| 31 March 2014Colonel Sambo Dasuki (Rtd) succeeded late Lt. Gen. Patrick Azazi as Nigeria's National Security Adviser in June 2012. After nearly two years of painstakingly reappraising the Boko Haram miasma, he recently unveiled a 'Soft Approach' towards combating terrorism in Nigeria. The NSA proceeded to say, "my approach has been to understand the problem in order to apply the appropriate solutions. What we have learned is that there is not any particular path that leads to terrorism. Rather there are many, often complicated, paths that lead to terrorism". According to Dasuki, "the strategy would complement, not replace, military efforts to fight the Boko Hiram Sect. He continues, 'the Soft Approach will encompass de-radicalization of terrorists and revamping economy of Northern States'. He reeled out Poverty, social injustice, isolation and sectarianism amongst the factors causing terrorism and Insurgency in Nigeria. About the same time the NSA was trying to reconcile us with his take on terrorism, insurgency and his "Soft Approach" mechanism, the ruling party's Spokesman reminded everyone of a political brinkmanship angle to terrorism by asserting that 'unknown' persons are sponsoring Boko Haram to discredit President Jonathan's administration because he is from a minority tribe.
Apart from despondency, abject poverty, unemployment, tinge of political brinkmanship and radical religion angle, analysts believe there is a connection between wanton corruption and insecurity in Nigeria. Going by his recent assertion in Namibia that corruption in Nigeria is exaggerated, it appears Mr. President is not conversant with the gravity of this monster. It's not just that corruption is entrenched in Nigeria but the lack of political will to sort the mess out. The penchant for setting up incessant probe panels with no definite outcome, stalling corruption cases at the courts, frivolous acquittal of corrupt individuals does not help matters. A few reminders will suffice: During a conference at Davos, Switzerland, the British Prime Minister reportedly averred that N100 billion dollars accrued to Nigeria from Crude Oil sales in 2012 or so. How was this money spent? While foreign collaborators of the Halliburton bribery scandal have been convicted and jailed, their Nigerian accomplice are as free as air. United Kingdom's Prime Minister does not have a single 'Presidential' Jet attached to his office but his Nigerian counterpart is said to have about a dozen at his disposal. Public office holders in Nigeria seldom throw in the towel no matter how pungent allegations of corruption on them is. Perhaps the Speaker of the Lagos state House of Assembly and Nigeria's powerful Petroleum Minister should take a cue from the Premier of the Canadian Province of Alberta who recently resigned over an expenses scandal of $45,000, a paltry 'chicken change' to a dilettante Nigerian public official. Imagine the socio-economic transformation that will ensue if the supposed N6 billion naira accruing annually to each of the 36 State Governors in Nigeria and all the billions of dollars flying around in the Petroleum Sector, Police Pension, and other Government departments are judiciously channeled into truly uplifting Nigerians.
The level of abject poverty and despondency in Nigeria is unprecedented and frightening. A hungry man they say, is an angry man. According Abraham Maslow's stage of "Self actualization" in their hierarchy of needs, 'people who live in poverty stricken societies do what they can to get by, and they take any opportunity to reach personal achievement'. It is more likely for a despondent, unemployed youth to embrace criminality, terrorism than for a gainfully employed youth to sacrifice his comfort, happiness, family and trappings of his thriving career to become a slavish stooge for terrorism.
Experts, local and foreign stakeholders have long advocated for a multi-faceted approach towards Countering Terrorism and Insurgency in Nigeria. For instance the United Nation's Counterterrorism Implementation Task Force (UN-CTITF) recommends promotion of Public - Private - Partnerships. The current gung-ho military campaign in Nigeria will surely restore some sanity in the short term but will not win the peace. In one of my essays on the back page of Guardian Newspaper, May 21, 2013, titled, "Forestalling Insecurity and Terrorism in Nigeria With Capacity Building", I argued the urgent need for scholarship, capacity building and skills programs to be extended to the army of teeming Nigerian youths. Recall that former Nigerian President opined some time ago that, "rising unemployment in Nigeria is a time-bomb". In a recent interview, Mr. Jeffrey Hawkins, the United States Consul General to Nigeria re-echoed Obasanjo's warning. Hawkins was quoted as saying, "...as an informed insider, I can tell you that there is massive unemployment in Nigeria...there are lot's of young people who don't have anything to do and who don't have any hope for the future". Don't forget in a jiffy that 800,000 graduates reportedly applied for 1,500 positions in the Independent National Electoral Commission sometimes last year. The recent Nigeria Immigration Service recruitment tragedy where plausibly 700,000 candidates were jostling for 5,000 vacancies culminating in the death of about 19 candidates, exemplifies the massive unemployment and patent hopelessness inherent in Nigeria. It is the highest order of corruption that 19 Nigerian youths lost their lives in the ill-fated Immigration recruitment exercise and none of the officials directly or indirectly involved in this sham is sanctioned.
Beyond the piecemeal "Soft Approach" and the ongoing military campaign (carrot and stick approach), at the risk of heckling, one dare opine that it's high time Aso Rock articulated a "Coherent and Comprehensive Counterterrorism Policy and a sweeping National Security Reform". The envisaged Terrorism Policy will accentuate a systematic plan of action for deterrence and measures to be adopted in tackling full-scale terrorism, Insurgency. Such a Policy will also spell out whether or not Nigeria should negotiate with terrorists and on what terms. For instance, the United States have the Patriot Act which spells out how the US goes about preventing and combating terrorism. The fulcrum of Canada's Counterterrorism strategy is "Prevent, Detect, Deny and Respond". The United Kingdom's Counterterrorism Strategy is known as CONTEST, and is anchored on "Prevent, Pursue, Protect, Prepare (4P's). The United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Israel and several other countries have a zero-tolerance for negotiating with terrorists. When it becomes expedient for them to negotiate, more often than not they do it through third parties and from a position of strength by making the bad guys an offer they cannot refuse. A Counterterrorism Policy will save us unnecessary duplication of roles with its attendant profligacy and the tendency to run helter skelter trying to set up wishy-washy committees each time such an incidents occur.
The NSA's proposal talks about "economic reform in northeastern Nigeria where most people live in abject poverty, fuelling Insurgency". May we humbly remind the NSA and Aso Rock that it is not only the northeastern part of Nigeria that is poverty-stricken. The nook and cranny of Nigeria is replete with gory tales of abysmal poverty, hopelessness. One read in the Papers recently that a family traded one of theirs for a bag of rice.
Whatever economic stimulus Aso Rock wants to doll out must take into account victims of this heinous crime. If the proposed economic package is analogous to the Presidential Amnesty largesse that unveiled a consortium of nouveau rich, high flying ex-Niger Delta militants with multi million dollar contracts and oversea scholarships, then this 'magnanimity' should be replicated across Nigeria because what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
Nigerians are generally pliant and accommodating of their leaders but an attempt to push beyond their 'elastic limit' will yield unpredictable consequences. Nigerian politicians are no longer immuned from the anger, frustration, wanton insecurity, brigandage currently sweeping across the nook and cranny of the country. Imagine folks having the effrontery to lay siege on the Governors of Adamawa, Enugu, Benue States despite the retinue of Security details attached to these politicians. Is this a trend? Recall the Arab Spring happened because a 26 year old unemployed graduate, Mohammed Bouazizi, committed suicide sequel to persistent frustration, harassment from the local Council that should have provided for him. Nigerians yearn for good governance, equitable distribution of our God-given resources, a no-holds-barred restructuring of the status quo system of government that concentrates too much powers in the centre and on the hands of one man, the President. Nigerians yearn for a country where ALL her citizens can actualize their potentials irrespective of their ethnic and religious affiliations, a Nigeria where JUSTICE and EQUITY is Supreme, a Nigeria that has a zero-tolerance for Kleptocracy, Corruption, Profligacy, Nepotism and tribal jingoism, a Nigeria where merit is not sacrificed in the altar of mediocrity and godfatherism, a Nigeria where some people are not above the law. This is not asking for too much. Let's hope the ongoing Conference will midwife a New Nigeria. Good governance will largely nip growing insecurity, instability, terrorism/Insurgency in the bud.
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. It is a welcome development that the Nigeria State is now in tune with the remote and immediate causes of insecurity, instability and terrorism/Insurgency in Nigeria. We are not bereft of good ideas in Nigeria but that of implementation. Let's hope the soft approach does not become another paper-tiger sooner than later.
Kudos to the NSA for the "Soft Approach"; definitely a step in the right direction though short of been comprehensive. Please may we respectfully entreat him to take a step further, synergize with relevant agencies of government towards brainstorming an all-inclusive template.
No individual or country will make meaningful progress in an atmosphere of unpredictability, wanton insecurity, terrorism and insurgency. Let’s make Nigeria great again! Let’s give peace a chance. Let all hands be on deck. See it, hear it, say it and stop it!!!
God bless Nigeria and Nigerians.
Don Okereke, Security Consultant
Telephone: +234 708 000 8285