Best way to address win the war on insecurity
Across Nigeria, the recurring commentary has been the concerns over terror and insecurity perpetrated by non-state violent groups. In the northeast, the Boko Haram and affiliated jihadists are waging a high-level insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives and displaced millions; gangs of gunmen called, ‘bandits,’ are killing and kidnapping hundreds of civilians and children in Northwest. And in the North-central, Southwest and Northwest, killer herdsmen are running amok on a killing and kidnapping spree. Then in the Southeast and South-south, unknown gunmen, suspected to be from the Eastern Security Network or ESN (from the Indigenous People of Biafra), are brazenly attacking security installations and killing law enforcement and military personnel.
So the question then is, can Nigeria win the war on insecurity against violent armed groups that skilfully exploit our security gaps and divisions as a country? The answer is yes we can, if, we adopt a “Grand Strategy.” Peter Layton defined Grand Strategy as “the art of developing and applying diverse forms of power in an effective and efficient way to try to purposefully change the relationship existing between two or more intelligent and adaptive entities. Grand strategy is now a distinctive, stand-alone expression. Grand strategy can no longer be confused or conflated with others such as statecraft, foreign policy, or even strategy.”
In adopting a grand strategy, Nigeria must first clearly define its objectives for winning against the adversaries being fought. This means that a one size fits all cannot be applied against the different groups Nigeria is fighting. To succeed, the Nigerian government needs to understand the adversaries, their principal weaknesses and their strengths in relation to its strengths and weaknesses. This will require Nigeria to quickly conduct a nationwide threat assessment, to determine the overall threat landscape, root causes, the actors, weaknesses, gaps, strengths of the adversaries and Nigeria, as well as remedies moving forward.
Second, the Nigerian government must adopt a comprehensive whole-of-nation approach to counter the activities, change the narratives from their adversaries and win the hearts and minds of the people. This requires mobilizing all the influential and respected people in the country, across the ethnic groups, to work with the federal and state governments to proffer inclusive solutions, including amending the constitution. Targeting development activity to the most vulnerable groups and communities, irrespective of ethnicity. Maintaining schemes that address poverty, a prominent example being the Covid-19 cash schemes and agriculture schemes. These measures are very popular and must be done as a matter of time and urgency.
The third part of the grand strategy involves allocating a higher percentage of GDP to defence and security by increasing the armed forces and law enforcement budget. Increasing the security and defence budget will allow the army, in particular, to expand from 100,000 to 500,000, while the police can expand from 350,000 to one million, with the right recruitment drive and investment. The capacity of the country to counter internal security threats can also be increased, by developing state guards (vigilantes), manned by trained armed villagers to reinforce the security forces with their numbers. To sustain the manpower required, significant investment in resources must be made to increase the salary, welfare, healthcare and housing needs of the recruits. The government would also need to appoint an independent watchdog with subpoena and sanction power to oversee the budget expenditure to avoid corruption. These measures would significantly boost the morale and patriotism of the nation fighting men and women.
The grand strategy will allow the Nigerian government to maximize its strengths and take back the initiative. In short to make the job on no state actors as hazardous and as unattractive as possible while returning strategic advantage to the government. Indeed Nigeria is confronted with a stark reality and to succeed Nigerians must be clear-eyed that the grand strategy will require great sacrifices today to win tomorrow.
Chidozie Acholonu, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Abuja.