That telecast on Channels television yesterday was very distressing. I sat there looking blank, unable to come to terms with what happened at the war theatre. The effrontery of insurgents to combat armed troops in such a dare devil manner points only in one direction – Nigeria is not fighting an internal or civil war; but a complex conflict with tentacles spread beyond what the layman could imagine. That news was shocking and it took several minutes for me to regain my composure. I kept on wondering: Why is this happening, why are we in this very horrible situation, will the insurgents ever change and how long would we continue the war? This development certainly calls for concern and total support for the military by the civil society as well as governments at the three tiers. It calls for renewed unity on the part of all Nigerians to avoid further escalation of hostilities that have regrettably claimed thousands of lives of innocent Nigerians.
For several decades, the global community has continued to grapple with the problems of insecurity, armed conflicts and violence. It is increasingly assuming a dangerous proportion in spite of concerted efforts by the United Nations and world powers to stem the very dangerous development staring humanity in the face. It is recorded that most of these conflicts have been provoked by avoidable issues. The effects have been terribly catastrophic. Various forms of manifestations of violence and conflicts, including political clashes, ethno-communal and religious disturbances, genocide and other forms of manifestations of crises and conflicts have not only arisen, but have become pronounced.
NOT TIME TO SHIFT BLAMES: Accordingly, no serious nation would leave its security to adversaries. Nigeria has been conscious of this fact and has, indeed over the years promoted measures that have ensured that our interests and national security are not subjugated to the interests of other nations. It is for the reason of the foregoing that our policies in this country have greatly tilted towards resolving our differences through rational persuasion and moral exhortation. We have continued to manage our political, economic, ethnic and racial challenges based on the conviction that our growing democracy would, with trial and errors endure and wax stronger.
LATEST ATTACKS – TIME FOR CONSTRUCTIVE JOINT EFFORTS TO ASSIST THE MILITARY: International news agencies published reports of sad losses occasioned by an ambush by insurgents. They reportedly ambushed and attacked troops near Gudumbali in the Lake Chad area of Borno state. Accounts say vehicles and weapons were lost to the terrorists in the attack. Certainly, these insurgents had superior weapons and coordinated their attacks which give cause for worry at the sources of weapons and sophistication of their operations. Evidently, they had information without which they would never have succeeded.
EFFECTS: People all over the world have vested interest in peace, in order to carry on their economic relations. For instance, John Spanier, in his publication: ‘American Foreign Policy since World War II’, submits that “War impoverishes and destroys and creates ill-will among nations. Commerce however benefits all the participating states; the more trade, the greater number of individual interests involved.” He argues further: “War could be justified only by presuming noble purposes and completely destroying the immoral enemy who threatens integrity, if not the existence of salient principle”. Such actions of conflicts and threats to peace that result in violent disturbances have been based largely on the conviction that ‘’the enemy you don’t finish on time will liquidate you on time.’’
AFRICA: HOME OF CONFLICTS: Such manifestations of terrorism, intolerance and other forms of inhuman conducts which were hitherto unknown to the polity have recurred in several parts of Africa. Ethno-communal clashes, political turbulence and religious disturbances have continued to threaten social stability and fundamental human rights of the citizenry. Regrettably, finish solutions have continued to elude the whole world. Social cohesion and harmony have continued to be threatened by peaceful and harmonious co-existence while terrorism has crept into the system. It contributes to the economic adversity of nations by constituting stumbling blocks to development and has the tendency of driving away both local and foreign investments. From available indications, terrorist attacks impact negatively quality of life and the enjoyment of some basic rights like right to life, freedom of movement, access to possible employment and educational opportunities.
Their effects on the African continent have been terribly disturbing. Since the upsurge of terrorism in the late 1960s, there has been a serious trend of increasing terror. The targets and methods change, but the problem remains one of the challenges to international order. Greater vigilance and more direct counter-actions may have helped to control the problem, but offers no solution. General apprehension has been heightened as a result of political conflict and terrorism. From the foregoing, it is abundantly clear that the global community is enjoying only relative peace, in spite of the arousal of the consciousness of everyone that peace and security are essential to development and progress of all societies on a sustainable basis. All over the world, breaches to security have become daily occurrences. Evidently, issues pertaining to security have turned very complex and have become seemingly intractable. All over, humanity has witnessed incidents of suicide bombings, violent attacks, armed assaults on public buildings and places.
GETTING INVOLVED: Speaking at a national workshop for judicial officers on anti-terrorism held in Abuja, former Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Hon. Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar noted that terrorism poses serious challenges to any nation unfortunate to experience it, as it has the risk of undermining core values of a nation such as the Rule of Law, respect for human rights, protection of civilians, tolerance among the various ethnic groups. ‘’Its motivation, financing and support mechanisms, methods of attack and choice of target are constantly evolving, thus adding to the complexity of any effective strategy to combat it. Mukhtar asserted that ”There is no doubt that the state has the right to employ its full arsenal to crush, repress and prevent terrorist activities with a caveat: ‘’It should do so within the ambit of legal and constitutional permissions, as human rights law makes ample provision for counter-terrorist action, even in the most exceptional circumstances.’’ This is one of the constraints.
FOR CONSIDERATION: Nigeria’s leaders have tried their possible best. The resilience of Africans has made it possible for the region to weather many storms that have been of immense cost to humanity. Fratricidal and internecine wars triggered by tribal, religious, cultural, political, economic and similar issues have pushed several nations to the brink of collapse. Such has been the level of dislocation occasioned by these violent occurrences that warranted efforts have been made in pursuit peace, and security through ideal integration and genuine interest articulation as contained in the Charter of the African Union. At the core of such exploits is deep nationalist fervour, commitment to the welfare of fellow citizens, revamping of the dignity of Africans and an irrevocable commitment to nation building, consensus-building and the rule of law. But Africa must go beyond that goal. There is a greater need, more than ever before, to address the question of poverty and economic development. Without doubt, we there are clear pictures of the type of nations envisaged, but how to go about implementing the ideas is the big constraint.
LOBBYING POWERFUL NATIONS: Given the points raised above, so many posers arise: Is it possible for experts in counter-terrorism, influential former military and civilian heads of states, experts in international relations and top diplomats to come together to suggest solutions to this ravaging problem? Let us admit that it is easy to propound solutions than engage in practical. But we could benefit from the wealth of experiences of these experts who could operate without any form of publicity. Those of them who are heads of state, former Commonwealth Secretary-General, former UN Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs and other brains like Tunde Adeniran, Akinjide Osuntokun, Babagana Kingibe, and Bolaji Akinyemi could come together in national interest; while the first set of patriotic Nigerians including former heads of state could get critical nations more interested by way of providing technical assistance through lobbying at various levels of foreign governments. I doubt if any of these great Nigerians would refuse for the common good.
This proposal is premised on part of solutions proffered by Prof. Tunde Adeniran in a Paper titled: Strategic Thinking & National Security delivered in 2009 to Course 7 participants of the National Defence College, Abuja, The eminent political scientist submitted that: In proposing a strategy for Nigeria’s national security in the tradition (or from the perspective) of strategic thinking, I wish to establish a premise. It is bad strategy to learn by or from experience. The alternative, which is better, is to learn from the experience of others. Or, to quote that popular dictum of Ginlio Donhet, “Victory smiles upon those who anticipate the changes in the character of war, not upon those who wait to adapt themselves after the changes occur”. He said further: we must ‘confront the past in our attempt to shape the future.. The bureaucracy has always been’ the cemetery of strategic initiatives and this is where the task must begin’’
POLITICS APART: Nigeria is far behind. Agreed. But only Nigerians could hasten the nation’s development by taking their fate in their hands. It took 172 years for the 50 states of the United States to come together (1787 – 1959). From the first three states of Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey in 1787, through North and South Dakota in 1889 to Alaska and Hawaii in 1959, the American political and governance history can best be described as both tortuous and memorable. While not submitting that we have been perfect as a nation, I hold the view that we must be objective in our rationalization of events and occurrences and free ourselves from destructive biases occasioned by several factors, including political differences and our inability to contain deep-seated feelings of distrust and animosity that have pervaded the atmosphere. If it is your political opponent that could grow Nigeria or find solutions to issues confronting the nation; so let it be. Peace and security do not know political parties or gender. They don’t know the opposition.
IT IS DANGEROUS FOR SUPER POWERS TO LOOK THE OTHER WAY: Over the past two decades, Nigerians have reached a national consensus in at least four areas: to deepen democracy and the rule of law; build an economy driven primarily by the private sector, not government; display zero tolerance for corruption in all its forms, and finally, restructure the economy; with our government ensuring efficiency and good governance. Nigeria’s economy constitutes 76 per cent of the economy of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS. Nigeria also holds 30 per cent of the economy in sub-Saharan Africa and 21 per cent of Africa’s economy.’’ Nigeria is a middle income, mixed economy and emerging market, with expanding financial, service, communications technology, and entertainment sectors. It is ranked 26th in the world in terms of GDP, and is the largest economy in Africa. It is also on track to become one of the 20 largest economies in the world by 2020. Its re-emergent, though currently underperforming, manufacturing sector is the third-largest on the continent, and produces a large proportion of goods and services for the West African region (Okonjo-Iweala; 2014) But can these projections still hold given the level of mass destructions witnessed so far?
THE KEY ISSUE: This problem started long ago and cannot be pinned on any administration. Doing so is not what is required at the moment. We require solutions. Terrorism and conflicts have become pronounced and are causes for bother. It is worrisome that as at 2014, there were about 500 million illicit weapons in circulation worldwide. One factor that would very much determine the future of Africa is the trend of violent crimes and armed conflicts on the continent. Very disturbing is the increasing dimension of proliferation of arms and armed conflicts as these constitute the greatest causes of instability in the region. The situation has been blamed on some unscrupulous security personnel who either sell out or aid criminal elements. A January 2014 report by the National Working Group on Armed Violence, (NWGAV) in conjunction with the UK-based Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), estimated that ‘’over 80 per cent of weapons in private hands were acquired illegally.
PROLIFERATION OF ARMS: The 24-page report titled: ‘The Violent Road’, and published by THISDAY Newspaper quoted the director of AOAV, Mr. Iain Overton, as ‘’decrying the high rate of proliferation of illegal arms because the illegal arms dealers operate unchecked. As part of recommendations from the report, Overton said the governments need to do a weapons stockpile management, which entails marking and tracing of small arms.’’ It was estimated that about 100 million of such are in sub-Saharan Africa. The Commander of the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (MISMA), Major-General Shehu Usman Abdul Kadir, revealed that Nigeria alone accounts for at least 70 per cent of the illegal Small Arms and Light weapons (SALW) circulating within the West African sub-region. He noted that the figure was further broken down to about eight to 10 million concentrated in the West African sub-region, with Nigeria taking the lion share of about 70 per cent of the 10 million illegal weapons. More alarming however is the revelation by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), on how little children are exposed to these weapons at a tender age.
UNCONTROLLED ARMS TRADE: The report explained that the uncontrolled trade in small arms and light weapons is a matter of life and death to people around the world, adding that with the proliferation it is easy for children to be easily taught how to handle these weapons, which are lethal but light and easy to use once they are exposed to them. On his part, Chiemiele Ezeobi (2014) argues that the dangers posed by having these illegal guns in circulation cannot be overstated. From using them for armed robbery operations, to bigger acts of terrorism, this array of illegal weaponry often frustrate peace building efforts of the government. According to security experts, having these weapons of destruction in the hands of criminal elements forebodes ill, and makes a mockery of measures to ensure security of life and property. And though illicit trade in gun that is causing proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW), popularly known as gun running has been in existence for decades, it’s more alarming now and raising concerns all over Africa.
ADDRESSING INSTABILITY: Arising from the foregoing, engaging in the search for viable strategies should be of primary concern to friends of Nigeria, and the UN Security Council. The loss of lives and property to terrorism has taken its toll on socio-economic development and has planted seeds of mistrust and deceit in the cultured minds of peoples of the world as well as heightening ethnic tensions and suspicions. Instability and peace-building have their roots in stagnating economies, hunger and poverty. This insurgency is getting beyond what Nigeria alone could do without the support of the super powers. The hostilities currently being witnessed in different parts of Africa pose great threats to the attainment of sound economic management, peace, security and people-centred development. Most certainly, it is in the interest of friends of Nigeria to react positively and assist Nigeria more on issues of violence, constraints, possible solutions and assessments of what could be achieved through assistance and cooperation.
WHY THE CONFLICT: It commenced with Boko Haram seeking the establishment of an Islamic state in Nigeria, in addition to opposing the Westernization of Nigerian society. The United Nations Security Council consequently listed Boko Haram under the al-Qaeda and applied same sanctions regime in May 2014. The UN discovered that some Boko Haram members fought alongside al Qaeda affiliated groups in Mali in 2012 and 2013 before returning to Nigeria with terrorist expertise by Benin Republic, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria in 2014. A number of countries have supported Nigeria in this lethal battle. France, the United Kingdom, and the United States have sent trainers and material assistance to Nigeria to assist with France promising to use 3,000 troops in the region for counter-terrorism operations. Israel and Canada similarly pledged support. China, in 2014 offered Nigeria assistance that included satellite data, while the UN has provided humanitarian support.
THE CITIZENRY: Like I have always stated, we, the citizenry are responsible for the woes that have befallen our society. Security is a common responsibility of all. It will be of immense benefit to us if we learn to co-exist and conduct our affairs in a civilized manner and make Nigeria an enviable heritage and example for our fellow human beings. It is tragic that the values of the society over the years have not helped the situation substantially. Many of us saw ominous signals and have taken it upon ourselves to engage in the patriotic duty of sensitizing all Nigerians about the importance of peace and security to national development, and the need to behave reasonably. Many of us elites maintain political thugs. Anything that is deceitful amounts to insulting the intelligence of our people. Let our fundamental commitment be to the sustenance of our moral and social values as well as to the building on the solid foundation that has been constructed by our departed leaders.
AFRICAN UNION/UNITED NATIONS: Those who have seen and experienced war situations and armed conflicts would never pray for a recurrence of civil war in this nation. Armed conflicts that have ravaged parts of Nigeria for the past few years are not ordinary and Nigerian troops are no cowards as recognized by positive engagements in international peacekeeping exercises. Years ago, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union at its 484th meeting in Addis Ababa pledged to put in place 7, 500 AU troops to assist in tackling this hydra-headed problem. This is a far cry from the figure required to combat insecurity in a poor continent afflicted by conflicts. Former UN Secretary-General, Ba-ki Moon as far back as 2006, called on the whole international community to support the African Union and the UN, to adopt a common counter-terrorism strategy. We all know that terrorism has no boundaries, hence the need for the global community to intervene in Nigeria’s security situation.
To date, Nigeria since independence has had 15 regimes. Some pertinent questions now arise: what should be done to promote national security and democracy which are undoubtedly two key agents of development? And what does the future portray? The answer lies in our accepting that it is better to prevent security breaches than to combat such dislocations to peace and security. In other words, I advocate proactive steps than reactive options. OUR VALUES: This is one of the reasons TERRIFIC HEADLINES IS SPEARHEADING THE FAMILY VALUES activity that we have run for over one year. Obviously, a national crusade in which every Nigerian would be involved in the peace process is necessary for us all to imbibe the right political culture. Eminent Nigerian, Dr. Christopher Kolade once argued, in an interview with Guardian newspaper that “we must pursue the task of restoring hope to our nationhood for it to happen in this generation as we jointly build a Nigeria that will bring succour and hope to her resilient people”. Of course, to reduce friction, there must be democratic renewal and more importantly, institutional continuity of programmes and policies.
Finally, as being advocated by our activity named above, we need to pay particular attention to the young ones so they are not indoctrinated, mount surveillance, provide good governance, combat illegal militia, conflict resolution, political stability and economic empowerment to be able to have a secured and progressive environment. Democracy itself is built on non-negotiable values of peaceful approach to the resolution of crises. We must step up our efforts in the areas of peace building and social justice.
It shall surely be well with Nigeria.