By Bola A. Akinterinwa
“Current Security Challenges in Nigeria: the Way Out” was the title of a public lecture written and delivered by Major General (Rtd) Adewumi Ajibade, Fellow of the Nigeria War College and former Director of Military Intelligence and Deputy National Security Adviser, on Thursday, 9th August, 2018. The lecture was organised by the Yoruba Tennis Club, a socio-cultural organisation founded in September 1926 in response to colonial discrimination against Nigerians by the colonialists, and held at the Greetings Hall of the Yoruba Tennis Club.
The lecture is of significance for various reasons. First, it came on the heels of the many threats to the national security of Nigeria: boko haramism, quest for sovereign autonomy of the Igbo people, agitation for resource control in the Niger Delta, politics of national self-deceit, largely characterised by party defections and political chicanery, Fulani herdsmen’s war on farmers, etc. The threats are increasing in different forms by the day. And yet, there are no visible end to them. Consequently, any attempt made officially, officiously, or unofficially to diagnose the causative factors and evolve possible enduring solutions cannot but always be a welcome development.
Second, the lecture did not take the format of delivery, followed by questions and answers but that of a vested-interest controlled symposium, structured into three main parts: the lecture by Major General Ajibade, the three-man-panelist discussion, and contributions from the floor. At the level of the general contributions, five interest groups were identified for possible contributions: the military, women, Yoruba interest group, Hausa interest group, especially as represented by the Kwankwaso Movement in Lagos, and the media.
The quality of panelist discussion was quite high and this can be traced to the empirical background experiences of the panelists. The first discussant was Otunba Deji Osibogun, the Chairman/Founder Space FM and Convener, Yoruba Ko’Ya (that is, the Yoruba people contest societal injustice, indiscipline and unfairness). The second discussant was Mr. Babajide Kolade-Otitoju, who heads the News Department of the Television Continental (TVC). Former Assistant Inspector General of Police, Chief Tunji Alapini, the Otun Oluwo Adimula of the Source, was the third discussant. While the first discussant underscored the nature of threats to Yoruba land, the second discussant provided a media perspective, especially from eye witness accounts. The third discussant explicated some security challenges with which senior police officers can be faced with in security-related decision-making processes.
Third, the Yoruba Tennis Club is no longer simply a club for social relaxation and camaraderie alone. It is now deeply engaged in several intellectual brainstorming sessions aimed at finding enduring solutions to impediments to nation-building. It is within this context that the lecture on security challenges and the possible way out of them should be appreciated, and particularly in light of the high level personalities invited. For instance, His Royal Majesty, Professor Adeyemi Abdukadir, the Olota of Otta of Awori Kingdom was there and he took active part in the discussions. He was the invited Royal Father of the Day.
Fourth, and perhaps more significantly, the platform of the lecture was not only used to appreciate the officiating guest participants but also to recognise non-members whose roles had impacted on the mandate of the Yoruba Tennis Club. They included the veteran journalist, Bisi Olatilo, the three discussants and the guest lecturer. A member of the Club celebrated his 83rd birthday anniversary on that day and was honoured. Dr. Oluyomi Abayomi Finnih who moderated the event, Dr. Bolaji Ajenifuja who chaired the occasion and many representatives of former Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso, who is also one of the presidential aspirants in the 2019 general elections, were all there.
Fifth, and most importantly, different causal factors of insecurity were identified but could not all be articulated in terms of how best to address the problems. One major rationale for it was time constraint. Another reason was that greater emphasis was on commentary rather than on analyses. Thus, with the deepening threats against national security, what really should be the way forward? Is Nigeria’s main problem that of corruption, or that of political leadership? Is it that of followership or unilateralism-driven democracy? What about the agitation for restructuring?
Lecture and Discussion: the Issues
Major General Ajibade raised a number of issues in his paper. He drew attention to the distinction between wars that are fought by armies and those that will no longer be fought by armies. Wars fought by armies are the conventional types while the other category of wars are fought by terrorist groups, insurgents, guerrillas, bandits, militants, including herdsmen. The lecturer was quick to note though, that this category of wars that are not fought by armies is not a new phenomenon and that ‘before the birth of Christ, the assassination of tyrannical rulers were not only condoned but encouraged, the killers were glorified, praised and reverend. Terrorism has long exercised great fascination, especially at a safe distance.’
A second important issue is the conception of security which the lecturer considers to be both offensive and defensive. It can be offensive when it is about acquisition of security of information for planning, while ‘the implementation of protective security measures to guarantee own security… and to carry out security audit/security survey’ falls within the purview of defensive security. Additionally, he considered security as a situation where everybody can go on his or her duty unhindered and where lives and property, as well as valuables are protected from harm or disruption.
What is noteworthy about how to understand security is that the lecturer made strenuous efforts to trace the origins of the quest for security: how the primitive men of Africa sought shelter and security in caves, and when there were new threats, how they engaged in safe-guard measures, such as bonfires and traps, how they built gates, high walls, hill tops, watch towers, trenches, gullies, gorges, and how they eventually invented weapons like spears, bows and arrows.
Considering that security concerns have existed since early times but the challenges have actually never been as readily manifest as they are today, the lecturer came up with the thrust of his lecture on how best to respond to the challenges of national security in Nigeria. As he put it, ‘the right attitude to security begins with the acceptance that no amount of arms, ammunition and guards can produce the desired result, attitude and commitment to security. What is more, it begins with the acceptance that security is the collective responsibility of everyone in the society.’ More importantly, he posited that ‘the right attitude encompasses security awareness, a mindset, the understanding that those elements that constitute threat to security problems should therefore, not be the exclusive responsibility of the state, but the solemn duty of every member of the community.’
Without jot of doubt, he came up with the foregoing arguments in the strong belief that the causal factors of the threats to Nigeria’s national security are mainly high rate of unemployment and poverty, undemocratic governmental actions, alienation of the intelligentsia, radicalisation of religious groups and intolerance, illegal militant activities, uneven distribution of scarce national resources, environmental degradation leading to agitations, particularly in the Niger Delta area, and effects of globalisation and natural disasters.
The viewpoints of the panelists and other participants in the audience are mixed: some share the viewpoints of the lecturer while some gave different causative reasons. For instance, Otunba Deji Osibogun gave three reasons for the deepening insecurity in Nigeria. First, he recalled the 1960 independence day speech of Sir Ahmadu Bello in which he declared that ‘this new nation called Nigeria shall be an extension of the estate of our great grandfather Othman Danfodio, we must ruthlessly prevent a change of government. We must use the people of the middle belt as willing tools and the people of the South as conquered territory and never let them control their own future.’
This reference is widely held seriously in the southern part of Nigeria, and particularly in the South West. The quotation is largely responsible for the suspicions underlying the attitudinal behaviour towards the Fulani elite in Nigeria. In the thinking of most southerners, the silence of President Muhammadu Buhari on the frequent Fulani Herdsmen’s aggression on farmers is seen in the context of fulfilment of Othman Danfodio’s extension of the estate, which most southerners are showing unwillingness to accept. This is how Ahmadu Bello’s 1960 independence day speech becomes a major threat to national security.
A second threat noted by Otunba Osibogun is the 1914 amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Protectorates which obstructed Yoruba unity by neutralising the peace agreement done in 1893. As Osibogun explained it, the 1893 agreement required that ‘each region (would) take a certain percentage of the profits they make from their trade and remit them to the traditional central authority.’ However, in 1914, ‘the British Colonial Master sought total submission of all tribes to the amalgamation of Southern and Northern protectorates. We signed an agreement that is akin to the restructuring we are clamouring for now in Nigeria but the British Colonial Masters never forgave the Southern Nigeria for resisting their indirect rule system, so they placed the North above the South.’ This was how the Yoruba lost their security on the very day they ‘accepted the amalgamation of 1914.’
This was also how ‘the Fulani took over Ilorin, a Yoruba land, they were not joking when they arrived there but no one took them serious.’ Consequently, Otunba Osibogun advised on the need to be cautious of the Fulani theory of taking power, seizing power and using power and for every Yoruba man to take seriously this threat being manifested in different forms. For instance, there are the cases of ‘7,356 migrants mainly from the aforementioned northern states (Borno, Katsina, Zamfara, Kebbi, Sokoto and Yobe) (who) came into Lagos State alone in the month of June 2018 without verifiable place of residence. Their first point of call and destination is usually at Yaba-Oyingbo axis from there they are distributed across the land of aquatic splendour.’
Third, and perhaps most disturbingly, Otunba Osibogun drew attention to the preponderance of importation of motorcycles from the north to Yoruba land, but to which little or no attention is being paid in terms of implications for security. In the words of Otunba Osibogun, ‘today a Northern Senator will buy 200 motorcycles, get the corresponding number of Fulani men and send them down to the South West and induct them into the Yoruba tribes, they are first deposited in the villages in Yoruba land like Akoko, Egbe, Ikun, etc, so that they can communicate with Yoruba language before integrating the aggressors into cities like Ibadan, Ijebu, Lagos Mainland, Lekki and Ajah.’
Again, whether anyone wants to agree or disagree with the submission of Otunba Osibogun, there can be no disputing the fact that the submission is the belief of the Yoruba K’oya Movement whose Directorate of Organisation, Research and Publicity ‘found out that a minimum of 500 migrants come into Lagos State everyday from the Northern States of Borno, Katsina, Zamfara, Kebbi, Sokoto and Yobe. The belief, rightly or wrongly, is that there is an emerging hidden agenda of Fulani domination in Nigeria. The President of Nigeria is a Fulani man and he is perceived to be supporting his kinsmen to the detriment of his national mandate as the president of all peoples of Nigeria.
In the same vein, AIG Tunji Alapini (Rtd) identified eight causes of unending insecurity in Nigeria. They are unemployment which leads to frustration and resort to kidnapping for ransom and survival; institutional corruption; lack of faith in the security agencies. In the words of Alapini, a Member of the National Institute, ‘a large percentage of the populace have lost confidence in the efficiency, effectiveness and performance of the security agencies, most especially, the Nigeria Police. Majority picked up the police jobs not to prevent crime but for lack of employment and as a means to an end to use the office to extort. The military is seen as an army of occupation not capable of defending the territorial integrity of the nation. The Customs Service is seen as not effective because they come to the markets to impound bags of rice instead of preventing the influx from the porous borders…’; imbalance in government appointments in which people from the same ethnic and religious background are given sensitive positions to the exclusion of other people from other tribes in the country; loss of socio-cultural and community values; porous borders, proliferation of arms, influx of foreigners and terrorism; ethnicism which has led to the establishment of MASSOB, IPOB, OPC, AREWA, etc; and supremacy battles among security agencies.
In this regard, this perception is a major threat to national security. It has the potential to seriously disintegrate the country if good care is not taken, but what do we mean by a good care? What really is the good way forward? One good way forward is to seek to go beyond the current politics of war on corruption, with its characteristics of chicanery and destructive selfishness.
Beyond Political Chicanery
Various suggestions on how best to contain the current security challenges in Nigeria were made at the lecture. For the cardinal purpose of Yoruba safety, Otunba Osibogun suggested the initial registration of some categories of some service providers before they are allowed to function in any part of Yoruba Land. They are domestic guards, corporate security companies and staff, private security outfits, including events management security, club house bouncers and vigilante groups and personnel.
Besides, he suggested that the NURTW in Yoruba Land, the RTEAN in Yoruba Land, the ACCOMORAN in Yoruba Land and all Tricycles riders in Yoruba Land should be considered as ‘travel and transit security agencies by virtue of their responsibilities to ensure safe delivery of persons and goods in transit and over distances in Yoruba Land and thus, all their members must be registered with Bank Verification Number (BVN) as a must attached.’
There is goodness in this registration but there is still the need to go beyond the limitation of the registration to Yoruba Land. The Yoruba cannot be considered safe if the other neighbouring ethnic groups are under security threats. The truth of the matter is that there is no monitoring agency to ensure the implementation of government policy decisions. It is apt to recall the directive of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo on the need for the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the Nigeria Immigration Service to have offices in all the 774 Local Government capitals.
The main purpose then was to have a sustainable basis for monitoring the inflow of foreigners into the local communities. Most unfortunately, however, not much have been done in this regard. Who is a Nigerian and who is a foreigner in Nigeria, no one knows, more so that Nigeria is not a police country. There is really the need to fast track the opening of offices for the NIS and the NSCDC in all the various Local Government Areas. It is by so doing that all manner of security threats can first be identified and promptly dealt with through intelligence gathering.
In the eyes of Tunji Alapini, the solutions require good governance and good leadership, socio-economic development, better operational equipment for the security agencies, elimination of corruption, establishment of stronger intelligence gathering, strengthening border patrols, ensuring that only the patriotic people are elected into the legislature and that the judiciary is not politically manipulated.
From the perspective of Major General Ajibade, there is the need to formulate a national security strategy that will be constantly reviewed and updated. The establishment of a National Strategy Office should be a priority, with the appointment of a coordinator reporting to the President through the National Strategy Council. Nigeria must seek to win the peace and not simply the war. There is also the need to place greater emphasis on the strategic, tactical and consolidation operations, that is, there is the need to exploit the psychological operations/warfare as part of the propaganda/counter propaganda war against terrorists. And more interestingly, there is the need to take advantage of satellite technology, as well as the use of drones, to identify and monitor terrorists, criminal gangs and herdsmen attackers.
As good as all the various suggestions are, the unacknowledged truth is that the Nigeria of today has become a nation of untruth, where the biggest challenge is also the inability of the people to know what their problem is all about, where party defections are essentially about protection of self-interests and not that of the constituencies of the defecting politicians, where court rulings and judgments are selectively obeyed depending on convenience, and more importantly, where people put in position to defend national integrity, honesty of purpose and national unity consciously engage in the contrary. Possession of invalid certificates by public serving officials, diversion of public funds and selective targets of the anti-corruption war, as well as appointing indicted people in government are the critical and current threats to national security and not as propounded above. Only truth can deliver Nigeria from its security ordeals.