CHANGE OF GUARDS AND EXPECTATIONS

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The appointment of the new service chiefs is in order, writes A. A. Gadzama

The President and Commander-in-Chief has finally succumbed to public pressure and replaced the former Service Chiefs. The changes were long overdue and justified considering the fact that there was not much progress in defeating the insurgents in the North East, stopping the spate of killings by people suspected to be herdsmen across the country and the state of general insecurity in nearly all parts of the country. These were not the only acts of insecurity and criminality that concerned the populace. Equally of concern were the virtual state of siege in parts of the country as exemplified by attacks on public highways and the rampage by lawless individuals and groups. The change of service chiefs is therefore commendable.

The President and his advisers once again proved responsive to public opinion. The decision took time understandably to avoid past mistakes of appointing unfit persons into sensitive positions of leadership. Many of us believe that the president made well-informed choices in the appointment of the new service chiefs. Not even his most ardent critics could fault the choice of the new service chiefs. The appointments addressed the twin problems of lopsidedness and brazen disregard of the federal character principles and ethno-religious balancing. Much more important however is the issue of competence, loyalty and restoring professionalism in the services which demand extreme caution.

I am compelled to write to underscore the importance of caution which in the past was not exercised in such appointments resulting in failure to defeat the security threats that have engulfed the country in the last one decade. We believe the president and his advisers exercised due diligence. It is important to note that past efforts failed to appreciate our realities. The persistence of insecurity in the country is to a large extent also due to lack of required assets to pursue the wars and deficiencies in strategies being deployed. There is also the problem of dishonesty. I have often advised that there can be no success in any enterprise when there is no honesty in the pursuit of the mission. There is also the indispensability of the support of the citizenry.

It is a known fact that no counter intelligence war has ever been successful without the support of the citizenry. In almost all cases, the efforts of the security forces should be complemented with the support of the citizens in intelligence sourcing and identification of criminal elements. Some of us believe that the forces can make do with more psychological support to encourage the troops to defeat the criminal elements. It should also be pointed out that the ongoing counter insurgency war in the North East suffered immeasurable losses due to uncomplimentary remarks by individuals who should know better. Demanding invitation of foreign mercenaries to deal with the insurgents is ill-informed and smacks of lack of knowledge on the issues being dealt with that constitute serious distractions.

There are also other tendencies that should be discouraged. Change in the attitude of those who find themselves in political leadership is necessary. Politicians must appreciate the predicament of the security forces. We need to insulate the current efforts from politics and parochial sentiments. Conversely the security forces must accept genuine criticisms from critics in order to make amends. It has been observed that a major problem in the ongoing war against the current security challenges is that many in the corridors of power are allergic to what they misconstrue as unwarranted criticisms. We believe some of the criticisms are honest and well- intended as suggestions that some things could be done differently are acceptable in democratic settings. Those defending the government inevitably end up making more enemies for the government when they are less tolerant of honest advice.

Another deficiency that is very glaring in the ongoing wars against insurgency, kidnapping, banditry and attacks on communities is the dearth of actionable intelligence. Not much progress can be made without the required intelligence. The new service chiefs must therefore revitalize their intelligence gathering strategies and assets.

The new service chiefs should avoid deception and playing to the gallery and be weary of false claims being churned out. This is the reason why some critics wondering just how many insurgents and bandits there are, considering the frequency of announcements of successes and “neutralization”. There is so much sceptism over some of the claims being made by the spokesmen of the security forces who have formed the habit of only telling their principals what they want to hear. This attitude needs to be discarded as it is poses serious credibility problems in the ongoing efforts against the security challenges.

There are also the challenges of welfare of personnel. The major area of concern of those prosecuting the wars is the negligence of their warfare and the non-availability of assets and platforms that could help bring the various security threats to an end. Their efforts have also been undermined by the activities of insider saboteurs and those that have lost relevance. The fact is our security forces are generally resilient and could give their best in every situation but they could easily be frustrated when their leadership is not living up to expectations. Accordingly, the new service chiefs, if they are to succeed, should frontally deal with the menace of sycophancy, nepotism and compromise that frustrate honest attempts to deal with problems at hand.

The near mutinous situations in some military formations in the past hardly speak well of those in command positions. Finally, there is the problem of inadequacy of men in the theatres of war. It will be fool hardy to expect that the security challenges would be won with security forces that are terribly inadequate, ill-equipped and overstretched. Not much progress would be made without addressing the problems of equipment, staffing and leadership. The new service chiefs should note that what the country expects from them is bringing to an end all the security challenges in the land. This is possible.

We wish to congratulate the new Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Lucky Irabor and the New Chief of Army Staff, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru, previous Commanders of Operation Lafiya Dole in the North East. The two officers did exceptionally well and gave good account of themselves as commanders. We pray they will live up to expectation.

Gadzama OFR, mni, is Chairman, Board of National Institute of Security Studies