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4 Mar 2018

How The Abduction Of Dapchi Girls Was Made Easy – Col Tony Nyiam, Retd

Ex-military officer and acclaimed mastermind of the April 21, 1990 abortive coup, Col Tony Nyiam  (retd) x-rays the malfunctioning security system and lapses that have not only made the Boko Haram insurgency a tough nut to crack but also easy for them to freely abduct and take hostages.

He also speaks on key contemporary national issues including peace and reconciliation in the ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC), Transparency International, TI corruption index, restructuring, 2019 presidential race, herdsmen menace, the emerging third force, and the Senate, among others.

Let us start with the reconciliation of aggrieved members within the fold of the APC. The president mandated Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to reconcile aggrieved members of the party and that in itself has brought fresh tension and discord in the party. How do you look at the assignment within the context of the mandate, peace and cohesion in the party?

I think, basically, I will begin by saying that Asiwaju Tinubu is a renowned politician. He was one of the men that gave Muhammadu Buhari the chance to become the president. Without any doubt, without Asiwaju coming into the alliance, Muhammadu Buhari would not have become president. Having said that, all I would say about this resolution of problems is that it clearly shows that the president seems not to understand the place of structures and institutions in government or party, because if he understood that, and fails to understand the relevance of a constitution to a party, he would have realized that by bringing in Asiwaju, he is indirectly undermining the structures of the party. If he were to bring in Asiwaju Tinubu and had suspended the present National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, that would have saved the situation. But you cannot have a parallel authority within the party. From the beginning, I thought Asiwaju was accepting a duty, which was like trying to square a round hole. It was a case, for me, an assignment that was not only dead on arrival, but dead on setting out. Going by the constitution of their party, he has put Tinubu in a difficult situation.

But don’t you think the assignment was given to him because the president had made up his mind to dissolve the NWC, because the rumour has been rife for some time now?

He should have proceeded with that, but not to put the cart before the horse as he did. As it is now, the National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun can take the president to court because he has created a problem and put Tinubu in a difficult situation.

But with all his experience and knowledge of politics, why do you think Tinubu accepted the assignment?

I think you should ask Asiwaju my friend that question. I, as a person, as a man who respects structures, I would not have accepted it unless it was an appointment as caretaker committee chairman.

Away from that, there is this Dapchi girls’ abduction debacle. Just as the nation was grappling with the Chibok girls saga, came this one. What in your view are the security lapses that were exploited by the Boko Haram insurgents in abducting these girls?

The problem is that there are different levels of our national security failings, which accounts for this. There is operational failure. There are policy making failures and there are constitutional failures. Under operational failures, immediately glaring is the failure of intelligence gathering. One of the major reasons for this is the inadequate manpower we have for human intelligence. Secondly is the premature declaration of victory by the government and the army over Boko Haram. This accounts for the false sense of security among the people who as it were, dropped their guards and security alertness for complacency.  Also, the premature claims of victory provoked the insurgents. Each time they are said to have been defeated, they come out in full force to show that they are still around, strong and capable of unleashing mayhem. Those are operational lapses. Recently, we now heard about the withdrawal of the guards. This underpins what I call long-term security failures. The security failure here is the danger in relying too much on an overstretched military manpower with the attendant fatigue of military personnel. You would have heard that the military said that they had to move a battalion to another priority task. In effect, the military is overstretched. A number of people in operations are staying longer than their tour of duty. Usually, in operations, you don’t stay more than six months or roughly seven months in one beat. Some are staying longer. The policy making failures need to be urgently addressed. And, as I have always said, there is need for a four-fold increment across board for people in the armed forces and the police. We are under policed, we are under ‘armied’. The figures that I have used are even not reflective of OECD.

What does that mean?

OECD is an international body that brings out indices of the numerical strength of the police and the armed forces in countries.  It is based in France. It is an acronym for Organization for Economic and Capital Development. They have come up with a study, which they do annually, to show how many people in a country for national security juxtaposed with the population. We are the lowest in the West African sub-region- Benin, Niger, Togo Cameroun, Gambia, etc. The number of people we have for our security is too low compared with our population, which is growing astronomically. Secondly, we have youth unemployment, which in itself is a source of security challenge. One would have thought that there should be opportunity for a win-win situation whereby the government ought to have mobilized a four-fold increment of the manpower by absorbing these youths, giving them jobs and using them for national security duties. The advantage is that they will also be trained in some professional skills. Like we did when we were in service, any military man has two duties or skills. He is trained in military combat and another profession. For example, I was a Quantity Surveyor and a military man. By this massive recruitment, our people can be trained to become horticulturists, mechanics and so on. We need this power. It is because of this lack of manpower that our security men are overstretched especially now that our internal security problems are daunting. The other area is that there is a gap between the police, which represents civil power and the Armed Forces, which represents military power. Now, in other countries you have security men that are in between these two organs. For example, our neighbouring countries have what they call gendarmes. The gendarmes are an arm of the security forces that are dedicated to internal security operations. This allows their armed forces to concentrate on the defense of the national territorial integrity and external aggression while they deal with all kinds of internal security issues. So we need to have an intermediate between military power and civil power. Again, the governors have always been helpless. Like this governor in Yobe and even Benue; their people expected them to defend and protect them but they couldn’t because they lack the means. In the US, the National Guard, which I am suggesting to be called State Guards here, should be controlled by state governors. And you now have at the centre a National Guard that is equipped with heavy weapons to step in the gap for the State Guard that is challenged. I wrote a book on this. If we do not go back to true federal democracy, we will continue to have these problems. The reason for what has happened in Yobe has much to do with constitutional reforms. The failure to review the 1999 Constitution, which makes a state governor the chief security officer only in name is key. The establishment of a state police is long overdue. We need to devolve civil power from the Federal Government to the federating units. There is also need to plug the wide gap in our national security architecture. One of the fears people raise about state police is that the governors will use it to abuse power. This is possible in a country where abnormality has become normal. Otherwise, why is it possible that right now as we speak, the prime minister of Israel has been indicted for corruption? A whole president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma was indicted for corruption while still in office. Why is it that they can do that and we cannot do it? It is just that we pay lip service to everything. In every country, the president is a politician and deals with policies. That is the correlation between policy and politician. Policy is a pre- determined course of actions to take that is determined by the people through the politicians they elect. For checks and balances, they do not get involved in operations. The whole idea of the president appointing the Inspector General of Police has knocked off the independence of the police.

So how should it be done?

As it is done in all successful democracies. Take for in instance, in the UK, the prime minister does not appoint the chief of the police. In America, the same thing applies. In America, the police are county-based and they even elect the head of the police. But where they don’t elect, they have independent police service commissions. Not the type we have in Nigeria where the president will appoint members of the commission. To arrest the fear of abuse of state police by state governors, I am suggesting that the police command structure should be such that the police everywhere act in accordance with not reporting to a person but to the law of the land. What is the law of the land? It is the natural principles of justice commensurate with the canons of law. The police service commissions in the states should have a structure of 21 members and the chairman should come from a collegiate. Take for instance, Abia State; the statesmen of that state like Ebitu Ukiwe, Prof Anya O. Anya, General Ike Nwachukwu, can form a college and elect someone to be the chairman of the commission. Three representatives of the state government made up of the following; a representative of the executive, most likely the attorney general of the state, a representative of the legislature, (Speaker) the chief Judge of the state or his representative. You now have eight statewide representatives made up of the chairman of the state council of traditional rulers of the state; state chairman, Nigerian Bar Association, the chairperson of the chambers of commerce and industry of the state, chairperson of the association of religious organizations in the state, chairperson of the labour union, chairperson of the farmers association, chairlady of the state women association and chairman of the youths association. You now have nine representatives from the rest of the state, three representing each of the senatorial districts, which could be made up of the following; a paramount traditional ruler representing each of the senatorial district, a farmer or labour unionist. This depends on the type of occupation or business predominant in the state. Then, there is the senatorial college of statesmen or leaders. This will form the nucleus of the commission.  They will maintain the police, hire and fire the IG. At the federal level the police will have a similar outlook. The composition of the police service commission should also be independent.  Towards an impartial and independent running of government, focus should be on the Police, the Independent National Electoral Commission, National Judicial Council, National Population Commission, National Boundary Commission, the Central Bank and the Revenue Allocation and Fiscal Commission should follow the same pattern. Of all these bodies, the only one that is independent is the judiciary. The police services funding should automatically be drawn on a first line charge.  The National Assembly should amend the constitution to determine the percentage in allocation of funds to these bodies. By working with the RAAFC (Revenue Allocation and Fiscal Commission), the NASS (National Assembly) can spell out the details and modalities including the time and percentages. The present over centralization of powers of allocation on the executive is breeding high-wired sycophancy that is messing up our nation, governance and drawing us back.

Transparency International (TI) just released a global corruption rating index where it said corruption is still riding the waves in Nigeria. Do you believe that?

This was the agency that Lai Mohammed and the others used to praise during the regime of Goodluck Jonathan. Now they are challenging what the agency is saying. Somebody defined what corruption is. Corruption is the abuse of power by an official for self-interest or personal gain. I think that the breaching of the Federal Character Principles of the constitution, the impunity with which this government has been abusing that, is corruption. Going by that definition he is serving his own interest and that of his kinsmen. That is clear corruption. So, it is not surprising to see what has happened at the National Health Insurance Scheme where the head that was indicted and suspended by the supervising minister was recalled by Buhari.  Nepotism is corruption because if you abuse your office to serve your own people, that means you are serving your own interest. Dr Junaid Mohammed has been talking about this. Eighty per cent of the national security high command is from two ethnic groups – Fulani and Kanuri. We have never had that. That is corruption.

What is responsible for the climate of silence by Nigerians over this breach?

Two things. Many politicians are seeking to be good boys. If we didn’t cry out, APC wouldn’t have come out to accept restructuring. APC became the party that was serving the interest of two zones – North-east and North-west. We had to cry out before El-Rufai, who initially said he didn’t understand what restructuring means, turned around and chaired the committee that turned in the report. APC members from the South-south, South-east, South- west and the North-central should wake up to their responsibilities. That is why the president should heed the call by the leaders of the South-south, South-east, South-west and the Middle-belt that he should probe the revelation by the Director General of the DSS that some of the arms used by the trans-national bandits, herdsmen and cattle rustlers  come from military and police armouries. The call made by Chief Edwin Clarke, Chief Ayo Adebanjo,  Chief Nnia Nwodo and Bala Takaya is a serious call. You cannot be using arms in safe custody in armouries for undefined nefarious purposes. It is sad that they are now being found with these people.  The DSS DG’s revelation compels the Senate to immediately demand the president as the Commander-in-Chief to order for a Military and Police Board of Enquiry to identify the military and police officers who are accomplice in the illegal actions. These are criminal actions in which military grade weapons were given to transnational herdsmen to use in their invasion of farming communities. There is nothing more unpatriotic than playing down the significance of DSS DG’s revelation, particularly as what’s been revealed is a confirmation of what others have been alleging. One such allegation had been made by the Amnesty International (AI).

Any attempt to erect a wall of silence around the intelligence disclosure will extend the mutual suspicion, which has bedeviled our civilian populations to the Armed Forces who have so far remained the last bastion against separatist tendency. This kind of intelligence is actionable national security information and cannot be ignored. Intelligence is information, which has been scrutinized for its veracity. Otherwise, the intelligence would not have come from the DG DSS who should know. The Senate would be deemed to be failing in its duty, if it fails to constitutionally compel the president to transparently look into this abuse of trust matter.

Where do you situate this misuse of firearms?

It goes back to the challenge of faulty federal set up which the governor of Yobe is experiencing, the governors of Zamfara and Benue had experienced. If the governor of Benue State was truly elected by the people, why should they be that vulnerable? That is how I will answer that.

Let’s look at the proposed Coalition or Third Force as some people dub it. Do you think they have the teeth, the muscle to push out the ruling APC from power and also defeat the PDP in 2019?

I think that for anyone even if it is third force to go into a game in which rules have been set and thinks he can change the game is wrong. The focus is wrong. What we need is a systems change. Anybody who wants to change Nigeria and is aiming at 2019, that is over ambition. The change we need is the dismantling of this corruptive system. It is only when you dismantle it that you can meaningfully gain access to change. If you think you can go now and play the game in terms of the rules already set, I think it will be a tough one.

Are you saying that these groups – Coalition for Nigeria, National Intervention Movement, Red Card Movement, etc are all dead on arrival?

I am not suggesting that. For now they should aim at a bigger objective, which is to change the system. You see, I keep on using the analogy of a river. The water that flows into a river; as it leaves the mountain and starts flowing, it flows through a river course. It cannot leave that river course and go somewhere else. Already the course of politics now is already pre- determined. If someone comes in now, thinking it is this or that, Third Force, Red Card, and so on, it may not work as planned. I know people are stressing that people should go and get their VRC, get your this and that, but they forget that beyond VRC, in terms of the census figures, it has been rigged. Because, if people from two zones who have over inflated their numbers even with underage people have not been checkmated, you can’t compete. The proper thing would have been to fight for good census done with hi-tech that is fail- proof. When you have done that, then you can meaningfully begin to talk about voters’ registration. This is why I said in other interviews that in other countries the voters registration and census boards are one and the same. I am saying that what is important for those in the Third Force is for systems change. It will be very difficult for them to gain entry with this system except they go and align with existing politicians.

Based on your analysis aforesaid, would you prefer a shift of the 2019 elections until these things are placed in proper order?

Let me answer you this way. If President Buhari wants to win this election, he should do what is necessary. He should immediately begin the process of restructuring the political framework by starting with state police and having a wholesale restructuring agenda. He doesn’t need to convene any other constituent assembly. All he needs is to gather three eminent Nigerians from each of the zones, making it eighteen, and they will use three documents as their working tools – 1963 Constitution, the two national conferences reports  of 2014 and 2005 or so. With these they can come up with a new constitutional framework for us to begin. That way, he can win election. If he starts it, I think Nigerians will allow him to extend his tenure for that process. Without this, we will have this election and go back to square one; just like when people were crying for change during Jonathan’s regime. We got the change but we are now in a worse situation. What we need is just like what Atiku said, you cannot continue doing something over and over again when they are wrong. Only restructuring will save Nigeria and it is when Nigeria is saved that you can talk of election. We are facing an existential challenge and that challenge means that the president can move the elections. On this score, one cannot but commend what the Senate is doing.  The Senate is realizing that the executive is failing the common man and the security system. The security we have now is much more geared towards protecting the Nigerian state and its officials. There is little room for what we call human security.

What would you say about the stance of the National Assembly on the order of elections in 2019 vis-a-vis what the INEC put in place?

First of all, we must respect the people. That is the reason why democracy has checks and balances. There are three pillars of any government. The executive, legislature and judiciary. The executive cannot be allowed unfettered control of power. It has to be checked. I think what the Senate is trying to do is for me constitutionally right. They are dealing with the Electoral Act, which they are bound to do. The Electoral Act they are passing makes sense. Everything has to start from the grassroots to the centre. So, election beginning from the states to the centre makes sense.

But some lawyers argue that the constitution is the grundnorm and that it has already given INEC the power to arrange the sequence of elections?

The sequence is different from the dates. What the National Assembly is doing is to order the sequence and the dates. It suggests that somebody is afraid. If somebody is not afraid why will he not allow elections to start from the grassroots and progress to the centre?

President Buhari has not said he is running in 2019 but his body language and the noise from his foot soldiers make it look real. There are other aspirants in the race including Atiku Abubakar. How do you see the race and 2019?

All I can say is that I have less confidence in regime change and elections. What we need is a proper platform for elections to take place instead of taking two steps forward and four steps backward. I call on President Buhari and wish to tell him that some of us will vote for him if he embarks on restructuring of the country with sincerity. Let each of the component units have self government as is done universally. The Federal Government is over centralized and this is why there are so many failures and inefficiency.

Taking a peep into 2019, do you see peace or bloodshed?

I see that there will be danger. There is a cell within the APC that is bent on misleading President Buhari to turn a blind eye while it works with another cell in INEC to rig the elections. And the name they have always featured is somebody who Dr Junaid Mohammed confirmed as an insider for Buhari in INEC.

What is his name?

It is not hidden but I won’t tell you here. Go and read Junaid Mohammed’s interviews. The president should do what is right and see every part of this country as his own constituency. In the Middle-belt today, the people are being attacked and killed by his own (Buhari) people. He should show concern, otherwise people may believe he is colluding with them.

In the face of our fledgling democracy, what should Nigerians do?

Nigerians should do everything to ensure that they reclaim power. They should fight for the restructuring of the country because elections will come and go and we will go back to square one.

Do you think the poor performance of this administration is because of lack of restructuring?

Basically. It goes without saying. Even if you bring Obama to rule here he will fail.

In a nutshell, how do we put the herdsmen menace behind us immediately?

Every federating unit here has the powers to make laws and the Federal Government has to allow its enforcement agencies to ensure that those laws are enforced. The idea of the Federal Government not being happy with the laws made in Taraba and Benue and indirectly not encouraging its law enforcement agencies to maintain law and order there is in itself an impeachable offence, in the sense that the Federal Government is undermining the rule of law.

So the relevant organ should step up and impeach the president?

I am not suggesting that. I am saying that where people find out that those who should protect us have become part of the danger, then what needs to be done constitutionally can be done.

How do you think the government is responding to criticisms of their performance?

A very good question. I know a colleague who was framed as he was flying out. He was framed in a very embarrassing way. It took some eminent statesmen in the country to help extricate him from the mess. They vouched for him and he was able to wriggle out. Even me, I have been targeted. After this interview, I will be going for a series of conferences abroad. I have been warned that they may attempt to put something illicit in my luggage or try other things to embarrass and incriminate me after checking them in. So I will always use a good camera to take the pictures of my luggage after I have checked them in as evidence. This is how bad this government is.

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