OPINION  | Insurgency & Banditry: How Nigerian Military Can Win the Peace

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By Magnus Onyibe
For too long, concerned Nigerians have been expressing loss of faith in the security architecture of our country. The complainants justify their gripe with the fact that there has not been any time in the history of Nigeria, apart from the period preceding and during the civil war, that more human lives were lost owing to religious insurgence or violent herdsmen banditry currently being perpetrated across the country.
And the chaotic situation in the security architecture as reflected by the notion that the commander in chief of the armed forces of Nigeria, President Mohammadu Buhari may not be in charge of affairs, hence the various law enforcement and security arms of govt seem to be working at cross purposes, is now main stream.
The parlous security situation has degenerated to the extent that officers and men of the security apparatus – the army and police now openly engage in street brawl with each other as evidenced by a video showing men from both security agencies in a free for all fist fight that recently went viral in the social media.
When the recent tragic killing by the army of three police officers on assignment from the inspector general of police, IGP special squad in Taraba State is added, the fracture in the security architecture of our country comes into full relief.
Whereas the earlier referenced confrontation between the army and police in Taraba State, which is now the subject of a high level military investigation was deadly, thankfully the face-off between both parties on a street in lagos did not go beyond fist cuffs, despite the fact that both parties were fully armed.
Had the fracas degenerated into the exchange of gun shots as was the case in the Taraba state incident, perhaps collateral damages such as civilians, being caught in the cross fire, might have been inevitable.
To be fair, friendly fires, which are incidents whereby members of the military mistakenly open fire on, and kill other officers fighting on same side in a war theatre, is nothing new. More often than not, accidental discharge, as the name suggests, is usually not intentional. But that is not the case with Nigerian security forces recent show of shame whereby an army officer or officers allegedly deliberately shot dead three police officers on duty to arrest a suspected kidnap kingpin.
Clearly, that avoidable tragedy is a further testimony to the suspicion that our country’s security architecture has not only cracked, but in the verge of collapse.
If the findings of the preliminary investigations now in the public arena turn out to be the case, what can be more shameful than the discovery that an army officer or officers at a security check point could ‘cut’ a deal with a kidnap kingpin that would result in the shooting to death of comrades in arm?
What the incidents above indicate is not just the escalation of the dissonance in the security hierarchy, but it reflects a descent of the decadence from the corridors of power in Aso Rock villa to the streets.
In an article titled “Is Nigerian Security Architecture Degenerating into a Mess?” which l wrote in December 2017 and published widely on the back page of THISDAY newspaper, Daily Trust and also widely circulated in other mainline and social media platforms, l made a case that the discordant notes emanating from our country’s security agencies is an ill wind that bodes no good, and the nation’s security and intelligence system needed to be rejigged with those at the helm of affairs replaced.
Almost two years after, only the IGP has been given the marching order with the rest of the service chiefs still in their roles.
I had also expressed the view that it won’t be a show of weakness, but a sign of patriotism, if the current service chiefs voluntarily stepped aside for the younger and more savvy/pragmatic officers with experience in asymmetric warfare ( the dimension that terrorism and separatism have now assumed ) to take charge of the command and control of the fight. That would be a counter poise to the brick and mortar style that the current crop of leaders are more adept at and which has rendered futile,our country’s effort at quelling the religious insurgency in the north and halting separatist movements in the south east.
As former President Barack Obama, of the United States of America, USA in 2014 famously stated, (while justifying his policy of not starting more wars across the world, but rather winding up the wars started by his predecessors)
“Just because you have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail”
The immediate past president of the USA was actually paraphrasing the American philosopher, Abraham Kaplan, who in October 1964 published an article in ‘The Library Quarterly’ in which he argued that we often apply the skill that we are most adept at in solving all problems even though some may require a different skill set or approach.
Here is how Kaplan the author of ‘The Conduct of Enquiry: Methodology for Behavioral Science’ put it.
“We tend to formulate our problems in such a way as to make it seem that the solutions to those problems demand precisely what we already happen to have at hand. With respect to the conduct of inquiry, and especially in behavioral science, I label this effect “the law of the instrument.” The simplest formulation I know of the law of the instrument runs this way: give a small boy a hammer and it will turn out that everything he encounters needs pounding”
Abraham Maslow, the American psychologist known for creating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self actualization, has a more practical view of “The law of the instrument”.
In 1966, he illustrated it thus:”I remember seeing an elaborate and complicated automatic washing machine for automobiles that did a beautiful job of washing them. But it could do only that, and everything else that got into its clutches was treated as if it were an automobile to be washed. I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail”
Drawing from the insightful lessons from the renown psychologists and philosophers cited above , it appears as if those at the helm of affairs in our security landscape may be under the influence of the “Law of the instrument”.
That is probably why they have been applying only military solutions, of which they are experts , in trying to solve socioeconomic problems in the polity -dissent/upheavals, which are intrinsic part of democracies and of which the average military man is a novice.
Perhaps that is also the reason not much success has been recorded despite the best effort of President Buhari to fulfill his promise to end the insecurity of lives and properties, a cardinal part of his three point agenda when he was campaigning for office of the president in 2015.
The war mongering mindset of the current security apparatchik is reminiscent of the strategy applied in dealing with the insecurity arising from ethnic and environmental rights activism in the Niger Delta by the late military head of state, General Sani Abacha, and which Olusegun Obasanjo continued to pursue even as president in a democratic setting, until President Umaru Yar’Adua of blessed memory changed the paradigm to social re-engineering, which Goodluck Jonathan sustained until 2015 when the current govt took over.
Now, has anyone noticed that insecurity of the hue of religious insurgency, separatist agitation and herdsmen banditry in our country worsened under the watch of Generals, Olusegun Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari who are retired generals that believe more in the language of force and bullets as opposed to dialogue as the bulwark and hallmark of democracy?
Don’t take my word for it. Go ahead, conduct a trend analysis and the statistics will reveal the state of the nation (security and safety wise) under Yar’adua and Jonathan compared to Obasanjo and and Buhari reign.
Without further equivocation , l would like to argue that social engineering which has proven to be efficacious as evidenced by the success of the Amnesty program in the Niger Delta region, should be adopted as a possible solution to the south east separatist agitation and north east religious insurgency/ herdsmen banditry.
The root causes of the social upheavals in the aforementioned zones lie in the injustices perceived to have been done to the protagonists.
From experience as a social scientist , l’m convinced that if govt authorities address the underlying issues, the aggrieved members of society engaged in deviant behaviors would be assuaged and tension would ebb, while other palliatives can follow to build the peace as is currently being done in the Niger delta. And most of the causes of the resentments, in my considered opinion, don’t go beyond the feeling of being left behind socially or economically by govt.
Yes, there may be a few die-hard malcontents who may be unyielding, but they can be isolated and dealt with within the ambits of the laws of the land.
At a critical period like now when science and technology is being taken advantage of by countries all of the world in order to get ahead, and leaders are pushing frontiers of commerce and industry in order to offer compatriots better standards of living, in Nigeria billions of dollars are being expended in the prosecution of the war against religious insurgency and other mundane inanities such as location of RUGA-cattle settlements across the country.
For instance, it is at least in the public domain that $2.1b (so called Dasukigate money) was appropriated for fighting Boko haram under Jonathan’s regime and another $1b was recently allocated for the procurement of armaments for prosecuting the war against terrorists by the incumbent govt.
Such princely sums of money in excess of $3b could have been better applied towards fixing our dilapidated roads, ill equipped schools , inadequate housing, and sub standard healthcare facilities which represent the main infrastructure gaps in our society.
It goes without saying that the above mentioned socioeconomic draw backs need to be set aright to speedily to enable Nigeria take its well deserved pre-eminent position in the comity of nations based on her size as the most populous in Africa and also being very well endowed with natural resources by Mother Nature.
For too long our country has been punching below its weight owing to what can best be described as leadership lethargy and inertia which is unacceptable .
At the worse, let both force and moral suasion be applied pari-pasu, in pursuit of restoration of peace and security in our country. But most importantly, our political leaders must start thinking out of the box for solutions to the myriad of challenges.
The assertion above is underscored by the fact that when the only approach to dealing with dissent in the society by the authorities is by literarily clobbering contrarians through arrests and other jackboot tactics with the intention to silence them,one thing the masses should know is that it is not only the dissenters that are being arrested, but peace, progress and development are also being arrested in our country.
*Onyibe, a development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and a former commissioner in Delta State Govt, sent this piece from Abuja.
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