Colonel Anthony Nyiam (Rtd.) is one of the few surviving men among those who staged the late Major Gideon Orkar-led coup against the regime of a former Military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (Rtd.) in 1990.
In this interview, Nyiam, who hails from Boki in Cross River State, assesses the promises made by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC government on national security.
The current APC government had made security as one of its cardinal campaign promises. How would you assess the Buhari led government in terms of security after five years in office?
I wouldn’t want to be political in responding to this question as it concerns national security. Therefore the question to address is, how much of those campaign promises made to Nigerians by the APC led government have been fulfilled after five years into office? I am afraid that in terms of speaking truth to the power that be, General Muhammadu Buhari is yet to keep his promise on security. As a General and Commander-in-Chief he has failed to fulfil the promise to secure every part of the country. For instance, when the innocent farming communities relied on Buhari’s promises, they were seriously disappointed such that his key supporter and, indeed mentor, General T. Y. Danjuma called on those being repeatedly attacked by AK 47 bearing mercenaries to resort to self – defence. Such is the sorry state of our national security under Buhari’s watch.
What would you identify as the major security challenges faced by Buhari led government and your take on its approach in tackling them?
Your question seems to imply that national security is about the only security challenge faced by the government. National Security includes the important aspects of the people’s security such as human security, the security of right to education, diseases prevention and control, national economic security. Some of the security challenges in my view stem from; political leadership failures arising from the lack of sincerity of purpose and political will on the part of leadership, and conflict of interest. An example is Buhari’s nepotistic approaches to the appointments of armed forces and other national security service chiefs; the extension of playing partisan politics even into the areas of national security. Also the absence of a functional Higher Command Structure, not to mention The Highest Command or Grand Strategic Level of the management of defence, and other national security crises. This is so much so that PMB is often dithering to the dangerous extent that reminds one of the reasons why “an army of sheep commanded by a lion defeats an army of lions led by a sheep.” There is also the extremely mutual distrust between the far northern Nigerian rulers, on the one side; and the leaders of the Middle Belt, South West, South-South and South East, on the other side. The distrust remains a wide-open door through which those who do not wish Nigeria well might enter and cause harm to the generality of Nigerians.
What’s your take on the welfare and conditions of officers and men of the Security Services with respect to boosting their commitment towards fighting the National Insecurity under the current government?
The welfare and conditions of officers and men of the Armed Forces, and the other National Security Services, have, for years been yearning for improvement. One must confess that General Muhammadu Buhari has (as the C-in-C) has done a lot. The problems often come from some members of his kitchen cabinet who are preventing him from knowing the extent of corruption going on, in the name of fighting the North-East War. Hence, there is a need for the equivalence of Economic and Financial Fraud Commission (EFFC) to always monitor the processes of arms, and other national security equipment procurement. We may need to emulate the United States of America establishment of the Office of the Inspector General of the Armed Forces. The Inspector General of the armed forces has the training and skills for auditing financial transactions going on in the Ministry of Defence and ensuring that procurement processes are subjected to standard operating procedures. Also the C-in-C’s continuous retention of the armed forces chiefs stagnates the careers of the other senior officers and junior officers who need to grow up in the profession. This is a major cause of low morale. President Buhari has been prevented from doing what is necessary by those who are financially benefitting from the attendant scam. Lest we forget, most of the service Chiefs’ tenures have far exceeded their services run out dates (ROD) which is the mandatory 35 years of military service, and the additional discretionary extensions which are generally time bound.
In terms of manpower and equipment, would you say that the security services have fared better in the past 5 years?
There has been very little improvement of the levels of manpower. And when this happens, the additional employment has been tailored to favor PMB’s tribe people. That’s the simple truth. On the Nigerian Army force levels I have repeatedly demonstrated that the Nigerian Army Is, in terms of strength, only so in name. The Nigerian State hasn’t a full fledge field Army formation. A full fledge field army is universally made up, of 9 field divisions. By field formations we are referring to the military units that go into combat immediately they are so required. The Nigerian Army does not have up to 6 field divisions. We need to distinguish army divisions with responsibility for garrison functions from the battle field ready divisions. Whilst Nigeria has no more than 6 battle field ready divisions, Egypt with less than half of Nigerian population and gross domestic product (GDP) has nothing less than 27 field divisions. There are about one million Egyptian soldiers in a country of less than 100 million people. A comparison of this to Nigeria with less than 150,000 soldiers defending a national population of over 200 million shows clearly that we have not begun. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that there is so much insecurity in the land.
The APC had also pledged to liaise with the states to create community policing do you see a comment in this regard?
The much ado about one of the ways of bringing about effective policing, called ‘’Community Policing, is simply a deliberate and disguised mischief. The suspects of mischief here are traceable to the ranks of beneficiaries from the anomaly of having only a centralized Nigerian Police Force in a nation state that is supposed to be a federation. Policing is a state matter in most successfully governed federal system of government. For clarification, it needs to be known that whilst the word ‘Policing’ is a verb, the word ‘Police’ is a noun. The difference is in the fact that, for instance, ‘policing’ is a way of enforcing law and order in a community, while a police formation is a means of upholding the law. It should have become obvious from a proper usage of the terminologies, that no government can create “Community Policing”, as implied in your question. It’s high time the Federal Government realizes that State Police or local government or regional police, is inevitable. The benefits of having locally recruited police officers, and a Police Service that is primarily accountable to the locals it serves, are innumerable.
On a scale of 1 to 10 what score would you give to Buhari led government in the last five years in terms of its campaign promises of securing the country?
It is an open secret that President Muhammadu Buhari had, for some time now, been on, and off, what we in the army describe as “sick-leave”. For this and for the fact that the C-in-C suffers from short attention span discomfort, I would on compassionate grounds be excusing him from this modest performance evaluation report (PER). I would instead evaluate the one who has surreptitiously arrogated himself the position of the ‘Authority’ on National Security, and a behind the scene but within the villa operator. However, by virtue of the artful dodger’s interferences having never amounted to much, but the making of money for himself and his cohorts, I would score this covert operator a maximum of 2 out of 10, on the subject of National Security delivery.
As the Buhari led government marks yet another anniversary, what would you proffer as the way forward?
I look forward for the formation of a dedicated and permanent National Security Threats Assessment Group (TAG) that produces comprehensive weekly, and quarterly, reports to the President and the National Security Council (NSC). I also advocate for the Presidential Villa’s in-house National Security Situation Room to be managed, preferably, by a two-star Principal General Staff Officer (PGSO) to the C-in-C. The proposed position could be equivalent to the position of Deputy Chief of Staff (DCOS) to the President. Also there is the need for a dedicated “National Security Threats and Crisis Management Team” that is well informed by the proposed Threats Assessment group (TAG). Members of the crisis management team can carry out their brain storming sessions in the Aso Rock In-house National Security Situation Room. There is also need for well researched studies to back up Defense, and National Security, policy makers. Officials charged with National Security Strategy designs do need to go beyond Government own research institutions, to partner with appropriate Independent Think-Tank or Research Institute’s resource persons. This is one way of coming up with the most useful policy options for the President or his Ministers. The low morale of the officers, senior non-commissioned officers (SNOS), and the other ranks, arising from PMB regime’s style of appointments, posting, promotion, retirements and dismissal of officers and soldiers should also be addressed. Also to be looked into is the demoralizing impact on officers, and soldiers, who are posted to the war front to combat the Boko Haram insurgents that are better, armed and kitted.
Inter-Services Rivalry, especially between the army, and the air force, chiefs also needs to be examined. There is, therefore, the need for appointing a Chief of Joint (Armed Forces) Operations to head a statutorily established Joint (Armed Forces) Operations Command. The purpose shall be to give a clear point of responsibility to the so appointed three-star General. Finally, the number of manpower committed to the defence, and the homeland security of Nigeria, is insignificant; especially when seen in the context of the about 200 million people in Nigeria that need to be secure and safe. It is indeed, a shame that a country with such a heavy population, and large land-territory, has less than 150,000 soldiers for its defence.