Saturday, June 1, 2019 12:58 pm
A Political Scientist and former Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic, University of Ibadan, PROFESSOR ADIGUN AGBAJE spoke with GBENRO ADESINA about the failure of the Nigerian Government to secure its citizens from terrorists of various kinds, establishing that there is no place in Nigeria that is insulated from the attacks of terrorists
Q: What is your assessment of the security situation in Nigeria?
It’s mind boggling. It is very scary in terms of the level, intensity and the complexities. This is a very unbelievably dangerous situation in which Nigeria has found itself. It is as if virtually the whole country is about to explode. Virtually nowhere is safe anymore. It is something that requires extremely urgent attention. Unfortunately, we don’t get the sense that those in policy are aware of the enormity of the security challenge that this country faces. It heightened in the last couple of years but the tendency had always been there. It is just that it was contained in pockets of insecurity. Even the oases that used to be there about eight years ago are under threat. We can say that there is virtually nowhere now that is really safe at tolerable level of insecurity. Insecurity is part of life but it must be contained at tolerable level, a normal level. What we have is extremely abnormal.
You said that the tendency had always been there. Can we trace that tendency to the period of independence?
Absolutely. Even before independence, because we always have a tendency to romanticize the past. The challenges had always been there even before independence; partly political, partly the fall out of trying to craft out a genuinely Pan-Nigerian vision. Even under colonial rule, partly because of the insufficiencies of the institutions, of security, so to say because the primary goal of institutions was to serve as the instrument of colonial enterprise. They were not rooted in the social, cultural firmaments of the emerging nation as it was then. So, we have always had forms of banditry, political chicanery and misspent elements of social dislocations. But all these became multiplied as we moved into independence, and of course, decades down the line.
Nigeria’s story is a story of decline: institutional decline, moral decline, decline in law and order, decline in the quality of leadership, decline in the quality of governance, decline in the quality of leaders and all of that compounds to provide the right kind of alchemy, the right kind of environment for instability to fester. That is what we have had. Of course, we can always look back and say, it wasn’t always like this but we went into civil war as a result of our inability to negotiate our way out of unstable situations that we found ourselves in the First Republic. Now that there is a general sense of breakdown, there is rural banditry, you can think about all kinds of bands of vagabonds, you can talk about the typical criminal gangs, you can talk about the Boko Haram type of insurgents and you can talk about all kinds of groups including kidnappers. It is as if this is an open sesame on the stability of Nigeria and also on the safety and order of the Nigerian society. Unfortunately, it is open sesame for those who create all these instabilities and insecurities.
But it seems to be close sesame for those who are supposed to innovate, to ensure that all of these insecurities are addressed. As somebody has said, “there is no government, when it comes to insecurity”. I mean, it is scandalous. The major road that links the Federal Capital Territory to the North Western part of Nigeria, one of the most important roads in Nigeria, is literally no longer safe. Just about 12 years down the line, when I was in the administration at the University of Ibadan, I used to travel that road almost all the time. I used to travel Ibadan-Abuja because I love to travel by road. I never felt insecure then. Now to do that is to be suicidal. This is the reality that we now face, that it is no longer slowly, but steadily, we are entering the realm of anomie. And you don’t find critical elements of governance that are important to address this very important problem. Like I said, the whole country is just exploding or imploding. Whichever one is happening, nobody feels safe anymore.
Why is President Muhammadu Buhari, with his military experience, unable to tackle the ravaging insecurity in Nigeria?
First, I think there is a mismatch of strategy. The military solution alone can’t provide security. The military solution can secure sovereignty vis-à-vis other countries, but at the end of the day, it is not designed to ensure security or to address insecurity. It is not about individual, whether you have military training or you don’t have military training. As we have seen over the years, you can’t say that heads of state with military background have performed better. You have to look at the whole complex of challenges and inefficiencies and also the propelling factors. Now, there is rural banditry. How do you handle rural banditry whether in terms of kidnappers, in terms of herders/farmers fighting and so on? The challenge of rural banditry is that most of our rural areas are not accessible. And I am talking about rural areas on land, and on water. If you’ve travelled the Niger Delta, you’ll understand what I’m talking about, in terms of rural banditry on the waters and of course, militancy.
So, the issue of access is a major one. I had my first introduction to the Niger Delta around 1989/90. We were doing consultancy work for some oil companies, so we had privilege access. I wonder how these people vote there. How does the result get announced? Because there is virtually no access. We had access using helicopters, modern boats of oil companies, but you see a string of settlements down Forcados, down the Warri River to Forcados and maybe they say private boats come once a week. These settlements are isolated. So, they are sitting docks for rural banditry. And ditto for land, I was in the Federal Capital Territory, again early 90s, doing some research. I am told that that also hasn’t changed. There are places in the Federal Capital Territory that you can’t access unless you have real four wheels, not the fake four wheelers. So, issue of access is important. It also means that the hands of the state can’t even reach there effectively. You have rampaging poverty, you have the whole issue of the decline in values, social orders and you have the drifting youth, who are not anchored on anything positive, not as a result of what they have done but as a result of the environment in which they have grown up. These are all beyond individuals.
You have institutions, as I have said that continue to decline in effectiveness. Institutions are there, the shells are there, the form is there, but the substance is literary gone. My father was a police officer in the First Republic. He was a very respectable person. He had the instrument. As a police officer in the 60s, he had a telephone that we used to play with. Now compare the police at that time to the police of this time. Like I said the form is there. At times, people are not sure who the sources of insecurity are. Is it all those bands or is it all those police that are supposed to address insecurity? So, it goes beyond the person of the president and the experience of the president. But that is not to say that the president should not bear responsibility. I emphasize the fact that it goes beyond the person; when you are head of state, affairs of the state have to be handled with the high sense of responsibility by yourself. You have all the instrumentalities.
You can consult but all you need to do is provide leadership to review the situation because at the end of the day, it is the president that carries the can and he must show a high level of responsibility. Unfortunately, what we have had doesn’t underscore anything to the contrary. It doesn’t show that this president understands the enormity of the challenge or that if he does understand the enormity of the challenge, he is unable or incapable of addressing this challenge in short, medium and long terms. We need to again have a logical sequence in terms of how we address it in the short term. It is a military security situation. You must enforce and reinforce order. And then you begin to address all those issues of rural poverty, all those issue of youth unemployment, all those issue of the fall of social and moral orders, some of it traceable to the elites and their malfeasances. Those are the challenges.
The fact that it goes beyond an individual doesn’t mean that there is no individual who bears the ultimate responsibility and that individual is the president, the governors and so on.
Do you subscribe to the theory that the Nigerian security challenge is a fall out of what happened or is happening in Northern Africa like Libya?
I agree. Of course, there is international connection. That was why I said that there are multiple levels of these challenge. Therefore, solution must also occur at multiple levels. In the rural areas, there is rural banditry; there is farmers/herders conflict over resources, just criminality. People just want to make money. There are some age long conflicts that are rebounding, some have religious tint, but they are not religious. So, it is complex. Much of what is happening now is happening among invisible Nigerians, who are the majority, who are in the rural areas and it is so easy to just kill people in the rural areas because the state is not there. The state gets to know after the fact and then it assures everybody and people have a false sense of security and then the slaughterers come back and kill more people. It is heinous. I wonder how our ruling elites are able to sleep. That is at the rural areas. Then you have the urban youth unemployment, massive explosion, millions out of school, on drugs, unemployed or being employed as thugs and being weaponised by political elites. And then the international dimension – pseudo religious but basically it is partly an attempt to build an empire. So you talk about ISIS, Maghreb and Sahel, it is all about power at the end of the day.
That is why many religious leaders are saying this international menace is not religious or if it started as religious, it has gone beyond that. So when you talk about the challenges in the Maghreb and in the Sahel, but even beyond that, you have international networks because it is not limited to just a particular religion. It covers all kinds of ideologies. Some of them race base, ethnic base and culturally base, and seeking influence in some of the softest parts of the world, which is where West Africa comes in. West Africa, Central Africa and Eastern Africa are the softest parts of the world. The drug lords are moving in massively, investing to use part of West Africa as staging post or even increasingly as factories because in a context of so much poverty, you give people in government a few thousand dollars.
For big countries such as Nigeria, the drug lords have the money to buy into the state apparatus. When you are talking about drugs, you are talking about arms and ammunitions, you talk about arms trade itself, you are talking about the loose arms from the Maghreb now being channeled into West Africa and other parts of Africa, complicating existing local divisions and sources of insecurity. Some of the reports we are getting from our fighting forces underscore the quality and quantum of arms that have entered Nigeria and are in the wrong hands: in the hands of militants, kidnappers, insurgents and of criminal bands both in urban and rural areas. There is that international connection. In fact, people are now focusing on how to address the international connection because to a large extent, a lot of resources that have been deployed in Nigeria and few other countries that have this challenge are sourced from external places. Of course, some from internal.
It provides ideological and material resources and at times training including training in communications and recruitments. That was why I said earlier, it is very hydra-headed. It has local level connection, it has national level connection, it has sub-regional level connection, it has regional continental connection and then global because now we are in the age in which people can speak to tens of millions of people on the internet. We must never underrate the value of such communications, such network for local insecurity that we face.
Don’t you think that the configuration of Nigeria is responsible for the nation’s insecurity?
Let us move back a bit. What are the lessons from comparative experiences? Nigeria is a diverse country. Most countries in the world are diverse. Diversity is invariably part of the constitution, the making of the modern state system. It is just that some states’ system don’t highlight their own diversities. I remember in 1992, I was in UK, it was an election year. I could see clearly there was also tribalism in the UK but they don’t call it tribalism. It is difficult for a non-English person to be a prime minister of the UK. It was not directly a campaign issue but Labour Party lost partly because again, you have a hierarchy of tribes in the UK. Welsh have their own language. They are even reviving it. There are Scots, the Southern English and the Northern English. The Southern English sit at the top of the pecking order. It plays out. Now, I made that point because it is a question of what is the decision of the elites? Are the elites constructing crosscutting identities that mitigate the identities of the primordial nature, which is what ethnicity and religious identities tend to be?
Now, Somalia was a homogenous society and country. It has imploded because when people can’t find diversity, they create new ones. The country went down for being homogenous as a group, then they started building up clan identity, which is physically at the local level, because they spoke the same language, they had the same culture and everything, but then they look for diversity in a context of a failure of leadership, failure of governance. I will say the critical factor is the quality of the political elites. Look at what is happening in Rwanda now. The country imploded in 1994. Within 30 days, over a million killed in one of the worst forms of genocide. Look at what the new leadership has done. He has built a proud country bearing new form of identity, creating a new level of pride in the nation, not in the ethnic group, therefore mobilizing people along non-threatening identities. So, when you talk about ethnicity, it can be used to infer strengthening security and a sense of belonginess. But what we tend to do in Nigeria is to use such thing as ethnicity, religion to further divide ourselves as a people.
Of course, once you have differences, the differences can become a major negative factor, but it can also be a factor for ensuring democracy and development because you can build a very virile nation on the basis that are provided by all these divisions and all the differences. It is about the elites. It is about their vision or lack of vision. It is about whether they are strategic or selfish in the deployment of resources including cultural resources, because if you are just instrumentally negative about the deployment of cultural resources, then other people will also mobilise alongside cultural line and you have more divisions. But if you have inclusive governance, then you are building a very strong foundation for democracy development in the context of social justice and focus on ethics in national life.
The way Nigeria emerged is not the way America emerged in the sense that coming together of nations to form USA was voluntary unlike Nigeria, where it was a forced marriage. Do you think this is responsible for our peculiar problem leading to a failing state of Nigeria?
In a sense, you are right. Even in discussing our federalism, I don’t believe that Nigeria is a f
ederation. We are federation only in name. We all know that. The centre is too strong. And that is part of the challenge. How do you have an organic federation? One that is not even allowed to have developed of its own volition over time in an organic manner but one in which federation was imposed. So, you’re right. And the literature on federalism also underscores the fact that you have federation that are made through negotiation, through coming together and therefore emphasise a unity of purpose that develops over time. And you have federations that are literarily crafted through force. Yes, the ways in which the federations emerge differ. That is why for instance, in Switzerland, you have a federation that is very loose. So they have to rotate the central leadership. Of course, the right to secede is there and it is very easy. If you want to opt out, there is no problem, please opt out. But let us not overstate the issue. At the end of the day, the language of the coming together of America, much of it was through voluntary signing in, some of the territories were bought, one or two were actually conquered. But who are the people doing it? White adult males.
So when you talk about people in the crafting of American federation, the original, all those signatures were from male adult whites. There is also an exclusionary dimension and that is why when you talk about the diversities of America, now it is a kind of insecurity. Insecurity is a global phenomenon. The type of insecurity you have in America flows from the history of the making of America, the fact that minorities, women, non- white were not really part of it. I have travelled by roads in America. I have been in parts that I felt totally unsafe. Some of them have not even seen black faces before. In part of America’s history, there is reality of an insular people. So, the kind of insecurity you have in America will be tinted by colour. You don’t have common citizenship. That is also part of the problem we have in Nigeria. In Nigeria, we don’t have common citizenship.
People tend to take the Nigeria citizenship as less important as other forms of citizenship. But all of that is also imploding. People say that the insecurity in the North West until recently did not get enough attention because it was basically Muslims versus Muslims, Fulani versus Fulani. It is basically criminal bands. And that is why in looking for solutions, we must fully understand that the solution for Borno may not be the solution for Zamfara, and may not be the same solution for Kogi State. We must look at the specifics of each instance. Western Nigeria has been an oasis over time. But now first, people started talking about heighten insecurity from Owo to the North. Now they are talking about insecurity between Gbongan-Osogbo-ife-Ibadan.
That was why I said the whole country is now on hedge. Now kidnapping is going on. Fulani herdsmen/farmer conflicts are going on and it is now spreading to everywhere. You must understand the specifics. Just as I tell people that it is not just to talk about democracy in Nigeria, but the requirements for meaningful democracy.
The requirements for meaningful democracy in Lagos are different from that of Calabar, that of Calabar are different from Sokoto. This must be understood. Of course there are basic fundamentals but beyond that there are other fundamentals that we need to get right. Otherwise, insecurity will remain. Common to all of these is an elite that is strategic, that really understands his role and his fortunes, understand that if insecurity is not addressed and if democracy is not meaningfully installed in Nigeria, that elite is putting himself at risk because the only way the elite can historically remain relevant is that he tackles the issues of insecurity, tackles the challenges for democracy and for federalism in order to build a better future secured not only for the Nigerian people but also for the hegemonic interest of the elite. What has been discovered is that when elites are too focused on power and therefore reduce everything else to fiduciary of power, that is an instrument for seeking, nurturing and promoting their own power, what they are doing is that they are chipping away at their own legitimacy because the more the power they accrued to themselves by all means necessarily the more their own legitimacy becomes questionable.
In other words, the argument is that the more you seek to totalize power and to promote power over and above every other consideration, without any fear or as to the limit to which power mongering should be done, either for security, for democracy, for development, then the more you totalize power, the more you are weakening yourself. I think the Nigerian elites have not come to term with this because at the centre of all of this insecurity, it is the Nigerian elites, the power elites directly or indirectly, whether you are talking about Boko Haram, insurgency, Fulani/herdsmen. Look at the story of Zamfara. We understand that part of the origin was that at a point the governor was inviting business people, possibly his friends. He gave them virtually all the land, the farmers were pushed out, the herdsmen could not find grazing land, then land hunger, banditry, at the end of it all when you talk about poverty, most of these insecurity put our agricultural system at risk. The majority of farmers, whether small scale or large scale, no longer feel free to go to farm.
You can’t farm when your people are being kidnapped all the time or your women are been raped and killed. That is why I said we need to first educate the power elites. Unfortunately, they think they are sophisticated but they are illiterates in the husbandry of power. The kind that Machiavell will talk about. How do you hold on to power without being seen as actually holding on to power? How do you give others what is required for you to hold on to power? Even if you are going to hold on to power, you have to do so in a manner that certain things are guaranteed. The moment life is no longer guaranteed, then your hold on power can’t be guaranteed.
South West was formerly regarded as a safe region but the nature of the insecurity in the North is now present in the West. Fulanis now unleash terror in the West by kidnapping, killing farmers and committing all kinds of heinous atrocities. What is your assessment of the security situation in the West?
The point is that we have to learn to use our brains. We have to learn from history. We have to learn from experiences. You have oasis of peace in the midst of devastation or conflicts. So you have small pockets of peace. Those pockets are bound to disappear unless you begin to expand the spaces for peace and to address the whole issue of insecurity and conflict. Peace is indivisible in time and in space. Jos was peaceful until 2001. I remember having a workshop there in January 2001 and all of us, from all over the country were saying wow Jos is peaceful. Look at it. The Northern elites were bringing their families to Jos to settle down. Then a few months later, Jos exploded. So peace is indivisible across time and also across space. If you can’t guarantee peace in a substantive manner all over the place, then those oases are also bound to become subsumed under violence and insecurity. You are surrounded by conflict, insecurity, you will be safe and secured for a while before the kidnappers and bandits find ways to breach your security.
The lesson therefore, is that the leaders in the South West have to redouble efforts and continue to secure the little security that the West has. Also, work or encourage innovative thinking at the national level and also with regards to the states that surround the South West but basically at the national level to ensure that we understand the civic elements of all of these. This is not about religion, poverty, ethnicity, power elites and international connections. It is a mix of all of these. In the process of mixing, there is transformation of each of those contributing factors and so we have to get a sense of the specific reality of Nigeria and the specific reality of different parts of Nigeria so that we don’t say that a size fits all.
It may be easy to say North East and Boko Haram, but don’t forget there was a time Boko Haram was already in Kogi State and was in fact knocking on Ebonyi and Enugu and also in the North West. So we need to understand that these things are indivisible. Once they are in a local government, they can be all over the country but nonetheless, look at the specifics. What is the dominant form? What are the other forms of insecurity? As we move from the North East to the North West to the North Central to the South-South to the South East to South West, then we can now have a comprehensive solution that addresses short term, medium term and long term.
How do you feel seeing terrorists repeatedly attacking, destroying a whole town or village, burning down a whole village and town, boastfully saying they will always come back and the government can’t do anything?
The government can do something but they have not been able to do anything partly because the kind of understanding is not there, the kind of sustained attention, the kind of commitment. As I said, the security challenge doesn’t require military solution alone. As it is now, Nigeria’s sovereignty is literarily disappearing. As others have said, one of the most fascinating definitions of the state is that organization that is able to have a monopoly of legitimate use of violence. Now, can we say the same of Nigeria? It is very difficult. First, you have to secure much of that monopoly. You have to get it back and then you can begin to address the millions of children that are out of school and the poverty that is ravaging the country. Most of us who are honest Nigerians, no matter our status, are poor. When we were growing up with virtually parents not literate in English, we had the best of education. Now middle class families can’t even afford good schools.
Most of the school system has collapsed, most of the health system has collapsed, and our transport system has collapsed. It is important to make this point; mobility is at the heart of modern state, especially the state system. I mentioned about Federal Capital Territory Area not being accessible. It is not just the South-South places. Now, how much of our road system is still in existence? If we are talking about military solution, do we have a transport infrastructure that can deliver military solution? How many of our roads can take military hardware if they have to move fast by road?
In the best of time, most of our roads are not even built to take heavy military equipment. We are not a country that is mobile. Thank God we have not had external attack and that is also partly why people have to understand that our military operate with much of their hands tied. If you can’t move say between Lokoja and Okene fast enough whether it is military or police because of the bad roads, then there is a big problem. Again, we don’t have airports all over the place and many of the airports we have can’t allow heavy military aircraft to land. These are basics and that is why we have to tackle all of these. How do we minimize corruption to ensure that monies meant for health, for infrastructure, for education, for security actually get to where they are supposed to? That we have children that are not kwashiorkored, children whose lives are already mortgaged right from birth? Workers that don’t earn enough to be able to feed their families and send them to school will close their eyes when their children start marauding all over the place.
I get a sense that the Nigerian power elites, the political elites as we have them now, don’t have time for those things that matter to Nigerians, those things that can actually guarantee security. How do we make them to have time? We have to close those comfortable places that they surround themselves with. In any country in the world, when you leave the elites to their own whims and caprices, they will be irresponsible. Look at what politicians are all doing. National Assembly, State Assemblies, governors have security votes of billions, hundreds of billions. If you were to give Americans space to do that kind of things, they will also mess up. I remember early 90s, we were having a meeting in Abuja and an American colleague asked, “Are you saying that if an American General knows he can do a coup and get away with it, you think he will not do it?” That is it. We need to close those spaces.
So the followers also have problems, right?
In a sense, but I don’t like blaming victims because followers are more of victims. You need a very significant rupturing of the elites so that those that are intelligent can see that even as elites they need to give up some things in other to better secure their hold on power. When a mass rage comes, elite will be the first target. A former head of state said this to us in a private meeting that, “look, I drive around and I feel a sense of vulnerability that I didn’t feel before”, and this was around 2008. “I feel vulnerable. I feel that if something should break now, we are the first people that people will round up”. We need that kind of attitude to know that this can’t be sustained. How many millions do senators earn? People have compared what Nigerian senators earn to that of their counterpart in America to find out that Nigerian senators earn unbelievable huge pay.
Some of the members of reps elected in the USA were having problems in securing accommodation in Washington. So, close those places through civic engagement and community mobilization. Let us hold those in government accountable. Let us assume a worst case: these guys are not going to do better things, so we are going to force them to begin to think that they must do better things. Second, we must also mobilise to have our own security at local level, community level base action, the state level. I am not talking about organizing around government. Organize around civil societies, community organisations and you find rising a network of security that will be unbelievable and then at the same time holding those in government accountable. Because, one, I never subscribe to letting civil society do what it can do, but let civil societies mobilise and put pressure on those in government to do what they are supposed to do. To be accountable, not to think of themselves first, because at the end of the day, insecurity affects everybody.
We know how many powerful people have been killed on the highways and in their homes and in their farms or while leaving their farms. Insecurity is not just military or policing action. It is also about the lack of the required infrastructure to secure a good life. It is nice to say that the elites always go on health tourism but before that plane comes, or the ambulance, who knows what would have happened. People die despite the fact that they have billions. So, those are the kind of things we need to do. Engagement with ourselves at local levels, community base action, civil society action but engagement also with those in power to make sure that they don’t have space to just continue to mess up and not work for what they are being paid for, but also to make sure that they do what they need to do and stop just thinking about their own personal security, security of their families or their own wellbeing alone. Because at the end of the day, they can’t enjoy wellbeing when the rest of society literarily has gone to the dusk in terms of security, in terms of development and also in terms of meaningful democracy beyond the sham that we currently have.
What are the causes of insecurity, Boko Haram, kidnapping, banditry, terrorism and what is currently happening along Abuja-Kaduna Road?
They operate their own state system in all of that area. That was why I said we must look at things with multiple eye glasses. Kaduna-Abuja road is a classic example of the failure of the state. In this age of drone aircraft, of simple technology and then, the ease with which you could deploy even human dimension of security forces and so on, just to ensure that a strip of road is secured.
And you can then understand when we talk about failure of the state in other parts of the country as part of the reasons for insecurity. Of course, the other basic reasons are there: the youth unemployment, the rising use of drugs, the collapse of the school system, the collapse of social order, the collapse of the moral order, and the issue of corruption. These are all at play. And you can take each of those things. Take kidnapping, much of it happens on highways and you then wonder how we can have a state system and we are unable to secure major elements of that state system. You can mention virtually any factor and it will be an explaining factor and a factor that helps us to further understand why we have insecurity.
Again, the issue of land, resource competition, whether it is between the herdsmen and the farmers, has been on for decades, just that it has been imploded in recent times. For quite some time, local management capacities were there because all over the country we have heard stories about how those communities for decades were living at peace with one another but of course, in the context of increasing pressure on resources mingle with maybe some of the political consideration and so on and so forth, local sensibilities flared up and then communities that were at peace for long time started being hostile. I remember between Iwo, where I come from and Ede, there is Fulani settlement, in which really they remain Fulani only in terms of their original connection, in terms of speaking Yoruba and so on. They use to sell local yogurt called ‘Fura de nunu’ and all of that and people would go into their territory to get some house helps and so on. Now, I understand it is now dangerous to travel on the old road between Iwo and Ede because of attacks. So, we need to have a sense of history.
How has this trajectory developed? We must understand that government failed not only in terms of providing security or responding to insecurity but also in terms of providing a solid school system, seeking to encourage an environment of development that will generate employment, good healthcare system, better understanding of the dynamics of the modern age, better utilisation of cheap technology to monitor and to plot the dimensions of insecurity. Basically, we need to see meaningful action that will translate into decline because there is also a demonstration effect. If government is not doing anything meaningful, it is a demonstration effect to those who are at the sources of insecurity. It makes them feel more bolder. It makes them seek to expand their sphere of operation so that even those oases of security will sooner or later phase out.
When you think of places like Lagos and the potentials that insecurity in a large scale can have in such places, one must really tremble and hope and wish and work to ensure that government actually begins to work. On the other hands, if you really handle these things and we can see that insecurity is declining, it sends message also to those agents of insecurity that time is running out for them. But for now, it seems that the message we are getting is that time is running out for the government.
Can you say that the country is now in the hands of terrorists?
That is what I just said that the image we are getting is that this is beyond government.
What is your advice for President Buhari as he commences second term in office?
The first thing I will advise is that the President needs to do something that is dramatic. He needs to do rebranding because brand also matters. The brand now is a brand of inaction, or a brand of confusion. Only God can save us. The first thing: sack or remove all the service people in all the security agencies. A change of leadership for dramatic effect but also with an eye to people. You know our armed and security forces are very intelligent. I have spent some time teaching in some of the highest military and security educational institutions, Defence college, Institute of Security Studies for SS. These are the topmost and they are also at Ibadan here.
We had them on a programme and the moment you spend a second with the senior military and security officers, you will know that these are very intelligent and highly educated people. We are not talking about military or security officers of the 60s. These are people already with PhD, now coming for training at the Defence College or to get another Master in Ibadan. These are highly educated people, really deep in theory and practice of security management. So it shouldn’t be difficult for the president to get people with the skills, even skills in the technological management of insecurity. That will be the immediate thing. Let us send that message that this second term is not going to be like the first term. Security operatives have done a lot of assessments and studies.
I know that. Let us insulate the military and security hierarchies from politics, let us also insulate them from corruption, both corruption from within the services and corruption in their linkage with political authorities. Let us have a more cautionable military and security infrastructure. That is, one that is sensitive to the needs of Nigerians, sensitive to the needs of its own people, its own personnel because there is a lot of oppressions and half-heartedness in the way in which the other ranks who are in the forefront of this are treated. When you face bandits that are more and better equipped than you, it is a problem.
You have been asked to be ready to give up your life when in fact you are not equipped to even protect your life. It is double jeopardy. There must be enough provisioning for our armed forces. What I will be expecting the president and his advisers to do now is to bring together the knowledge that has been gained. The military do a lot of studies and they keep a lot of records. Bring all of that together to fashion a new strategy that will be multipronged and it is not about Operation Python, Operation Sky or something. It is strategy or strategies that addresses the peculiarities of each parts of the country but at the same time has a Pan-Nigeria scope in terms of how all these tie together, investing more in surveillance, in intelligence, so that come the inauguration of the second term of the president, that day he is saying that “now these are the new things that I can announce that is going to make this second term different from the first”.
Let us have a science of movement not of motion, not just say “I assure Nigerians” when nothing has changed. I think that will be the first basic step to take. More intelligence, more of technological deployment of drones and all those things so that our armed forces and security forces can fight this battle without their hands tied and without their visions impaired.