It would seem that with the state of insecurity across the country worsening on a daily basis, the government is equally yielding to adopting desperate measures in its response salvoes. Just early last week the Minister of Defence General Bashir Salihi Magashi, had in the course of a National Defence and Security Summit at the National Defence College Abuja, announced that the military is poised to deploy kinetic warfare to arrest the spate of insecurity across the country.
The security forum which had its theme as ‘Promoting Kinetic Operation as a Major Plank for Counter Terrorism and Counter Insurgency in Nigeria’ was intended for participants to brainstorm on the way forward, pursuant to curbing the almost runaway state of insecurity in the country. Magashi had in his address also cited the Presidential mandate to the military to deploy ‘all the instruments of power’ to stabilize the security situation in the nation, towards providing for good governance as well as promoting peace and development. In justifying the new dispensation, he admitted that the country was in a critical situation which requires the buy-in of all stake holders, along with the “focused and objective use of kinetic operations”.
For the purpose of clarification, kinetic warfare mode refers to heightened military action that places no limits to lethal consequences. In simpler terms what the general was implying is that the country has upped its strategic and tactical military response to deal summarily with all factors – both domestic and foreign, who had been associated with any form of criminality and insecurity. Meanwhile, it needs to be considered that from the early 2000s till date, the country had been engaged in a series of all-out bloody wars with militants in the Niger Delta, Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, banditry in the North West, and recently the IPOB sponsored Eastern Security Network (ESN) in the South East, as well as other flashpoints across the country, with each instance featuring ‘kinetic warfare’ in one form or the other. The announcement by Magashi offers itself for varied interpretations.
In one dimension it can be linked with the reported acquisition in recent times of a fresh cache of military assets by the government which provides it the assurance to rattle the saber as it were, with Magashi’s pronouncement – welcome as it were. In that context therefore Magashi’s take represents the onset of a new wave of military action with increased ferocity and hopefully, enhanced efficacy. Reportedly the government has acquired for the military a new level of lethality through the arrival of assorted, sophisticated aircraft and other armaments. And the earlier Nigerians start benefitting from the deployment of the new arrivals, the better for the country’s security and psyche.
Even at that, viewing the onset of the new kinetic military action against contemporary social realities in the country, betrays an ominous ring around the dispensation simply because the core targets of the kinetic warfare initiative – apart from the purely criminal elements among them, are not foreign but domestic threats, which implies in the main, fellow Nigerians. Granted that they may have adopted outlandish mindsets and political persuasions which drive them into eccentric tendencies including armed resistance to constituted authority, they qualify technically as rebels with respective causes. Tackling all of such trouble makers across the country, with the same consideration may prove counterproductive, as the country may be mixing different characters in the same mould. The situation therefore calls for extreme discretion before the country is pushed inexorably into another round of in-house bloodletting, and this time of a horrendous proportion.
For one, the fact remains that perhaps apart from the Boko Haram insurgency which has clearly manifested sponsorship by predatory and expansionist foreign interests, much of the instances of militancy and anomy are reactions to the failure of governance in the country in one form or the other. Their nuisance value can therefore be seen as a fallout of the failure of the country to provide for negotiated and mutually accepted templates for co-existence among its constituent nation-states. This implies that the solution to their menace lies less on the battle field and more on the negotiation table. This consideration therefore vitiates the primacy placed by the government on military solutions, in place of promotion of consensus building, true democracy and good government.
It needs to be recalled that many of these anomic tendencies had always been driven by grudges against the political structure in the country, which were in existence during the military era, and only waited for the return to civil rule to manifest. That they are still manifesting and in more pronounced dimensions even during civil rule, accentuates the fact that the country’s social fabric still leaves much to be desired with respect to consensus building. And if, with the longer stay of the military in power than the combined episodes of democratic rule, the former failed to fulfill for Nigerians their aspirations for good governance, and the return to civil rule failed in the same direction, the situation calls for a more introspective approach, than a mechanistic battle-field approach.
To further accentuate the country’s dilemma is the fact that since the return to civil rule in 1999, it has been a disappointingly sad story of progressive decline of the country into the vortex of social meltdown, with the present level where the temptation is strong for the government to go most drastic, including deploying the proposed kinetic military action. However, a situation where everybody is angry with each other, and nobody wants to listen to the neighbor, is hardly a time to ratchet up hostilities by the government, as the Magashi’s take amounts to.
Rather, it will serve a more beneficial purpose for the country to activate all of its consensus building capacity, particularly the legislative establishment comprising the national and state assemblies acting in unison, to address the common concerns of friction in the country.
Indeed, jaw jaw, not war war, is the way forward.