News reports today have confirmed 50 Nigerians killed, hundreds more injured, and many more rendered homeless in Gamboru of Borno State, the epic center of the Boko Haram War against Nigeria.
That the tragedy has occurred within a few days of the change in government should be of concern to all Nigerians. Boko Haram is not deterred by the fact that a 4 star General has taken over the mantle of leadership in Nigeria.
With the attack in Gamboru, Boko Haram is serving the new President a notice and testing his will to fight the organization. You can be sure that the Niger Delta Militants who want their penny-wise and pound-foolish amnesty to last forever are also paying close attention. Some of their leaders like Asari Dokubo, Tampolo and others now view the amnesty granted them by Umaru Yar Adua and continued by President Jonathan as a “manna from Heaven” which must never end. They are getting ready to fight Buhari for suggesting a termination date.
Ex-President Jonathan, the Michael Dukakis of the Nigerian Armed Forces, had always sought the easiest way out of the crisis in all of the 5 states of Bornu and the three states of the South/South by granting very lucrative amnesties to appease the warring factions. Easy-going Jonathan did not stop at that. He made it part of Government policy to award contracts to protect the petrol pipes from constant vandalism. This was done on the presumption that the Nigerian Armed Forces could no longer be trusted to do the job since they had their hands full with quelling the Boko Haram insurgency.
When the other militant group called Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) suddenly realized that the Niger Delta Militants had gained traction and recognition from Government, they too made a case to Jonathan to award them contracts to protect the pipelines passing through their own territory or else they would blackmail the President and make sure he does not win re-election in the Southwest.
That was a bait too juicy for Jonathan to ignore. He quickly gave the OPC their own slice of the pie by awarding them their own contracts, running into several millions of Naira. Gani Adam, the OPC leader in the Southwest, threw his support behind Jonathan by joining hands with the old relic of the Afenifere group in the Southwest headed by Chief Reuben Fashoranti of Ondo State.
The only information that both groups could not tell the Yorubas was that they were supporting Jonathan because money had changed hands. They said they were doing it because Jonathan had promised to be gentler and kinder to the Yorubas if he won re-election and because he had promised to implement some of the Yoruba delegation moribund resolutions that were rejected or voted out at the plenary of the national conference. It is amazing how people can deceive themselves and their own people all because of the love of money and bribery. They knew why they were supporting Jonathan but they dared not say it aloud because they would be stoned to death. By the same token,
Jonathan who should have devoted more energy to collecting actionable intelligence on Boko Haram and the Niger Delta militants was busy throwing out the baby with the bathwater by pursuing the completely wrong policy of appeasement. Jonathan actually admitted at one point, much to his own shame and embarrassment, that he was aware there were some Boko Haram traitors and elements in his Government but he was just too weak and incompetent to do anything about them or use actionable intelligence gathering to bring them to book or take them out.
The OPC and the Afenifere group in the Southwest were made to join hands by the multi-millionaire Governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Mimiko, who saw an opening for him to dethrone Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu as leader of the Yorubas. He grabbed the opportunity with both hands because he had the financial means and the political genius to do so as the new strong man of Ondo State Politics. Mimiko’s ambition was aided by sheer accident. It was not because of any strategic planning or political sagacity, Mimiko was just lucky to have become the governor of one of the richest states in Nigeria.
What happened was that Ondo State which had been fighting for recognition as an oil-producing state in Nigeria finally got the nod of the Federal Government during the short time the PDP became the ruling party in Ondo State with Olusegun Agagu as Governor.
It was the Obasanjo-led PDP Government that granted Ondo State the concession. When the Appeal Court finally dethroned Agagu and restored the stolen mandate of Mimiko, he was lucky that the whole of Ekiti which at one point controlled 4 out of the 9 Local Governments of Ondo State was carved out as a separate state by Sani Abacha not because the state was viable but because Abacha wanted to enlarge his coast in preparation of keeping his job as the maximum dictator and Commander-in-Chief for as long as he wanted. Once Ekiti State became a separate state, Olusegun Mimiko took over a downsized Ondo State. He had so much money coming into the Ondo State Treasury that he could do anything and steal so much money without anyone taking notice.
I narrated this story because that gave Mimiko a chance to position himself for more opportunities as a power broker in Nigerian politics. He therefore took it upon himself and he had the funds to woo the old Afenifere and the relic of the Oodua People Congress led by Gani Adams.
Mimiko needed that militant group to be able to able to completely rig the presidential election for Jonathan in Ondo State. He actually boasted and assured Jonathan he would give the President over a million votes in Ondo State to guarantee Jonathan’s success in the entire Southwest. He organized two Summits of the Yoruba leaders at Ibadan and Lagos where he was more or less endorsed as the successor to Obafemi Awolowo. The whole strategy collapsed, however, like a pack of cards when Jonathan lost to General Buhari on March 28 in Ondo and in the entire Southwest.
I make this little digression because I have to as a historian. I cannot help but tell this entire background story and that is why most of my articles are usually long. I totally agree with some of you the fans of this column who have pointed that out in your comments. I am usually an eyewitness to most of the things I write. That is why my narrative is so loaded. Most of what I write are going to be part of my memoir when it is published. I was at one point the pioneer director of DIFFRI (Directorate of Foods Roads and Rural Infrastructures) in Ondo State quite apart from my being an Akure historian. I keep records of some of the things I have experienced as a top administrator in the Federal Public Service and I remember them because I rehearse some of the information with my friends of the same age group.
Those who think I am gloating about my experience misread my intentions. To borrow a cliché from Mr. Tubosun Adedipe, a man whom I share a lot of information because we are both students of history, I write what I write because I lived it.
Those who remain unhappy with my writings do not have to read them. If they are so bothered, they are free to bypass them or delete them. At age 70, I have become a dried fish. You will break me if you want to bend me. I am fixed in my ways and my writing style. I do not need anyone to correct my English or spelling. I didn’t attend the University of the Street and I am proud of my education and all the institutions I have attended.
If you find some typographical errors in my writings, it is not because of a lack of knowledge. Typing these documents by myself at my age is a lot of work. I read over my work and do a spelling check as needed, but there are still a few things that escape me. If some of you can tolerate Honorable Patrick Obahiagbon of Edo State and Dame Patience the former First Lady, you should be happy with my output because I don’t speak or write like them. That much I know.
Intelligence or lack of it in Nigeria has been a major inhibition of our effort to fight the general insecurity in Nigeria today. I strongly believe that some of us and our leaders in Government now confusingly equate the word “Intelligence” and “Security” as one and the same thing. They are not.
Intelligence gathering has become the nerve center and the most important weapon in Security. When I was a teenager some 50 years ago in Akure, I knew an Oyo man with tribal marks who came to our Igunshin/Adejubu village, looking for work as a farm laborer. My late father hired him and he lived with us for close to two years.
Little did we know that he was a police detective who came to our village to investigate a death that occurred many years before his arrival. Many of our people including my father who was a Second World War veteran could not believe he was a detective deliberately planted in our hamlet to get to the bottom of the investigation of the death of a woman in our village.
He went by the fake name “Abu.” I was shocked years later when I met the same man at Iponri Police Station in Lagos where he was the overall boss in the rank of an Inspector of Police. He did not recognize me as I drove there in a chauffeur-driven CVU car assigned to me as an officer in the Federal Public Service. I had grown bigger and much taller than I was when he came to our village.
I recognized him and I called him “Mr. Abu” He only smiled. He shook my hands asking me how I knew his name was” Abu” I told him I knew him as my father’s laborer at Igunshin /Adejubu village years before, and I asked when did he go back to school to qualify to be a Police man? The man laughed and he took me aside to tell me he was on a special assignment at the time.
I could not believe my ears. I tell this story to show that Intelligence Gathering is a serious business that requires a lot of training and stress which is better imagined than described. I wish my father were still alive to hear that Abu was in fact a secret police. Those were the days when the Government would have gotten enough information ahead of time in order to take preventative measures at the convenience of a moment’s notice. Corruption has completely taken over our Government; it is now all about making money. Today we don’t have Police or SSS men of the same caliber as Mr. Abu whose real name was “Rasaki Gbolagunte” from Eruwa in Ibarapa Local Government of Oyo State.
Americans spend a lot of money training people and gathering intelligence for the bigger goal of solving a crime or stopping it before it happens. It is doubtful if many of our Military and Police and Special Security leaders fully understand that. The CIA, the KGB and Scotland Yard and Mossad, and the Israeli Intelligence Bureau are about the most powerful agencies in the world today for crime detection. They are known for neutralizing and fighting wars before they occur like ISIS has now become in Syria and Iraq and like Boko Haram has now become in the Northeast political zone of Nigeria and like the Niger Delta Militants have become in the South/South of Nigeria.
Those elements in the Niger Delta ought to have been infiltrated as far back as when Jasper Adaka Boro of blessed memory used to lead his ragtag Army of Kalabari people to force Nigeria to pay attention to what is happening in that area. The Abacha regime should have paid attention to what was happening in that area when Kenule Tsaro Wiwa led his Ogoni and Okrika people to resist the Abacha Government.
Once Abacha managed to hang Tsaro Wiwa and his cohorts, he thought his problem was solved. He did not realize he was waking up a sleeping giant: what the people were fighting for was their very survival as a people. Abacha killed the messenger, but he could not kill the message. The message is so powerful and had been spreading like a bushfire in the Harmattan to all the creeks of the Niger Delta as we speak. They needed an Abu to give Nigeria a leg up so that the country could collaborate in curbing the situation before it became an inferno.
The Kalabari people had to fight back because their means of livelihood and infrastructure had been severely threatened by an uncaring, Federal Government. The whole country lives on the oil produced in their backyard and was not ready to do something to reconfigure the security of their lives and properties. The environmental degradation and pollution in the riverine area were in such a state that they should have pricked the conscience of the Government and leaders.
If our Intelligence Gathering ability was good enough, the Government would have known ahead of time that trouble was brewing in an important axis of Nigeria and something should have been done sooner to address most of their concerns and grievances. The plans of Asari Dokubo and Tanpolo to fuel the mutiny and insurrection would have been nipped in the bud. People listen to massive Asari Dokubo dare and threaten the whole Federal Government on television as if he is a cat with nine lives or a Goliath who was going to give Nigeria hell.
The man leading Boko Haram, Shekau who was alleged killed so many times is still walking around in Sambisa Forest alive and well, because there have been no secret agents like Mr. Abu to infiltrate the rank and file of Boko Haram, and to help Nigerian troops know his exact movement. One year later, the 200 Chibok girls are still nowhere to be found in the Sambisa Forest where a stealth plane or a Drone from the United States could have monitored his movement and that of his rag tag army like the Americans did when they used the Drone to monitor the movements of Muammar Gadhafi and to have him bombed to shreds in Libya.
The same thing should have happened in the 5 states that make up the old Northeastern state of Nigeria where our current President once served as Governor under Gowon or Murtala Mohammed as head of State. Nigerian Government failed to do what was expected of it. The Government did not secure the homeland. Our troops were going to Congo, to Liberia and to Sierra Leone and other places around the world as peacekeepers. Now we have a problem in our backyard and we are now begging for support from much weaker states like Niger, Chad and Cameroons to come bail us out.
We completely misplaced our priorities. You can be sure that other militants in our country would be encouraged to try their luck in the future because of the lackluster way our Government has handled the militants within our country.
President Buhari ‘s first visit as Commander-in Chief is to all of the neighboring states of Chad, Niger and Cameroons whose cooperation and collaboration we badly need to fight and defeat the Boko Haram militants who are now threatening to create an Islamic state of their own by becoming copy cats of ISIS.
It is a serious problem that those neighboring states and the ECOWAS countries can only ignore to their own peril. If Nigeria sneezes the rest of those countries must immediately catch cold. They have to be aware of that and to let their intelligence agencies work together with Nigeria to confront our common enemy. That is the way to go. I welcome the decision of President Buhari to lead that effort because that is the only way to bring Boko Haram to their knees and to prevent it from spreading to all the countries of the ECOWAS sub region.
The Buhari Government has a big challenge ahead and that is why it cannot afford to waste a minute out of Buhari’s precious 4-year term. The ECOWAS countries if not the African Union countries as a whole, would need a well- coordinated strategy to fight Islamic fundamentalists in Kenya, in the horn of Africa (Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia), in the Northeast of Nigeria and the South/South and other places where such insurrections might occur again like those that happened in Sudan and Burundi where the rivalry between the Hutus and the Tutus have caused so much bloodshed and pain.
I saw a lot of the vulnerabilities of many of those countries when I served as the Secretary to the Joint Economic Commissions of Nigeria with the rest of the World. I write much of what I write today because of that knowledge and exposure I got from traveling extensively in all of those countries. Compared to Nigeria, most of those countries cannot boast of all the resources Nigeria has either in terms of mineral resources military or human power.
I rest my case.