By Henry Umoru, Assistant Political Editor
Major- General Ibrahim Bata Haruna, retd is popularly referred to as Maj. Gen. IBM Haruna (rtd) He was the Rear Commander of the Guards Division in Kaduna in the early stage of the Civil War, but was later appointed General Officer Commanding(GOC), 3 Division Onitsha.
He was a Federal Commissioner for Information and Culture between 1975 and 1977. He retired from the Army March 1977. He was also the Chairman, Executive Council, of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) from 2009-2012.
In this interview, General Haruna bares his mind on the Military now and then, Insecurity, Establishment
of Amotekun, the Constitution review by the Senate, Amnesty Bill for Ex- Boko Haram and other salient National Issues. EXCERPT:
General, how has it been as an elder stateman who is now on retirement?
I am a special Nigerian, a senior citizen, and as a compatriot. I believe I have come a long way as a patriotic Nigerian. Luckily, I am a retired general of the second generation because I am N191 and the number of N’s in the Nigerian army has reached about 6,000.
As a pensioner who was a general, I am a lucky, privileged citizen to be alive through all the 1960’s to the 1970’s civil war and through the various changes of government from military to civil rule.
Personally, I am lucky to be a Nigerian, surviving so many generations and being part of our efforts to sustain the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Thank God we are privileged to look back and to be able to express our own views for whatever their worth as our own contribution to ongoing debates and the desire to refine and redefine our existence for a better Nigeria.
As a retired General, if you are to flashback to your time and juxtapose it with the present military in the area of discipline, welfare and every other thing, what would you say?
Well, at our time, we were a very small force, we had about five battalions, two brigades managed by a small headquarter and of course the Air Force and the Navy had not come into existence and when they came into existence, they were not as large as they are today. Nigerian state too did not have the wealth to take care of all the needs of the people and security. But above all, we were in an embryo stage of managing in a competitive international environment; the prestige and honour of the Nigerian state and sovereignty.
The situation today with regard to discipline seems to have come along with the expansion in all facets of life, the economy, the defence, the security, the social and the political developments. We got richer with the oil wealth and because we went through the areas of dictatorship, tyranny and anarchy, with it, we have come to a stage where discipline has crumbled because the management and control of the system has been tweaked in a way that command, control, communication, discipline, intelligence gathering and all that have fallen apart.
Then of course, the growth of corruption, bribery, insincerity, all that have gone with the wide growth perpetrated by sudden wealth, as a result, we cannot talk of much discipline where officers are corrupt in many ways, siphoning public funds, non-payment of subordinate welfare, non-completion of development projects, padding or inflation of contracts; generally wealth seeking has affected the morale and discipline.
In the society generally, when members of the armed forces and the army in particular are part and parcel of the Nigerian growth and the Nigerian society, I think along with the development of the society, indiscipline had gone along and collapsed and the highest standard of expectation, the military performance is just an expectation, it is difficult to realize.
We are having cases of Kidnapping, Boko Haram Insurgency, Armed Banditry, among others. In your own view what do you think must have led to this in Nigeria. Is the government getting it right and if government is not getting it right, what do you think it must do?
This is not the only government that had to tackle with these criminalities; first of all they are not new, what has happened is that they have become more enlarged and have recruited more practitioners, therefore it is not just this government.
From the end of the civil war, we have had several governments and we have had issues that were coming up, but were not controlled and have therefore grown to what we are experiencing today.
Let’s say for example, at the end of the civil war, there were large proliferation of arms on both sides of the divide. The development plan did not meet the full expectations. Then the effect of the structural adjustment, changing the structure of economic development. You saw what happened to the textile industries, the farms, various manufacturing industries. The domestic growth went very high and suddenly, it collapsed and people became generally poor and disenchanted.
As our economic patronage had been dwindling so also is the social and economic pressure on the people, and since we did not keep pace with sustaining the economy, more and more people are falling into poverty and more and more pressure had gone into the society because of the growing rate of the population and the inability to provide employment and education for the appropriate engagement, the industry of feeding the market is a big problem now.
So over time the collapse of governance and the failure of leadership ethics to abide by the law and to provide good governance, to protect lives and property has led to what we have today.
I think that if the rule of law was applied in the circumstances that brought about say Boko Haram insurgency, it would not have risen because we have so many acts of insurgency, rebellion or crisis. Maitatsine and all the rest, they were not crumbled and the perpetrators were never brought to book, so government did not show leadership in winning those incipient developments of attacking the unity and sovereignty of the Nigerian state. This has brought more about today.
But it is not only that, the intensity of it has come to bear because of what has happened outside Nigeria, that also impact on our own growth of criminality, terrorism, insurgency. See what happened in Libya, what France has done to their erstwhile colonies and see how the promotion or support of the strong powers, United States, Europe have had in supporting their interests in the Middle East, creating a reaction of terrorism between the people in the Middle East and of course the lies told of weapons of mass destruction leading to war.
I think the turmoil that went on there, together with the Americans and the Russians fighting for Pakistan, developing their own terrorist groups or leaders who turned against them and in doing so the hate messages that led to 9/11.
All these things that happened had impact, though slowly on us, as a result, our security problems are intensified by the desire to have either strategic control and also the failure to take care of what happened after Ghadafi … Libya and all the struggles between the various forces in Egypt.
We are not in isolation and we are more of relevance in the continent as well as in the world because we have a stake in the world economy; we have raw materials that are important for the big nations; but we are underdeveloped, we are not able to use them now.
Amongst us, we have a growing inference and support for those who mourn on the face of it, I support their aiding us, but they have their own overriding strategic interests to work for and if your peace and growth of the economy and development is going to threaten their own industrial power and production, they must limit your own.
So we are not as Nigeria, strong in this relationship between the government and the people. If the government doesn’t know enough of you, they cannot govern you properly and you too if you have no impact on the government, you cannot get a beneficiary policy that will improve your security or well-being.
It is what I call a state of confusion because each strata of government as provided for by the constitution is not functioning as conceived by the constitution, they are being frustrated.
The present government of Nigeria has three main structures.
The local governments are not functioning; the state governments are just exploiting the wealth of the Nigerian nation and their state wealth. They are not consolidating nor generating the economy.
Then of course the challenges of the federal government structurally. It is as if it is wielding unitary power in spite of development in democracy. it is as if their operation as a democratic state is a facade. The real functioning of the government structures and bureaucrat is in anarchy because the rule of law is not followed.
Security is bound to crumble more if the statutory functionaries do not perform.
But above all, I think we have come to recognize the damage corruption and impunity have done to us. And of course there is also the internal competition between the different arms and services. Generally, I will say they are not competing for their efficiency and improved capacity, but competing for more funds, for more contracts, for more equipment which in the end they do not utilize properly.
You have the provision of the CCTV for the city monitoring, the contracts were awarded. If it had been deplored properly it would have served a great deal against security lapses in Abuja. The primary structures were put there, the control rooms were not set up, the power to generate to make them useful was not there.
So most of the desired equipment they had been contracted and paid for, but not deplored and when deplored not maintained. Where you have the man power, they are not trained; so we end up throwing monies after good ideals which are not realized. The chain of corruption will frustrate the whole thing. There is so much to talk about security failure in the country even the command chain is confused and the modes of operations are also in confusion.
Let’s take for example, the much being said about war against insurgency, terrorists. They say it is like civil war but it is not. They act as if we have war with external aggressors. There may be external inputs, but it is not an external force pervading insecurity, it is internal.
And the Police and other agencies, immigration, Customs and intelligence services operate within the border of Nigerian state. The armed forces have their own operations outside the internal borders except when they are called to assist.
However what we find now is a great deal of confusion where various services perform services beyond their primary constitutional responsibility and even take over functions that are supposed to be performed internally by those assigned to do so.
It is troubling and it calls for concern when you hear that the armed forces are using insurgents or terrorists who have been forgiven, the ones they say are repentant and then are re-employed or absorbed as we did after the civil war.
But these people are indoctrinated with the ideas which you judge them and having been repentant does not necessarily mean that they have changed their ideology. The foundation of their crisis is ideological.
So as citizens with an ideology, it is not the function of the armed forces neither are they authorized by law to recruit, orientate and train people outside the regulations for recruitment.
I heard our military is giving clearance for repentant insurgents and they think that could amount to viable increase in the strength of the military?
I think that all these are done in the hope that you will win the war, but as I said earlier, it is a misconception to think that we have a war that we are to win. Wars are more applied when you start engaging foreign forces who also want to destroy your sovereignty and soil.
This is not a war, I don’t think we are fighting a war; we are fighting internal insecurity in the circumstances of this present operation. So the emphasis of engagement given to the military might have been justified at one stage, but the primary responsibility and expansion in fighting this insurgency and terrorism should rest with the internal security agencies; the police, the customs, internal affairs, all those people who work to ensure that there is peace and security.
It is not the army who should strictly be checking the borders for importation of arms or proliferation of arms within the country. There are internal agencies that should do that . If they have failed or need more equipment and more training, they should be the first major concentration of provision of training, equipment and man power.
So there is a lot of confusion in the command structure, in the employment of functions and even in the deliverance of services and their chain of communication.
What should the commander in chief of the armed forces do? It is like he is not been told the truth.
Well, the commander in chief has his internal and external forces. The word commander in chief really relates to the armed forces that are for external deployment for war. But the word President is the political assertion to ensure that government functions according to the mandate.
In other words, are you calling for restructuring and devolution of powers?
Yes, it is not so much the structural devolution of powers according to the constitution which might help, but even if you do it and the practitioners are not prepared to exercise such powers. Our problem is not so much the restructuring and so on. Nobody has challenged anybody for performing within his functions to ensure that there is security.
The fact is that in the operations when they say the evil is in the detail those details are not functioning. That is how you see in Taraba, the army and the police will clash and they unleash lethal fire power on themselves.
There is no clear chain of control and communication. There is no real synergy because certain roles that should be performed by the Police are performed by the military. There are certain roles that should be performed by the Customs and this is performed by the Police and vice visa.
With this functional confusion, there is even confusion in identity; you don’t know the difference between the Police man and the SARS or an insurgent who is wearing army uniform and carrying military weaponry. It is loss of control, loss of discipline and confusion in the assignment of functional responsibilities.
I think that perhaps this is deliberately scripted drama for confusion because you do that when you make sure that the potentials of a big country like Nigeria will not be realized. The man who is advising you on the one side may be the one who is controlling the agency supplying arms and manufacturing the arms and supplying aids on the other side, but at the end of the day, it is the political leadership who must provide the solutions both socially, economically and the performance of the security agencies in such a way that they can promote some synergy between the agencies.
In this modern world of technology, it is not too much or too difficult to do. It may be difficult to initiate and begin operations, but we have intelligent people with capacity that can maintain and develop our computer programmes that can take care and ensure that our needs as a nation are properly programmed
The south west governors came up with a regional outfit called Amotekun and other regions are still clamouring to have theirs. Do you support it and will you encourage other regions or other states to emulate the South West?
When confusion has set in, you are looking for solutions. We used to have Native Authority Police in those days, but they were not federalized. They were exposed to abuse by the political process, but they and the traditional system were very effective in terms of security in their localities.
This is like going back go to the basic foundation where security was preserved in the geographical areas, but what Amotekun set to do was not only that because the states have their structure but to bring together a coalition of states. Now that is why I believe that the legitimacy of it is tainted because the provisions of the constitution are very clear as to what policies of security services that are created by the constitution and how to create additional ones.
What is your take on state policing?
State policing will be a natural process of bringing policing closer to the government because right now one finds on paper the governor is the Chief Security Officer of the state, but he doesn’t have the organization or the structure on which he will exercise this function except those he will exercise by proxy and he doesn’t have that full responsibility to impact in his state without referring to the Inspector- General of police or to other agencies.
Are you advocating for federal restructuring of the system?
This question presupposes that we necessarily have to have a federal government. I don’t think so because suggestions have tended towards a loose federation, close to a confederation and there are lower voices suggesting what is wrong with the unitary system. It failed because it was introduced, unfortunately, in the wrong atmosphere of political development.
Ghana and South Africa successfully operate a unitary system of government, it doesn’t mean that if you have a unitary system, you will not have the expressions of geo-ethnic sentiments and identity; after all the Scottish, the Irish, the Welsh and the English are there in a government in which they operate; you cannot strictly say it is unitary and you cannot strictly say it is federation and it is unwritten.
I am not so much worried about the tag we gave the government, I am more worried about involving system that everybody gives his support, finds identity of that system, finds its association and humanity and engages in economy and industry.
So whatever you call that is a name, the system should express itself where people are happy, their life and property are protected, they have their freedom and they partake in the making of the laws.
The Senate is proposing Amnesty for ex Boko Haram insurgents. What is your take?
I have not seen the bill, but how are they identified? What is really the mischief that is being avoided. If they are Boko Haram, how are they identified? Is it through Islamic background? Again, they are not in the mainstream Islamism, they are like radicalized Islam and fundamentalist Muslim, so how are you going to identify them? I think there is some false start in this proposition.
You can say you want to cure the mischief of education, illiteracy, unemployment, mis-oriented values, you can do all that; I don’t see the real reason we have disabled citizens in large numbers who cannot be reached except those perhaps who have had the opportunity and privilege to be in the urban centres.
I really think our legislators are not really serious in finding solutions to our security and economic and social liberation. I don’t think doing things just because it has been done for others, perhaps for strategic reasons, it will work on this.
Besides where are they going to find the money for all these expanding institutions when the existing ones are not being taken care of? I think they just want publicity and pretending that they are doing something in the parliament to justify the loads and loads of allowances that are paid to them. I don’t see it as a priority.
We are in 2020 and ahead of 2023. Some persons are already saying the North will take over from President Muhammadu Buhari. As an Elder statseman, what is your take on this sir?
In a civilized society like we are pretending to be, we will not be talking about geographical succession unless along with it, you have a constitution that says so and states the region that will succeed the other.
We will say okay it is fair if you have six administrative zones and it rotates when it comes to electing a president.
What about people who have mothers and fathers from different zones?
My take is that it is a regression, it is not a dynamic development, it is as if it is intended that we stagnate, then you must redefine who is a Nigerian citizen and who is a northern citizen or a southern citizen. Our laws have not presented that or is it any time you want to go to election, we go and take an affidavit to say I was born in Calabar, my father was serving in the army so I am a south-south man by birth. It is just confusion.
I just think that people have not focused really on an objective desire to move the country forward, we are stagnating. We are living in all sorts of confusion; confusion is the drama. You cannot move forward and the leaders continue to project that.
Will it actually be wise for another Northern President after Buhari’s eight years?
The present value of judgment is circumscribed to the political parties, they are permutation and they are desires, but I think if Nigeria or Nigerian citizens are made to feel that they are in the civilized community of nations. They should have set some values that will enable a leader to emerge that represents these values which are not necessarily acquired because you belong or you are born from one particular region or area and of parents who necessarily either belong to the same geographical area. So I say this is recipe for stagnation.
The senate has started, yet another round of constitutional review setting up a 58 member constitution review committee chaired by the deputy senate president Ovie Omo-Agege and during the inauguration, Omo-Agege said they will revisit the 2014 Confab report and if you look at the 2014 Confab it was made up of 482 delegates who made 600 resolutions; which area do you think the Committee should look into in the report?
You know I am not a legislator, I am not a politician. I am a practicing lawyer. In our practice we are paid to peruse and read documents. How can I go into all these details? First, as a patriot, as a citizen; my interest is to see where are our leaders piloting us to and then I will make comment.
But since such honourable and distinguished people have made their comments they are the leaders, they should take responsibility and come to legislation, debate and pass the laws, we are watching.
What I think is that what is available is sufficient for them to make the laws that will transform the structure and the enactment of laws in this country. They should work, they are not working.
In all your submissions, what’s your message to the President and your message to Nigerians, to our leaders, as an Elder statesman.
I think we should do everything within our powers to stop the script for dramatizing failure, inefficiency, lack of capacity and insincerity to actually move the boat forward, the nation cannot continue like this, it is too much confusion due to lack of sincerity.