’We may not have successful elections’

By CHARLES KUMOLU, Deputy Editor

Major-General IBM Haruna, retd, in this interview, takes a broad look at Nigeria’s security situation, warning the crisis could snowball into a bigger problem if it remains “fully unchecked.’’

What do last week’s daring terrorist attacks in the North mean to you as a retired general and statesman?

The attacks are a continuing breach of national security, which has remained fully unchecked in the context of restoring confidence in security and government.

It is part of the menu for the de-democratization of Nigeria. Many elements will come into it as we approach the 2023 elections.

I think it is a pursuit of certain interest in the continuation of Nigeria’s sovereignty and democracy. These ingredients will be coming into play in what I call the menu for the de-democratization of Nigeria by 2023. 

Can you shed light on what you called the de-democratisation of Nigeria?

Within the context of insecurity, the overall intent is to de-democratise Nigeria. Our efforts are now on democratising Nigeria but the insecurity and responses to it are deliberately being brewed to disrupt the 2023 elections.

When that happens, it may lead to an alternative but not democracy. That people who are making decisions now are unable to nail insecurity on its head shows that they may be unknowingly or knowingly part and parcel of the unscripted play.

This insecurity can come to a head in 2023. Recall that there was a prediction that Nigeria would fail to exist in 2017. We have outlived that prediction but are now living on a livewire.

And that livewire is likely to lose its life and power to continue with democracy and the unity of Nigeria. This may be the ultimate outcome of not reacting to insecurity in the manner we military men would have done.

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The consistency with which the attacks happen and the manner the nation quickly moves on make the situation appear like a new normal…

No, it is not normal. It is just a process of brewing. For instance, when you are making soup, you add certain ingredients. You increase or decrease temperature depending on your type of menu. In the process of growth, we will experience certain ingredients like economic instability which brings about economic depression. There is inflation which manifests as an insurmountable increase in the prices of goods and services.

There is also unemployment on the one hand and the failure to secure the well-being of people. All these add to the state of affairs. As the elections approach, we would hear of some mountains of corruption in public assets management. All these would come to a boil. My impression is that we have an opaque government that knows nothing about transparency and accountability. This insecurity is a process of overheating the polity.

 Unless the country is up and doing, especially the political leaders, certainly we would experience a failed election cycle in 2023. We are going through a process. It might come to a boil when the Independent National Election Commission, INEC, is unable to perform its responsibilities because of insecurity.

We are in for sensitive happenings. I think the attacks on the rail lines, airports and roads are all processes of de-democratisation of Nigeria. The situation makes one suspect that either the present administration wants a situation of self-succession or an emergency government, which would come under its leadership.

A lot of things would come into play. The kind of responses being given to insecurity may be seen as lackadaisical but with positive intent.

The bandits are overrunning some states in the North despite investments in the security architecture and assurances they would be crushed. What do you make of the situation?

We are worried. After all, it could either be deliberate because it is planned and aimed at certain objectives or the real powers behind the throne have a method of manipulating the Nigerian state.

Do you think what analysts described as the lack of capacity on the part of security operatives in the reason bandits seem to be winning in the North?

I think we have installed capacity, whether physical or trained manpower. We also have the technology to coordinate and mobilise enough counter to what is happening. Outside our internal configuration,  our responses are teleguided by international institutions and interests.

In certain respects, they come in conflict with our national interests, which are the well-being of Nigerians and the stability of the Nigerian state to make progress.

If capacity is not the problem as you posited, would you say it is the absence of a political will?

The absence or existence of political will is not absolutely demonstrated by a single entity. And we have conflicts of interest between the leaders, the political parties as well as those calling the shots in the corridors of power.

In my view, I think Nigerians have demonstrated they have the political will to keep Nigeria as one. We fought a 30-month civil war to demonstrate it. We didn’t have the capacity at the time. We had only 10, 000 people in the armed forces in 1966. We had only five battalions.

We had no air force. We rarely had our navy at the time to defend the sovereignty of Nigeria. What I am saying is that when a crisis becomes a war, you build up the will of the people to support it. You also have to carry out international campaigns.

I recall people like the late Pa Anthony Enahoro, Ahmed Joda and others who had to go around the world to convince the international community to support Nigeria. We also knew the other side had to go around the world, especially in Christian nations to solicit support.

If you have to fight a war, you have to demonstrate the will to fight for what you believe in. The will is there but you can’t mobilise it when you have people like the gentleman who is undergoing treason for wanting a new Biafra. There has to be national mobilization. But democracy has created a diversity of political will.

There is also a demonstration of different political perspectives and different cultural interests. I think the political will for Nigeria to succeed and develop as a nation is there, but it is up to the political leadership to demonstrate it through good leadership. Certainly, nobody gave anyone the mandate to promote insecurity.

You cited an instance when Ahmed Joda, Enahoro and others sought public support during the civil war. Now, Nigeria is troubled by insecurity, which seems to have overwhelmed security agencies. Should the nation seek international support just the way it did during the civil war?

Nigeria is not overwhelmed and it is not fighting the war without international support. We have international support. That was why we were able to get Tucano aircraft for our air force from the United States.

There is international support because the international community wants to see Nigeria develop properly. We have taken loans from the International Monetary Fund, IMF, China and other institutions. But the importance of security cannot be overstated.

The way bandits kill, maim and kidnap people unchallenged, gives the impression that security agents are just reactionary in this war against banditry. Would you suggest a change in tactics?

I have given an overview of my assessment of what is going on. I don’t know what you mean by tactics. Whatever it is, it is a question of how you choose to approach the war. But tactics, doctrines, deployment, cooperation, sharing of intelligence and interpretations of intelligence are the roles of government through various agencies.

These are not things you dictate as a non-professional or a non-member of security agencies. There are also national secrets, but people do not understand. There are national agreements reached on our behalf that are not disclosed publicly. We know the Navy develops its tactics and doctrines. The objective is the preservation of the Nigerian state.

So are the army, air force and other agencies. How you man your checkpoint, for example, is not a matter for public discourse. It is a professional thing and if you don’t do it properly to secure the checkpoints, you may be taught a lesson.

Kaduna seems to be of special interest to bandits. Does that have any connection with the status of the state as one with many military formations?

Kaduna is no way more special than Kano or Ibadan.

The whole military formations have strategic national positions. And Kaduna suffers security threats as we have in Lagos, Abuja, Ibadan and Enugu.

They all form parts of our socio-economic disposition. There are military formations in Ibadan, Enugu and other cities. We shouldn’t be looking at insecurity in isolation.

It is too minimal to be looking at Kaduna. The state is a small space in this universe. But if we know our objectives and interests, we should seek to protect and support them. The conflicts in Kaduna are not only political but also cultural.

Governor El-rufai was reported to have said the military knows where the bandits are, but could not fathom the reason they have not taken the war to their enclaves.

It is the same governor who said some foreigners had been brought in to enhance the elections. He said they had not been paid and were waiting to be settled. So, it is not about the military bombing where bandits congregate.

There are some other interests to it. What if the bombing favours a different section of his local politics? The military is a national military and not a state military.

Amid all the killings and kidnappings no one has ever taken responsibility, and it feeds the perception that the nation’s leadership has accepted the situation as the new normal…

Nobody has to take personal responsibility. The constitution has put responsibility and duties on those in authority. They are on oath to perform. In the context of the overall objective, each one performs in line with his perception of efficiency.  We can’t pretend to know that some people want this country disintegrated. 

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