8 November 2012

Nigeria: National Security and Media Sentiments


The Sunday Sun's November 4 edition on "The Unending Church Bombings" made interesting reading, especially in the way it exposed the sentimental swings in the analysis of current security challenges as a major flaw of editorial positions on national issues.

That editorial was nothing short of a premeditated derision of the concerted efforts of government and its respective agencies in striving to manage the truly alarming security situation in the country.

In the expressed opinion of Sunday Sun's editors, there is "nothing to show that the government is still making serious efforts to fight Boko Haram". They even went as far as accusing government of "capitulating" to the sect. All these weighty charges were triggered by the unfortunate suicide bombing of the St Rita's Catholic Church at Unguwar Yero, in Kaduna on October 28 which claimed lives and maimed scores of worshippers. You don't have to be a media psychologist to know that the views of the editors were spontaneous sentiments of outrage by agitated observers and not the sober and objective analysis enlightened readers deserve from a leading national daily.

Now that, God willing, the aftershock of that tragedy has been peacefully dissipated, the Sun's editors should be more composed to compose editorials hinged on candid review of the issues at stake pertaining to the bombing and the on-going counter-insurgency and law enforcement operations across the country.

For sure, whenever such savage assaults on innocent people occur there should be no hesitation or word-mincing in condemning them or even in expressing concern about insecurity and urging the authorities to be more "pro-active". But when respected national dailies take a position on the matter, we should have enlightened commentary that will positively impact on readers, the authorities and the nation.

In spite of the recent bombing of the Kaduna church, we cannot dismiss the reality of a relentless and ruthless counter-insurgency operation especially in the northern states in general and the Borno-Yobe axis in particular. In fact this operation has even caught the attention of certain international organizations whose criticisms may not be complimentary but certainly confirm the awesome joint-services onslaught on the Boko Haram insurgency.

Of course no northerner or resident of the northern states will agree that there is nothing to show to demonstrate the seriousness of government's fight against the sect. From tortuous queues at sand-bagged security posts in towns and on highways, to constant patrols of city streets and metal screening body searches even to enter mosques and churches, there is just too much to show proactive as well as counteractive seriousness in the management of security challenges. Our brethren in besieged Maiduguri/Damaturu have even been saying the fight is too serious !

The visible manifestations of vigorous counter-insurgency operations are themselves supported by a myriad of covert activities and intelligence initiatives as well as training and logistics undertakings specially packaged for addressing the peculiar challenges of unconventional urban armed insurrections.

Arguably, the most intriguing challenge of all is nagging infiltration of local communities by insurgents and the ensuing dilemma of dealing decisively with insurgents in the midst of "human shields" and concerns for other collateral damage. Our gallant joint-task forces are currently in the eye of an internationally-triggered storm over human rights and rules of engagement, surreptitiously skewed to demonize the security agencies.

In the heat of outrage following an act of terror, it is easy to "forget" the gains of the supposedly unwinnable war without boundaries. Yet there is no reasonable doubt about the marked decline in scale and spate of the bombing sprees that heralded the onset of terrorism. The joint operations of the security forces have definitely and effectively curbed those wanton attacks and practically contained the insurgents in a virtual enclave in the Borno/Yobe axis by sheer firepower and fearlessness.

To their credit, even in the midst of unavoidable protests from unintended victims of urban warfare, the justification of their deployment is upheld by the lengthening intervals between attacks and the hard fact that Borno and Yobe would have been bombed out of the nation's control long ago.

We must not gloss over the steady decimation of the ranks of the insurgents, particularly the spectacular arrests and killing of several insurgent "commanders" and spokesmen, not to mention the gradual unravelling of the mystery of the political and the partisan dimensions of the insurgency as well as the regional and international linkages.

It must be conceded to the recent dexterity and potency of the internal security management apparatus that the hitherto abominable prospects of cease-fire and dialogue has ultimately become a realistic recourse of the insurgency leaders. Indeed, Nigerians have all welcomed this as a credible evidence of sustained government seriousness in fighting terrorism from all fronts to achieve peace and restore security of lives and property in affected areas.

The Kaduna bombing was therefore hardly enough ground for Sunday Sun to launch into a flight of fury and unwarranted discrediting of the valiant efforts of our security forces in the battle against Boko Haram insurgency. We have moved from the initial shell-shocked despondency into a more re-assuring phase of containment and negotiated resolution.

This welcome development is the most remarkable evidence of the seriousness of government and its internal security management team in their constitutionally and professionally assigned role of ensuring the security of lives and property and defending the territorial integrity of the nation.

- Adekunle wrote from Osogbo

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