‘Buhari should change strategy to end insurgency’
I will say that the government has not done enough in the sense that it lacks policy direction as far as the whole thing is concerned. We have been on a particular strategy since 2009 up till this moment and it is not yielding any result. There is no seeming end to what is going on. First of all, we have not been able to draw a clear distinction between counter-terrorism administration and counter-terrorism operation. The two have been fused together, so an intercourse between the two is what is actually happening now. First of all we have to separate the two. That will now tell us exactly where the military belongs. But right now the military is doing both the administrative and the operation.
The other side of it, which is counter-terrorism administration is supposed to be handled by experts, but this area has been sidelined. The military is supposed to go to the background, while research experts should be in the frontline. And if there is any need for the military to come in they will now come in. In counter-terrorism strategy, it is the last resort. If we take what is supposed to be the last plan to make it the first plan, then there is an aberration. So what I am trying to say is that going to war is the last strategy in counter-terrorism and after that there is no other strategy. Now we have put that last strategy in the forefront.
What else do we have?
We have not exhausted what we call optional alternatives or packages before going to war. And if you check my memos since 2009, I have been saying it. We have not gotten to that stage. That was when we had the primary stage of terrorism. The other part is that the National Assembly made a law that is defective, an empty law, and pushed it down to us. We need to review that law. What is the law saying? The law was given to us without defining the structure. Where is our structure for counter-terrorism? It is not defined as an agency, it is not defined as a commission and then who heads it becomes another problem. It is supposed to be defined with a qualification of the person who becomes the head.
We wrote the counter-terrorism law. I made substantial input. In fact it was my memo that established the Office of the National Coordinator of Counter-terrorism. I defined the function of that same officer before a Federal Executive Council meeting. The military now came in and monopolized the whole structure relegating the other agencies to the background.
Creating a separate agency
When this thing came up in the National Assembly public hearing, I was one of the speakers. I said vehemently at that meeting that this office should never be warehoused in the office of the NSA. That makes the man in charge toothless. He cannot do anything. Secondly, the NSA office is already overwhelmed with responsibilities. It is taking care of the military, the armed forces, the police and Directorate of State Security (DSS).
So, warehousing this important office in that place renders the man helpless. There is what is called Presidential Weekly Briefing (PWB). If you go to England and the US and in some other countries, these things exist. Every week the man is supposed to have what is called Presidential Weekly Briefing with the president. The president has to get on-the-spot information on what is going on, not the NSA. The NSA has his own job to do.
On option of negotiations
The only way out of this issue of Boko Haram, I have said times without number, is negotiation. It is unfortunate I will have to repeat it again. If you check you will see where I said negotiation and till tomorrow, negotiation is the only way out. I am talking as somebody who has done a research in that field. I did Al ‘Qaeda as a case study; I took Osama Bin Laden as a case study. I took the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka so also is the Taliban.
Let us look at the case of the Chibok girls. The only way out is by negotiation. That is why I was delighted to hear President Buhari saying during his recent visit to the US that if they get genuine and faithful people who are genuinely making claims, he would not mind to negotiate. It’s the only way out.
I am not saying Buhari cannot end the insurgency without negotiating with the insurgents. That’s not what I am trying to say. I am saying that he needs to change his strategy. Just like economic and political policies, there are other policy arrangements that will come in as strategies combined with what he is trying to do now. But if he goes only on military strategy it would be very difficult to handle. Buhari could only do that when he changes his strategy and demilitarizes the zone. The sector is already in the hands of the military as a structure.
What the United Nations recommended as counter-terrorism front is devoid of the military. They call it the Third Force. The first force is military, the second force is police, and the third force is what the UN Charter recommended and unless we go into that we are still going to have problem. So, Buhari cannot end it without changing his strategy and without bringing in research experts to become his advisers. If he gets his adviser on counter-terrorism from the military again it means that the sector is saturated with military presence.
How do you negotiate with a faceless group?
It is because efforts have not been made that is why they are still faceless. Don’t ever forget that these people live among us. They are around us. Were they not born into families? Don’t they have families? Don’t they have friends? So, when it gets to that, the experts know how to do some of these things. How will you fight a war that you said the enemies are alien to you? They don’t know about the enemy- that is what the military told us. How will you now go into a war that you do not know the enemies?
Why the victory slowed down
In the first case it was lack of seriousness on the part of the government. Jonathan underrated Boko Haram. Secondly, Jonathan’s administration glorified violence. For example, look at the pipeline issue in the Niger Delta, especially the protection policy. Who the jobs were given to? They include militants and violent people who in the past had held the country to ransom, threatening its sovereign integrity. In this group you have the likes of Tompolo, Ateke and also Asari Dokubo was speaking freely and intimidating people and fighting and threatening people and so on. In a government that is serious to fight violence and terrorism that cannot obtain.
Appointing NSA from outside the military
There is nothing wrong with appointing the NSA from outside of the military circle. If you have civilian NSA with security background there is nothing wrong with that. In the U.S. most of the NSAs in the past were not military men. In India, the NSA is not a military man. In some other countries in the sub region, the NSAs are not military men. Anybody with a security background could become an NSA. It doesn’t matter because it is an administrative office.
Relocating military high command to the theatre of war
The decision was a very strategic one and it truly brought out the real military experience of the presidency, which has been missing for too long. The military is supposed to be in the sector where the battle is on. Let me commend the president for ordering the relocation of the military command to Maiduguri, because that is actually where it is supposed to be. The General is not supposed to be relaxing on an armchair when a critical war is going on. So, he did the right thing by taking it to that sector.
I will also commend him again for his direct hands in the choice of the Service Chiefs. When you look at it, nobody will tell you that he was not the one that made the appointments.