•Directs military, other security agencies to use overwhelming force if necessary to protect peaceful poll
•Says non-state actors won’t be allowed to disrupt electoral process
•Nigerian forces kill al-Barnawi’s successor two months after death of ISWAP leader
Deji Elumoye in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday vowed that he would never allow anything or anyone to disrupt the forthcoming governorship election in Anambra State. He made the declaration during a National Security Council (NSC) meeting in Abuja with the service chiefs, where the election and rising cases of violence became the focus of attention.
He gave marching orders to the security agencies to apply overwhelming force, if necessary, to protect the November 6 governorship election and ensure it was not interrupted by non-state actors who have been heating up the polity.
National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd), disclosed the president’s directive to journalists at the end of the security meeting. Monguno said besides the fact that the people of Anambra State deserved to elect a governor of their choice, the federal government would not sit by and let non-state actors set a wrong precedent in the country’s electoral experience.
The NSA stated, “The president has directed that under no circumstances will anything be allowed to stop the elections from taking place successfully. The people have a right to vote, they have a right to select their leader, and no group or individual will be allowed to stimulate anarchy and chaos, leading to murderous activities.
“The president has made it very clear that the armed forces, security agencies, and law enforcement agencies must make sure that the elections take place. If it means overwhelming the entire environment with the presence of security agencies.
“There are so many implications for elections to be sabotaged by non-state actors. In the first place, we are in a democracy. Secondly, it is important to note that if these non-state actors should succeed in destroying the potential for orderly elections, then it is natural that other parts of the country will also want to copy this situation.”
Monguno said the council observed recent trends of violent activities and was desirous of seeing a hitch-free election in the state.
He said, “The problem here is that in as much as the government wants to conduct peaceful elections, there are non-state actors who have been heating up the polity, who have made all kinds of attempts to stymie orderly elections for next month.”
Monguno maintained that the president did not want to contemplate a situation in which he would be boxed into a corner.
“The mere thought that a group of non-state actors want to portray his government as not being able to be firm is totally out of the question,” he said.
“The tail cannot wag the dog, it is totally unacceptable and, again, we in the security and intelligence community have been trying as much as possible to talk with the leadership in the South-east, to make them aware of the fact that President Buhari is not averse to the aspirations of the people of the South-east,” the NSA added.
He stressed, “So long as whatever they desire to achieve, they do it through the normal prescribed manner, either legislative, legal, or whatever. For as long as it is within the confines of legitimacy, President Buhari does not have a problem with that. But any action that is outlandish, any action that typifies roguery, the usurpation of the authority of the state is not going to be tolerated.
“Again, we’re also mindful of the fact that Nigerians, being what they are, also need to understand that if these non-state actors should go out on a limb and extend the frontiers of violence, and begin to kill people, there is a possibility that reprisal attacks can take place in other parts of the country, which is what we do not want to happen.
“So, we’re working with the community leaders, with the governors and everybody to ensure that they bring their people, restrain them on the leash.”
He also said the NSC reviewed the security situation across the country, noting that the various security formations – the armed forces, intelligence sector and the police – have been recording successes from one end of the country to another.
According to him, in a short space of time, the armed forces have recorded victory over terrorist groups in the North-east, as they have eliminated, in quick succession, leaders of the notorious Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).
The NSA said about two months after the Nigerian Army eliminated Abu Musab al-Barnawi, the dreaded leader of ISWAP, troops, just two days ago, killed his successor, Mallam Bako, in combat.
Monguno said inter-agency cooperation among the various forces and agencies had yielded appreciable successes in communities and the economy.
He noted the unprecedented feat in security within the country’s maritime environment and the recent elimination of a notorious gangster in Benue State, one Aondofa Kefas (Azonto).
According to him, “Other aspects basically have to do with the current state of security in the country and the sub-region. Of course, the armed forces and security agencies have done so much in the last couple of months.
“Let me say clearly, in the last six months, they have been able to record a lot of successes.
“Now the issue here is that it is not very easy for the wider society to appreciate the successes being recorded by the armed forces, because there will definitely be incidents of misadventure. This is asymmetric conflict; it is not like the normal conventional war in which territories are won, you grapple with the enemy, you defeat him, and you move on. Here we have the enemy embedded in society, coming from all parts.
“Like I once said, someone had remarked after the Brighton bombing of 1984, that the difference between the terrorist or the criminal and the state is that it only takes one act for the terrorist to succeed and gain a lot of publicity, but for the armed forces, for the government and its agencies, you have to succeed on every occasion, otherwise, after 12 successes, if you fail, or you have a problem on the 13th occasion, nobody wants to know.
“So, this is the situation with which we are faced. But, nevertheless, I will just highlight that the Chief of Defense Staff, service chiefs, and intelligence heads briefed Council and I can tell you that for the land forces, they have recorded a lot of successes in the last two months.
“We have had a steady increase in the number of returnees, both combatants and non-combatants, from the theatre of operation; both from the Islamic State of West Africa Province and the Boko Haram enclaves.
“Now what has happened is we are now having to contend with 15,852 returnees. This in its own case is accompanied by problems; humanitarian problems, problems of logistics, problems of profiling each and every one because we are not just interested in profiling the ex-combatants, we are also interested in profiling those people who are assumed to be non-combatants, who may have reached out and assisted the terrorists in one way or the other.”
Commenting on frequent attacks and stealing of the country’s arms and ammunition by bandits and terrorists, the NSA said moves were being made to end the menace.
He explained, “Efforts right now are underway. As you already know, yesterday, the president had an important visitor, the president of Turkey.
“Just like he has had discussions with the President of Turkey, he has had discussions with other leaders on how we can share intelligence and acquire technical capabilities to deal with these emerging threats. So, it is basically a matter of looking at where we can get equipment and assets to deal with these threats.”