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Editorial/National security: Time for this President to be decisive

North East Governors and other stakeholders met with President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday over the deteriorating security situation in that part of the country. They were finally stirred into action, apparently, by the July 29 embarrassing attack by suspected Boko Haram insurgents on the convoy of Professor Babagana Zulum, Governor of Borno State, near the town of Baga. Although there were no casualties, Zulum was later to say that the attack opened his eyes to the possibility of collusion between security agencies and the insurgents. Baga is about 5km to the nearest military base in that part of the troubled State and the incident occurred in spite of assurances by the troops to Zulum earlier on that Baga was under their control.

The point, however, is that that near-disastrous outing by Governor Zulum triggered the meeting with Buhari. But, if we expected any earth-shaking decision or any pragmatic plan of action from Aso Rock following the meeting, well, we had another think coming because there was no decision as such: the President, for the umpteenth time, simply asked the security chiefs to step up their game.

Now, consider another incident. Shortly before the North East Governors-Buhari meeting, a week ago to be precise, there was another high profile security meeting, the National Security Council meeting, from which the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major-General Babagana Monguno emerged to assure an expectant Nigerian public that, “following his dissatisfaction with the security situation in the country, President Buhari was finally set on a complete overhaul of the nation’s security apparatus.” A good development, you would say. However, what actually transpired at the meeting was to be rather awkwardly revealed when Monguno stated that “Buhari reaffirmed his last marching orders to the security chiefs to redouble their efforts in order to properly secure the country.” Was that the rejigging?

And just yesterday, the President showed his hands concerning the insurgents. Denouncing insinuations that they were better armed than the military, Buhari described hardened terrorists who have kept the Nigerian military on its toes for all of seven years–and counting–as “mere scavengers desperate for food, raiding shops and markets, and killing innocent persons in the process.” They are? Who else but the Commander-in-Chief would have such a sunny security report about Boko Haram fighters?

It means, in essence, that Monguno and others never quite correctly picked the President’s mind. Or we would not have Buhari, in response to complaints about the security chiefs’ prosecution of the war against the insurgents, sound rather irritated by such complaints. “We have said enough on the need for them (security chiefs) to rejig their operations,” he remonstrated (but) “I am glad that there is better synergy and cooperation which are very important. I have directed the Service Chiefs to meet among themselves in-between the National Security Council meetings. The services have resources; yes, they need more, and mobility, and are doing their best, but there is a need for better gathering and interpretation of intelligence. Our intelligence-gathering must be improved.”

The only remark that resembled a reprimand was when Buhari queried: “These terrorists are in the localities, how is it that they are not short of small arms?” Unfortunately, that is the very question Buhari seemingly doesn’t want answered because his security chiefs who should answer it are either clueless about, or complicit in, the destructive activities of the insurgents, bandits and the like around the country.

The meeting yesterday was between Buhari and the country’s State Governors. It was attended by Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, heads of defence, security and intelligence agencies, and members of the Security Committee of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum represented by one governor from each of the six geo-political zones. In practical terms, there couldn’t have been a larger, more important gathering of the nation’s leaders to chart our national security course. And this was all the President had to say–that at a time that troops are being slaughtered in tens and hundreds by insurgents and bandits in parts of the North, soldiers are abandoning battle fields and resigning en masse from the military altogether over lack of weapons and care by the authorities, terrorists are wiping away whole communities in what may well be premeditated ethnic cleansing in Southern Kaduna, bandits are sacking communities in the North West and North Central, killer herdsmen are attacking farming communities, destroying crops and killing members of farming families down South and parts of the Middle Belt, among others, the people doing all these are “mere scavengers desperate for food, raiding shops and markets and killing innocent persons in the process?” To be sure, this beggars belief!

We asked practically all of the above questions in our editorial two weeks ago under the headline ‘In whose behalf is Buhari running Nigeria?’ And we are constrained to ask again: what is it about the security chiefs that makes them seemingly indispensable to President Muhhamdu Buhari’s national security strategy? Why is Buhari so attached to Tukur Buratai and Co (indeed, incestuously so) that he simply can’t afford to let them go even if their going may lead to a more pragmatic military and security strategy that could win us the war against insurgents, bandits, kidnappers and hired killers?

Why is Buhari unmoved by the fact that practically all of North West, his own part of the country, is under the rule of bandits who brazenly attack and tax their victims to fund their operations? Why does he appear to make little of the fact that the Islamic insurgency in the North East borne on the wings of the implacable Boko Haram sect still rages like uncontrollable wild fires, threatening the very foundation of Nigeria? Why is he not bothered that whole communities in parts of the North are systemically wiped out and repopulated with non-indigenous people? Why is he not worried that soldiers, under pain of court martial and death, are abandoning their commissions and fleeing the military in droves in protest against the dwindling fortunes of the military under its current leadership? Why? Why? Why?

AbeyaNews does not, cannot and will not share in the President’s optimism that there is now “a better synergy and cooperation which are very important” because there is no such thing. Nor are we impressed by the his so-called directive to the “Service Chiefs to meet among themselves in-between the National Security Council meetings” because these directives have become all too repetitive and useless, a reason they are always obeyed in the breach.

It is unbelievable that this President thinks there is nothing wrong with the current national security arrangement under the service chiefs. As if he rules only for himself, he is moved neither by emotional appeals nor the anguish of victims of the security failures that the country has witnessed again and again under his incompetent security chiefs. Or, how else can anyone explain that even with the deluge of calls from critical sections of the polity, including a ‘friendly’ National Assembly, against retaining the Service Chiefs who have shown no strategic military initiative after five years in control of the security apparatus, all Buhari can say in response is that “the services have resources” and that they “need more and mobility and are doing their best?” This President is still willing to indulge the security chiefs with seeing the “need for better gathering and interpretation of intelligence” and ensuring improvement in “our intelligence-gathering,” instead of sacking them? Pray, how is all this an appropriate response, at this point in time, to the perennial bungling of our security? How is this equivocation an answer to the questions Nigerians constantly ask Buhari and his government about our unravelling national security arrangement?

AbeyaNews insists that there is everything wrong with this government’s responses to the security challenges facing the country–whether it be insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, premeditated killings or armed robbery. Nigerians are being slaughtered like game all over the country and we cannot but hold accountable for this ugly state of affairs those who have been saddled with the responsibility of leading the war against these security challenges. And because they have demonstrated gross incompetence handling these challenges, this platform joins other well-meaning individuals and groups in Nigeria in calling for the rejig of our national security apparatus for more operational effectiveness, starting with the sack of the Service Chiefs and other security heads, who have all failed the country–woefully.

We demand that this President listens to Nigerians and do just that.

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