Op-ed: Specific Antidotes to Insurgency in North East
By MG Potiskum
The North–Eastern part of Nigeria had never enjoyed great opportunity to be at the helm of affairs that is at the top-most level of governance in the history of Nigeria’s existence, as in the present dispensation of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and APC.
A Careful study of the upper echelon within the security apparatus in the country and other strategic agencies will lead you to the fact of the matter. This can also be visibly seen in formation of new structures targeting the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the region. Regrettably, the North-East has also never been in most difficult times of destabilization of its people as is currently being physically witnessed and felt today.
The North-East especially Borno, Yobe and Adamawa have the highest number of people occupying high –level Offices, and at the same time, the axis is the most damaged, ravaged, backward, disfranchised, disoriented than any other axis in Nigeria. What is actually wrong? Is it the people? Is it the Leadership Class or what else for Allah’s sake? No one from the axis of the North-East is sleeping comfortably today not to think of being happy.
Maybe a self-centered few, who enjoy special protection from the Government of the day and are only concerned about themselves.
Are we then enemies of ourselves?
It is a very distraught, scary and fearful scenario.
Let us touch a little on the rhetoric of life, it is a fact that you can win a War and lose a Battle and from all honesty, Generals of nowadays don’t fight Wars as was obtained in the era of the Battlefield Generals like Patton, Montgomery etc. Those times are gone as today only foot soldiers fight in the field.
We are mindful of the fact that Boko Haram fighters are cowards who take advantage of the vast land mass of the North- East to perpetuate criminal acts in a Gorilla warfare system but the simple fact remains that they are taking advantage of the Forest Reserves and Sambisa to Recruit, Train, Plan, Strategize and come out in a Gestapo method to unleash mayhem on the innocent soft-target citizens who go about their daily affairs.
We acknowledge the present hard and challenging times resulting from inability to meet standard needs due to unavailability of basic elements required for day to day survival, which has contributed to the perpetuation of criminal acts by our children and those in the neighboring French speaking countries whom we share common borders with.
In trying to get to the root of the matter, proponents of human development and security experts have made attempts to understand the causes of the insurgency (which certainly are not justification for the killings) and a combination of factors have been identified and attributed as responsible for the unfortunate situation we find ourselves today.
From state ineffectiveness due to bad governance, poor economic development and resource sharing/control, alienation and injustice to external factors like political instability and wars in neighboring countries. Most of these factors could be either structured or transient. The fact here is the cause is therefore not only extreme political or religious ideology or illiteracy as some say but a combination, ie some level of poverty, long-time neglect and silent triggers put together.
The people from the North–East are resilient, dedicated, service oriented personalities and readily available to take up responsibility whole-heartedly and diligently. However without supportive structures, patriotic citizens/followers, committed and formidable traditional/religious institutions and social protection structures those factors alone cannot guarantee good governance.
The Boko Haram faction led by “Shekau” has woven an enigma around the name of their leader. The name Shekau is associated with savagery and non-allegiance to anything synonymous to peace or the recognition of Nigeria as a country. He is depicted as a dogmatic ideologist and a ruthless killer and enemy to anyone who has a contrary belief notwithstanding if he/she is a Muslim, Christian, atheist or traditionalist. This character has embedded fear in the name Shekau, who harasses and intimidates the innocent people. This makes it imperative for the Combat Power of Nigeria Security Forces to create a powerful unit synonymous with a super power that will instill much more level of fear in the Insurgents circle as well.
In this context, reference is made to the Nigerian Civil War which was a conventional War where the name of ‘Black Scorpion’ created so much fear in the enemies. Other names such as Murtala Mohammed, Mamman Shuwa, Maimalari, etc had vast effect on the unfortunate veterans.
History has it that all the people that fought the Nigerian Civil War with medals today were at the ranks of Lieutenants, Captains and Majors strictly.
Secondly, it is not in the number of troops that determine the strength and power to override the enemy. It is in the workable strategy, i.e, identifying the rightful state of mind, combat training, full determination of the strong workforce within the ages of between 22 – 40 years, with no children to serve as a drawback, heedfulness or caution for survival but a zeal to conquer without thinking of “what if”, otherwise referred to as *‘dividend wives’???.*
This Special Force should be provided with all logistics and the country should be ready to give the military forces what it takes to be life-line heroes, dead or alive.
The fact that many of those fighting are privy to the sufferings of dependants of their colleagues who paid the supreme price is enough to weaken their spirit in the fight. The families of those at the war front and their dependants should be well catered for so that soldiers will go to wars with a full focus to conquer irrespective of whether they come back alive or not because they know their labor will not be in vain, their names will be cast in gold and their families will be cherished and catered for. An initiative specifically for families of veterans who die at warfront or those who are decapitated either physical or emotional should be set up.
The Military as an Institution is a Professional Career Service regimented with highest Management Structure and clear line of regimental duty. This is an institution with defined Seniority Structure which makes it definitive and standard once you are in it. The seniority pattern makes it impossible for a junior to see anything wrong with his senior; otherwise, he will pay the price of severe reprimand and be declared a “Mogabe (Deviant)”.
Just Obey the Last orders! Otherwise, you grumble internally until you die.
Honestly speaking, those of us from the North–East have developed High Blood Pressure and are dying in silence with heart-related illnesses as a result of the level of the insurgency war radiations from down home. There is no one in his normal senses that is without strong internal pains caused by the prolonged fight or Insurgency. As quoted in a lot of sayings, unless otherwise there is a strong interest, no insurgency should last this long, for over 10 years, no matter the number of Boko Haram fighters. They are supposed to have been subdued and the fighting ended based on what has been reported or brought to the general public, especially in an effort to override the criminal minds.
Those of us from the North-East cry daily as we lose our loved ones and kinsmen who go about their struggle for daily source of livelihood within the Region.
In fact, the resilient nature and faithfulness of the people from the axis is a strong reason why we still have a State called Borno as at today. I am certain if it were some other places, the entire people would have moved out for saner climes. We therefore need to up the game and re-strategize to win this war.
Sadly, time is not on our side, ten years is already long enough but something has to be done to change the narratives. The existing strategies on the Battlefield need to be reviewed, including but not limited to some form of ‘carrot and stick’ approach to bring about an end to this insurgency, as unless there is peace, no development can be meaningful to the people. Today, we have good roads but the people cannot enjoy them. What an irony of life!
We are in a changing world with evolving trends in all sectors emerging every day. Everyone has his/her own time and for real, we must create room for others to bring on board the relevant acquired knowledge they have. Today’s system of fighting many types of Insurgency is more of Symmetric and Technology.
On the other hand, the political class should be honest to themselves and put the country first rather than ‘blindly’ accumulating wealth to take refuge in other countries. We do not have any alternative country but Nigeria’s crime and criminality is gradually taking over the country, as it gets too close to the major towns. Enough of the talking and let us back our thoughts with action and reduce the every-day threats before it gets late.
Today, each part of the North is bedeviled with its own share of insecurity. The unfortunate Insurgency of Boko Haram in the North-East, Banditry in the North-West, the Kidnapping of the North Central, the Cattle Rustling and Herdsmen/Farmers clash in the Middle Belt and other categories of criminal acts which have bedeviled the entire North has created enmity among ourselves on one hand, while trust has gradually been eroded between North and other citizens of other parts of Nigeria on the other hand.
These issues had been hammered upon and even declared as worse than the Civil War by prominent and knowledgeable Elders with vast experience.
What makes it worrisome now is we are witnessing a full force resurgence of the group which if not handled well, may take away all the gains made in the fight against Boko Haram all these years. This will make it one of the most expensive wars in terms of loss of lives and financial resources committed.
Conclusively, with the new trend in the war against the insurgency and other security challenges facing the North, all hands must be on deck and we must all come on board to end the macabre before it consumes the entire North. You can imagine the level of exposure and failure on the part of those with the responsibility of securing the North giving room to other Regions proffering self-protection in order to safe-guard their communities before the situation gets to them. This has given room for the establishment of AMOTEKUM, while the East and South-South are in serious discussions to also bring out their own survival measures. Many people had expected such commitments to come from the North considering the dire insecurity the region is facing.
Recently the media has been filled with the story of a call for an agency for rehabilitation of repentant Boko Haram. It is a dicey situation and we cannot compare Boko Haram to activities of other militancy agitations. The question on many lips is how long does it take someone to be fully rehabilitated from a terrorist into mainstream society? Why are we not calling for an agency or initiative for families of veterans that lost their lives fighting the wars against insurgents and other peace keeping initiatives both internal and external?
As an indigene of the region, I am honestly concerned with the plight of the citizens of Northeast in particular and the North in general and in my humble opinion, the situation can get better if Government at various levels consider the following:
1. Proliferation of arms within the Sahel region which ends in Nigeria through our porous borders must be stopped completely. We are fully aware of the significant effort by the Nigeria Custom Service and other agencies. So much more should be put in to stop the cross-border arms to Nigeria.
2. Jobs must be created for the ‘common man’, especially for the teeming fast growing youth. The idle mind is a Devil’s workshop.
3. Poverty plays significant role at the local level. There is the need for the wealthy families to support Government initiatives and programs in elevating the society.
4. All indigenous sons and daughters of the Northeast should make more sacrifices down home through their factories and other entities providing simple source of livelihoods.
5. Provide Lands for modern Agriculture with machinery to engage the larger society.
6. Leaders in the North East need to rally round all Ex-Service home-based veterans/personnel/legionnaires and engage them as community security support/Guards with good remunerations. Let them also make up 50% of the community security policing to be set up by the region. Let us streamline our hunters, CJTF and ex-veterans into a formidable force to protect the region. We are known for our God-given hereditary talent and expertise in hunting and shooting which gives us that special edge in any military training or set up
7. Provide Standard Structural Markets/Shopping Malls with state of the art Security Gadgets.
8. Open more schools and ensure the provision of security guards within the locality at appropriate supervisory class with keen interest.
9. Recognize and improve the involvement of Traditional Leaders from the grassroots in Safety and Security. They can make use of the high number of youth within their communities and domain and engage them to create a data template of all people within their villages. Villages could be clustered and each assigned a youth leader for that purpose. This will curtail influx of people that come to our communities to lure our youth and cause mayhem.
11. Government must encourage modern ways of teaching and practicing religious doctrines.
10. Provide Social Amenities with adequate security measures.
12. It is a reality that the Combat Gallant Forces are over-stretched, exhausted, fatigued and should deserve some strategic approach for relief or change of tactics.
13. Islamic extremism takes advantage of the less privileged, the Almajiris, the Street Beggars, etc to lure them at some enticement. Thereafter, they initiated them into believing in some tricks of indoctrinations of Islamic Faith. Innocently they follow due to high level of hunger and poverty. This is deceit and should be condemned by all and sundry. As enumerated by the Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi Lamido calling for the prosecution of the parents to children sent out as Almajiris.
14. Just recently, the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Abubakar portrayed “insurgency is punishment for our sins”. The pronouncement should be taken very serious by meaningful members of the North East. Thirty five years ago, late General Hassan Usman Katsina warned on the growing Almajiri populace that they will very soon pose serious threat. This is obvious today.
15. De-radicalism and joining the larger society requires a lot of realignment in a Parole System. It entails changing a complete lifestyle of the people who have been misled and misguided. Drug consumption plays a major role in committing all types of criminalities. All hands must be on deck to reduce intoxicating phenomenon which aids crime. The de-radicalized repentant Boko Haram insurgents must be treated with extra caution and have no reason to be enlisted into any security Agency related service but rather factories should be created and split them over with the strong hope that they might change their ways of life and become good citizens of the nation.
16. The Ooni of Ife Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi stressed the collaboration of all traditional Institutions and religious leaders to live in an appropriate life to befit their positions and stay closer to their people for obvious reasons.
17. Abandonment of projects halfway or dilapidated structures anywhere poses threat and aids Crime. Dead Vehicles littered also aids Criminalities.
18. Communication is key to execution of crime and combating it at the same time. We must identify all GSM network users with some Security clarifications and differentiations with clear terms such as Nigerians and Non Nigerians – Africans, Arabs, Asians, Americans, Europeans, etc. The classification is very essential in reducing crime in our country. The Minister of Communication, Dr. Ali Pantami has reiterated the fact that all network must key into data base of NCC with proper records of end users.
19. Executive Governor of Borno State Prof. Bagana Umara Zulum had requested all faithful believers fully matured, strong and healthy to make a sacrifice of Fasting on Monday 24th February 2020 in order for Almighty Allah to forgive our wrongs and grant us respite in fighting the menace of criminalities in the Northeast.
20. Political class must develop the will of democratic governance with defined Dividends of Democracy, as enumerated by Senator Ali Ndume.
21. All game reserves and forestry’s should be coordinated and revisited. A special force or agency within the army should be created and saddled with the responsibility of resuscitating and reactivating them and turning them to training grounds or completely destroying and abolishing them, so that we avoid them being used as sanctuaries or training grounds by terrorists.
22. We need to look into indigenous initiatives to solve our problems especially as it relates to our youth, society and livelihood. We must accept we are Africans first and we have beautiful culture and traditions especially around moral upbringing and way of life, good neighborliness, being our brothers’ keepers, keeping family ties, upholding the extended family system and supporting one another. This strong community/family brotherhood is a social protection and community support system that has helped in shaping our lives before. Throwing everything away created the monster we are facing. Yes, there are negative cultural traditions but you don’t throw the baby and the basin with the dirty water.
23. The Security Agencies must draw a line and avoid playing politics with Security Issues, taking a clear case study of the rift between Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and Chief of Staff (COS) – Presidency with defined responsibilities based on Training.
24. Those in positions of Power may wish to remember that nothing last forever. Reduce the syndrome of “Only Me & My Offspring” as others came out to vote you into Power. Life of the People you represent is of great value to your existence. Enough of the Politics with Human Life as everyone value coexistence. Let us join our hands together and avoid Hatred, Discrimination, and the likes.
25. Wickedness! Hate Speeches! These are negative vices that tear us apart. There is need to be honest with ourselves, respect other people’s Faith, appreciate gender, protect the womanhood, uplift the Children, support the actual needy persons and real Orphans. For sure Allah shall bless us with gradual Peace and Development in our Region and the Country at large. Allahumma Ameeeen as I weep with lots of Hearty Pains.
26. Northeast indigenes must take the Bull by the Horn and bring out our own children involved in the crime of Boko Haram insurgency and hand them over to the Law Enforcement Agencies while proper access into Sambisa forest should be fully supported to clear those that have refused to surrender.
On the other hand, the soft landing measures put in place for the families of the fallen heroes by the Ministry of Defense should be sustained and also improve upon the current assistance by the Government. Other wealthy Individuals and organizations should assist the Government to provide good funding to end the Insurgency. We must put behind us Party differences and let anyone lay claim to the achievement, but Allah Knows best. Let us ensure that peace reign for posterity sake. Enough of the bloodshed, destructions, displacement of communities and let us close all the Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps.
The North East Region is the most Regions that deserve a security outfit to take care of their entire axis based on the happenings. Unfortunately, the South West had carefully studied this invasion and immediately rolled out an initiative, Amotekun to shield and protect their Region.
*In conclusion, with the current development and agitation, if all hands are on deck based on our recommendations, the Boko Haram insurgency will come to an end soonest unless otherwise there are some ulterior motives to the affirmative.*
O Allah grant respite to our country to enable us struggle for our simple source of livelihood and be good parents to our Children, Amen
Thank you for reading my piece.
*MOHAMMED G. POTISKUM*
& SECURITY CONSULTANT
08068718624 (Whatsapp only)