Nigeria: War Against Insurgency Without the Political Class

14 July 2020

Before Barack Obama was sworn in for the first term in office and during the presidential debate with the late Senator John McCain, he was asked by the moderator what his plans were regarding Osama bin Laden. Obama stated categorically that he would kill Osama bin Laden.

The interviewer posed another question: "Suppose Bin Laden is in Pakistan as hazarded would you inform the Pakistani authorities of your plan so that America and Pakistan can jointly capture Bin Laden?" Obama said he wouldn't inform the Pakistani authorities of his plans but would go unaided. John McCain gave a robust jeer: "Imagine a presidential contender who doesn't care about relationship with an important ally and plans to mess that relationship up."

On assumption of office, Obama asked the head of the CIA to give him a definite plan on how the agency plans to capture or kill Osama bin Laden together with a time frame. The rest they say is history. Obama killed Bin Laden without informing the Pakistani authorities; he almost threw his presidency on the line by choosing the least preferred alternative given by his security chiefs to kill Bin Laden on D-Day. The death of Bin Laden didn't happen by chance but by painstaking plan and hard work.

If Richard Nixon hadn't ended the draft, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George Bush (Jnr) and Donald Trump might not have become presidents of the United States. Even though they did not have military experience, they were aided by the military to succeed in office; they knew what they sought to achieve with their presidency. They learnt on the job and inspired the fighting troops.

Soldiers submit to the political class and soldiers' main ambition is to win wars and defend the country. But soldiers cannot win wars with an indisciplined political class that has failed to grasp that Nigeria is at war. The riotous political class is only interested in perquisites, lusting after women and always condemning the military for not intensifying efforts to fight the insurgency that the political class in Nigeria started.

Here is a group that cannot influence the military like politicians do in the United States. The fight against insurgency must be directed by the political class. It staggers my imagination to believe that the military can win a war that politicians created without efforts by these same politicians. The political class is complicit; the reason they have failed to name the people behind the insurgency that has put Nigeria on a negative pedestal. "I will smoke them out of their holes," was one of the many quotations of President George Bush just after the ill-famed September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States.

Bush couldn't have succeeded without a fighting force that trusts him. Do soldiers trust politicians in Nigeria? The fighting force looks at the will and firmness of the political class which inspires them to defend their fatherland. Can the Nigerian political class die for Nigeria or have they found causes which can make them die for Nigeria?

The disgusting killings reported in the North every day, including ritual murders in the South, do not appear to stir the conscience of the political class and they are busy with the 774 public works programme. If the environment is not socially stable, would a public works programme or any other investments of public interests for that matter make any sense to Nigerians?

We find ourselves in a country entrapped in all manner of nonsense by the political class. It is either a president chickens out and proclaims that a religious code will 'fizzle out' or a governor turns cleric with go-ahead from Saudi Arabia. Today, the chicken has come home to roost in his state of Zamfara and I can bet that he does not venture to that state but hides in Abuja.

The thoughtless actions of these politicians in Nigeria are the reason soldiers are ambushed and killed in droves and no-one seems able to call their bluff. Why should soldiers take the bullet for an imprudent political class, a political class that cannot communicate, and motivate the military, and which does not comprehend the country's immediate mission?

See how politicians in the North-East have destroyed their part of our country and have taken cover in Abuja. The hordes of young men that they armed from the beginning to deal with political enemies have all become knights of the road, and they ask the military to tame them.

I am tired of writing about the menace of herdsmen. Has the political class ever stood up to Miyetti Allah that is habituated to spoiling for war every time cattle go missing? They never see anything wrong with the exchange of human life for cattle. It is troubling that a stock known for non-violent nomadic excursions is stirred by benefactors to overwhelm Nigerians. Has there ever been a filibuster on herders' dilemma by the political class. After the disorder, they ask soldiers to clean their clutter.

Combat the world over is won when soldiers are motivated and politicians lead by example so that soldiers can accomplish the mission with character. Soldiers cannot win wars when their gunnery is not oiled by politicians and what these politicians do is to sit in air-conditioned offices trading blames when lives are lost daily. Many right-wing people are shamelessly recruiting insurgents in religious homes while those in authority look the other side. Soldiers do what is right when they see the actions of politicians as not being antithetical to national development.

Soldiers do what is right when politicians are loyal, respect the military, venture into politics for selfless service and complete their tours-of-duty with dignity and integrity. The meddlesomeness of the political class in military affairs is responsible for the lack of discipline in the military. Soldiers are trained to lead, they believe in the mission of every project; but the political class provides tame leadership, their stewardship is base.

Where does the Department of State Services stand in the fight against insurgency? We seem to have bogus agencies collecting fat allowances for doing no work in Nigeria. And the political classes that should help soldiers understand the ethical basis of the wars they created are busy cavorting over small issues.

The opposition parties are unreasonably narrow-minded on national security; they do not offer profitable ideas on how to tackle insurgency in the interest of the country. Soldiers fight to defend the territorial integrity of father land only when they are helped by a disciplined political class.

Abah, a teacher, speaker, campaigner and consultant, wrote from Abuja

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