The country’s biggest challenge has been insecurity, fueled by insurgency. What is insurgency and how did we get here?
The distinction between terrorism and insurgency is blurred. As a consequence, significant misunderstanding exists in the relationship between the concepts of terrorism and insurgency, terms often used interchangeably by policymakers, non-governmental organisations and the media. The terms are not interchangeable. Not all insurgencies employ terror, and not all terrorists are insurgents.
Insurgencies have an alternative vision of how to organise society, and they use various instruments, ranging from public service to terror, to realise that vision. Terrorism may be embedded in and subordinate to the insurgency. But terrorism may also exist outside of insurgency, animated by sheer revulsion toward the status quo, without offering or striving for an alternative.
The insurgent activity is designed to weaken government control and legitimacy using guerrilla warfare, terrorism, political mobilisation, propaganda, front and covert party organisations and international activity. Significantly, a common characteristic of insurgent groups is the intent to control a particular area and or population.
This objective differentiates insurgents from terrorists, whose objectives do not necessarily include the creation of an alternative governing authority capable of controlling a given area or country. Thus, an insurgency is a contest with the government for support of the people and control over resources and territory.
Insurgents exploit and manipulate societal trends and populations through non-violent as well as violent means. They often use propaganda to recruit and promote their cause among potentials. They seek to infiltrate, manipulate, and disrupt discredit government and societal institutions in their effort to gain control. Most insurgent strategies involve attempts to provoke over-reaction by security forces, exacerbate ethnic or sectarian divides, and engender violence.
How did we get here?
It’s an unfortunate but preventable incidence. As we were being told, the late Mohammed Yusuf founded the group around 2001 and 2002. When Boko Haram first started, their actions were non-violent. Their main goal was to purify Islam in northern Nigeria.
Things changed after the killing of Yusuf in July 2009. The killing of Yusuf did not escalate the group action; we all know with such religious ideological leaning, definitely, the government must intervene. Any discerning person should know that the level of poverty and illiteracy across the north is a time bomb. The leadership of the entire north, both past and present should take the blame.
While many have applauded the army, others feel they have not performed so well in ending it. How will you rate the efforts of the Nigerian Army so far?
Let me answer with a simple illustration. The United States needed only three and a half years to defeat the Axis in World War II. During that war, Germany alone fielded more than 20 million soldiers.
So, when U.S. Admiral John Kirby, the spokesperson for the most powerful military force the world has ever known, was asked how long it might take to defeat the modest threat posed by ISIS, he said that it could take five years, six years, or even more. It’s well known that fighting insurgencies are challenging. The war against the Taliban started in 1994.
The achievements made so far to weaken these terrorist groups was by United States support. If such assistance were available to Nigeria’s military, Boko Haram would be a thing of the past within a year.
Regardless, the cowardly attack of Boko Haram in the past four years the military has achieved a lot. When you compare the territory controlled by Boko Haram before 2016 and what they control now, the military has done a tremendous job by taking over more territory from them.
Removal of Service Chiefs would not provide the arms and fighter jets needed. I think the reason why the Chief of Army Staff is selected for an attack is probably that he is a professional who doesn’t believe he must lobby any political leaders or politicians to retain his position.
And, I notice, in Nigeria truth is bitter; insurgency cum terrorism war is a long war. I think the Federal Ministry of Information and National Orientation Agency has a role to play; people must be informed and understand the difference between fighting insurgency and civil war.
There is a general saying that terrorism war is difficult to end. Why is this so?
Insurgencies can be categorised in several ways; two of the most common ways are to distinguish insurgencies by their goals or by the primary method they employ. These categories are archetypes, however, and many insurgencies exhibit characteristics combining multiple types, or their goals may evolve during the course of the conflict.
In some conflicts, multiple insurgent groups may operate simultaneously, either competing with one another or setting aside the fact that they may have differing views on post-conflict governance to form temporary alliances against the government.
Nevertheless, at the broadest level, the goals of an insurgency most often fall into one of five categories. Revolutionary insurgencies seek to replace the existing political order with an entirely different system, often entailing transformation of the economic and social structures. Reformist insurgencies do not aim to change the existing political order but, instead, seek to compel the government to alter its policies or undertake political, economic, or social reforms.
Separatist insurgencies seek independence for a specific region. Resistance insurgencies seek to compel an occupying power to withdraw from a given territory. Commercialist insurgencies are motivated by the acquisition of wealth or material resources; political power is simply a tool for seizing and controlling access to wealth.
Another way of categorizing insurgency is to focus on their organizational structure and whether the insurgents stress the political or military aspects of their struggle.
Insurgents, of course, may adjust their organization during the course of a conflict. With this background, to defeat Boko Haram, will depend on our military capability, identify the foreign financiers and how well prepared the civil populace are willing to assist the military.
There are clamours for the removal of service chiefs as a way of changing strategy. What is your take on this?
I said it earlier; the service chiefs’ removal would not add arms and weapons needed to defeat Boko. l read it many times, where people talk of fresh ideas.
It seems many people who are asking for service chiefs’ removal do not have full knowledge of how military policies developed, which is a bottom-up method. No service chiefs sit alone and develop policies and strategies on military operations.
Are you still advocating for restructuring?
Of course, but I don’t want either Biafra or Oodua Republics. I am a federalist. We must go back to the 1960 constitution and where it’s necessary, to amend the constitution. The arrangement whereby states get allocation for what they don’t work for negates the ideals of federalism our forefathers agreed upon. Only a few oil-producing states and Lagos State are fiscally sustainable; many of the states are parasites and Almajiris.
2023 is here, and both the North and the South are clamouring for the slot. Do you think power should shift to the South?
Ideally, l care not where who rule comes from, but for the sake of equity and self-belonging, l will advise the other tribe, apart from the North and South-West produce the next president, possibly South-East; I hope they would be serious. During President Obasanjo’s eight years in power, Igbo was allotted senate presidency. Within eight years, they produced four senate presidents from four states out of five. You can conclude that trend.