General Yakubu Usman (rtd) was the chairman of the Northern States Governors’ Forum committee on insecurity. The retired general who contested the Bauchi South Senatorial seat in 2011 and lost in this interview speaks on the ongoing insurgency in the north saying it is not the presumed job of the military to confront the insurgents. Excerpts:
By Suzan Edeh
GIVEN your military background, do you think that the security forces in the country are doing their best in tackling the problem of insurgency in the Northeast?
You see when you talk of the military first and foremost, we have to be very clear on what the role of the military is. Their number one constitutional responsibility is to defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria against external forces, therefore any other role given to them is secondary. This clearly indicates that the role the military is performing now is a secondary one.
They are just supporting the civil force to bring insurgency under control and by right, it should have been the responsibility of the civil force like the police and Department for State security Service but since the insurgency has grown beyond the power of civilian forces, the military was called in.
There are a lot of interventions here and there because the military is not operating independently and even though we are aware that military is not operating independently, they are under a constituted authority and the environment within which they operate is not a conducive one. Be that as it may, you will agree with me that the military has achieved quite a lot even though their achievements may not be 100% okay.
If the military had not intervened in this insecurity crisis, only God knows what would have been happening in the Northeast by now. These insurgents were attacking so many local governments in the north, but the military has now intervened as the attacks are now minimized compared to before. For instance, Maiduguri was a no go area before but now you can go to Maiduguri because life has come back to the streets and the insurgents have been pushed out to a restricted area around Sambisa forest. So if the Boko Haram boys come into the city, it is a hit and run affair compared to the situation in the past where they would hit and remain. So given the environment and the situation they are operating, they have achieved a lot but they can definitely do better because there are areas that need improvements.
It has been alleged that some senior army officers were reportedly found to be aiding Boko- Haram. What is your opinion on this?
Well you said so, I didn’t say so. Who are the army officers? If there are any, by now we should have known them. When Kabiru Sokoto was arrested, was there any army officer that was arrested for committing any offence and if there are, then mention their names? So if you say some military officers have being collaborating with those terrorists, then mention their names. Besides, I am currently retired, so I wouldn’t know the current trends operating in the military right now but the Nigeria military is part of the society and we cannot over rule the fact that there are bad eggs. For some Nigerians to be making such allegations without facts backing it is just baseless. If they want to convince us that such allegations are true, they should be able to mention the names of those that are involved. The military has a way of fishing out bad eggs and definitely there are some bad eggs, but I cannot say who they are. So those that are making the allegation should come out and prove it.
You were a member of a committee set up by northern governors on insecurity in the north. What happened to your report?
Are you asking me? Well I am glad to inform you that we have submitted a report already to the Northern Governors Forum. The committee met the deadline given to us and we submitted the report. I believe I am not the right person to ask what has happened to our report. You can ask the Northern States Governors’ Forum what they have done with the report of the committee. All I know is that we have done our job, it is now left for the governors to act on that report.
Do you share the view that there may be foreign forces or groups aiding insurgents?
Like I said before and I am still repeating it that Boko-Haram is a Nigerian child and nurtured in Nigeria but was fueled by some despicable elements outside Nigeria. Of course some of the perpetrators are residing in the country, but we cannot rule out foreign support.
I believe there are foreign supports but I cannot say which particular organization is supporting Boko Haram .You don’t need anybody to tell you that Boko-Haram has some foreign assistance. It is a Nigerian child, so let us not deceive ourselves any further.
Has this security challenge exposed the human and material capacity of the military?
It is far from it. I do not share the opinion of people saying that Boko Haram are better equipped than the Nigeria military. The Nigeria military cannot afford to offload its arsenal on Boko- Haram. I told you that the atmosphere within which the military operates is completely different in this country and they are just playing a secondary role.
You see, there is no battle line drawn already because if a battle line is drawn today with Boko Haram or whatever they call themselves, they will not last.
But in this case where they will hit the military and go disappear within the populace, how do one fish them out? You don’t know who is who, so the military cant just go and wipe out an entire village just like the Boko Haram do.
Some people are saying that the military is overwhelmed by the terrorists.