Would Buhari's Change Of Security Chiefs Diminish Boko Haram’s Threat? A Reflection From Ghana

Nigeria, since independence, has had to deal with numerous security and humanitarian crises. From the Biafran secessionist war; the Niger Delta insurgency; ethno-religious conflicts across the North-Eastern and Central regions; to [now] the insurgent activities of Boko Haram, some Nigerian nationals barely “understand” what it means to live in “peace”.

Before his ascension to the High Office of Nigeria, Buhari and his APC party, promised Nigerians “to do everything in their capacities” to diminish Boko Haram’s threat. As they strive to bring some semblance of peace and security especially, in the North-East: where Boko Haram’s insurgency has been hardest hit. The fruits of such rhetoric have yet to pay off; especially since suicide bombings and attacks worsened during the month of Ramadan. It did not therefore come as a surprise when Buhari announced the sacking of some of his senior security chiefs, for failing to respond appropriately to the threats posed by insurgents.

With the perception of corruption and low morale among junior officers especially in the military, the “house-cleaning” was indeed necessary and timely .If for nothing, at least, to restore some discipline and high morale amongst officers who go out there to “wager their lives” for the good of their nation. Even Amnesty International has accused the Nigerian military of gross human rights abuses. Against civilians whose lives and properties they are supposed to protect.

There is ample evidence to show that, aside corruption and other resource-draining factors that have bedeviled us, the absence of peace and security have remained one of the greatest hurdles to Africa’s development. Where wars and insecurity have visited their toll on civilians, socio-economic and other life-sustaining endeavours are constrained. And as a result, “normal life” is attended with fear and despondency; with little or no room to lead a fulfilling life.

Why Change of guard was timely

From Burma to Zaire; to Liberia and Sierra Leone, the Nigerian army has demonstrated how its professionalism can bring “hope” to people, even across Nigerian borders. Stories are awash with the accounts of Nigerian military officers who have put their lives on the line, to save civilians. As a sub-regional super-power, Nigeria’s military was at the forefront of the military exercise that restored peace and security in Liberia and Sierra Leone. My worry then is; how come the Nigerian military can barely “get its acts rights” when it comes to fighting Boko Haram, in its own “backyard”?

The perception of Nigerian military officers, especially the very top echelons of meddling in “Abuja politics” is so widespread to the extent that, the security and safety of the ordinary Nigerian has remained a secondary consideration. Instead, their allegiance is largely to the few political elites: who they work tirelessly for, in order to make them achieve their personal parochial aspirations. Whether it means siphoning off the revenue that comes into the national kitty, virtually everything is done to please and enrich the “Oga at the Top”. And in the process, the well-being of the ordinary person on the street is left to the “High Heavens”.

The change in guard, is considered necessary by security and development experts. A new set of appointments would bring new energy, enthusiasm-and hopefully a new set of strategy-to combat Boko Haram’s insurgency. With the previous military echelons’ undivided loyalty and allegiance to the government of Goodluck Jonathan, the new appointments would pave the way for Buhari to bring in “his own guard”, who share in his philosophy and security directions. Hopefully, this renewed energy would be translated into concrete efforts to contain the insurgent activities and incursions of Boko Haram.

Weapons sanctions against Nigeria

Despite Nigeria's arsenal and “super-power” force in Africa, I am one of those who think, the continued “weapons sanctions” by the US against Nigeria must be reviewed, if Western nations like the US and UK are genuinely determined to diminish the spate of global terrorism and violent extremism. The war against terrorism and violent extremism has become global; no nation can single-handedly deal with such incursions. That is the more reason why the lifting of sanctions against Nigeria would go a long way in boosting morale. Surveillance and intelligence-sharing is very critical in the fight against terrorism.

With the military technology from the US, and her Western allies, Nigeria would be strategically positioned to combat insurgent activities within its borders and beyond. With such advantage, such experiences and military equipment can then be used to fight other terrorist insurgent activities in Cameron, Chad, Niger and Mali. The activities of these groups are wreaking considerable havoc on the peace, security and development aspirations of the people.

The need for a broader Regional Security and Strategic co-operation

With “terrorism scare” even in countries like Ghana, there is the need for governments across the sub-region to intensify military and strategic ties. If the war on terrorism and violent extremism is to be won, a sub-regional effort would be an added impetus. Recently, there was a scare in some newspapers in Ghana, about the suspicious entry of some terrorist elements into the country.

Though such claims have yet to be substantiated, it is not far-fetched to argue that, even “relatively peaceful” countries like Ghana are not entirely immune from the activities of these organisations. Nigeria and countries like Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Mali should therefore not limit their co-operation to themselves; but widen such strategic ties with countries like Togo, Benin, Ghana and other sub-regional member countries.

Our borders remain so porous to the extent that, the activities of these terrorist organisations can only be successfully contained when broader regional strategies are adopted. Intelligence-sharing is very pertinent in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism. With a bigger and broader strategy, the monitoring of these organisations across “all fronts” would allow governments to share intelligence and respond timely to their incursions.

As General (Rtd) Buhari seeks to prosecute his party’s agenda to the development of Nigeria, it is my hope that he would take every needed step to bring peace to the people of Nigeria. Especially, to the innocent women and children of North-Eastern Nigeria, who continue to pay dearly for the acts of terrorism and violent extremist organisations. Or else, girl-child abductions-like the one we witnessed in Chibok-would continue to be the defining indices to Nigeria’s “so-called democratic” dispensation.

Inusah Mohammed Awall

Twitter: @Wagoooni

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Articles by Inusah mohammed Awall