By Professor ‘Femi Olufunmilade
“AT least 80 children have been abducted by bandits in the Tsafe Local Government Area of Zamfara State.
The children, who are between the ages of 12 and 17, were kidnapped on Friday morning, according to BBC Hausa. /Some parents of the abducted children who spoke to the British media outlet said the victims were in the bush fetching firewood at about 8am when the assailants rounded them up and marched them into the forest.” – The Punch, 8 April, 2023
“FORTY-SIX persons were reportedly killed on Wednesday as suspected armed herders unleashed a deadly attack on the Umogidi community of Entekpa Adoka district in the Otukpo Local Government Area of Benue State. The fresh attack came a day after suspected herders invaded the community and killed three persons on Tuesday. /On Monday, the Igbobi community in the neighbouring Apa Local Government Area of the state was also attacked, with three persons killed./It was gathered that the armed herders returned to the Umogidi community on Wednesday evening, shortly after the burial of the three persons earlier killed in the Tuesday attack.” – The Punch, 7 April, 2023
THE above reports of serious security breaches in two Nigerian states indicate that nothing has changed in terms of our security challenges as the swearing-in of our next president is less than seven weeks away. Within the past six days, the Benue figure has risen to 136!
ELSEWHERE, any of the two reports would be a cause for a broadcast by the Head of State to calm horrified citizens, in which he would detail actions taken already to rescue the 80 school children abducted in Zamfara and apprehend the killers of the 136 compatriots in Benue.
MEANWHILE, a battery of media operatives would be at the scenes of crime, giving a steady stream of live reports under the rubric of “Breaking News” or “Developing Story”.
BUT here in our bloody Nigeria, these are no longer Breaking News. They are Normal News. In Benue, for instance, as at February, Governor Samuel Ortom had put the figures of those killed by so-called Fulani herdsmen at 6,000, while, earlier, he gave 1.5 million as the figure for Internally Displaced People in the state occasioned by the same gang of unrelenting assailants.
WHAT is clear from the foregoing is that there are forces entrenched within the political class, particularly in the North of Nigeria, promoting insecurity. Or, how do we explain a situation where a truce of sorts enveloped the election period, only for hostilities to resume upon the conclusion of the elections?
SOME people who are stakeholders in the election obviously wanted it to go on without the encumbrance of insecurity. They wanted maximum turnout of voters. That achieved, they’ve now resumed the orgy of killings and abductions.
UNLESS the shadow actors in the promotion of insecurity are dealt with, the incoming president might labour in vain in fighting the scourge. President Tinubu must wake up early enough to the palpable reality of saboteurs in high places within the political and security circles. Not only to tackle insecurity decisively, but for his own safety. There’s fire on the Aso villa mountain! We need to hasten to make this point bordering on intelligence analysis before delving into technical issues.
SO, the task before our incoming president, beyond the charms of the presidency, are indeed perilous. And the question is: what new thing has he got up his sleeves to put a quick and lasting end to these unwarranted butchery and immiseration of innocent Nigerians?
IT would be 40 years in three years time one became a political science undergraduate. We were taught at that level that the fundamental duty of a state (or government) is the protection of lives and properties of citizens. In Thomas Hobbes classic “The Leviathan”, we were informed that anarchy was the order of the day before the emergence of government. Hobbes said in that state of anarchy he termed “State of Nature”, there was “no mine nor thine”. In other words, whatever you thought belonged to you could be taken from you by someone stronger than you.
THUS, “life was brutish, nasty, and short”! Life was so intolerable that men summoned a summit of reason, whereupon they agreed it was in the best interest of all to surrender their reckless show of power to the authority of a superior who would manage their affairs in such a manner that none would be injurious to the other, and would mete due punishment to whosoever disturbed public order.
IT is against this philosophical tenet regarding the essence of the state that under the United Nations system, despite the non-interference clause in the UN Charter, sister nations are authorised under the auspices of the Security Council, to intervene militarily in nations where the government is no longer able to protect lives and property. That is the doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect”.
A young military officer told me some years ago that if not that Nigeria was a big country, the magnitude of deaths and destruction he had witnessed in some states in Nigeria were enough to call on the UN to intervene. But Nigeria is bigger than Sierra Leone or Somalia. We can afford to lose citizens by thousands in a state, while reassuring the world that ours is still a safe and stable country because the reports they’re getting are isolated cases. We even berate our local media for reporting too much of such news. We charge them to report things like the completion of the Second Niger Bridge, the rice revolution occasioned by the Central Bank’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, the imminent takeoff of Air Nigeria, upcoming Dangote Refinery (Africa’s largest) etc. And so on.
TO those of us into security studies, the fact that there is hardly a state in Nigeria today in which the military isn’t engaged in Internal Security Operations (that is, police duties), underscores the seriousness of our security situation.
THAT got me interested in the security agenda of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Much earlier, I had concluded it’s more of a long-term plan. But we need urgent measures to save lives!
THEREFORE, I wish to share some of the measures I had put down as quick-fix approaches to tackling insecurity.
THE first is CIVIL MOBILISATION FOR SELF-DEFENCE. This entails training vigilantes in vulnerable communities in such states as Zamfara, Sokoto, Niger, Benue, Taraba Kaduna and others in the use of assault rifles germane to countering the firepower of sundry bandits and terrorists laying siege on their homelands.
I’M talking about defensive training to protect and defend their communities and farms against hostile forces. They are no substitutes to the military or the police or allied security agencies. Their task is to provide the first layer of resistance to hostile forces before help would arrive from the police or the military. This will put an end to a situation where their communities are invaded and people are picked up like snails on a rainy night in the forest. Or, stout and sturdy men get slaughtered by some lightweight urchins from the Sahel.
THE vigilantes shall comprise young men and women screened and certified as good indigenes of their communities by their local authorities. They will be organised into platoons and their job shall be a freewill service to their communities, while they keep their regular vocation. And while they need not be paid by the government, the government shall provide them with training via the nearest military formation to their community. The template of the Civilian JTF in Borno state is akin to what I’m recommending.
THE second measure is the STRENGHTENING OF STATE -OWNED SECURITY OUTFITS like Amotekun in the Southwest states, Benue Volunteer Guards, Ebube Agu in the Southeast, and similar outfits established in the states as self-help security machinery. Help them by way of approving the use of weapons commensurate or superior to what the armed groups ravaging their peace carry. Help them with logistics and training where required and so on.
THE foregoing are low-hanging fruits in the context in which we acknowledge that the regular security forces controlled by the Federal Government have been overwhelmed by hydra-headed spate of insecurity.
THE third measure is RECALL OF RESERVISTS. This is still part of immediate measures. The reservists are those military, police, and security personnel who are in retirement but are still mentally and physically agile enough to return to active service. Again, the recall process shall be voluntary and it shall entail fitness test. The service will not be free because these are people who had already served and paid their dues to our country. They will be entitled to some honoraria. The aims of their recall are as follows: to beef up the numerical strength of our forces and agencies where paucity of personnel has been a chronic challenge, and to make an infusion of experts in counterterrorism operations.
ON the latter score, I once supervised an army general who graduated with a PhD in Strategic Studies seven years ago. The title of his thesis was “The Challenges of Combating Terrorism in the Sahel Region of Africa”. In researching this thesis, he undertook fieldwork in Niger Republic, Chad, Burkina Faso, and, of course, the northern part of Nigeria. Subsequently, he was appointed GOC 8 Division, Sokoto, and, later, Commander of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), N’djamena, Chad, among others. He’s below 60 but already retired. There are scores upon scores of his kind now teaching on our campuses or working abroad as mercenaries who should be recalled, if need be, as contracted mercenaries, to avail us their invaluable skills in ending insecurity so the incoming president can concentrate on executing his development agenda.
TO avoid the trouble of seniority in dealing with their juniors now in command positions, I prefer the experts should be engaged as mercenaries such that they can request for a team to work with in the military under their own command. And they should be given specific tasks. For example, the ubiquitous bandits that for a long time now have posed a greater challenge than Boko Haram or ISWAP should be effectively put of action in a proactive, intelligence-led nationwide operation. Governor Nasir El-Rufai has said several times they should be bombed. His views were captured in a report by The Nation (1st April 2022) titled “El-Rufai: It’s time to bomb bandits out of existence”. He’s not alone, the Emir of Muri had had cause to call for their lynching, unless they left his territory. This was in the Sahara Reporters (22 July 2021) with the caption: “Emir Declares War On Fulani Herdsmen In Taraba, Gives 30-day Ultimatum To Vacate Forests”.
DEALING decisively with the bandits is a core security imperative to Nigeria today
because, unlike Boko Haram, they are able to penetrate the nooks and crannies of Nigeria under the dubious cover of “herdsmen”. But the palpable reality, which many of them caught or sighted by victims have revealed, is that they are mostly foreigners from the Sahel. Not the Nigerian herdsmen. My colleague, Biodun Solola, abducted at the Omotoso axis of the Benin-Lagos highway on 26th April and released 1st May 2019 after paying ransom, told us his abductors spoke French. He noted emphatically they were not Nigerians. But that’s not to rule out local collaborators. As a matter of fact, we have have seen cases where, when locals apprehend them and hand them over to security agencies, they are soon let off the hook by order from above!
I cite a prominent example. There was this notorious so-called Fulani herdsman known as Iskilu Wakilu. He was terrorising the farming communities of Ibarapa, Oyo state, killing, raping women, sacking whole communities, abducting for ransom etc. The command post of his terrorist operations was Kajola.
IT was in the heat of Sunday Igboho’s entry into the fray in the Igangan axis of Oke Ogun where his kinsman, Dr. Fatai Aborode, had been abducted and killed after ransom was paid! People were deriding the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Chief Gani Adams, of complacency in the face of a siege on Yorubaland. Whereupon, he decided to prove his martial prowess and his care. He sent some of his men to capture the dreaded Iskilu Wakili alive. They got him, navigating an hailstorm of bullets. They triumphantly drove him to a police station in nearby Igbo Ora from where they moved to Police Force Headquarters at Iyaganku, Ibadan. To the shock of everyone, Iskilu was given a chair to sit upon like a VIP at the police headquarters, while his three captors who believed they just conducted citizens’ arrest in aid of the police were locked up in cells for usurping police duties! They were even arraigned in court and were only released after languishing in detention. That was in early March 2021, but they were not discharged and acquitted by the court until June 2021. That was long after Iskilu had been released to go home in peace. The three OPC men were Awodele Adedigba, Dauda Kazeem, and Hassan Ramon. You can Google “Iskilu Wakili” for more on this bizarre story of promoters of insecurity in high places.
THE fourth measure President Tinubu must adopt is rather trite but valid: LAW ENFORCEMENT. Must ensure all bandits or terrorists arrested for criminality are prosecuted for the public to observe. People complain loudly that they rarely see anybody being prosecuted for all the killings and destruction of livelihoods raging in the country! This is another low-hanging fruit capable of deterrence. It will stem the tide of impunity. When the lawless, rampaging killer “herdsmen” see their mates standing trial and facing public execution for their crime against innocent Nigerians, they will have a brain reset, whether they are foreigners or locals. As Martin Luther King Jnr puts the matter, “Judicial acts may not change the heart, but it will, at least, restrain the heartless”!
THE fifth measure is COMPULSORY RANCHING OF CATTLE. A holistic approach is needed. Hence, for the sake of genuine herdsmen caught between the pressure of diminishing grazing fields and the menace of cattle rustlers, the incoming Tinubu administration should revisit the politicised panacea called ranching. The issue couldn’t be resolved because of President Buhari’s divided loyalty as a former herdsboy. He had told us he was plucked from the grazing field by an uncle to go to school. His approach to the killer herdsmen menace had been riddled by bias and atavism. That’s why the criminals became emboldened and utterly brazen in the acts.
IN an age the whole world has embraced ranching, the country watched in disbelief at different times when Buhari had pushed for opening up of grazing routes across Nigeria for herdsmen! He said they used to be there 60, 70 years ago!
HIS alternative to nationwide grazing routes was nationwide “Ruga”. Meaning, acquiring vast acreages of land hither and thither as grazing reserves. Something Nigerians unable to recover from the dread of the killer herdsmen found ominous and perilous. Hence, they resisted it firmly and resoundingly from north to south. They believe the scheme is a ploy at land grab.
ADDING fillip to their suspicion was the fact that when another former herdsboy, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano state, gave an open invitation to herdsmen in difficulty across Nigeria to report in Kano state at a massive grazing reserve he had graciously earmarked for them, his offer was largely spurned. A report in the Premium Times (4 February 2018) filed by Muhammad Ahmad and Samuel Ogundipe was captioned “Herdsmen-Farmers Crisis: Governor invites all Nigerian herdsmen to settle in Kano”.
PRESIDENT Buhari neither supported Ganduje financially in this laudable effort nor lent his voice to the invitation to the herdsmen to sedentarise at the grazing reserves. It was thus clear the goal of Ruga was indeed nationwide land grab.
HAPPILY, Governor Ganduje is Tinubu’s political ally and bosom friend. He should begin to engage him as well as the incoming governor of Kano state on developing a world class ranching facility in Kano. This is another low-hanging fruit. But he should expect opposition from Fulani irredentist forces who are going to argue that nomadism is a culture – a way of life – of the Fulani. It’s how he deals with challenges of this sort that will alert Nigerians as to whether he’s truly in charge or just marking time as president and commander in chief of the armed forces.
THE sixth measure is NATIONAL SECURITY SUMMIT. We recall that in the early days of General Olusegun Obasanjo in office as an elected president, one of the strategies he adopted to grapple well with the enormous challenges he met were sectoral summits he convened one after the other.
I commend this strategy to President Tinubu as it’s capable of yielding a wealth of intelligence and knowledge on each sector germane to formulating appropriate policies and taking the right decisions. In this regard, he should start with a summit on national security. Importantly, he should accord retired military and security officers priority in the choice of invitees. Some of them marginalised deliberately while in service will tell him eye-opening things that will help him. In defence and security, intelligence is key. That’s why Sun Tzu in “The Art of War” remarked thus: “An army without intelligence is like a man without eyes and functioning ears”! The analogy is even more true of a commander in chief without real time actionable intel! So much for immediate measures and low-hanging fruits!
THE Tinubu blueprint, as noted in the opening of this piece, deals fairly well with long-term measures, but there’s a lacuna that should be filled. That is the DEVELOPMENT OF AUTOCHTONOUS MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX. In simple terms, we are talking of domestic production of arms and ammunition for the military and other security agencies.
PRESIDENT Tinubu should prioritise the transformation of the Defence Industry Corporation (DIC) that has been stagnating in Kaduna since 1964. He should decentralise its operations and create subsidiaries in viable centers across Nigeria. Ironically, Proforce, a private company in Ilishan Remo, Ogun state, is doing a lot better, manufacturing armoured personnel carriers for the army, police etc and foreign markets to boot! Involve the private sector more and more. That’s how the most powerful country in the world – USA – stays on top.
ARMS and ammunitions are among the most expensive commodities in the international marketplace. No country can have a robust defence and internal security, relying on importation for all its needs. If all that President Tinubu can achieve in this regard is domestic production of all the rifles required by our military and other security agencies, he would have achieved a lot indeed.
FINALLY, the Tinubu blueprint says nothing expressly on the issue of STATE POLICE. It’s at best couched in vague verbiage that needs not be rehashed here. But it is one of the long-term measures he needs to work on seriously. It’s no news that the Federal Government can’t even fund its own police adequately. In all the states, it’s the state governments that fill the huge gap. They build police stations, buy patrol vehicles and provide money for lots of routine things germane to the smooth-functioning of the Nigeria Police in their respective state commands.
IN December 2019, I was on a research visit at Johns Hopkins University in the State of Maryland when, as a result of some incidents on campus, the state government licensed the University to set up its own police. I shook my head wondering why it’s taking eternity to embrace state policing in Nigeria at a time the centralised policing system had failed spectacularly!
THE major argument against state police is the fear it would be abused by state governors to witchunt their political adversaries. Yet some fear it could be used by some states to secede from Nigeria. But my logic teacher didn’t teach me that something good should be condemned because it can be abused. Even Marijuana has been found to have some medical benefits.
NIGERIA is the only federation in the world running a unitary policing system. Federations like USA, Canada and India, among others, all operate decentralise policing. In Canada, it’s only one province that did not set up its own police but rely absolutely on the federal police for its security. Same can apply in Nigeria. It will not be compulsory for states that lack the resources to float an independent police. They will continue to enjoy the services of the federal police.
WHAT is needed to allay the fears of possible abuse of the state police is to set the guidelines for its operations. In this regard, the mandate of the Police Service Commission (PSC) should be expanded by law to encompass regulatory authority over state police formations. This also requires its membership should be expanded to include at least an experienced retired police officer from each state of the federation.
THE guidelines should spell out the qualifications for the licencing of a state to set up its own police, modalties for personnel recruitment, training, mode of procurement of specified range of arms and ammunition, conditions of service, operational jurisdiction, and punitive measures for abuse of state police, which may include temporary transfer of command and control from an erring state to the PSC.
FOR the sake of my children who have no country other than Nigeria, I wish Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu sound health (physical and mental), courage, fair-mindedness, and divine wisdom to tackle the onerous but surmountable security challenges awaiting him as Nigeria’s incoming president.
**** *Olufunmilade* , is a Professor of International Relations and Strategic Studies and Pioneer Director Buratai Center for Contemporary Security Affairs, Igbinedion University Okada, Edo State, Nigeria.