Independence Day: National Security And Fight Against Insurgency

The Government needs to avoid the temptation of treating opposition groups as enemies of the nation.
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By Benjamin Bagale

National Security And Fight Against Insurgency

October first 2021 Nigerians will celebrate sixty-one years of independence and as usual one of the topical and vexed issues that will feature prominently and dominate their discussions is the security of the nation and the fight against insurgency. The focus can’t be avoided given the dimension and intensity of insecurity in the country. The question is what brought about the problem? Who is responsible?

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.

Certainly, years of insecurity has caused enormous damage and setback to the nation. For instance, the Borno State governor speaking recently disclosed that over one hundred thousand lives were lost to insurgency in the state and this figure does not include other states in the northeast sub region. Total lives lost across the country can’t be easily determined.

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.

As earlier noted, blames are always put on successive federal leaders for lack of sufficient political will and ability to tackle insurgency. The ability of the nation’s armed forces has also been questioned. Answers are always blames and counter blames by the opposition parties and the sitting government. The security forces on the other hand have put the blame of their inability to combat and end terrorism to lack of adequate funding.

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 Nigeria’s territory that is well known to government and security forces while ransoms are negotiated and paid for their release clearly confirms the authority’s weakness or alleged complicity in the drama.

Nigerians are anxious to know who are the negotiators and recipients of the ransoms which now runs into billions of naira. They want to know why the bandits and kidnappers who live in familiar locations within the country, as being reported, have increasingly become more daring, fearless, aggressive and assertive in their demands? Why they now demand and collect not only ransoms but also food items from the helpless aggrieved parents of kidnapped students? Why do they not fear the presence of security forces?

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.

The government has denied the unfortunate insinuation but the truth is that practical events can’t be easily brushed off from the minds of people.
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? Let’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 nation’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.

The Nigerian army may be having challenges but it is not weak as the bandits think. Now that it has done the right thing by responding appropriately to the lawlessness of bandits, Nigerians are happy and anxiously waiting for tougher actions that will free them from incessant attacks, abductions and payment of ransoms.

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.

This is the true nature of insurgents. We may think we are wining the war against them, based on the recent surrender and confession of some of their members, but like all extremists they have their plan. They are dogged, strong and ever optimistic of victory even in the last hour. They know that a strong and superior force could be fought, weakened or brought down by fully exploiting its weakness.

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.

Any plan or idea that has been tried for years without giving satisfactory result should be changed. The nation’s security architecture needs a rethink and an overhaul. The strategies of war against the insurgents and bandits should be re-examined with the aim of making them more vibrant, effective, workable and result oriented. Persistent complaints over poor funding, lack of fighting equipment, low morale and low fighting spirit among troops must be investigated and addressed appropriately.

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 don’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.

The Government needs to avoid the temptation of treating opposition groups as enemies of the nation. Their criticisms or disagreement with government over certain policies and decisions should not be seen as hostility or lack of patriotism but as their own contribution and ways of saying that the right things should be done in the best interest of the nation. Government and the opposition groups need each other as partners in progress, working together and fighting any body high or low known to be compromising the security of the nation.

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