Emmanuel Onwubiko: Insecurity: Notes on Buratai’s ‘olive branch strategy’
“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.” —Saint Francis de Sales.
“The life of inner peace, being harmonious and without stress, is the easiest type of existence.” —Norman Vincent Peale.
For over a decade, Nigerians have gone through series of attacks and unmitigated bloody violence unleashed by different armed non State actors, including but not limited to armed Fulani herdsmen predominantly busy in the North West, North Central and gradually expanding their frontiers of attacks all across the length and breadth of Nigeria, kidnappers and all kinds of insurgents.
It is no gainsaying too that these terrorists and their blood cuddling spectres of violence have led to thousands of casualties with over 2 million citizens made internally displaced and many others roaming around the neighbouring countries of Chad, Niger and Cameroon as refugees.
One military General who has led from the frontline in the war on terror in Nigeria for a significant period since the terrorists launched massive attacks on Nigerians is the former Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai.
General Buratai is the current Ambassador to Benin Republic but from his combat backgrounds in the Nigeria Army, it is fair to say that General Buratai has seen it all and has garnered massive amounts of experience as a Soldier and a General who has tested war many times.
Recently, he delivered a lecture in Kaduna. Prior to that epochs national lecture in Kaduna the event was widely publicised.
The hosts stated then that the erstwhile Nigerian Chief of Army Staff and Nigeria Ambassador to the Republic of Benin, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai (rtd) was to deliver a keynote address at the one-day symposium organised by the Centre for Research and Historical Documentation, Ahmadu Bello University on national security in Kaduna.
Director, Centre for Research and Historical Documentation, Ahmadu Bello University, Dr Shu’aibu Shehu Aliyu told journalists at the pre-event press briefing at popular Arewa House, Kaduna that, the choice of Buratai was premised on his wealth of experience in security issues within and outside the country.
According to the Director, the centre had invited discussants from academics, government, security experts and others who will discuss the theme of the symptom which is “Politics and Insecurity in Nigeria: Way Forward”, to come up with practical ways of addressing the issue of insecurity in the country.
“So, we are inviting Buratai because he was the longest-serving Chief of Army Staff in Nigeria who was able to serve within the most critical period of the insecurity.
“He was there since President Muhammadu Buhari came on board in 2015 until about a year ago when he retired. He had also served in several other formations which we know will enable him to shed light on the understanding of this particular issue of insecurity in Nigeria”, he said.
True to the media publications all across the news spectrum, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai honoured the invitation and delivered a landmark lecture on security and proffered solutions to the near intractable insecurity in Nigeria.
The Nigerian Ambassador to Benin Republic and former Chief of Army Staff ,Lt.Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai (rtd) at that lecture suggested the adoption of compressive and integrated approach to enable the entire society play key roles in tackling the nation ’s security challenges.
The former Army boss said such a comprehensive approach should also entails the involvement of critical stakeholders from the society like religious leaders, youths, teachers, women, civil society, the media, law enforcement as well as the security and intelligence agencies.
According to him, “there is a need for the public to be constantly sensitised and enlightened on their roles as stakeholders in the security architecture of the country through agencies such as the National Orientation Agency, among others.
“The revitalisation of the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) will mitigate the challenge of lack of specialised equipment and platforms for the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) to curb insecurity.”
“This is crucial in meeting the increasing equipment requirements of AFN to confront current and emerging security threats.To achieve this, the Ministry of Defence, in collaboration with stakeholders, could put structures in place for adequate manpower training for DICON staff.
“This would further enhance their specialised manpower and increase their capacity for production of military hardware for the AFN.”
He said “the ongoing reforms of the Nigerian Police, procurement of modern platforms for intelligence gathering, and effective control of Nigeria’s porous borders will go a long way ” in curbing various forms of insecurity in different parts of the country such as insurgency in the North East, banditry and kidnapping in the North West, agitations in South East and crude oil bunkering in South-South.”
Predictably, thousands of youths on social media platforms have shown that they did not totally comprehend the kernel of the lecture delivered by one of the most versatile African Generals of all times, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai.
These observers just picked up the angle of negotiating with terrorists and then criticised the man who delivered that lecture and insisted that only military solution to terrorists and their daredevil activities is acceptable.
I too subscribe to the theory that military combat is the best approach to tackle terrorists. I believe that terrorists who kill should be militarily despatched to hell fire to link up with Satan.
But I do also know that the aspect of negotiating with terrorists is not alien to political leaders in major developed democracies. This strategy was even recently adopted in Afghanistan that brought to an end the war initiated by the Talibans who are now in charge after the USA withdrew from the territory of Afghanistan that they occupied for two decades.
So that angle is not illegal as those youthful observers may think whilst castigating the position advanced hy General Buratai.
This is because as observed by an expert Rachel Briggs OBE, for decades, politicians in the US and the UK have regularly stated that ‘we do not negotiate with terrorists’, arguing that it is both morally indefensible and impractical – likely to encourage more terrorism and legitimize terrorist aims.
However, she said, other Western governments have negotiated with terrorist groups. In 2014, countries including France and Spain were reported to have paid millions of euros in ransom to bring home journalists and aid workers captured by Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria.
She wrote that It is important to note that the definition of ‘terrorist’ is not always clear in this context. The FBI has, for instance, allowed private companies to negotiate the release of hostages taken by certain Mexican drug cartels, as they are not designated terrorist groups – even though they undoubtedly terrorize local communities.
Designations also change over time: FARC and the ELN in Colombia were only classified as terrorist groups after 9/11.
Equally, both the US and the UK can be said to have negotiated with designated terrorist groups when hostages were not directly involved.
Framing the question whether nations should negotiate with terrorists, that Security experts writing for ChathamHouse.org argued that there is a moral argument that governments should not negotiate with terrorists.
She said because paying ransoms, for instance, helps terrorist groups maintain control over territory, pay their members, and fuel further terrorism and hostage-taking.
Some argue that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, responsible for numerous kidnappings in Algeria, has been significantly boosted by millions of euros paid by France, Germany and Spain for the release of their nationals. Nevertheless, she pointed out that many Western nations adopted that strategy and it worked for them.
‘Negotiating with terrorists encourages more terrorism’, does it? She asked. Responding, Rachel Briggs OBE said “The ‘do not negotiate with terrorists’ position is underpinned by the argument that the best way of stopping hostage-taking by terrorists is to remove the incentive.
By creating solidarity among nations around the principle of never paying ransoms, terrorists will, according to this theory, stop seeing hostage-taking as a viable way of raising funds or extracting concessions.
However, she observed that some experienced negotiators believe that governments absolutely should negotiate with terrorists; that by refusing to engage with terrorists, governments are only repeating old mistakes and misconceptions; and that lives are lost unnecessarily as a result.”
On strategies and tactics around negotiating with terrorists, she said that one of the first things to identify in negotiating with terrorists for the return of a kidnapped person is who actually holds the hostage.
When large sums of money are potentially at stake, it can be difficult to understand exactly who has committed the crime, as other parties might falsely claim involvement in order to intercept payments.
It can also be unclear if those holding hostages are criminals seeking financial gain, terrorists with political demands or some mix of the two. The lines are not always clear, she wrote.
For instance, Somali pirates, whose activities around the Horn of Africa peaked between 2008 and 2012, were operating off shore while the terrorist group al-Shabaab was active on shore in the same period. It is almost certain that the proceeds of sea piracy and hostage-taking helped fund al-Shabaab through informal taxation or bribes.”
It therefore follows that the perspectives in which Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai looked at ways of resolving the heightened state of insecurity are very pragmatic and practical and these strategies have been experimented by advanced societies and they worked. This is not to foreclose the military solution just like the General emphasised.
Moreover, this General is someone who loves Nigeria so much and would do anything to ensure that peace and sustainable development are restored soonest to Nigeria. The prognosis and pragmatic recommendation made by the former Army Chief came exactly at the time that President Muhammadu Buhari reassured Nigerians that his administration is doing so much to win the war on terror.
President Muhammadu Buhari had said that some of the defence assets the country procured three years ago have arrived the country and have been deployed.
The president, who made this assertion in his Democracy Day broadcast Sunday, added that Nigeria’s cyber security and surveillance systems are being upgraded to further enhance the nation’s ability to track and trace criminal elements.
According to him, “We have reformed some of our security structures. Some of the defence assets we procured three years ago have arrived and have been deployed.
“Our cyber security and surveillance systems are being upgraded to further enhance our ability to track and trace criminal elements. We are also recruiting and training new personnel across all our security and intelligence agencies to strengthen the country’s over-all security.”
Another justification for the position canvassed by Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai is that Democracy is a work in progress.
This much was stated by Governor Chukwuma Soludo, CFR, who said that democracy all over the world is a continuous struggle towards a better society.
Governor Soludo stated this during a special mass to mark Nigeria’s June 12 Democracy Day Celebration at the Governor’s Lodge, Amawbia.
The Governor hinted that nation building is a consequence of struggle for class, social or otherwise.
He said that values such as focus, determination and perseverance are indispensable in this kind of struggle.
According to Governor Soludo, there is no perfect society anywhere in the world, accounting for various contestations and contradictions, adding however that they bring out the best in the society.
The Governor pointed out that for Ndi Anambra, it is a struggle to build a liveable and prosperous homeland where everybody has very fundamental role to play.
Governor Soludo recalled that bonding together, Nigeria consistently struggled against dictatorship during which many people even paid the ultimate price.
He stressed that the sacrifices by the late MKO Abiola and others, in the course of the struggle that gave rise to the Democracy Day celebration will not be taken for granted.
Candidly, the youths who are unhappy that General Buratai made a case for negotiated settlement of the intractable insecurity in Nigeria need to understand that the retired military officer is in a highly privileged position to know what strategies are best to promote our nation building enterprise and as a statesman of high reputation, he wouldn’t deliberately misguide the Country. By the way, he had fought these terrorists from the frontline and for more than thrice he escaped assassination attempts.
We need to give his position of negotiating with terrorists The benefits of the doubt but it doesn’t mean discounting or undervaluing the invaluable and tremendous military gains made by our gallant soldiers on the war fronts.
EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and was NATIONAL COMMISSIONER of the NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.
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