OPINION BY MAIWADA DAMMALLAM: The Need For Caution In Debates On Matters Of National Security

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    President Muhammadu Buhari

    By MAIWADA DAMMALLAM

    I was invited to appear on Segun Akimbaloye’s “Politics Today” (Channels TV) to discuss issues of insecurity in Nigeria especially in relation to the outbursts of Governor Zulum of Borno State and a more encompassing directives by President Buhari to the Armed Forces to re-engineer the war architecture for better results.

    Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to Channels’ studio due to hitches I encountered at Kano airport which delayed my arrival and couldn’t make it to Abuja in good time to get the studio. The late confirmation of my appearance by a very courteous and apologetic Hostess came about 30 minutes to the programme — an impossible time to make it to the studio. Only later I found out the studio tried severally to get across to me through my secondary line which was idly in my pocket, switched off.

    To save the situation I was substituted with Major General Enenche, the Coordinator of Defence Media Operations, once Director Defence information. Can’t think of a better substitute. Expectedly, the well composed and articulate General did real justice to the topic so much so I was glad to miss the opportunity to share my layman’s perspective. Indeed, that’s the basis of my long held and frequently expressed belief that matters of security are always better left for trained professionals and people with the requisite background. Earlier in the day, former Army spokesperson, Gen. SK Usman (rtd), appeared in Sunrise Daily, another analytical Channels TV programme, where he diligently and convincingly debunked many misinformations and misimpression ruling social media debates on the ongoing war against insecurity in Nigeria.

    The enlightening appearances of the two professional gentlemen only confirmed my belief that matters of national security are more than the ordinary matters they may appear to untrained and self-appointed “security experts.” And of course, their opinions also enhanced my belief that national security is too sensitive a business to be left for charlatans to experiment with in their invisible laboratories. There’s very little room for maneuverability and almost zero room for error. Rwanda is a good example why public debate on national security should be regulated and why people should be held accountable for dangerously divisive and or, falsehood freely being expressed especially in the social media. To get out of the woods, we must appreciate that only factual and sincere reportage could give us the kind of harmony required to win a tricky war as we have in our hands. Notwithstanding, I will share my opinion here.

    To begin, it’s obvious we are fighting two wars. There’s the actual war being fought especially in the dreaded Sambisa forest and the periphery of the lake Chad and there’s the war being fought on the equally dreaded pages of the social media where every “soldier” is a General with exclusive right to the blueprint of winning the war. Whereas, in the real war soldiers are either dying or being maimed just so Nigeria survive, it’s a common, almost unanimous, opinion in the social media war arena “soldiers in the real theatre of war are doing nothing.”

    Funnily, just “how doing nothing” no social media “military General” is yet to satisfactorily explain hence, the daily debates about the efficiency or otherwise of the soldiers fighting the real war, their commanders and the Service Chiefs down to the President and C-in-C, President Buhari, a man so many people love to hate for no reason other than twisted sentiments that could allow even risking and putting on the line personal credibility and integrity.

    The social media war is more cumbersome no doubt. It’s here we have people with not so efficient narrow household sense or knowledge of security challenging the competence of a retired General, a twice Commander-in-Chief, a well trained and well decorated war hero. It’s here we have “security experts” who knows next to nothing about the structure of the army, people who in all likelihood could not accurately mention military ranks from the bottom to the top insulting the Commander-in-Chief for not sacking his Service Chiefs. And these “e-Generals” do this working with nothing but “social media intelligence reports” — the kind lazily gathered from the comfort of their bedrooms.

    It could hardly make sense to these “bedroom war heroes” that the President and his Service Chiefs are working with hard facts gathered and verified by agencies operating in a circle of rivalry which leaves no room for conspiratorial alliance to produce a deceptive report. It should make sense to an average brain that we cannot complain about lack of synergy among security agencies on one hand, and on another accuse them of unanimous deception. It’s either they are working in disarray or they are united in purpose good or evil. We have to make up our minds on this to be seen as tying the laces of our shoes to begin the trip to find the answers we are looking for.

    That it’s an average opinion among social media influencers that the war is all about guns, bullets and APCs cannot be disputed. However, this watery foundation on which majority opinion is built was debunked by A. A. Gadzama in a viral opinion titled “PMB security legacy: Need for caution.” Gadzama, a former DSS boss and intelligence officer of repute opined thus:

    “No insurgency situation like the one we face has been successfully defeated only by the use of force. Equally important is the pursuit of a well structured mop up of dangerous weapons believed to be in massive circulation in the country. It is well-known that towns and villages in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States just like most parts of the country are awash with dangerous weapons. It therefore follows that as long as the dangerous weapons in the hands of miscreants are not retrieved, criminal elements will continue to use them to unleash havoc on the populace.” End of quote.

    To assess the success and or failure of President Buhari and the Armed Forces, all variables of the war must be factored in. This seems like a Herculean task to the “e-Generals” controlling the narrative of the war. Not even the incident of the unfortunate attack of Governor Zulum in Baga and his equally unfortunate outburst could help describe the cumbersomeness of the war. First, Governor Zulum blamed Boko Haram for the attack. He even rebuked the army for its inability to make Baga safe with more than a thousand soldiers on the ground which was a clear indictment on President Buhari and his Service Chiefs. Governor Zulum subsequently changed position and exonerated President Buhari and Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Buratai. He expressed an opinion that they were being sabotaged though he didn’t mention by who.

    It’s enough that Governor Zulum recanted his angry position about the army being unable to secure Baga with more than 1000 soldiers to 10 ragtag insurgents. This should encourage more exhaustive methods of information gathering especially by people in sensitive positions of authority. Jumping to unreliable conclusions in a burst of anger by elected and appointed managers of the situation would only erode public confidence in them beside cresting more chaos in the system. There just have to be mutual synergy and cohesion among the different agencies fighting the war for the desired success to happen.

    Of course, we can all appreciate that even with 1,000,000 soldiers in Baga success will continue to elude the Nigerian Army if there are 5th columnists within. But rather than emphasize the need for President Buhari to ensure an exhaustive investigation to confirm Governor Zulum’s, most pundits only emphasized the heroic disposition of Governor Zulum. This is not about being heroic, it’s about being correct especially in a precarious situation with zero or little room for error. Nobody is questioning Governor Zulum’s sincerity and commitment to restore peace in Borno State as some people misconstrue reasonable advises to adjust his methods.

    Like I said in a previous opinion, it doesn’t make sense for Governor Zulum to be exchanging words with commanding officers by the roadside when he has direct access to the C-in-C and all the Service Chiefs. It won’t do anybody any good to ridicule these commanding officers and strip them of public respect and a more critical the respectability to command their troops. In the same Borno where today some voices are alleging nothing is being done, we were once debating the high rate of fallen heroes — even saying fallen soldiers were secretly being buried to deny Nigerians the correct number of the casualties of the war. This is the erratic situation the President and his Service Chiefs are contending with.

    They some people are misconstruing the presidential directives to re-engineer the war and choosing to see it as a red card flashed for the Service Chiefs only made clear the mindset ruling debates on the war. President Buhari is in the best position to know if his Service Chiefs are giving him results or not. He’s also in the best position to know where the lapses are by using the enormous information at his disposal to review the war. More than anything, he’s also professional competent to assess the information and make accurate decisions to enhance the efficiency of the Armed Forces. Just how some people without these advantages think they are in a better position to propose a more efficient blueprint for the war beats me.

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