Chief of Army Staff Lt General Azubuike Ihejirika
Leadership and Culture are the two life-wires that give vital or virulent charge to any organization, empire, corporation or nation at any given point in time. Depending on the circumstance, great leadership engenders an enviable and energetic culture which in turn enforces great leadership. On the other hand, bad leadership engenders an enervated culture which in turn perpetuates bad leadership.
For instance during the World War II, these two wires intersected to give that vital charge to Great Britain (which was comparatively weaker in military terms to Germany or Japan). At the helm of the leadership pole was Winston Churchill, an excellent leader who refused to see defeat even though it seemed apparent, one who had the courage, charisma, boldness to stand up and stir ultra-high voltages of patriotism and motivation in his people. On the culture pole was every able-bodied Britain- mothers dropped their children off at orphanages to work at factories where military hard-wares were produced, adult males left home and business to enlist in the armed forces. It was a culture of duty, service and sacrifice. In the end Germany did not overrun Great Britain as it did to virtually all Western European nations.
Nigeria today faces a huge security challenge, one that actually threatens its survival. A bestial and deranged group (Boko Haram) have been rampaging and ravaging especially the Northern parts of the country with impunity and pushing the country to the brink of an internal/civil war.
Policing and Security
The Nigerian Police Force saddled with the responsibility of maintaining law and order in the country have failed woefully in the war against the insurrectionists. This largely due to the decadent culture of corruption and nepotism reinforced by bad leadership- the result is a highly polarized and pulverized organization lacking focus and morals in firepower. Long before the Boko Haram became a full blown menace, the State Security Service (An excellent Intel gathering organization) in the early 2000s cracked the organization arrested its leaders and handed them over to the police. What did the Nigerian Police do? You bet, they interrogated these men, arrested their backers, prosecuted them and cracked down on the few other cells in Borno State. Of course that did not happen for that would have been a miracle!
The Nigerian Police Force released them; obviously their influential backers would have paid a hefty sum to the police brass to secure their release. The extra-judicial killing of the former leader of Boko-Haram- Muhammad Yusuf by men of the Nigerian Police Force tells of how entrenched the debilitating culture. It has been alleged that the former Governor of Borno State who was scared of Yusuf exposing his involvement in the group used his influence to order the killing. This allegation as been given credence with the recent demand of Boko- Haram to have that Governor arrested and killed. Also the escape of Kabiru Sokoto, the mastermind of the Christmas day bombing in 2011 even under armed police men and the complicity of sacked Commissioner of Police Zakari Biu in his escape is testimony to the fact that the Police cannot win a war when it has been so pulverized by nepotism and corruption.
In fact the current Inspector General of Police was indicted by the Justice Niki Tobi panel while he was the Commissioner of Police in Plateau State for been complicit in the massacre of Christians by Muslim extremists. The white paper recommended his sack and prosecution. That did not happen; instead he was promoted to become the IG. In developed climes, it is altogether impossible for an individual with such an indictment to ever hold such a sensitive position. Only recently in the US, General David Petraeus, (An excellent and brilliant four star General who has been credited to turning around the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and who developed the Doctrine of Counter-Insurgency COIN) resigned as head of the CIA because of an extra-marital affair.
What can be done
Nigeria’s best bet is to look for a Para-military organization with a higher and dignified leadership and culture to train and arm to replace the entire Nigerian Police Force- the NPF has become an organization too steeped in leadership and culture malaise that restructuring it wouldn’t do a thing, many attempts have been made to restructure the force to no avail. Like the Holy Scriptures said ‘when the foundations are destroyed what can the righteous do?’ as it stands today, virtually all Nigerians have no regard, respect, trust or hope in the current NPF to guarantee any concrete security.
Thus what is direly needed in policing is a root and branch approach. One Para-military organization that stands out when it comes to virile leadership and culture is the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC). They are one organization that got it right from the beginning in terms of leadership and culture. The FRSC has blazed the trail of excellence; no one can gainsay the fact that you are done in when you violate road safety rules and you are caught by the FRSC there is no issue of “Oga abeg manage this small thing” or “Oga when I come back I go balance you” there is no such thing as negotiation- do the crime, do the time! You would often see violating commercial drivers avoid the route where FRSC officials are stationed because they know the deal. I have personally had to pay the seat belt penalty fee twice because my friend on the passenger seat forgot to wear the seat belt. And as they say once beaten twice shy, I was twice beaten and that made it forever shy! The conscientiousness, dutifulness, timeliness of FRSC officials is one that is unparalleled in this nation. I know friends who were involved in auto accidents whose loads of cash and expensive accessories recovered by the FRSC were returned in full nothing missing in this same Nigeria!
Thus the country’s best bet is to train and retrain all the men and women in of the FRSC. In addition, men from the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (Another Para-military organization with good leadership and culture) should be trained in the art, psychology and science of modern day policing. This training could be done for about one year; other trainings could be done on the job. Also new and modern police infrastructure, stations camps, barracks, holding facilities, arms should be made available. Of critical importance should be the formulation of a clear, well defined and articulated strategic and tactical police doctrine by security experts, representatives of the people and stakeholders that should be constantly reviewed progressively as circumstances may suggest. A new name could be given to new police, say The Federation Police (Fed Pol) The current NPF from top to bottom, bottom to top should be sacked and the transition done in a seamless manner. Good guys from the old NPF would surely not have any problem been readmitted into the new one. There is also the need to educate and enlighten Nigerians on the fact that the cost of insecurity is always greater than the cost of security
The Armed Forces and Security
The Nigerian Army has been drafted into the battle against the insurgents given the apparent inability of the police tackle the menace. The Nigerian Army asides from the fact that she wasn’t trained in internal counter-terrorist combat or suited to respond effectively to internal crises. The Nigerian Army is also a highly politicized organization. The Nigerian Army in 1960 was said to be “a small military outfit fashioned after the British army’s apolitical disposition to national issues but faithfully devoted to its traditional functions and ceremonial duties…
The army was soon to earn new respect for its non-partisan outlook, the discipline of its personnel and its incorruptibility… The armed forces were regarded as the only non-regional and non-tribal organization in the country” (quoted in Ekoko 1990) even though the higher cadre was dominated by the Ibos and the lower cadre dominated by Northerners. The culture in the military then was professionalism, discipline and espirit de corps. Then the introduction of an alien and adulterated concept into the military-quota which was to graduate to Federal Character.
In 1961, Minister of Defence, Muhammadu Ribadu extended quota system to the officer corps and reduced entry qualifications for northerners. The quotas were 50% north and 25% each for east and west. With this apparent adulteration and bastardization of a pristine military culture came coups and counter coups until the military became a political party of uniformed men. Gen. Babangida had this to say during the 1987 graduation ceremony of the Command and Staff College, Jaji “the military cohesion exhibited cracks due to ethnic, religious, political and class leanings. Discipline is diluted by ‘godfatherism’ and overrating of otherwise mediocre officers, shattering the hierarchy of Command while the military sense of nationalism and patriotism get deeply truncated and diluted by sectional or parochial loyalties”.
Prof. Ekoko also succinctly described the culture that pervades the military as one that “creates opportunities for settling personal and ethnic scores in the name of change; senior officers are either killed or retired and appointments to certain positions based not on performance and skill but on opportunism, ethnic balance, religious affiliation, service and corps representation and such categories”
It was in a bid to restore the professionalism and discipline that former President Obasanjo on assumption of office retired en mass soldiers whom he tagged ‘political soldiers’ but just retiring some soldiers without re-orientating, re-injecting, re-infusing the culture of discipline and professionalism only meant new bad eggs replaced the old with the bad culture persisting. The Justice Niki Tobi white paper on the 2010 Plateau massacre indicted the then General Officer Commanding 3rd Armoured Division, Jos of complicity and taking sides, Muslim extremists were reportedly given military uniforms and assault rifles by Muslim soldiers and that such a sweeping massacre could be carried out even though there was a military curfew only gave credence to the indictment. Reports of military men brutalizing civilians are rampant, only recently it was reported that some military men abducted some girls in Abuja to rape them.
To my chagrin even military men at check points also demand bribes like their comrades in the Police. These are scenarios that are ruled out ex hypothesi in professional militaries of the West. This is not to say that everyone in the NPF or Nigerian Army is indulged in the culture described, there are many perfect gentlemen (Christians and Muslims) that I personally know in the NPF and NA but since the culture that pervades is one that is decadent, they would most likely be retired before they get to the positions where they can effect change, while indicted fellas get to get the top jobs. Thus we have security forces who are supposed to guarantee security being forces of insecurity.
What should be done?
To begin with the adulterated concept of quota and Federal Character must be absolutely expunged and disregarded in the selection of Nigerian armed forces and in all the security apparatus of the country. Every virile security organization discriminates not in favour of tribe, region or religion but in favour of high level professionalism, intellectualism, skills, capabilities and abilities. Any security force that doesn’t do this is compromised already. To make the process more transparent, the State of Origin of applicants should not be requested during the application process so that it doesn’t seem some states are been favoured over the other. Footages of the rigorous mental, physical, psycho-emotional selection process could be shown to the general public, in fact, the public could be invited to watch the processes in which their security forces are subjected to. This way the public take pride in their security forces as they know that only the best make up the force
Secondly, a new re-orientation on the pristine military culture of discipline, professionalism, intellectualism, service, patriotism, unity etc that existed during 1960 be inculcated into men in uniform in all the training institutions of the land and perpetual shock tests been administered to weed out those who do not conform. Thirdly, the setting up and training of brigades and battalions in counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence and such battalions deployed all over the States of the Federation. Fourthly, there has to be a clear progressive joint inter-service strategic and tactical doctrine and a standing committee to review such doctrine annually. And I agree with Prof. Ekoko that Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Minna, be re-organized as a tri-service establishment.
Fifthly, the government should fund, encourage and incentivize the growth and development of research and production of advanced military hardware and technology across Universities and the Military Industrial Complex. And yes, nuclear capabilities must be pursued for the purposes of deterrence.
Finally, An expansion of Nigerian military teeth to include guaranteeing and maintaining security in the West and Central African cape to ensure Nigeria’s access to resources and protection of resources and the prevention of illicit trade and trafficking. To this end a West African Command should be created with bases across both the West and Central African cape. With this scenario the situation where senior officers are retired and their skills retiring with them because a junior officer has to be promoted would be a thing of the past. In such a scenario as described senior officers can simply be transferred to bases outside the country and their skills retained and appropriated for both national and regional security. They will then report directly to the Commander-in-Chief and military hierarchy wouldn’t be upset.
•Dolapo Ajala, a Strategist lives in Abuja