Mr. Kelvin Godswill Musa, a journalist and development scholar is a Research Assistant with the Concerned Professionals’ Congress (CPC), a civil advocacy group promoting civic duty, good governance, civic duty and democracy in Nigeria. In this interview with Emeka Odom, he speaks on 56 years of military ties between Britain and Nigeria, maintaining that notwithstanding Nigeria’s independent status, her former colonial master should do more by emulating the roles being played by France in the security of Cameroon, Niger, Benin and Chad.
We learnt your group has been engaging Nigerians in a survey to know their opinion on the state of Nigeria at 56. Tell me, do they feel they are indeed independent in terms of protection of lives and property? In specific terms, do they feel safer and more secure in their own land today?
Thank you. We decided to embark on the survey as development scholars and as students of contemporary Nigerian history. Nigerians today think they are safer and more secure in their country owing to the patriotism and courageous gallantry of our military troops and other servicemen some of who have paid the supreme price to keep Nigeria safe, stable and secure. There has never been a time as this that Nigeria has been caught in armed conflicts from virtually all angles. It may interest you to know that a popular Lagos-based national newspaper on Sunday, 11 September, 2016 did a lead story saying that there are at least 10 major internal security operations across the six geo-political zones of the country combating series of civil disorder and armed conflicts. In these operations, the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) has remained the lead force quelling and managing these grave conflicts and providing required aid and assistance to internal security forces as stipulated by the Nigerian Constitution. Mind you, they have been carrying out these interdiction operations in such places as the North East where it became clear that the situation is beyond the capacity of the civil police and other internal security authorities to handle.
…(cuts in)And how do you think these interdiction exercises have brought security, peace and stability to the country with respect to your survey?
Oh, the responses have been overwhelmingly commendatory. In fact, majority of the respondents wondered how violent and volatile Nigeria would have been by now without the selflessness of our military and other defence forces. Let me stress that the newspaper further stated in its report that these operations were being carried out simultaneously across the country at a time the nation is battling an economic recession hallmarked by dwindling national revenue. Don’t forget that the anti-terror and anti-insurgency war has lasted for about six years now because it is asymmetrical in nature which has made it necessary for the current military top brass led by the Chief of Defence to devise ingenious ways of operation to turn the tide against the insurgents and other security threats across the country. Mind you, operations of this nature involve huge deployment of military assets, hardware and manpower. This is perhaps the most critical and crucial moment for the military leadership in terms of meeting increasing expectations of the government and Nigerians.
For the record, where are these operations located across the country? I ask this question to properly situate the issues we are talking about?
I agree because your question is germane more so that if you recall that there was a time in recent memory that independence celebration activities involving the President were shifted from the Eagle Square to the precincts of the Presidential Villa. This was because of the intensity of fear of terrorists’ attacks in the nation’s capital which spurned security reports that such activities should be restricted to the Villa. What do you have today? The situation has changed. Abuja is free, safe and secure, not because of lack of terrorists’ plans but because our security forces are proactively on top of their game. Imagine for a moment if Operations Lafiya Dole and Crackdown are not battling the insurgents in the North East, if Operations Sara Daji, Operation Gama Aiki, Operation Harbin Kunama are not battling armed herdsmen/farmers’clashes, cattle rustlers in the North Central, in the North West States of Zamfara, Kebbi, Sokoto, imagine if Operation Accord is not battling kidnappings/abductions in South East, South West, North West , imagine if Operation Delta Safe which replaced Operation Pulo Shield is not battling oil thefts, militancy, pipeline vandalism and illegal oil bunkering in the South South, imagine how violent and volatile the nation would have been now? Thanks to our troops. Don’t forget that there are also Operation Safe Haven in the North Central State of Plateau covering states such as Benue, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kwara and Operation Safe Corridor in Gombe to rehalilitate, de-radicalize and reintegrate repentant ex-Boko Haram members. Even the military continues to be drafted to elections to handle electoral hiccups, security breaches and violence across the country. Operation MESA is a cross-country joint task force that handles security threats across the country. We cannot have it better. We are proud of them.
Is that probably why United States’President Barack Obama praised President Buhari and the Nigerian military for effectively degrading Boko Haram at a meeting last week on the sidelines of the 71st United Nations General Assembly in New York?
Yes but we want our foreign partners to also walk their talk. We welcome the endorsement because it is tonic to our troops and perhaps more importantly, it is confirmation that indeed the big league powers now recognise that we have taken our national destiny in our hands. When Ebola virus struck our land, did we not tackle it in 93 days thereby giving the world the template to combat Ebola? Please make out time and watch award-winning Steve Guka’s new film titled 93 Days. Beyond mere rhetoric and marketing, our military has earned this global applause for exhibiting courageous gallantry in ridding the country of emerging national security challenges. This narrative sits well with most observers and commentators. It cannot be disputed, the indicators are there for all to see. In the North East over 10,000 territories have been liberated, over 20,000 men, women, children and the aged have been rescued while over 10,000 former Boko Haram members have surrendered and are being profiled for the military’s de-radicalization programme in Gombe. Today, peace has returned to major towns as Bama, Konduga, Mubi and the other places that were liberated from the terrorists.
So what is your message here?
Our message to our foreign partners is that if there’s any time they need to stand by us, it is now. They should try to walk their talk, it is high time they stopped promising one thing in the open and do opposite behind doors. This politics of political deceit and prevarication should stop for God’s sake. We thank them for their kind words and remarks but they should realise that we are at war and our people are dying in the war. They have the technology to get us out of where we are. We cannot do it alone. Our troops will continue to be inspired by patriotic fervour. As we mark our 56th Independence Anniversary, we want Britain, our former colonial master, to assess and evaluate its role in getting us out of we are now. It is a wake-up call. We want Britain to fact-check the situation in Cameroon, Niger, Togo, Benin and Chad and see what France, their former colonial master, is doing for them. We want Britain to emulate France in this regard. We appreciate what they are doing but we believe they can do more. On our part as proud citizens of this great country, we must take our collective destiny in our hands. Who says we can’t do it? We need to work for peace in our private and collective engagements. Peace has no alternative. It is the game-changer, the only catalyst for growth and development. Today, the world is united in paying respects to Shimon Peres, the late Israeli leader. The man stood for peace even at the risk to his life and career. During the series of negotiations for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, he looked straight into the eyes of Saed Erasket, the Palestinian Negotiator and said: “Saed, five years of negotiating peace for our people is cheaper than five minutes of exchanging bullets”. So the earlier we begin to work for peace, the better for all of us as a people and as a nation. God did not make any mistake in bringing about 250 ethnic nationalities that speak over 300 languages together in a geographical entity called Nigeria. Our country is a potentially great nation. We need peace in our nation to drive growth and development.