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A peep into the National Security Strategy 2019

There must be a breath of fresh air in the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) to have permitted this timely and wide circulation…

There must be a breath of fresh air in the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) to have permitted this timely and wide circulation of the National Security Strategy 2019. There must have been gasps of surprises from many to see the document popping up in their portals, at the same time as President Buhari, Vice-President Osinbajo, along with the Principal Officers of the National Assembly, the National Security Adviser and other bigwigs of government gathering to launch the National Security Strategy 2019. I guess that should be in keeping with the ethos of ‘security is every body’s business’, and delivering the document to our doorsteps would probably be expected to elicit comments from all and sundry which will give it the common touch. This is all as it should be. After all the retired General heading the ONSA is known to be a deft information manager. Those of us who knew him in his military days can recall his regular witty contributions (including cartoons) to SOJA, the Nigerian Army magazine.

The National Security Strategy 2019 document is an update of the one released in 2015 during the dying days of President Jonathan’s tenure. The fanfare and the speeches were similar to what obtained, then and last week, at the venue of the event in the Presidential Villa. The only difference, of course, is the security circumstances of the country that has markedly changed in the last four years. In the early 2015, the security situation was bleak and a gloomy atmosphere pervaded, particularly over the northern parts of the country where the Boko Haram insurgents held sway, and even controlled vast swathe of territory in the North-East.

The insurgents were also bombing the rest of the country at will and causing panic wherever and whenever. Where the insurgents were not in control, the military were, and bringing the same amount of suffering to the civilian population. There was palpable fear on the roads where intimidating military check points were ubiquitous not only in Abuja but in all the major cities. The checkpoints were also along all the network of highways going northwards. The fear of the insurgents and the checkpoints made movements difficult, hampering trade and other social activities.

But all these transformed dramatically when the new administration took control of the levers of state and changed the security architecture complete with new service chiefs in place. They quickly tinkered with the security strategy and achieved success after success over the insurgents chasing the terrorists out of all the population centres they purported to control. Our gallant forces in the Operation Lafiya Dole crowned it all in December 2016 with the capture of Ground Zero in the Sambisa Forest. However, we were never allowed to savour this sweet victory as the defeated Boko Haram elements just dissolved into the rural areas of the North-East to assume a campaign of attrition on the hapless civilian population.

To protect the civilian population, the troops would now seem to be pinned down in those areas for what is looking like a war without end. To compound matters many other security challenges have reared their heads and are becoming as catastrophic as the Boko Haram calamity. The herders and farmers age-old turf fights suddenly assumed new proportions in the hands of wily politicians to be used for electoral gains. The worst addition to the cauldron of insecurity would probably be banditry and kidnapping. For a period of time bandits and kidnappers ruled the highways in many states of the federation diverting the already divided attention of our troops. The North-West States of Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto were particularly affected where many of their highways became impassable and many villages were devastated by bandits.

I guess some tinkering with the security strategies and plans particularly after the elections must have paid dividends. No doubt the security situation is calmer than in the previous months. Thinking out of the box strategies by fresh term Governors in Zamfara and to a certain extent Katsina States had curtailed the scale of the nefarious activities of bandits in that side of the country. In the North-East the new Governors in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, have all been energetic in dealing with the resettlement of IDPs, re-absorption of de-radicalized fighters, resuscitation of devastated infrastructure and all other assorted activities of bringing normalcy to their beleaguered states. The states of Benue and Taraba have quietened from the hullabaloo of armed herders’ attacks. Plateau is consolidating on its new found peace. It has been quiet in all parts of Plateau State for long now, many attributing it to the new leadership in the state that embraces the politics of inclusiveness.

As one peeps deeper into the document one cannot but be astounded by the width and depth of the analyses. It encompasses everything affecting our security be it domestic or international. The review of the past five years was dispassionately done, not precluding all its sordidness. The strategies laid out to deal with situations as they arise are truly phenomenal. Some of the items such as cyber-crimes were just rearing their heads in the last five years but are now entrenched. Many others have come up too including the border closer, banditry on the high seas, banned drugs importation, etc.

The ONSA must continue to keep an eagle eye on the challenges to enable it do more chest beating at the next review in 2024.

FROM MY MAIL BAG – There had been a flurry of messages on my last piece titled, ‘The Rise and Rise of Daura’. I will be taking the messages later as space demands. Meanwhile what is below was sent from M T Usman:

“Daura risks drowning in the dividends of democracy being heaped on it – especially if other federal MDAs join the “scramble” to establish their presence in the ancient town. At least that’s what neighbours seem to think.

Its good fortune may also become an albatross around the neck of Daura Senatorial District in the politics of Katsina state as the journey towards 2023 progresses. The occasion of the thirty-second anniversary of the creation of Katsina state saw a group of indigenes of Daura Senatorial District demanding the cession of the position of governor to the District, on the reasonable grounds that no state governor or his deputy has come from the zone all this while.

An agitated spokesman for Katsina Central zone had this to say on this innocuous call, “They (Daura zone) have President Buhari who is bringing projects like railways, federal polytechnic, University of Transport, NAF hospital, National firefighters school and so on, what else do they want?”

This ridiculous reasoning however reveals a deeper malaise:  the fact that immunity and indulgence have become the driving force of public policy. Communities across the country now believe that only if one of their own is in power can they expect development, no matter whether the “development” is appropriate, merited or absolutely otherwise. Political leaders pander to these sentiments. As a consequence, equity has been in recession even as reflection has lost out to visceral thinking. The national budget is seen not as a force for integration but as an exercise in sharing the national cake.

Our politics must steer away from its zero sum game situation so that the whole country may prosper together.” M T Usman

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