Posted by Timige, On 25 Jun, 2023 | Updated On 25 Jun, 2023 No Comments »
A Professor of African History, Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Ibadan, Isaac Olawale Albert, was a member of the Presidential Committee on the Review of Defence Policy in 2014/2015. He speaks to DARE ADEKANMBI on last week’s change of security service chiefs, appointment of new National Security Adviser (NSA), the war against insurgency and banditry, among others
What do you make of the sacking of the former service chiefs and the appointment of new ones by President Bola Tinubu?
We were all expecting the sacking of the former service chiefs. There is a pattern in the country which is for the new head of state to appoint his service chiefs who are expected to help in achieving his peace and security agenda. The president promised to fix the security of the country and therefore we all expected that he will come in with his own team. I think this is what he has done. He has brought in new people. But my own position is that these new people have always been part of the old system. So, they are not coming from the moon. They had all along been part of the system that we saw was not working. So, there is nothing new.
But I think what should change should be: one, President Tinubu should allow them to do their work professionally. We had a lot of undue interferences in the operations of the past service chiefs in the form of no-go areas, things they should do and things they should not do and so on. Once professionals are dictated to, it is difficult for them to achieve their objectives and I think this was what happened with all the past service chiefs. The second one is that if we want these new people to be result-oriented, we must provide them with the needed equipment. So, it is not just a matter of the president saying he wants to see a change. The president must actually provide the needed incentives in terms of arms, motivation of the fighting troops and so on. To me, that is the change that we should expect, not actually the new people that have been brought in. The new men will not be able to achieve much if they are made to work under the old, questionable peace and security architecture. So, if we want them to be successful in the assignment we have given to them, we should do what the Yoruba people would say that when we give a ram to a deity, we must release the rope to the deity. The problem we had in the past is not releasing the rope to the deity. I think that is the change Tinubu must bring in. It is not just about appointing new service chiefs.
A lot of people have commended President Tinubu for ensuring fairness and spread in the appointments of the new security chiefs unlike what obtained in the last eight years when a section of the country dominated the security sector…
That decision, to me, is like Tinubu has won the battle [against insurgency, banditry] by 50 per cent. Fighting the kind of battles we are fighting requires first and foremost the support of the people. The past security chiefs came from one part of the country and when Buhari was criticized for this, he kept saying he considered competence and professionalism. Was he saying that only one part of Nigeria can produce the best brains for managing our security problems? This is part of the reasons the past service chiefs failed. So, from the word go, Nigerians were not happy with the way the past service chiefs were picked. But now that they are picked across the country, I think this will be a booster to country and the communities where these people have to carry out operations because the new chiefs will enjoy the cooperation of the people. This is very important.
What about the appointment of EFCC chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, whose security background is in the police, as the National Security Adviser?
That is the other issue I think we should underscore in this kind of discussion, that is, the appointment of a non-military person as NSA. Nigerians are talking about it because this is the first time we are experiencing it since 1999. But when you look around the world, National Security Advisers are not necessarily military people. The office is not a preserve for the military people. But because we have been practising it since 1999, it is felt that it must be a military person. Let us use the United States as our example; Professor Condoleeza Rice, a classroom teacher, a professor like me, was appointed National Security Advisor between 2001 and 2005. Now, imagine how Nigerians will react if I am appointed NSA. There is a belief that for a person to be so appointed, they must come from the military.
We are getting it wrong to hold such view. The battles we are fighting are largely with fellow Nigerians. We are not fighting external forces. Now, if you are not fighting external forces, that means the instruments you need for defeating terrorism in Nigeria are the police and secret service people because it is an internal warfare. This internal warfare is better managed by non-military people. So, I think the new blood that we are injecting into the system is directly or indirectly saying that we want to empower civilians, the police and DSS to take the front seat in managing the security of the country. We have been killing the enemies of the country since 2009, but these enemies have killed more people than the number of people they have lost. Somebody was saying a few days ago about 63,000 have been killed so far. Let us actually allow those who can manage and reach the communities where the operations are taking place to advise the president. The role of NSA is not to take his gun to go and fight in the battle front. He is not an operational person. What is expected of him is to advise the president and the president in turn will direct the service chiefs. So, I think it is in order.
But there are fears in some quarters that the military chiefs may not want to bow to Ribadu and so the NSA may not enjoy their cooperation…
If the service chiefs don’t give him their cooperation, I see them running into problem with President Tinubu who is a big, moving hurricane now. I don’t think he is going to allow the kind of situation we had in the last eight years. He has appointed his NSA and the service chiefs must work with the NSA. If they don’t want to work with him, go and write it down, they will be sacked. I don’t see Tinubu allowing the silliness that we saw under Buhari. He has appointed the service chiefs and NSA and the service chiefs can’t dictate to the NSA, though the service chiefs are also not under the NSA. They role of NSA is to advise the president and the president will give orders to the service chiefs to go and carry out missions. If they don’t carry out his missions, I see him sacking them very soon.
How helpful or otherwise do you consider this tradition of having to promote from lower ranks and having to retire so many senior officers with higher ranks? It is common with appointment of new service chiefs in Nigeria.
It is a Nigerian tradition and it is a tradition that flows from the myopic way we manage Nigeria because people are appointed into positions of authority sentimentally. These people we are calling seniors, how did they get there? There were several people who were also their seniors, but who were retired or not promoted. So, we have to keep managing it like that. We have structural problems in everything in Nigeria and it is these structural problems we are paying for. The president has picked those he believes will help to solve the problems of the country. If he did not pick their seniors, it is because he did not have confidence in them. He must have carried out his own due diligence before doing what he did. So, let us just believe the president has done the right thing. Let the service chiefs see this as an opportunity to really show Nigerians that they are competent. But I am telling you, if they do not do their work well, this Tinubu man that is showing his face will sack them. We won’t our security problems to be solved in Nigeria. There should be no excuses. There should be no clannish or sentimental posture of the past.
What are we likely to see in terms of the fight against insurgency going forward?
I think the situation will improve most especially if the president allows these service chiefs to do their work professionally. If there are no political interferences, they should succeed. Nigeria has the best military in Africa. Our policemen and women are very efficient, if allowed to their work. But this idea of security cherry-picking—you are directed to arrest this one, leave this one; kill this one and spare that one…confuses operations and I think that is why we have not been able to make any progress in the country.
READ ALSO FROM NIGERIAN TRIBUNE
Source: State Oyo - Tribune
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