NIGERIAN MILITARY, SECURITY & POLITICS
I am one of those who had repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of our Security forces in the fight against the Boko haram insurgents. I had been bewildered by how an apparently untrained or poorly trained and ill-equipped rag tag army could take parts of Nigeria’s territory with apparent ease. How could a military establishment that has produced many generals (active and inactive) just collapse in the front of a few disgruntled miscreants. That was how I felt until I realized that my assumptions were mistaken. Over time, it became clear that these were not just a few disgruntled miscreants, that they were sizeable, actively recruiting and indoctrinating and radicalizing intakes from Nigeria and her Neighbours. I soon discovered that they had access to large stock and variety of arms and were being reinforced and re supplied regularly both from Nigeria and from abroad. I soon realized that we were not just dealing with local insurgents as was the case in the Niger Delta militancy but we were dealing with an international terrorist organization with links with Al-Qaida and other international terrorist organizations. I then became less stringent in my criticism, as I began to empathize with our military.
From the remark made by President Jonathan a few days ago, I am beginning to think that I was not the only one who had these mistaken assumptions. The President said that they might have underestimated the challenge. This is in line with my understanding of the character of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. He is often frank, speaks with candour and often admits mistakes or limitations. A couple of People regard this as weakness and some of his aides and party men think that he should not express such candour. Their concern is of course that the opposition would cash on such admissions as they are always wont to do. But to me that is the hall mark of servant leadership- being honest with the People. It therefore follows that if the commander-in-Chief, underestimated the Boko haram challenge, that the Military which he commands must have equally done the same. Perhaps this could explain, the promise by the Chief of Defence Staff that they would rout the insurgents by the end of April last year. They may have felt they could manage with the arms in their amouries. Indeed when they were initially not receiving the cooperation of Nigeria's Neighbours- Chad, Niger and Cameroun, they may have felt, that they could handle it all by themselves.
But they eventually came to terms with the reality of the strength of the foe and its international dimensions . That in my view may have explained the efforts to procure ammunition desperately from any market- white, grey or black. The pain that America which is widely regarded as Nigeria's friend refused to sell some ammunition and equipment to us in the hour of need may have worsened the desperation. So many of us wrote off the Nigerian military. There were suggestions in the closet that may be we should go and get mercenaries to fight for us. And therefore, as a patriotic Nigerian, I am so pleased that the Military has begun to regain its prestige. With the recent successes in recovering Nigerian territories in the affected States in the North East, it is evident that the military has begun to warm itself back into the hearts of Many Nigerians. It is gratifying that they have been able to secure new equipment, platforms and ammunition and very importantly has been able to break the lethargy of our Neighbours, eliciting their support. Fighting terrorism anywhere must involve international collaboration as has been done in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Somalia.
Achieving this turn around could not have been easy and must have truly tested the commander-in-chief and his commanders. I therefore would like to join some sections of the National Assembly and other well meaning Nigerians to congratulate the C-in-C and the military for this pleasant turn of events. Those Nigerians, who are still seating on the fence, not sure whether they should applaud, should at least be quiet. No one should do otherwise or say something that may dampen the awakening spirit of the military. These guys are going through tremendous pressures and challenges and they have been traumatized severely. Let all those who think that the military is an arm of the ruling party perish that thought. The military is one of the oldest institutions in our Nation that has largely stood the test of time.
It true that the Military at some point foraged into politics through coups and counter coups and in the process got badly messed up and ended up messing up Nigeria. But since 1999 when General Abdulsalami Abubakar handed power to civilian authority, the military returned to their barracks to heal their wounds and rebuild their professions. From what has happened, it is clear that no major effort had been made by the previous leaders to re equip the military until now. Thus the Bokoharam challenge is affording the military an opportunity to retrain, rekit and re equip. From the recent commissioning of four Naval Ships and new Airforce fighter planes and attack helicopters and the recently acguired Armored carriers for the army, there is evidence that some serious investments are being made so that the military can rightly play its constitutional role of defending the Nation from from external aggression and internal insurrection.
And so despite the current pressures and the perceived failings of the military in the recent experience, we must do our utmost not to drag the military back into politics nor politicize their constitutional duties. Recent comments by some politicians which seemed to be talking about coups and military intervention must be out rightly condemned. It is clear to me that the military would prefer to be left alone to carry on their constitutional duties. Their last expeditions benefitted neither the military institution nor the Nation. And that is why the argument I have been hearing especially from the House of Representatives looks to me unnecessary and indeed a distraction to the military that is working really hard to win back the confidence of Nigerians. The military currently, has been deployed all over Nigeria to help maintain peace even before the elections. In my own Abia State, without the military, I do not know what we would be doing with 'osisikanku' and his 'trybe' of kidnappers. On my trip from Umuahia to Arochukwu, I pass through about five military checkpoints. And we are 'cool' with that. Recently, there was a violent armed robbery at a bank in Arochukwu, and we have gone to Ohafia army barracks to beg the commander to send us some troops.
I am writing this peace from Yola where I am leading a team of the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship international, Nigeria to visit with our members and other Nigerians who are in the IDP camps in Yola, having been displaced from Mubi and Michika,though many are on the verge of returning home as those towns have been liberated from satanic occupation .From the airport to the camps, the whole place was swarming with the military and many people are feeling safe because of their presence. All over Nigeria, the military has been deployed to help help deal with the persisting rise in violent crimes and deviant Behaviour since the last ten years or so. The Police is currently overwhelmed, a large proportion on orderly duties, following our politicians and their wives all over the place. Nigerians can no longer depend solely on the Police for internal safety. My passport will not be taken away for saying this ! That is not the way it should be and I believe the federal Government must do something to reinvent our Nigeria Police( force or service). I have written on this severally that we need to create a new Nigerian Police. All the cosmetic efforts to improve on the existing are not yielding much fruits.
But that change can not happen in the next six months. So, realistically ,we need the military to help maintain peace all over Nigeria. And what is more, elections in Nigeria are fraught with increase in crimes, and this forthcoming one was almost sounding like a war until the ' halftime break' by INEC which seems to have diffused tensions, at least for a while. Therefore if we ever needed Military presence to help provide security and peace, it is at this election period. Certainly the Military must not be involved in actual election processes. They can not be INEC officials( adhoc or permanent ), nor party agents. Except those who are eligible to vote and who are lucky to be deployed within their pooling booths, nobody should expect to see the military inside pooling booths or collating centers. But they must stay around to give the people confidence for safety especially in the violence-prone zones ( which now includes the North East, the South West, the South East, the South South, the North West and the North central). They can stay away in the remaining parts if we want! The police could not maintain peace or protect lives ( including theirs) at mere Electioneering campaign in Okirika and you expect that they will be able to handle the post election crisis that may erupt after the elections in such places as Rivers, IMO, Abia, Kano, kaduna, katsina, Borno , Lagos , Benue , Plateau and Nassarawa.
Truly, anybody campaigning that the military must not be involved in maintaining peace or should not be deployed to help provide security during these elections can not mean well for the People of Nigeria. That type of campaign is decidedly anti people. It is clear to every one , that some people will create problems for Nigerians before, during and immediately after the elections and it behoves the C-In-C to deploy the military in readiness to deter or crush any such trouble makers. Never again must we allow innocent Nigerians, including Youth Corpers to be killed by un democratic elements who insist they must win elections,willy nilly. Finally, let us be reminded, that we are not doing the military any favour by asking them to help maintain peace and provide security during elections. Because they put their lives at risk, stand in the sun and earn the same salary. If you asked them, they would prefer to rest in their barracks. But for the love of Country, they would obey the C-In-C and risk their lives and comfort to support the police in providing security and maintaining the peace. Shouldn't we be grateful? Politicians and all.
Mazi Sam Ojhuabunwa OFR.