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Was Abacha a much better national security officer?

By Simon Abah
14 December 2018   |   3:16 am
Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character but if you must be without one, be without strategy. Managing Director, Maritime Gulf Shipping Agency 2015. Before I am being pilloried; I need state that I am not a fan of that late maximum ruler. An exchange in the vehicle in Port Harcourt the other…

Sani Abacha. Photo: All Africa

Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character but if you must be without one, be without strategy. Managing Director, Maritime Gulf Shipping Agency 2015.

Before I am being pilloried; I need state that I am not a fan of that late maximum ruler.

An exchange in the vehicle in Port Harcourt the other day compelled the writing of this opinion piece.

My friend put forward that General Sani Abacha was a better commander-in-chief of the armed forces than all others after him, under his leadership the high level of brigandage as it is witnessed now in Nigeria was never tolerated.

In Abuja where he lived at the time, he posited that plain clothes security agents were everywhere. And daredevilry never thrived.

This got my writing mind racing. Abacha like every mortal had his good sides.

Every mortal has his spotless sides; the degree of golly determines whether such individual might be classed in the gilded pantheon of heroes or rogues. I am x-raying the general in the area of national security.

Yes! It was alleged that people were persecuted; some bit the dust, that many ran out of the country in the dead of the night with only their underclothing. Those people were supposed enemies of the general.

I am not rationalising because I know that such promotes social injustice.

Decriers must be tolerated in a sane society and every wise ruler in history preferred to be in the company of enemies and sought their counsel than from friends.

But those not so categorized could sleep with their eyes open and walk freely. These were in the majority. There was no insurgency and herdsmen killing people everywhere in the general’s day.

What could be wrong now with killings to a barbarous height everywhere? I am no security officer but could it be that there too many crimes only because there are too few security officers around to protect citizens.

How was Abacha able to police the country the way he did, with probably less numbers of officers then than now? Might it be that intelligence officers now are at the receiving end holding the short end of the financial stick? Manpower shortages and spending on security seems to be abysmal.

How else can one explain away the level of insecurity everywhere? I saw a shocking video of man-eaters posted on Facebook not long ago.

In Port Harcourt, a street in Rumuobiakani named Nnewi street near the evening market where people live has been dominated by street gangs molesting people in the day and night, yet no-one can stop this even with two police stations nearby, one in Rumuogba (Mini-Okoro) and the other in Elekahia.

These hoodlums do not live there but they come together there daily from dawn to dusk.

The country is under siege by untamed knights of the road and yet there isn’t sophisticated technology to monitor movements of bad people.

How come the intelligence communities today do not think in terms of pattern of crimes and ward off people accordingly.

Nigeria’s fits and starts policy is only to send people to trouble spots after harm has been done and withdraw them afterward, they rarely work with the people in those trouble spots by evaluating the cause of crimes and applying suggestions given to prevent occurrence in the future.

Personality and goodwill are the hallmark of a leader.

These members of the intelligence communities need to be sent to communities to work with the local people on how to checkmate criminality and post early warning signals together with deployment of troops quickly to trouble zones.

If a retired general can be kidnapped and murdered and his corpse thrown into a well, then you can imagine what will happen to the average man. The bully pulpit doesn’t appear to work now.

It worked in the days of Abacha and it works everywhere in the world against bad people who refuse to toe the line.

It should work because security agents have been outgunned by rascals and these localities, zones have to be taken back by the state.

What is the function of the state in a democratic setting? Shouldn’t state dominate and conquer bad people?

Nigeria is in crises and doesn’t work and she needs fundamental changes and complete transformation.

The world is a wedding but Nigeria is not part of the wedding because her leading men steering her course refuses to make her partake in the wedding, while the world is moving on, Nigeria has not.

What role should government play? Maybe reorder spending priorities to lay emphasis on the protection of lives and properties of all citizens instead of a few.

Emphasis must be laid on quality of training and the degree of preparation of fighting troops to protect the entire population.

There are problems of national concern, security inclusive which must be addressed by the Federal Government.

These impasses have gripped citizens for too long. Could General Sani Abacha have succeeded in policing Nigeria because of his tactics of intelligence gathering, nipping crimes in the bud before they festered?

Maybe he succeeded again because he matched words with action, for emphasis, the Cameroonian gendarmes and their invasions into Nigeria were dealt a heavy military blow.

The bully pulpit works. The current managers of security affairs need know the place of relationship building, friendship, dialogue, understanding and developmental change in conflict management. They must also have many F16 fighter jets in Nigeria’s arms depot to put the fear of state in the hearts of mean-spirited people.

There are too many intelligence officers in Nigeria with love for nepotism.

In my mind’s eye I still see Abacha walk to receive Pope John Paul II in Abuja and on network news I saw that Pope, pray for his family, resting his hands on their heads.

Despite his failings, Abacha was not a religious fanatic. Some people today seem to be.