Intelligence first – The Nation

  • Beyond the fear of a civil war, we must realize this is a war of knowledge, not arms

Every day Nigerians dread the news the next day. Knowing that the next victim must be a fellow citizen, they only hope it is not them.

If they travel or move about at school, if their kids go to school, if they or wives go to the market, if they farm or hunt, if they have a roof over their heads, if they have a little fortune, if kings or commoners, if they sleep at night or have a family, if they are loners or crowd lovers — they all know they are not immune.

That is how precarious the situation is in the country, and it prompted no less a personage than a former military head of state, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, to jolt us to a dose of commonsense. He was responding to the sense of near-impotence of not only the Federal Government, but also citizens, to tackle a country overrun by bandits.

It is the same urgency that roused some northern governors to Ibadan to team up with their South West counterparts, in a solidarity of concern. Yet within that context, we heard some state chief executives utter reckless words. One of them was the governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed, who said herdsmen had a right to bear arms.  Also, Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle, asserted that not all bandits are criminals.

The voice of the former head of state on the turmoil is a warning. Hear him: “As if the continued insurgency in the country, the kidnap and armed robbery are not cup full, the recent happenings in some parts of the country, of ethnic attacks, is unfortunate and is adding to the problems. In the last two weeks or so, tension has been growing in the country and embers of disunity, anarchy and disintegration are spreading fast and if care is not taken, this might lead us to a point of no return.”

He spoke as the leader of the Nigeria Peace Committee, a body sorely needed at this moment. So telling is the fear of the nation veering to a “point of no return.” Such a place is a fait accompli for disaster. A place of no return could be a civil war, and we know as nation, we have travelled that path before. It was a sanguinary hour in our history. It began as though it might not. Just like today, we prayed that the cup might pass. We relied on the angels in the Nigerian soul. But when it came, it was beyond the point of recall.

Hate had replaced persuasion, and blood bathed us so swiftly and piteously that the one who shed wanted to shed more because the one who was shed also wanted to shed their own. That was the Nigerian Civil War that lasted 30 months, just one year after the collapse of the First Republic, in January 1966.

But more dangerous is anarchy. It is like an old, threadbare cloth. The more you save it, the more loose threads appear. No solution often is in sight except to discard the whole lot. Hence many say no country has endured a war twice. Anarchy is many wars in one.

Hence we commend the northern governors for meeting with their South West fellows. But we also ask them to restrain Matawalle and Mohammed so they realize that they are governors who should mollify the waters.

Essentially the problem lies in our intelligence failure. How come bandits are in our forests and a professor and an Islamic leader can locate them but our military looks on helplessly?

The intelligence is supposed to have eyes and ears in all the local government areas of the country. Yet bandits brush from street to street, and take hours to kidnap a whole bus of tens of passengers, and ransack a village to its knees.

If it is a failure of the armed forces, it is first a collapse of intelligence

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