1 June 2014

Nigeria: How to Deal With an Insurgency - a Handbook of the Nigerian Government


Sometimes despite your best efforts at providing the best and transparent governance, electricity, good roads, affordable and qualitative healthcare, and education, there will be persons whose aim will be to bring down your government, sometimes in concert with the opposition party.

It doesn't matter what these groups call themselves, or whether they have religious ideology or not. It doesn't matter if the group uses a hashtag or is adept at sneaking Youtube videos to international journalists. What is important is that you quickly, as a temporary measure, blame someone. Never ever admit that you could have done something to stop it or apologise for not responding to news of an attack timeously. This is a sign of weakness. When there is an attack by insurgents (we must thank the Americans for giving us this very useful word) the first step of a responsive government is to issue a statement condemning the action. It is important that someone Googling the terrorist action finds many headlines reading: President condemns bombing/massacre/kidnapping.

People underestimate the power of condemnation. No one likes to be condemned, not even murderous insurgents. I have no facts to back this but I can bet my three shoes that secretly, the people who plant bombs get ulcers and gnash their teeth when our president condemns their action.

In addition to condemnation, get aides in the presidency to take crucial steps like blame the insurgency on the opposition. Even if your army has kidnapped the wives and children of fighters and engaged in extrajudicial mass killings during security operations, the real reason any insurgents will attack during your presidency is if they are sponsored by the opposition.

The opposition is always mean and after insurgents might have kidnapped say school girls they sponsor ex government officials to do protests demanding that you bring back the abducted girls, as if you sat with the insurgents to plan the arrest.

There is no need to equip the army. This is a sign of fear and once insurgents know that you are taking real steps to empower the army, they will be emboldened. So even if you give allocations to your army chiefs, make sure it never reaches the soldiers in the field. Also the soldiers in the field must not get too comfortable so you must do things like reduce their rations or cut their allowances in half. This will teach them discipline. That is what they signed up for and if they want full allowances and proper food they should have joined the Ministry of Petroleum. Or applied to Dangote for a job.

It is important however to deny as much as you can until there is full evidence of an attack. If girls are alleged to have been kidnapped, let people from your government deny that this happened. Let them issue statements denying that your army did not respond quickly. Let them deny that your soldiers are not motivated. The key words here: Deny, Deny, Deny.

This is what denial does: it makes it less real in the minds of the citizens. And when it is less real in the minds of the citizens it reduces the work you have to do. And did a holy book not say "death and life are in the power of the tongue"?

Sometimes after a great tragedy you must show that nothing can stop you from being happy. Because that is what terrorists want, to make you afraid, unhappy and destabilized. So if you had planned a campaign rally the morning after a bomb goes off killing hundreds of people, you must react by first(as mentioned above) issuing a statement condemning the attack in the strongest terms while on your way to the campaign ground. Then you must campaign your heart out, dancing to whatever song the invited artist is singing. After all you will already have booked and paid for the music and you do not want to waste government resources by not dancing to the campaign music you have paid millions for.

There are times when you just do nothing. Wait a few weeks until everyone really gets fed up with your silence. This is why: sometimes the only way to galvanise citizens against terrorist is by allowing them to get upset. Because if you take steps immediately a bombing or kidnapping happens, citizens will be spoilt and take government for granted. It is important that they contribute their anger to national development and the fighting of insurgency.

In the end, after all the denials and condemnations and blaming of the opposition, you may have to dialogue with these insurgents. This is probably the best step: offering them money for dropping their weapons. An amnesty works wonders and saves you from the stress of dealing with what led to the insurgency in the first place. And really what is the use of opening old wounds and spending time looking for remote causes when you can just grant amnesty. Why are we blessed with oil wealth if not for times like these when as usual we can throw money at a problem and watch it being solved?

For the politician who is understandably too busy to read this article find below a summary of how to deal with an insurgency in bullet points:

- Condemn in the strongest terms

- Blame someone, especially the opposition

- Do nothing

- Never apologise for doing nothing

- Sometimes after a bomb, dance

- When citizens are angry enough, offer amnesty

- Enjoy the rest of your presidency in peace

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