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What my South African friend told me about insecurity in Nigeria – Capt. Aliyu Umar (retd)

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Capt Aliyu “Blade’ Umar,

By Dirisu Yakubu


Retired Captain Aliyu Umar spiced his presentation with astory of what his South African friend told him about Nigeria. It was a bitter truth that he swallowed without protest and the audience here in Abuja felt pity for themselves and the country as a whole.

Captain Umar got all thinking deeply when he said that fear has become so persistent in our lives that it could be a unifying factor. How could that be? He first addressed failure of Nigeria’s security chiefs in Nigeria before his story. He maintained that the absence of accountability and result-driven strategy on the part of military top echelon largely account for the worsening security situation in the country.

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Capt. Aliyu was delivering the keynote address at the second edition of Conversation with Hauwa Atiku Uwais; an interactive platform dedicated to exchange of ideas on how to make Nigeria a better country.

Speaking on the theme: “Is Greater Nigeria Still Possible?”, Capt. Aliyu blamed top military hierarchy and its police counterpart for failing to meet the expectations of Nigerians, saying at the moment, citizens must remain united to chase away the fear factor that “currently envelopes us.”

He said: “The security chiefs are not accountable. You can’t take N100m from me and tell me you are going to do XYZ more and three months down the line, you tell me stories and ask for another N100m. It didn’t happen that way when I was in the service.

“The problem right now at the national security level with the military and the police, is that they are not result-driven. Security chieftains are not being held to result. When a security chief is granted a certain amount of budget, that budget is meant to serve a purpose. The purpose and the achievement is the result. So when the money keeps getting spent and the results are not being made, we have to question the suitability of those at the helms of affairs.”

In a veiled reference to a service chief whose tenure is rumoured to have expired, the retired army officer added: “There is no law that says one particular person must get us there. Somebody left there for that person to be in the office and he ought to also leave some day for yet another person to take it up from there.”

He dismissed the oft-repeated claim by military chiefs that the fight against insurgency is a difficult one owing to the novelty of terrorism in the land saying, “I don’t agree. If we say we’ve never had a terrorism experience, I agree but a thousand and one other countries have had the experience.

“What that means is that we have so much to draw from. It is like having ten elder brothers and comparing yourselves to someone who has no ten elder brothers. There are enough resources, examples and experiences to draw from. That it is our first time doesn’t make it (terrorism) the first time on the planet. All these are excuses if you ask me,” he told Saturday Vanguard.

Although retired from military service, Aliyu who now heads Goldwater & RiverSand Consults, GWRC, a national security resource and solutions consultancy firm, also chided the Nigerian Police Force, likening their services as possessing more harm value than good.

“The Nigerian police are heavier on the nuisance factor level than on the asset factor level. The Nigerian police are not even ready to stand outside to give people questionnaires to fill and rate them over ten. If the consumer of Nigerian police products says it is bad; I don’t know how anybody want to whitewash them.

“The end user of the Nigerian police product is telling you that the product is not good enough, the best thing you can do is to listen. That we are saying the Nigerian police are not good enough is not because we hate them. We travel round the world and see what is obtainable elsewhere; so, we want them to upgrade,” he added.


Time to learn from Col. Bello

That said, the GWRC boss urged the nation’s security chiefs to learn from Col. Usman Kakanda Bello, the Aide-De-Camp, ADC, to former Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, who laid down his life in the course of securing the then Commander-in-Chief following the invasion of Dodan Barracks in 1990 by coupists.

He continued: “I give you one example. Col. Usman Kakanda Bello used to be ADC to one of our Heads of State. When the coupists struck, he died there to make sure the Head of State escaped. Because it would have been better for him to die than to tell us a story of how the Head of State was killed.

“So today, when you see policemen shooting citizens and the Inspector General of Police sends us a 10-point story, I don’t feel good. By now, we should know the identity of the boys who killed that poor citizen (referring Jimoh Isiaq who was allegedly gunned down by police operatives recently). By now, the Deputy Inspector General of Police, DIG, of that zone should be on high jump in this town (Abuja). If I were the IG, I would put the DIG on his toes and when I am done with him, he could go and clap for his boys. We are not getting this and so, the boys are getting bolder when they do things knowing that their bosses don’t spank them. So for me, the solution is easy: One blunder, One IGP.”

Aliyu whose presentations elicited a thunderous applause was not done as he painted a frightening but true picture of the situation in the land.

“Ever since I was born, we have always been divided on so many things, religion, region, politics-name it. 200 million people cannot possibly have one voice. This is also true in football that we like so much, and we have our different clubs affiliations. But then, that is the interesting thing about us.


We are now in the grip of fear

“Despite our 200 million differences and divergences, we are today united by a common thing. If you speak about religion and any other thing, we will disagree but if you talk about it even now, we will all agree. That is the first place, the ground zero of our unity. That is the starting point of our journey to the possibility of a one Nigeria. That thing is fear. Another name for it is insecurity.

“No one has the confidence that something will not happen to anyone at any time. Our threats are becoming bolder, even state governors are being attacked thrice in a month. There is fear in the land and we all agree. If we all agree that we need security, then, we have to think fast on how to go about this.

“Food and educational security are also essential. Health security, economic security and religious security too are very important. I need to see that day and I hope it happens before I die when we are going to have electricity for 24 hours in the 36 states, just for one day. Ghana has done it for more than 10 years, so we can. But until we do something, none of these will come to pass. Nobody is investing in Afghanistan because it is not safe.


Nigeria,not safe

Continuing, Capt. Aliyu noted that though the country is rich in terms of resource endowment; the lack of insecurity is making life unbearable for the people.

“We have all the mineral resources and the population of able-bodied men and women. Nigerian population is heavy-that is a resource but Nigeria is not safe, I am not denigrating this country.

“I love this country too much to tell her lies. People can be shot on the road; the governors can be attacked while they are moving on the Nigerian soil. Nigeria is not safe and if she is not safe, nothing else can be safe. The security threats that run after us are too prevalent.

“A friend of mine from South Africa told me three days ago that it is now becoming dangerous to be a Nigerian. I asked him why he said so and he replied ‘Robbers are after you, insurgents are after you, kidnappers are after you, ritualists are after you and policemen are after you.’ If not because we are about 200 million, we would probably have gone extinct by now. We laughed about it at the forum which I attended but the message followed me home.

“Bad as it may sound, there is an advantage we can draw from. That advantage is the fact that we all agree that it is true. Insecurity and fear should be a rallying call to bring us together rather than putting us apart. We may differ but the enemy at the doorstep doesn’t care about our differences.

“He will kill us one after the other at any given opportunity and there are many enemies. Some are in uniforms; some are kidnappers, bandits, insurgents. In fact, Nigeria has become a lucrative theatre for hooligans, brigands. The most lucrative business after banking now is kidnapping. Just kidnap anybody and they will come with the money. But these people are making a statement; they are writing our story. So 200 million of us must begin to bond and if we come together and forget about the languages we speak and where we worship; there is no challenge we cannot fight.

Capt. Aliyu was emphatic that the war against insurgency is winnable stressing that “If this was to happen under General Sani Abacha, we would have shut down Maiduguri by now.”

Conversation with Hauwa is the brain child of Hauwa Atiku Uwais, daughter of former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, GCON.

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