*Extrapolating Gen Musa’s No-Holds-Barred at the National Assembly*
By Chidi Omeje
On that fateful Tuesday of penultimate week, Gen Christopher Musa, Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, led Service Chiefs and the Inspector General of Police into the hallowed Chambers of Nigeria’s House of Representatives in Abuja. Their mission was to honour the much-hyped invitation to appear at the ‘Sectoral Debate’ organized by the lower chamber of the National Assembly.
The parley, it was made known, was a platform of interaction for key operators of the security/defence sector and members of parliament to dissect Nigeria’s security situation and the challenges posed by the monster of insecurity that is ravaging almost every part of the country. It was indeed a sober moment of truth as the Service Chiefs took turns to unburden their hearts about the unacceptable security situation and why the security agencies appeared to be underperforming in the task of taming the rising monster.
Of course the situation is dire. Nigeria is currently having more than a fair share of internal security challenges assailing it in all fronts: resurgent insurgency and terrorism, cross border banditry, industrial-scale kidnapping, violent secession agitation, unknown gunmen phenomenon, oil theft and attacks on country’s maritime asset, ritual killings, armed robbery, organ harvesting, cyber crime, etc. So, it has been a bagful of intractable security challenges across the country, resulting in a nightmare for hapless citizens, busy time for the security forces, and embarrassment to the government.
It was against this backdrop that the security chiefs were invited to state their own side of the story especially as most Nigerians appear not to be satisfied nor impressed with the efforts of government and particularly the security agencies in stemming the tide.
General Musa set the ball rolling with what has been variously described as frank and honest expository on what constitutes the stumbling block in the country’s internal security operation undertakings. Though not given to loquaciousness nor theatrics, on that auspicious day, the Defence Chief bared his mind and it turned out to be a no-holds-barred.
He started with the situation in the South East, a region that was one of the safest and most tranquil in the nation a couple of years back but now plagued by insecurity of a horrendous kind. He pointedly accused a certain Simon Ekpa, a self-acclaimed disciple of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), as being responsible for the spate of killings and violent activities ongoing in the region, through his convulsive rhetoric.
According to him, Mr Ekpa sits in the comfort of his sanctuary in Finland from where he orchestrates violent attacks and killing of innocent people in the south east, all in the name of Biafra agitation. He said, “Simon Ekpa has become a menace to this country; the country must act on it diplomatically. Finland is having a free way encouraging him to be doing what he is doing. His utterances and actions are affecting what is happening in Nigeria''.
Like most people, he wondered why the Finnish Government is shielding such a dangerous character whose conduct and utterances have greatly devastated and destablized a part of Nigeria. He continued, “We should never allow that; our foreign service needs to step in to address the issue. It is either we invite the ambassador or somebody. They must explain why they are protecting him. A lot of people are being killed. We cannot sit back and keep quiet”. He is spot on.
Simon Ekpa is no doubt one of the most dangerous threats to peace and security in the South East part of Nigeria. A region that was hitherto acclaimed as centre of entrepreneurial endeavors before the disturbances brought about by Biafra agitations, south east has degenerated into anarchic and violent space where killings, abductions and destruction by unknown gunmen and sundry opportunistic criminals are the order of the day.
Of a truth, one wonders why the Federal Government is not taking the Government of Finland to task on the menace called Simon Ekpa. Yes, he has acquired Finnish citizenship but does that confer on him the right to destabilize his home country from his new country? At what point should a country say ‘enough is enough’ to another country that is wittingly aiding and abetting terrorist activity targeted at it from that other country? Why hasn’t the Federal Government exercised its right of preservation by severing diplomatic relations with Finland for shielding a terrorist determined to destroy a part of Nigeria? What is special about Nigeria’s relationship with Finland? In fact, some observers are wondering if Federal Government’s lackluster approach in dealing with Ekpa’s nuisance is a deliberate political attempt to ‘beat the region into line’ for their political choices. Whatever be the case, one hopes that the Chief of Defence Staff’s admonition that Nigerian Government should question and strongly protest the cold indifference of the very cold Scandinavian country on the terrorist activities that Mr Ekpa coordinates from Finland against Nigeria.
On the resurgence of Boko Haram terrorism in the North East, Gen Musa who was erstwhile Theatre Commander of North East Counter Insurgency Operation Hadin Kai, disclosed that Boko Haram members held in prisons still carry out their criminal operations through the help of some prison warders. According to him, while debriefing some Boko Haram elements, they confessed how they could form prisons, plan operations and pass funds to the field through the help of some prison warders. His words: “They passed funds across and we asked how. They told us they use some of the warders. We are not saying all of them (warders) are bad, the terrorists use some of the warders’ bank accounts to transfer money and the deal is anybody whose account it is transferred shares it 50-50”. What could be more horrendous?
Imagine a security personnel actively participating in terrorist activities against the state! Such unbelievable complicity in crime by state agents is no longer strange in our clime. We have seen rogue policemen paraded for collaborating with criminals to carry out crimes. We have also seen knave soldiers caught with concealed weapons meant for the adversary to use for attack on troops and so on. So, it is symptomatic of a society on the verge of losing its soul. Folks no longer give any qualms in their bid to make quick money even if it means throwing their colleagues under the bus or sabotaging the whole country.
What the CDS’s revealation here means is that the system has been compromised. Moles and informants are alive and thriving within the fold. Fifth columnists abound and sabotage is rife. Patriotism is now a scarce commodity even within the rank and file of our military, security, intelligence and response agencies. This mainly explains why our troops often fell to ambushes laid by their adversaries. When troops’ movements and positions are squealed by snitches, often within the system, to the enemies, the result is always fatal, and so the government must take this revelation by the Defence Chief very seriously. Good enough, the Minister of Interior has ordered an investigation to ascertain the veracity of the claim. We await the outcome of that investigation.
By far the most profound of all the points raised in Gen Musa’s expose is his right to call that good governance is the best weapon against insecurity. This is incontrovertible. Who doesn’t know that there is a correlation between bad governance (which breeds poverty) and spike in crime and criminality? Who doesn’t know that inept and corrupt leadership breeds poverty, hunger, misery, despondency, frustration, irritability, desperation and ultimately criminality in the society? Unfortunately, Nigeria has had and still has her fair share of bad leaders who bequeath nothing but bad governance and dashed hopes.
Hear him: “Security is not only military security. We have food security, health security, social security and education security. All these always play a role. If we don’t put these things (good governance) in place, there will be problems. We have realized that the magic wand in addressing insecurity is good governance, Anywhere you have good governance, insecurity goes down. The security forces can only produce 30%. We can only provide an enabling environment. If other aspects are not addressed, it is a problem. “People can’t eat. People are hungry. No matter how you tell them to keep the peace, they will not because they have to eat and it aids criminality. So, we must have good governance”. This is just the gospel truth.
A hungry man is an angry man and he listens more to the rumblings of his empty stomach than any sanctimonious preachments for good behavior. So, let nobody deceive himself about the reality of the situation. There is little or nothing the military and other security agencies can do to tame the monster of insecurity if the country continues to be ravaged by poverty, hunger and hopelessness wrought by bad governance.
With over 130 millions of Nigerians living in multidimensional poverty, in a country so blessed with both natural and human resources but blighted by bad leaders, it is only expected that it will be weighed down by its own internal contradictions. The military does not possess any magic wand with which to wave at security challenges so they can vanish. And in any case, military options alone cannot solve Nigeria’s security problems. Listen to the General again: “Security is not only the responsibility of the security forces. Everybody has a responsibility to play. We cannot be everywhere; so we need education and sensitisation programmes to educate Nigerians that security is everybody’s business”. Apt.
No country shoots its way into law and order. Law and order, peace and security are dividends of good governance and credible leadership. As the late literary icon, Chinua Achebe, rightly identified in his little book, “The Trouble with Nigeria '', Nigeria’s problem is rooted in leadership, and unless we get our leadership right, we will keep groping in the darkness.
Gen Musa also had some knocks for the judiciary in his assessment of factors impeding the fight against insecurity in the country. He alleged that the judiciary was frustrating the war against terrorism in the country, especially the slow and inefficient criminal justice system. According to him, the flaws in our judiciary have ensured that captured Boko Haram elements are kept in military custody more than necessary because those who will do the prosecution are not forthcoming and the military does not prosecute. He lamented over a lot of challenges the military face on account of the laxity in our judiciary.
But of course it is a well-known fact that our criminal justice system has failed Nigerians in many respects. Amnesty International was right when it characterized it as a “conveyor belt of injustice, from beginning to end”. So, the CDS is not telling us anything we don’t already know about the gross inefficiency of our judiciary, especially the criminal justice system. Until we accept and address this underlying cause, systemic problems including executive interference, suppression and intimidation of the judiciary, pervasive corruption, lack of funding and all worth not, our efforts to tame the hydra-headed monster of insecurity might just be a mirage.
Time is therefore nigh for the government and other stakeholders including civil society organizations, human rights activists, and the academia, to emplace a framework for revamping Nigeria’s criminal justice system. We have lamented enough. It's time to see concrete actions.
*Chidi Omeje is Editor at Zagazola Media Network