How to Be a Commander-in-Chief By Josephat Okara & Conrad Harry
Kayode Komolafe’s piece, “What Has Robert Gates Got To Do With Chibok?” in the THISDAY of July 9, 2014 is thoughtful and wide-ranging in its canvass. A brief review of the controversial memoir of erstwhile American Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, entitled Duty: Memoirs of A Secretary At war, the article locates the preeminence of the Defence Department and the military establishment in the American scheme of things, comparing and contrasting the situation with the Nigerian condition, against the background of about 267 Nigerian girls kidnapped from their school in Chibok community of Borno State since April. Komolafe notes that while the Americans cannot toy with their defence apparatus for even a split second because of the grave national security implications, it took the present administration in Nigeria a whole 20 months to find a successor for the Minister of Defence who was removed in June 2012.
This columnist may not know it, but he has reinforced the belief in the diplomatic community and elsewhere that Nigeria is in dire need of a different posture from the commander- in -chief. It is this this sort of trend that fuels the long-time prophecy Nigeria, already a weak state in the category of Pakistan, will collapse finally by 2015. Contrary to the thinking in some quarters in our country, the detailed report by American intelligence experts did not insinuate that Nigeria would break up. After all, Somalia, Liberia, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and Liberia have been failed states, but none broke up into different countries.
Nigerians have been somewhat fixated with Boko Haram as the only serious security crisis facing our beloved. This is because of the dramatic and global impact of the menace, but Boko Haram is just one of the several profound national security challenges facing us. Nigeria is the only country in the whole world where crude oil is stolen on an industrial scale. Five years ago, no one heard of crude oil theft at all. All we heard was stealing of petroleum products. The situation is so bad that international oil majors like ChevronTexaco and Shell are compelled to sell off their huge assets, including prolific oil blocks. The unprecedented theft cannot be an invisible crime, yet not one single big man has been arrested. We are rather in a situation where soldiers openly lobby and bribe to be redeployed to the Niger Delta to see if they could get their own share of the so-called national cake.
Electric power supply is at the lowest ebb in our national history, and the official reason given is the spate of vandalism against natural gas pipelines in the Niger Delta. One can understand if crude oil pipelines and petroleum products pipelines are broken up by thieves, but gas pipelines? Why should they be damaged? Government conspiracy theorists say it is sabotage, meant to show that the present authorities cannot fix the country’s electricity nightmare. This is, of course, false. How could Niger Delta people want to sabotage an administration that is portrayed as theirs?
One could ask: why has the government been grossly unable to arrest even one person involved in the sabotage? The truth is that Nigeria is in the fast lane to Somalia, a quintessential failed state.
The nation should not be surprised. We have seen four army chiefs, four air force chiefs, four naval service chiefs and four inspectors general of police in the last four years. Any organisation which has a new chief executive every year is bound to suffer severe crises that could cripple it. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the Department of Petroleum Resources, which have had five CEOs in the past four years.
Let us take another look at the police force, which is saddled with a monumental responsibility. Any time a new IGP has been appointed in the last four years, it has always been an assistant inspector general of police. This means all the deputy inspectors general – and perhaps senior AIGs—must go. In other words, relatively inexperienced officers are regularly promoted over and above their competence.
Nigeria’s security administration is worse than many people can imagine. Book Haram has since then become more vicious, more daring and more successful, even claiming that it has infiltrated Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre of Lagos. There is a widespread fear that Boko Haram is already in the South-South and Southeast. If the terrorist organization has, indeed, infiltrated these two geopolitical zones, it means that the administration cannot guarantee the safety of life and property in safest bases. Yet, the primary duty of every government is to protect life and property and guarantee law and order. This is why Max Weber, one of the early sociologists, correctly argued that only the state is imbued with legitimate coercive apparatus.
The Nigerian armed forces have since independence performed most brilliantly in the international community. They heroically stopped the orgy of mutually assured destruction in Liberia, which lasted 10 years. They ended the most primitive carnage in Sierra Leone carried out by Foday Sankoh, with the then President Charles Taylor of Liberia as the godfather. Our soldiers and even police are ever in high demand across the globe. Yet, as you are reading this piece, they have been facing unimaginable challenges in the fight against terror in their own country by acts of omission and commission of the political authorities. The situation is so bad that some of them on May 14, 2014, fired severally at the car of their own general officer commanding the 7th division and 18 soldiers are now being tried by the army hierarchy for mutiny. Not even in Foday Sankoh’s rag tag army or in the Janjaweed armed gangs in the Sudan did this kind of abomination occur?
Nigeria’s national security is in need of a thorough review. The commander- in –chief should see this as a priority. We do not want our beloved country to be a failed state. Thanks to Komolafe for inadvertently calling attention to this worrisome trend in our country.
•Dr. Okara and Dr. Harry are research fellows, Institute for Applied Economics and Development Studies, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
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