Ogbebor: Let government encourage enterprise, spend more on agriculture
Col Paul Ogbebor (rtd) is a Nigerian Civil war veteran, a security and social commentator, and member of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF). In this interview with ALEMMA-OZIORUVA ALIU, he said the fight against the insurgents festered because government was not applying the right strategy and tactics.
On the fight so far?
First of all, we must be very grateful to President Buhari for handling the matter very professionally, because what we called insurgency, was not really insurgency, it was invasion. Insurgency is when a group of citizens of a country pick up arms to overthrow the government. If it s done by civilians, it is called insurgency and if it is done by military, it is called military coup, but that was not the case. The so-called Boko Haram were not here with the aim of overthrowing the government, they came in collaboration with non-Nigerians and they invaded Nigeria.
How did Boko Haram start? The vestiges of Maitatsine were still operating and they complained that hundreds of their members in 2009 were arrested, detained at police station in Makurdi, and were murdered. They put this in their website. They claimed that the late President Yar ‘Adua’s government was against Islamic religion, so that was how they mobilised their supporters, came into Nigeria and when they came, they found that Nigeria was very porous, the boundaries were very porous. When they came in and they found that they could go to banks, they could go to many places and get whatever they wanted and as such, they decided to have a training ground, recruitment ground.
They also found out that because of the level of illiteracy and poverty, they were able to recruit so many Nigerians, and that is how Nigeria became one of their garrison headquarters. They were not after the government. The entire issue could have been nipped in the bud, unfortunately the Federal Government did not understand what it was.
When you say insurgency, it is not for the military, that is why you have the mobile police, that is what they are trained for. Army will come and hit and withdraw, but the mobile police will continue, sustain it. The military was using wrong tactics to fight the invaders and was calling them insurgents, so the invaders started gaining ground, they started capturing a lot of places and they started getting what they wanted. That is why they were able to sustain it.
Another mistake they made was the religious and political colouration given to the whole issue. They were saying that it was being perpetuated by Muslims, it was being perpetuated by the opposition. No, military doesn’t know religion, doesn’t know party. What the military knows is two peoples, the good guys and the bad guys, enemy forces and friendly forces. When people are coming to our soil to fight us what strategy and tactics teach us is uproot them by all means. But with respect to Boko Haram, the Federal Government made a mistake by saying it was a religious war, it was a political war, it was opposition that fuelled the Boko Haram spread; wrong name and wrong strategy, it was not insurgency, it was war of invasion.
Another factor was that we have a very corrupt system, including the military, they were making money. The American government sent few things to help us, but within two weeks, they were found with Boko Haram, that was why the American government withdrew.
But I was happy when Buhari came, he now applied the right strategy, the right mode of war and you can see that they were cleared within a short time. Because they called it insurgency, they didn’t do the needful to cultivate the neighbouring countries. We were fighting them inside here, so the neighbouring countries were a hideout for them, but Buhari came, the first thing he did was to win over the neighbouring countries and then applied the hammer.
Containing the remnants
You see, the military goes to the field and uproot, then we leave that to the police and politicians to now mend and bring peace. It is not our duty to now talk of peace, we create the enabling environment, and that is why the mobile police was created. They are now doing their job, arresting people; they have the ingredients for investigation and detecting those things, which the soldiers don’t have. When you catch a fowl and cut the head, there will still be reflex action, so that is what you are having now. There is no way it will not continue for a while, it is now left for the police to intensify their vigilance and intensify their arrest. The remaining job now is for the police and for the political class to do, to convince them that government is not after them, that every person involved would be forgiven.
Intense poverty will snowball into unemployment of youths; it will snowball into failure of businesses. Under these happenings, restiveness will come up, which could lead to terrorism, kidnapping, militancy, intense religion. Those who are strong, they take up arms, those who are not strong, they wait for life after death and that is why Karl Max said religion is the opium of the masses. Now you have more people taking to religion, so that they can have salvation after death, while those who are strong will take to crimes, so that is exactly what you are having now.
What to do
Government should have a programme, which must include orientation and education of the people to make them eke a living. If Lebanese, Indians, Israelis and others can come to Nigeria with handbags and within a short time they are billionaires, why can’t we Nigerians do so if the opportunities are there. This is the time to forget who you are and apply yourself to eke a living, so that we can salvage this country, to do something that will generate and create employment and wealth for others. Government must come out with those programmes and I am happy that the government is investing in agriculture. I said in the next five years, the government should invest 70 per cent of the nation’s total wealth in agriculture, in education and wealth, that is short term.
When Obama became president of America, the economy was very bad; the first thing he did was to bail out businesses. Buhari came, but didn’t bail out businesses, but state governments. The fund could have been used to bail out businesses because such money for government is a waste.
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