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We cannot afford to have partisan police, military in a democracy — Wanogho

By Kelvin Ebiri
02 December 2018   |   3:19 am
Security analyst cum consultant, Mr. Mamefe Wanogho in this interview with KELVIN EBIRI, warned that the brewing political tension in the Niger Delta and the politicisation of security might lead to the resurgence of militancy. He observed that if the pressure being exerted on incumbent governors persist, they might be forced to resort to non-state…

Security analyst cum consultant, Mr. Mamefe Wanogho

Security analyst cum consultant, Mr. Mamefe Wanogho in this interview with KELVIN EBIRI, warned that the brewing political tension in the Niger Delta and the politicisation of security might lead to the resurgence of militancy. He observed that if the pressure being exerted on incumbent governors persist, they might be forced to resort to non-state actors for their political preservation.

What does politicisation of policing portend for the 2019 elections?

Anybody who is a practitioner in security and security analyst, knows that we have got it wrong over time, not just the APC government, but also the PDP. We must divorce the security system very clearly from politics. 

We cannot run a system, where we allow the policing system of a society, even the military to now be seen as agent of the state in terms of partisan inclination. We don’t want to identify the Nigerian Police as doing the bidding of any political party.

Once that is done, we will have a credibility crisis on our hands. They should allow the institutions to be impartial, non-biased, as objective as possible, and to do their work in a non-partisan manner.

We should allow the police to function objectively, so that Mr. A and Mr. B who seek justice can go to the police.

What is the implication of incessant transfer of commissioners of Police in Niger Delta States?

A few days ago the Bayelsa State government was very bitter because the state has had eight commissioners in a few months. That is crazy.

Why would you do that? Is it that the police has got it wrong? Or is it that you feel somebody is not doing the bidding of the powers that be? Why have a centralised policing system for a country as diverse and as large as Nigeria? We cannot afford to continue to run such a centralised policing system and that is why these things are happening.

Policing should be basically home grown, but somebody sits in Abuja and decides that you go there and become commissioner of police. That is not how policing is done.

This issue of changing commissioners of police here and there makes nonsense of whatever security architecture you are trying to build in a state. I am aware that each state has a security council.

So, when a commissioner of police is barely settling down to do his job, you remove him, what time does he have to execute the state security plans?

That is not very good for us as it will make governors to lose faith in the system.

We should ensure that there is some level of stability at the state level so that a commissioner of police will be able to know what is on the ground and provide law and order in conjunction with other security agencies.

You have to crash the system and put in a new system. This centralised military policing system cannot work for us. We must change it to have council and state police. Each state should decide

Where are the likely flashpoints in the Niger Delta ahead of the elections?

I think Rivers and Akwa-Ibom states, and to an extent, Delta State.

This is based on the prevailing situation we have seen, including defection and counter defection in Akwa Ibom State, particularly that of the former governor, who wants to show that he is a political force.

In Rivers State, the former governor and minister of transport, who did not do well in the last election and will want to show that that happened because he did not have federal might at that time.

So, he has a point to prove this time. These states are key flashpoints in my estimation.

For Delta, not much so, but the fact that you have an Ogboru now in APC together, with Ovie Omo-Agege gives cause for concern. There are talks in some quarters that if Ogboru does not get it this time, he should forget it.

So, who knows to what extent they will now deploy the much-talked about federal might. I think nothing much is going to happen in Bayelsa.

Recently Timi Alaibe crossed over to PDP. Bayelsa is PDP and President Jonathan is there.

The so-called bigwigs in APC like former governor, Timpre Slyvia, if you check the last election and his antecedents, you will find that they won’t make much of a headway.

There is growing concern about the proliferation of small arms in the region ahead of the 2019 polls. What does this portend?

I believe it started during the 2003 election in Rivers State and elsewhere. When you have arms that you have not been able to mop up from the streets and you are going into election, what happens is that it becomes a winner-take-all situation; it becomes a situation where might becomes right.

So anybody who is able to control a particular area in terms of violence takes over. That is the situation we have. I have said over time that we are supposed to deliberately mop up these arms and make sure they don’t get into the streets any longer. But the arms are still here, free.

It implies that we have a situation in our hands. It is like a keg of gun power that we are sitting on, which can explode at anytime.

Going into this election, there has to be a strategy and tactical operation by security agencies to profile criminals, flashpoints and target them with the intent of mopping up these weapons. We have so much intelligence in our streets.

If you follow the intelligence report that we have and you rely on intelligent policing, we will find that there are areas, where these arms are prevalent and the people that wield these arms. But the problem we have is that those who should drive this process themselves are not clean.

Do you fear that the brewing political tension may lead to resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta?

It will be very detrimental to the progress of this country if we see another round of violence in the Niger Delta. Like I said, we only have this graveyard kind of peace.

Anybody who means well for this country should not even countenance that because we believe that the amnesty deal offered by President Umaru Yar’adua was a masterstroke.

You don’t have to create the impression that you are disregarding the people; you are subverting the will of the people, if you do that, there will be chaos because people will now take it very personal and you cannot tell to what extent persons in the area will go.

I think that we must tread very cautiously. Nobody should militarise the Niger Delta, which is the mainstay of our economy and where the bulk of our foreign exchange comes from.

What are the indicators?

Check what has happened from 2015 till date. Now, for me, a government that wants to come back to power does not campaign on promises. You can campaign on what you have done.

Now, my take is that when you don’t have much to show; when you have not done much to get the mass of the people to take you as the man that is there for their best interest, the next thing for you to do is to try to, by whatever means possible, stay in power.

See the by-election that happened in Rivers State, around the Mile 3 area of Port Harcourt and how they made a complete mess of it, with the involvement of the police.

Impunity is bound to reign when such things happen because the actors would feel that they have federal backing.

So, these things are bound to happen further, but the down side of it is that there is no monopoly to violence.

The other group that now feels left out may get desperate as well, and this might bring about unprecedented violence in the Niger Delta area and elsewhere in the country.

Things may get violent because people will not sit down and allow anybody to use force to takeover from them.

If we recall correctly, a former President Olusegun Obasanjo said sometime ago that you can only rig where you are popular as a politician.

Where you are not popular, when you attempt to subvert the will of the people, there will be violence, chaos and crisis.

People like the former governor Godswill Akpabio, Rotimi Amaechi and the APC National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole, are very vocal and very insistence on getting what they want at all cost. They may probably feel that they were short-charged in time past, so now that they have federal might they must deploy it appropriately to show to their master in Abuja that they can deliver their own area.

Now, when somebody wants to please his master in Abuja by delivering his area, the tendency is that he will want to use INEC, security agencies or both to work in his favour, but to the detriment of the next party.

Are claims by some state governors that their opponents on the federal side want to precipitate violence ahead of the election tenable?

I think there is some substance to it even by virtue of some commentaries that we have heard.

A ready example is what happened close to the Government House in Ekiti when then Governor Ayodele Fayose was tear-gassed and the response that we heard from highly-placed persons in the APC was that similar thing happened when President Goodluck Jonathan was in power and Fayose was supported by federal might.

So, it was going to be tit for tat. I believe there is some substance to it.

Those who think they don’t have the wherewithal or the population to get the votes they need, will want to see how they can use the instrumentality, if not of INEC, then of the security agencies to influence the outcome of the election, and I think if that is going to happen, it is not just in the Niger Delta, but across the country.

What is your appraisal of security situation in the Niger Delta ahead of 2019 election?

For me, what I think we have in place is some kind of graveyard peace, that is why as we inch closer to the 2019 general election, we are beginning to experience tension and I think it is politically-induced, with an example being what is happening in Akwa Ibom State.

We have also seen what is going on in Rivers State with the discovery of the so-called militia or illegal training camp.

People are also drawing analogy to what happened in the rerun election in Osun State between Adeleke and Oyetola, where one party decided that it was going to be a do or die election, and anybody can go to court eventually.

Abductions and kidnappings are steadily on the rise; gangsters are hitting hard at each other; violent crime and cultism is on the rise as well, and they sometimes enjoy patronage from politicians and oil majors.

Now, the more a king pin is able to show that he is the monopoliser of violence in an area, the more patronage he gets from oil majors and politicians.