By Ahmad Sajoh
The North-east zone of Nigeria is made up of six states; Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe. By 1967 it was just one state called the North-Eastern State with Headquarters in Maiduguri. It was later split into three, then five and today six. The Area has a total population of 21.6 million people with a Land Mass of 280,419 square kilometers. More than 75% of the population is made up of subsistent famers. Although it has the largest expanse of land among all the geopolitical zones in the country, it is the least in terms of social infrastructure such as Roads, Electricity and Water (especially Dams). It has very few industries and big business concerns. It is therefore the region with the greatest challenge of poverty. 69.1% of the people is made up of a Dollar a day poor with 51.5% being food poor.
The rise in insurgency in the last five years had compounded the region’s challenge. What started as a local movement in Maiduguri the original capital of the region was allowed to fester over the years to a monster that is trying to consume the whole country. Right from the onset, the insurgency problem which had its roots in the Yusufiya movement was inadvertently aided and supported by official high handedness, extra-judicial processes in handling operatives and over politicization of what was essentially a security matter. With all the Defence and intelligence resources in the hands of government these insurgents were allowed to dig-in until they occupied a large chuck of Borno State. Most importantly, the Sambisa Game Reserve was supposed to have been a Wildlife Park like the Yankari, Obudu and Old Oyo National Parks. It was taken over from Borno State Government and admistered centrally from Abuja by the National Parks Management Board. How the insurgents dislodged the Park Management, drove away the park Rangers and established a base within the forest with social service such as Boreholes, Electricity, Generators, Clinics and Training Camps is a mystery we all need to try to unravel. In effect, Sambisa is a federal territory located in Borno state taken over by the insurgents.
When the insurgency escalated in Borno and Yobe states, the Nigerian government Federal declared emergency rule in some Local Governments in Borno. After about six months of that, the Emergency Rule was extended to the three States of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states. While, the situation was genuinely getting out of hand in Borno , it was just festering in Yobe State. As for Adamawa, what was happening were essentially increased criminal activities rather than insurgency. Yet the Federal Authorities used unjustified fiat in imposing a State of Emergency in the State. One year after, the situation became worst in Borno and Yobe with the abduction of over 200 girls from a school in Chibok as the worst. The world rose in condemning not just the abduction but the response of the Government to matters related to countering the activities of the insurgents. How possible is it that with a State of Emergency in place, the unfortunate Buni-Yadi incidence could take place where young chaps could be roasted on their hostel beds, and later scores of other young women will be abducted and ferried to unknown destinations? Several questions arose as the need for the state of emergency in the first place?
There is a lot of blackmail and false information flying about on the need to have the State of Emergency as the only condition for deploying troops in the affected areas. We believe this is not correct because we have Special Task Forces or STF located in the Niger Delta, Plateau and other States not under Emergency Rule. Nothing in the Constitution stops the Commander-in-Chief from deploying troops to any part of the country for the protection of the citizens. Moreover in Paris, the President said 20,000 troops have been deployed to the States under State of Emergency. The three States of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe make up over 50% of both the population and land mass of the north-East. We are therefore talking of a population of over 10 million people with a land mass of over 140 square kilometers. Will the 20,000 troops effectively cover this land mass? What of the population? Going by just troop strength, will it be possible to secure over 10 million people with just 20,000 troops?
Whichever way we look at this insurgency and the effort to combat it, we are definitely in a war situation. And as the German Military Strategist, Carl Von Clausewitz said, “War is an extension of politics by other means”. If we then accept this as a war, and we also accept that this is not a cross border war but an “Internal Security Operation”, then our strategy must include four basic elements. These are the Political aspect, Diplomatic aspect (which include social mobilization, good information management, attracting external support, psychological operations to address doctrinal issues etc), Economic aspect to address economic deprivations, hiccups in the economy, plight of internally displaced persons and addressing damaged infrastructure.
The fourth leg of the strategy is the military. In the past one year, the military response had been emphasized with nearly negligible attention to the three others. Essentially the end state of the counter-insurgency strategy is to achieve peace. The mission is to degrade the insurgents in order to achieve peace. To achieve peace we need the political will on the part of the leadership to address lingering political concerns and to take decisions that may have negative political consequences but are absolutely necessary. We have heard the leadership of the country claim the existence of Boko Haram elements within the government without any exposures or arrests. We have heard political party leaders and side-kicks accuse people of sponsoring attacks without any shred of evidence. We have heard people openly lie and later apologize without any sanction. These are clear evidences of lack of a political will and capacity to take the right decisions on matters that require decisive action. At the Diplomatic level, all the international support and international cooperation being sought at the moment would have been part of the process at the very beginning. In addition, internal Social Mobilization to win the hearts and minds of the people should have been a cardinal principle of the operation from the start of the counter insurgency strategy.
A psychological operation to address doctrinal issues is also absolutely necessary. Most importantly is the issue of effective information management. Some one needs to advice the operators of the counter insurgency strategy on good information management. The recent debacle involving the Chief of Defence Staff in relation to his remark on the location of the abducted girls is unfortunate and should be avoided because it is avoidable. It should equally be noted that the insurgency and the counter insurgency operations of the Military has resulted in a lot of economic hardship for the people and the sub-region. Since commencement of Emergency Rule, over 800 schools have been destroyed and non-repaired, not even the Federal Government owned school in Buni-Yadi or the famed Secondary School in Chibok.
And that is not all, a number of internally displaced persons have found themselves without homes or property but with very little help from the authorities. The curfew hours have reduced business hours resulting in shocks in the economies of several families. The Military check-points have equally hampered mobility of goods and people while farmlands have been devastated by both the insurgency and Military operations.
One of the most important strategies to be adopted in winning the war against insurgency in Nigeria and particularly the North-East is the use of local militia. In order to expand on the use of the “Civilian JTF” project, Governments at all levels should take up the issue of citizen participation in defeating the insurgents seriously. The Kala-Badge experience where the local people ambushed the insurgents should serve as an example. At each level of our communities, locals should be mobilized and supported to serve as a bulwark against the insurgents. Their roles in intelligence gathering, processing and utilization should be encouraged. Unscrupulous elements within the security forces that comprise the cover of informants should be exposed and punished openly to serve as deterrent to others. People’s power and desire for peace should guide such operations. I am working on a paper that provides a model for that.
Another area the authorities should address seriously is in hastening the turning of the wheel of justice with regards to offences related to terrorism and insurgency. In all communities bedeviled by such negative occurrences, open and speedy trials have served as major deterrents. Keeping suspects in cells for too long without trial serves little purpose in exposing the evil in the criminal acts perpetrated by these social miscreants. This is not just a case of Justice delayed but indeed that of justice playing into the hands of criminals. To defeat Terrorism and insurgency require much more that just Military action, essential as that may be.
God save Nigeria and Nigerians from the hands of the wicked.
Ahmad Sajoh wrote in from Dougirei Jimeta-Yola