As Nigeria votes in Presidential elections on 16th February 2019, we will consider the implications of the election and its outcomes for Nigeria’s internal and external security.
As this is a Nigerian election it is necessary to emphasise that this is an objective analysis that is neither commissioned by nor supportive of any candidate or party. Comments, analysis and opinions remain that of the authors
President Muhammadu Buhari:is a 76 year old, Fulani man from Daura, Katsina State
AlhajiAtiku Abubakar: is a 71 year old Fulani man from Jada LGA, Adamawa State
Occupation: Buhari was a career soldier,who has had a variety of military and political positions including State Governor, President, GOC etc. He has a wide breadth of experience in a variety of military, political and government roles.
Atiku was a career Customs Officer retiring as a Deputy Director. Whilst a Customs Officer he started a property portfolio, bought a farm, traded in foodstuffs and set up a logistics company whilst working at Apapa Ports with an Italian partner. His current businesses include manufacturing, agriculture and education.
Service History: Gen Buhari was commissioned as an infantry Officer in 1963. During the Civil War hecommanded a Company and Battalion and on Brigade Staff in 1 Divisionwhichwon early victories in the northern Biafran campaign at Ogoja, Nsukkaetc but were fixed for much of the remainder of the war. After the war, he served on Division Staff and in Defence appointments until 1975. Following political appointments he served in Army HQ from 1978 to 1980 and then commanded 4 Infantry Division for 6 months in 1980-81, 2 Mechanised Division for 10 months in 1981 and 3 Armoured Division from 1981 to 1983. As commander 3 Division, his forces defeated a Chadian raid into Borno State
Atiku was a Law student when the war started, joining the Customs Service upon graduation in1969.
Political History: Gen Buhari was a participant in the July 1966 counter coup that saw the murder and overthrow of Gen Aguiyi- Ironsi and the subsequent massacre of Eastern officers and then civilians. He participated in the 1975 coup to overthrow Gen Gowon and was appointed Governor of North Eastern State (present day Taraba, Bauchi, Adamawa, Gombe, Borno and Yobe States) in 1975, and then Borno State in 1976 when North Eastern was divided into Bauchi, Borno and Gongola. He served as Federal Commissioner (Minister) for Petroleum and Natural Resources from 1976 to 1978. Gen Buhari participated in the overthrow of President Shagari in 1983 becoming Head of State. The regime was characterised by strict punishments for criminality, an emphasis on public discipline and harsh economic policies and an anti corruption drive. Gen Buharis regime was overthrown in 1985 by Gen Babangida, Buhari, returned to Katsinaafter 3 years detention. He was appointed Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund by Gen Abacha between 1994 and 1999. andunsuccessfully ran for President under the ANPP in 2003 and 2007 and then CPC in 2011. He disputed the results of each defeat (with some justifications). The 2011 election results saw political, tribal and sectarian violence in the North and Middle Belt. President Buhari won the 2015 election under APC campaigning on an anti corruption and security platform.
Atiku worked for various political campaigns joining PFN in 1989, he was elected to the 1989 Constituent Assembly under PFN which was merged into the SDP on of the two government formed parties. He was disqualified from running for Adamawa State Governor in 1992 and came third in the Presidential primaries. Atiku eventually won the Adamawa State Gubernatorial election in 1998 but was them selected as Gen Obasanjo’s Vice President. He served 2 terms as Vice President from 1999 to 2007, overseeing the National Council on Privatisation. The second term was overshadowed by President Obasanjo’s attempt to run for a 3rd term opposed by most Nigerians including Atiku. Atiku contested the 2007 Presidential election under Action Congress, coming third, he ran in the PDP Presidential Primaries for the 2011 elections losing to Goodluck Jonathan. Atiku joined APC in 2014 supporting President Buharis election. In 2017 he left and re-joined PDP, winning the nomination in 2018.
Government History: The Buhari government was characterised by a 6 month wait for the appointment of a Cabinet, with President Buhari retaining the Petroleum portfolio. The 2015 Valentine offensive begun under former President Goodluck Jonathan, created the conditions for the election to be held and a year of hard fighting defeated Boko Haram main forces, retaking territory. Following this operational victory, the conflict stagnated. The Army launched several innovative units such as the motorcycle battalion and a Special Forces Command, however it is unclear how different these units are to line units especially as many were formed from existing units which were already committed to operations thus were unable to complete meaningful training. The NAF has shown remarkable improvements, in its structures, training, platforms, admin and troop welfare, a comparative star in relation to other services. The Navy has seen its star wane with the reduction in violence in the Niger Delta. The Police remain as corrupt and inefficient as ever.
The security situation deteriorated significantly under President Buhari, with the internecine banditry in the North West developing into wholesale predation on rural areas, kidnap for ransom, smuggling, human trafficking, piracy, communal conflicts, herders/ farmers, oil bunkering, armed robbery and other daily crimes in the increase, with entire swathes of the country particularly in the North depopulated due to conflict. The Niger Delta has been kept quiet with the continuation of Amnesty payment and a blind eye turned to wholesale oil bunkering
Atiku had little involvement in security matters during his time in Government
The Candidates Solutions
Buharis’ antecedents from his time in uniform form a fairly good template to judge his conduct as a Commander in Chief.
As a soldier, he served in the requisite appointments for a career officer. The account of defeating the Chadian raid in 1983 during his tour as a Divisional Commander, is used either as an example of his insubordination and recklessness or aggressiveness and tactical skill depending on perspective. As Head of State the Nigerian military was too involved in politics to be effective, however during his current tenure, Nigeria’s already precarious security situation has significantlydeteriorated with a range of issues such as; Boko Haram/ ISWAP, Bandit/ Cattle Rustlers, Drug abuse and trafficking, Smuggling, Herdsmen/ Farmer, Human trafficking, Anglophone crisis,Communal clashes, Armed robbery, kidnap for ransom, Shia persecution, Sahelian/ Fulani Jihadists, Organised Banditry, Smuggling, Illegal mining’ Piracy/ Theft from Ships, Bakassi, Niger Delta, IPOB/ Neo Biafrans, Oil Bunkerers, Cultists and more.
Whilst none of these problems began under President Buhari, there is none that has improved in any way and almost all have deteriorated.
The APC manifesto does not address its Government record, achievements, failures or otherwise, in fact it dedicates precious little to many critical topics, of which National Defence and Security is one. There are 6 bullet points in this chapter of which 4 can be described as mere aspirations
- Urgently address capacity building of law enforcement agents in terms of quantity and quality as this is critical in safeguarding the sanctity of lives and property.
- Begin widespread consultations to amend the Constitution to decentralize the police command and
- Expand local content by including community policing.
- Push for more support in the security and economic stability of the sub-region (ECOWAS) and AU as a whole and maintain a strong, close and frank relationship with the international community.
- Take renewed measures to secure our borders which are currently too porous for effective control of unwarranted movement.
- Establish a well-trained, adequately funded equipped and goals driven Serious Crime Squad to combat terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery, militancy ethno-religious and communal clashes nationwide.
- Establish a National Coast Guard to protect our coastal waters.
The latter two define specific tasks, however these tasks seem to involve setting up entirely new units/ services to deal with pre existing problems.
PDP’s manifesto devotes an interesting amount of detail to economic and infrastructure, but a single page with 10 bullet points to security. Whilst some of the points hint at an understanding of some of the structural issues such as the need for a more complete dataset as to the countries demographics in the first two points, the remaining 8 are vague aspirations with little substance.
- Re-activate meaningful registration at birth as a way to reduce crime and protect Nigerians
- Conduct the next national population census as the basis for further development planning
- Dealing with insurgency using alternative approaches to conflict resolution, such as Diplomacy; Intelligence; Improved Border Control; Traditional Institutions; and Good neighbourliness
- Restructure and Decentralize Security Institutions
- Promote Regional Security Cooperation
- Resolve Militancy Issue in the Niger Delta
- Improve Civil-Military Relations
- Strengthen the National Security Council
- Handle the North East Development Issues
- Deal with Terrorism, Kidnapping and Other Crimes
There has clearly been very little thought given to the defence and security problem set by either candidate. Whilst Atiku has not campaigned on security a failure to recognise the existential nature of Nigeria’s security problems betrays a lack of strategic vision. Buhari however did campaign very actively on his credentials as a former General and knowledge of the military. This has not been apparent in the conduct of military operations or other security operations. When confronted with a lack of progress in the North East, the response has been to rotate subordinate commanders and move units from one location to another. When confronted by a fairly minor case of civil disobedience by the Shia, the response was a brutal, bloody crackdown. In response to insecurity in the country, Op Python Dance was launched in the South East and then spread across the country. Despite being a career soldier an understanding of the pressures that constant deployment has on the Army appears lacking as does any empathy for the suffering of the deployed troops.
Whilst the intelligence services have done a good job of destroying Boko Harams urban networks, the lack of cooperation with neighbours has led t the issues on the Nigerien borders.
Both candidates have serious gaps in their aspirations to be Commander in chief
With President Buhari there is the curious case of a career soldier with local knowledge of the worst conflict afflicted areas who has shown very little interest in the military, allowed his signature campaign promise to very clearly and obviously fail in the run up to the election without response or comment. Simultaneously his home state and region have become prey to bandits whilst entire swathes of the country are wracked by crime and conflict. A victory for Buhari would be taken as a vindication of his methods and a continuation of more of the same.
Atiku has no defence or security antecedents to judge him by and has also failed to attract any sort of support from retired military or service personnel or articulate a clear understanding of the problems or solutions. A victory for Atiku would involve a long learning curve, in which new Service chiefs are brought in, who also bring in a new crop of subordinates and staff, without the strategic political direction needed to redefine and resolve Nigeria’s security problems, it is unclear how these commanders would be chosen or how they would be directed to resolve the nations problems
Thus irrespective of who wins, Nigeria will have Commander in Chief who will be either untested or reinforcing failure.
Good luck as you vote.