Loading: Asymmetrical National Security Challenges

By Okey Ikechukwu

As the security challenges facing the nation grow in leaps and bounds, the efforts at their containment multiply by the hour. These efforts range from the direct commendable interventions of individuals and institutions of state charged with the responsibility of securing the nation, to the well-meant suggestions of regional sociocultural organizations, as well as the actions of militant groups, wishing to proffer solutions of their own. They are all eager to see the situation change for the better. 

In all of this however, especially in the many retreats, conferences and summits on national security held all over the country for decades now, there seems to be a preponderance of what can best be described as “lamentational” and descriptive submissions. Yes, many of them offer detailed descriptions of the problems, their historical origins and their negative impact on our lives. Then you also find many generalized recommendations, devoid of clear implementation strategies. In all, we remain on the same spot, complain about, and condemn, the military and security agencies, especially the Nigerian Army.

 There are also, presumably very insightful and patriotic Nigerians, who never get tired of insisting that the solution lies in the declaration of a State of emergency on national security, followed by a complete overhaul of the nation’s security architecture. The problem here, however, is that no two members of this clan of patriotic Nigerans can give you the same definition of “Nigeria’s security architecture’, or what is so wrong with it that it needs a comprehensive overhaul. They are also usually not in the position to say what aspects of this supposedly faulty architecture need urgent medical attention.

Concerning declaring a State of Emergency, we should all ask ourselves what is to be gained by a simple verbal declaration that there is now a state of emergency on national security.  Will that make uncooperative communities suddenly start plying the military and security agencies with the local intelligence they have been holding back for a long time now? Will it improve the availability of arms and ammunition, or will it dramatically raise the morale of officers and soldiers who are overstretched and also hamstrung by the missteps of a civilian ruling elite that has created a massive pool of impoverished and unemployed youths?

It was the need for a purely solutions-based engagement that is driven by objective and clear-sighted third-Party narratives that led to the Partnership between the Nigerian Army Resource Centre (NARC) and Development Specs Academy (DSA) to refocus the direction of all our conversations about national security. Yesterday, NARC and DSA held a well-attended press conference in Abuja, as part of activities leading up to their planned national Roundtable designed to interrogate “Asymmetrical National Security Challenges, the Army and National Development”. This is an event that would call from very specific, and implementable Action Points from the participants.

Also at the conference yesterday were the Strategic Partners of DSA, all who teamed up to make the roundtable a phenomenal success. They include, but are not limited to the Nigerian Institute of Public relations (NIPR), the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Voice of Nigeria (VON), the News agency of Nigerian (NAN), the Institute for Strategic Development Communication (ISDEVCOM), Nnamdi Azikiwe Business School, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), and the Institute for Peace, Security and Development Studies (IPSDS).

The point of securing the buy-in and deep commitment of these Strategic Partners was to make these credible and highly regarded professional bodies, institutes and institutions, as well as agencies of government that are headed by professionals in public communication, professional information management and the media to make these pillars of credibility part of the dominant voices that are heard on core issues of national security.

The organizers of the Roundtable went round, consulted with these Partners and other stakeholders, achieved some measure of consensus on the core issues at the heard of asymmetrical national security challenges and came out with a template for pragmatic and realistic solutions. The Roundtable thus stands out as a Third-Party initiative, designed to distil Implementable Action Points (IAPs) on pressing asymmetrical national security challenges in the country.

These are security challenges that do not take the simple form of easily-identified, routinely compartmentalized, properly isolated and unilaterally targetable problems. No! They range from embedded targets, refusal to help the army and other security agencies with local intelligence, the targeting of military personnel for hostile civilian attention, unproductive community engagements, deliberate misrepresentation of the activities and achievements of the Nigerian Army through fake news, to deliberate misinformation and disinformation, among other disruptive environmental variables.

What we need today is a people’s RoundTable that will drive non-partisan national interest narratives. Believable national communication needs the twin elements of objectivity and professionalism, while promoting public understanding of the roles, and achievements, of the nation’s military and security agencies and platforms. In the end, it is all about creating a groundswell of that aspect of public communication that is usually best described as National Interest Communication without Propaganda (NIC–P).

From the pre-event investigations, surveys and consultations of the organisers, this forthcoming RoundTable needs to bring out the roots of growing spate of attacks on military personnel, as well as the crisis of targeted general hostility towards the Nigerian Army in particular.

It is unacceptable that more and more people see and treat national security problems as purely the business of the military and, especially, the Nigeran army. That such problems are also so clear and present as to be threatening their lives is a matter of little concern to many of them. That is why this RoundTable must drive a new narrative, by getting Nigeria’s various publics to see and understand their roles, and the roles of other key actors, in the wider national ecosystem of synchronized security.

For good measure, this Roundtable seems set to re-emphasize, as much as possible, the specific and general roles of the military, particularly the Nigerian army, in the cocktail of structures, activities and processes that constitute the national security architecture. It would, in the process, address the emerging challenges and deliberate misrepresentations of our men in uniform as objectively as possible.

Thus, we are looking at a national Roundtable on “Asymmetrical National Security Challenges, the Army and National Development that would, among other things, showcase facts-based reviews of current asymmetrical national security challenges. It should also highlight the achievements of the Nigerian Army in the war against banditry and insurgency, as it presents a holistic perspective on the imperatives of a “whole of society approach” to national security challenges.

As the organizers have declared that the event would be strictly guided by Chatham House Rules, the use of Third-Party presentations, narratives and suggestions to problematise asymmetrical security and the solutions to such challenges should be a harvest of the best possible indicators for those looking for Action Points and plans for an end to some of our most telling national security challenges. This will, no doubt include many things that the Nigerian Army and other players in the national security framework may not be a able to put in the public domain, because of the constraints of professional protocols and political considerations.

The Roundtable should also establish informed linkages between the negative fallouts of political decisions, overlooked multiplier effects poor civilian leadership and emerging national security challenges in different parts of the country. This should be in addition to presenting the nation’s general and specific security challenges and the efforts and achievements of the military, particularly the Nigerian army, in a way that does not try to mask any ugly truths. But the aim shall be to find and present realistic solutions, rather than the mere fact of discovering and celebrating problems alone.

Of course, it may be objected here that there has been so much talk and meetings about our security challenges. That is correct. The question for us is whether such talks and meetings, even where and when they do not deliver certain results, are necessarily pointless. Sometimes, all it takes for a presumably pointless conversation to make meaning is for the content, mode and desired results of those conversing to change. That change is expected in next week’s Roundtable.

It is left for us who are interested to head to the Nigerian Army Resource Centre, Mambilla Barracks, in Asokoro, Abuja on Monday the 24th and Tuesday the 25th, next week, since admission is free.

A Note on Kano-Ju-Nastics

We are all looking at the ancient city of Kano with bated breath. Two monarchs are at war in the “peace” of Kano. There is no seating monarch, since the two claimants to the royal stool have both been asked not to sit on the throne. So, if we must call either of them the monarch of Kano, depending on which of the court judgments flying around we subscribe to, we must say that they are “standing”, not sitting, monarchs.

We must also say that both monarchs, in so far as two people can be the kings of a kingdom that has provision for only one king, are in a state of partially suspended animation, since neither can live fully as monarch; or exercise the full constituent powers of that office.

All said, the situation in Kano City and Kano State at the moment defies even the best attempts at a semi comprehension. It is a combination of the convoluted politics of the state and the roundly confusing gymnastics of the judicial officers who have been rendering contradictory, or at least conflicting, judgments. The moves, the formulation of the sentences in the judicial pronouncements, the near-equivocation and contrived befuddlement cannot remove the fact that there are some truths some people are not determined to tell us.

How it plays out remains to be seen, but one thing is sure: there are deeply entrenched interest on this matter that are not anywhere physically close to Kano city and kano State. Bayero’s inexplicable return to Kano to contest his ouster, after seeming to have calmly accepted same, was not done on a whim. Sanusi’s sudden reinstatement, without almost anyone seeing it coming, was not thought up on the spur of the moment. Enough said.

Related Articles