reform the society that is bedeviled with evils. Consequently, any belief or idea that contradicts their own must be fought and destroyed.
They are so thorough at upholding the principles of their faith and mission that they never care to fight and die. This explains why they never hesitate or be scared to strap bombs on their bodies, walk into a crowd of people and blow off themselves into pieces and those around them.
Therefore, their surrender should never be a matter for jubilation but of serious thought as it could be a ploy. Minor security breaches or lapses at check points should never be allowed because they can be exploited by terrorists who are closely watching.
The way out of security challenges will require a committed collective action by Nigerians. First, leaders must demonstrate sufficient political will. They must be upright, sincere, serious and selfless in handling security matters. Secondly, the strength and sources of funds of the insurgents must be identified and sealed off and their collaborators fished out and punished.
Finally, the big-men and big-women culture which does not seem to be in conformity with laid down security rules should be looked into. This is because by being too much in a hurry in their daily activities they cause security breaches as they donâ€™t, most of the time, submit themselves to checks even at vital or exclusive security areas. They may hold the opinion that the breaches are too minor or insignificant to cause any security threat but they are wrong. They should not forget cases of terrorists who dressed like big men or top military officers, gained access into exclusive areas and caused mayhem. Therefore, nothing should be considered too minor, insignificant or be left to chance in matters of security.
As stated above, terrorists have painstakingly planned by using minor security breaches and lapses, gained access into restricted areas in some developed countries and then hit with maximum force causing widescale destruction. This kind of situation must be avoided at all cost.