By Femi Macaulay/ THE NATION
Insecurity is the question. What is the answer? Finding a solution to widespread and escalating insecurity in Nigeria requires tackling the menacing combination of terrorism, banditry and kidnapping.
The recent massacre of farmers by Boko Haram terrorists at Zabarmari, Borno State, was an alarming evidence of undefeated terrorism. The army gave an excuse, saying Boko Haram would have been defeated a long time ago but for the enemies of Nigeria supporting the group to destabilise the country.
The acting director, Army Public Relations, Col Sagir Musa, said in an article: “There is an international conspiracy to cut Nigeria to size and compromise national renegades making attempts to destabilise and dismember Nigeria if possible in subservience to the international paymasters, who are the owners of Boko Haram. They train them, arm them, finance them and supply their logistics.”
Who are these external enemies of Nigeria backing terrorists against the Federal Government? This claim needs to be clarified. It is not enough to make such a serious claim without supplying proof. Importantly, even if such a situation exists, it does not justify the apparent incapacity of the country’s armed forces.
The army also claimed that local saboteurs were working against the counter-terrorism effort, and issued a statement warning “all groups or communities hobnobbing with Boko Haram/ISWAP to sever such relations.” The army alleged that such collaboration included providing information and intelligence on troops, logistics supply and trading with the terrorists.
The statement listed Benisheik, Jakana, Mainok, Magumeri, Gajiram and Gubio, all in Borno State, alleging that these communities harboured “unpatriotic and heartless criminal elements.”
This accusation of local collaboration with Boko Haram terrorists also needs to be clarified. In a climate of fear, engendered by the reality of undefeated terrorism, it is predictable that locals could be forced to cooperate with the insurgents. The solution is to liberate the locals from the fear of terrorists by eliminating the terrorists.
Blaming alleged international backers of terrorism and alleged local collaborators for the prolonged war on terrorism cannot excuse the failure of the country’s armed forces. The armed forces are expected to surmount such challenges to achieve the objective of the anti-terrorism effort.
The truth is that the armed forces need to be strengthened in order to be able to win the war against terrorism. Notably, Lance Corporal Martins Idakpini of the 8 Division, Sokoto, of the Nigerian Army, dared to speak truth to power in a 12-minute video that went viral in June.
“I’m highly disappointed in your command,” he said, addressing Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai. He called the army boss “a coward, a traitor and a betrayer,” adding that the loyalty of the rank and file to the army leadership must be earned.
“You have failed,” he said, addressing Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin. “You should be ashamed of yourselves,” he said, addressing the National Security Adviser, Mohammed Babagana Monguno, and the Minister of Defence, Bashir Salihi Magashi, both retired army generals.
“I’m a concerned Nigerian,” Idakpini explained. “We cannot continue to keep quiet when people are dying… many of our colleagues are dying.” He added that “innocent soldiers” were locked up in the guardroom indefinitely for complaining about inadequate weapons to fight insecurity.
“We need to restructure this army in order to achieve peace in the country,” he declared. He also criticised the Muhamadu Buhari presidency and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). “I’m ready to face court martial,” he said fearlessly.
Significantly, in two other videos, soldiers involved in the war against terrorism had also claimed that the army was ill-equipped to defeat the terrorists. In one video, a former theatre commander, Major General Olusegun Adeniyi, was seen and heard telling troops that “it appears the people we are fighting have more firepower than us…” He has been court-martialled for embarrassing and ridiculing the armed forces.
The authorities cannot continue to ignore the apparent exposure of the incapacity of the armed forces to tackle terrorism. Blaming their failure on external factors, without addressing conditions within the armed forces that militate against the success of the anti-terrorism effort, amounts to denying reality.
Interestingly, it is not only the leadership of the armed forces that is playing a blame game. For instance, at the recent fourth quarterly meeting of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) which discussed the challenges of insecurity and COVID-19, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, lamented that the North had become the worst place to live in Nigeria because of increasing insecurity.
“A few weeks ago, over 76 persons were killed in a community in Sokoto State in a day,” he recounted. The revered traditional ruler painted a disturbing picture showing a breakdown of law and order. He said: “People think the North is safe, but that assumption is not true. In fact, it’s the worst place to be in this country. Bandits go around in the villages, households and markets with their AK 47 and nobody is challenging them. They stop at the market, buy things, pay and collect change, with their weapons openly displayed. These are facts I know because I am at the centre of it.”
No one disputes the Sultan’s account. But he got it all wrong by blaming the media. “Unfortunately, you don’t hear these stories in the media because it’s in the North. We have accepted the fact that the North does not have strong media to report the atrocities of these bandits,” he said.
Insecurity continues to attract attention. But there are no solutions yet. It is the responsibility of the authorities to tackle insecurity, and it is necessary to move beyond the blame game and find a solution to the problem.
Tragically, increasing insecurity suggests that the authorities lack the capacity to tackle the security crisis. That is the ultimate failure.