•Wants ex-US President Clinton, Emir of Dubai involved in process
•‘Far North leaders facing the greatest danger to their lives from the Talakawas (the poor)’
•On ‘Fulanisation’: Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo should watch out for the Afonja kind of traitor
•On Orkar coup: Threats to national security worse now than when we struck
By Chioma Gabriel, Editor, Special Features
Colonel Tony Nyiam is a retired military officer and a former member of the Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC), which packaged the National Conference during the Jonathan administration. In this interview, Nyiam speaks on the security challenges Nigerians are facing and how the Federal Government can address the menace.
What is your take on the insecurity especially the recurrent attacks, killings and kidnappings happening in different parts of the country?
Governance in Nigeria has become a joke, especially in the two related primary responsibilities of government, which are national security and the welfare of the citizens. What does one expect from a political-economic clime where lip service is paid to the exhortation that you have to think through a problem before arriving at the solution? The near-failed state experiences we are having should be expected in a nation where most members of the ruling class do not know that it is imperative to commence any action by first putting in place a fit for purpose structure of how to carry out the action.
Most of the members of the ruling class do not know the difference between political-economic structure and the word structure when used in the sense of physical infrastructure. This was exemplified by the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Finance Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, when Maupe Ogun-Yusuf of Channels Television asked him, “Does the EFCC have the structure in place to carry out its war against corruption?” Magu rushed to say that the EFCC’s secretariat they were opening on that day was a proof that they had structure. The ruling elite are responsible for the failed state which they have brought to Nigeria state. For instance, there is the rulers’ recurring non-compliance to the guiding universal principles of good governance. We have been brought down into a type of breaking down of norms of democracy. We have sunk down to the point that one would say there is now an increasing new-normal move from liberal democracy to a dictatorial regime of a strong man’s autocratic rule in Nigeria.
As a retired military officer, what kinds of national security threats are facing Nigeria currently?
What is going on is a craftily camouflaged siege on the original land owners of Nigeria by the people’s enemies; the encirclement and infiltration of most Nigerian communities is an excellent characterisation of the threat we presently face. First is the rising proliferation of arms in the hands of non-state personnel. The danger arising from this was further compounded by the entry into the Nigeria landscape of high grade military weapons, which were stolen from the overthrown Colonel Muammar Gaddafi-government security forces in Libya.
This is because most of the members of the Gaddafi’s security forces were from Mali, our neighbouring states of Niger and Chad and, to a small extent, Nigeria. Secondly, there is a fast rising population of resident and illegal immigrants into Nigeria, especially the influx from Niger and Chad through the far North-West and North-East regions of Nigeria to the southern states. Thirdly, the attendant high numbers of jobless youths many of whom are, because of the lack of education or skills in trade, are unemployable. This is an already dangerous situation, which is being further compounded by the takeover of jobs from human beings by technology. Fourth is the growing revolt of the Talakawas (the poor) against the parasitic northern elite who have subjected the people to poverty and deprivation.
This has led to the actualisation of the cliché that “the chicken has come home to roost.” Fifth is the radical factor of fundamentalists waging Jihad against Western civilization influence, and the Muslims who have been accordingly corrupted by Western influence. Majority of these fundamentalists are against secular governments. These fundamentalists are for a return to the pristine form of Islam, which was practised by Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be unto Him). This group of radicals never accepts a secular constitution. They insist on being governed under the law of Sharia, which, to them, is superior to all other constitutional systems. The doctrine of Salafiyya, which the Egyptian originated Muslim Brotherhood follows, is attractive to many Nigerians fundamental Muslims.
The Libyan Islamic fighting group known in Arabic as Al Jama’aal-Islamiyyah al-mugatilah bi-Libyan and the Salafist group for call and combat, whose aim is to overthrow the secular government in Algeria, have also impacted on the radicalisation of many of our hitherto far northern idle hands. It needs to be remembered that Al-Queda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) originated from the Salafists earlier mentioned. There is an established network for sending these North African Islamic trainees of militants to train willing Nigerian youths. Nigerian members of Salafist despise also the Sultan and the Emirs of the Sokoto Caliphate. Sixth is that the Bororo-Fulani herdsmen rely on their rapid deployment armed mercenaries to carry out, on their behalf, revenge attacks in the competition for natural resources war they found themselves in Nigeria. These well trained armed men are pre-positioned all over West Africa, particularly in Niger and Chad for hit and run actions, in and out of Nigeria. Another issue is kidnapping and other forms of criminality. There is also the potential for challenges that could arise from aggrieved Nigerians whose grievances emanate from grievous social injustice. For example, when election is not free and fair, the people automatically become aggrieved and it is from this pool of aggrieved people that you can have violent insurgents.
How did we get here?
The origins of most of the problems we face, particularly the national security challenges, are caused by the political economic system we have adopted but corruptively. There is an obvious mismatch in our responses to national security challenges. For example, the political-economy-generated national security threats are being addressed solely and hence inadequately in a fire brigade approach. This is why after each national security failure we go through the ritual of Aso Rock meeting in which the Commander-in-Chief dishes out orders like a battalion commander does.
The political- economy-generated challenges need a systematic or structural reform response. Such strategically induced challenges cannot be addressed solely in military tactical operational way. This error has been continued because most of Nigerian security managers do not appear to know the difference between tactics and strategy. This is why, for instance, some Nigerians who are clever by half are being mistaken for strategists. A strategist is one who has put his strategy into practice in such a way that you can see his work and achievement even after 50 or 100 years. The two exemplary strategists we ever had in Nigeria are Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Sheik Usman Dan Fodio.
The Sokoto Caliphate Dan-Fodio inspired and his brother Sheik Abdullah and son Sheik Bello built over 100 years ago is still waxing strong. That is why it is such a pity that Kano emirate that has been for centuries and revered within and outside Nigeria was divided by a swift action of a governor who is most power drunk. We need to look not only at our noses but beyond their tips. Our continuous navel grazing is leading us to respond to national security challenges in a way that is not sustainable.
How do you think the insecurity challenges should be addressed?
To deal with the nature of the national security challenges I have stated earlier, it is imperative that President Muhammadu Buhari embarks on constitutional reforms, which ensure that the national security architecture that we come up with has the buy in of the different communities that make up Nigeria. The first line of defence in any homeland security has to be occupied by an armed paramilitary force which is led and manned by the residents of that community. We must move from our present dysfunctional internal security architecture to a full proof remedy of Nigeria’s security architecture. The first consideration is that there is a direct relationship between the enduring national insecurity we are facing now and the truth that the 1999 Nigeria Constitution isn’t a fit for purpose ground norm.
What we are experiencing is clearly a play out of the contradictions inherent in the present Nigerian Constitution. For example, apart from the opening lie, ‘We the people’, when it is a rogue military regime imposed Constitution, there is also the description of state governors as the Chief Security Officers (CSO) of their federating units. This is another lie as no governor or state government has armed security personnel under his command. The present national security order negates a primary national security principle, which recognises the people of our different communities as valuable partners in ensuring the inclusive, participatory and accountable to the locals, homeland security architecture.
There is need for us to move away from the colonial hangover idea of the armed forces of occupation approach to the deployment of state armed personnel. For too long, the locals have been alienated from their homeland security strategy, plans and indeed execution. There is urgent necessity for a national security architecture which incentivises the buy-in of the local population in their homeland defence. This I have, for decades, been advocating for, not only state police but also the United States (U.S.) kind of states’ National Guard or the French Gendarme. There is need for this first line defence made up of a paramilitary force that bridges the gap between civilian security agencies such as police and the armed military forces.
What are the requirements you think will enable government to achieve what you said earlier?
All I have said so far is actually that it is imperative that President Buhari puts into action his statement that Nigeria needs to return to true federalism. It is by so doing that the national security architecture I am suggesting will have the constitutional authority and give it the force of the law. And this is why we welcome President Buhari’s new posture and indeed it is only through giving Nigeria a new Constitution that complies with the principles of federalism that he will leave a legacy.
The massive employment of our youths into an expanded national security establishment being advocated would itself be one of the solutions to the national security problems. There is also the potential for human capital development. This can be achieved by encouraging each soldier to be trained in another skill other than his military training. Trade training such as in modern agriculture technique.
What strategies do you expect the President to put in place to achieve positive results in fighting insecurity?
There is need for at least a four-fold national security personnel increment across the board – armed forces, intelligence and police. This is because the number of people to provide Nigerians security and safeguard their lives and properties is too low compared to the population of Nigeria. There is therefore a need for President Buhari and his government to openly declare that we are in a war situation. And that is why his budget has to be a war time budget. There is need for funds to pay for the increment of troops we need to put in place in the next three years. President Buhari needs to be persuaded that it is really in his own self-interest and really in the interest of the Fulani people he is trying to defend, if he comes up with a structure that is pro-coexistence of the people.
We must encourage President Buhari to walk his call for return to true federalism. I do hope the Commander-in-Chief is beginning to appreciate what I have been saying for years that: there is a direct relationship between the enduring national insecurity we are facing and the extant, not fit for purpose,1999 Constitution. We cannot continue to address the Nigerian political-economic system caused threats to our national security solely by the recurring fire brigade responses. We are urgently for example long overdue in the need for the people’s active and willing participation in the defence of their homeland.
You were part of a coup-attempt led by Gideon Orkar to overthrow a government. Your reasons were the state of affairs in the country then. Now, looking back, are things better than they were then?
The threats to national security situation are worse now than at any time in the history of the Nigerian state. For instance, the people of the Middle Belt who were mentally enslaved and the Hausa who were most eager to be used to murder southerners are now themselves victims of the monster they helped to nurture. The far North Muslims who then condoned the killing of innocent Nigerians they self-righteously condemned as Kafirs have also themselves become victims. Many of these killers of innocent Nigerians are at heart not Muslims. Or they would have respected the month of Ramadan.
What is your take on the recent statement by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Fulanisation of Nigeria?
There is observable high level of mutual distrust between the original land owners of Nigeria and the settlers in their midst. There is emerging alliance of the South-West, South-East, South-South, North-Central or Middle Belt and the Hausa people on one side, versus the armed Fulani herdsmen invaders. Former President Obasanjo’s crying out against what he sees as the ongoing Islamisation and Fulanisation of Nigeria in particular and West Africa as a whole, and the Ohanaeze, Afenifere and PANDEF support for Obasanjo and the fact that almost all the critics of the former President’s remarks are almost all Fulani, have all collectively seen to the widening of the gap through which Nigeria’s enemy within and their external bosses would penetrate our fold and kill more thousands of innocent Nigerians.
Our continuing to be afraid of each other is what our enemies’ desire and are exploiting to their warfare advantage. There is now an opportunity for a strategic resolution of the recurring Nigerian security problems. The rare occasion is now made available by the unprecedented national insecurity development. And this is by virtue of the irony that the terrorist chickens have come home to roost amongst those who believe they are born to rule others against their wishes and in the sacred cows region of the North-West of Nigeria. The Niger and Chad foot soldiers who the far North political elite use to either inflate the population of North-West region during national headcount or to rig presidential election in Nigeria are now forcefully demanding payback for the services they have rendered to the parasitic Fulani elite.
Don’t mind the far North leaders pretexts; they are facing the greatest danger to their lives from the Talakawas (the poor). The Fulani herdsmen insistence on nomadic grazing rather than cattle ranching leaves one with the impression that their real aim is to cleverly and, if that fails, forcefully take over other people’s land. This is why the Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo people and those of the smaller ethnic nationalities of the South-South, North Central or Middle belt of Nigeria, need to watch out for the Afonja type of traitor to his ethnic kinsfolk amongst their politicians. Afonja was the ambitious political power seeker who betrayed the Yoruba people to the crafty Fulani hegemonist, Alimi. This is why beginning from Ilorin, a minority settler ethnicity is lording over the majority Hausa and Middle Belt people of the North-West and North-Central.
Do you think Nigeria will ever return to normalcy again?
Nigeria can only return to normalcy if President Buhari has the political will to keep the promise of restoring Nigeria to true federalism which he himself made in this month of Muslims fasting. The pretexts and deceptions of the Nigerian majority have to stop. How long do these power mongers think they can exist? Where is the fear of Allah which they outwardly profess? Like I humbly suggested before, the commander-in-chief can begin the process of change of Nigeria for good by the assemblage of not more than 36 wise-men to use the principles of federalism underlying the 1963 Nigerian Constitution and the 2014 National Conference resolutions as the authoritative references document to draft a genuine liberal democracy and federal constitution for Nigeria. And the draft must be legitimized through a referendum conducted by the people of each of the six geo-political zones to give their consent to the agreed framework for our various communities’ co-existence.
The six wise personalities from each of the six regions must be willing to work without payment and be ready to come up in the end of October 2019 with the draft for the plebiscite in the end of November 2019 such that, at the beginning of 2020, Sai Baba would have, God willing, like Abraham Lincoln’s unforgettable legacy in the US and the true federal system the emirs enthroned in the UAE, come up with a lasting legacy for himself and his family and above all, for all the good willing people of Nigeria. Ex President Bill Clinton of the United States and the Emir of Dubai should be invited by PMB to co-chair this essentially true reconciliation towards sustainable peace in Nigeria Constituent Assembly. The secretariat should be headed by a UN or AU senior official. I am pleading with President Buhari to do what is necessary to revive our confidence in Nigeria. I am making this despite being informed that true federalism isn’t a subject an extremely transnational Fulani like PMB will honestly embrace. I assure the President that he will endear himself to the majority of Nigerians if what is right is done.