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A member of the House of Representatives, representing Maiduguri Metropolis, the hot bed of Boko Haram terrorists, Hon. Kaka Kyari Gujbawu has thrown his weight behind military action against the dreaded terrorist sect. Gujbawu spoke on the extension of the state of emergency in the troubled states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe and how not only to make it effective, but ensure speedy success. Muhammad Bello interviewed him. Excerpts…
The emergency rule has just been extended, as one of the major supporters of this action, what will you say?
As you’re aware, obviously there were a lot of views tied around this. Out of the three affected states, those of us from Adamawa and Borno had a common stand to concur and agreed in our caucus to support the request of Mr President with some helpful and insightful additional suggestions that we believe would assist the Nigerian soldiers and the men in black who are behind them. I’m talking about the intelligence community. That is for Adamawa and Borno caucus. There was a division among the Yobe caucus in the House for good reason.
I think it was for that purpose that the leadership of the House under Right Honourable, Aminu Tambuwal, in good wisdom, decided that the Service Chiefs be invited to brief the House in an executive closed session, being a security issue, and make clarifications where such are required.
For those members who are not from the affected states, we have an understanding to enlighten them. And for those our colleagues in Yobe State who are averse to it to have the opportunity to ask the service chiefs where they have misgivings, so that understanding would be attained.
As you witnessed, immediately after that meeting, we came to plenary session and it was almost like a unanimous decision of the whole House; it was evident from the voices recorded. During that briefing with the service chiefs with the Green Chamber of 360 members, we are so proud of our men in green uniform, blue uniform, white uniform and, of course, the men in black whose hands are not seen, but their impact felt through the effective gathering of intelligence. They’re on top of the situation.
I will like to call on my fellow citizens that as a nation in war, this is a time that we should not only stand as one, but should be seen to be standing and walking as one. This is a period when not only the arms of the government, but indeed all the ‘limbs’ of the nation should be seen to be functioning harmoniously.
So, we should give maximum support and encouragement to our war-time President and Commander-in-Chief, President Goodluck Jonathan, a fair-minded patriotic Nigerian leader, the commanders under him ably headed by the service chiefs, the IG and the directors of intelligence. I believe that my elders, senior colleagues in the Red Chamber of the Senate, particularly my Northern elders will reconsider their position after being briefed and find a harmonious position with the security institutions.
I don’t think there is a better alternative than having the military on ground. We could consider a hypothetical situation where could the nation be if not for these gallant and patriotic citizens, our soldiers on the field?
You have spoken about what you termed as ‘Community Based Approach’ and support for the Civilian JTF during the debate on the extension of the state of emergency . Can you shed more light on that?
After expressing the appreciation for the inestimable sacrifice and efforts of our gallant and patriotic soldiers, I seized the opportunity to submit an invaluable input from my constituency and indeed, Borno to the counter-insurgency campaign that will not only make it more effective but ensure speedy success. And this input from the affected citizens at the epicentre of the crises, is that government should consider in earnest, to broaden the operation to a community based one. And this suggestion is borne out of our experience when the insurgency reached it’s crescendo, and providence offered the peace-loving People of the historic city of Maiduguri only two choices; either to accept to live in perpetual slavery that the insurgents subjected us to, or to stand-up and fight to regain our dignity and rights. The choice was obvious- the people mobilised, particularly the youths- the now famous Civilian JTF and organised themselves and extended collaboration, including combat support to our gallant soldiers. Maiduguri has been a very safe haven for the insurgents because they were embedded within the large civilian population of over two million, thereby making it extremely difficult for the military to fight them. It also gave them cover from exposure through gagging law abiding citizens from sharing any intelligence with the security through horrendous punishments such as slaughtering of informants or even perceived ones. No sooner the community accepted to offer the supreme sacrifice for their dignity and nation, did the military and the community arrested or killed over two thousand insurgents, confiscated or destroyed over three thousand light and heavy rifles within a just short span of less than a month. Ever since, Maiduguri has remained the safest town in Borno State.
And just less than 48 hours ago, so did the courageous people of Kala-Balge town in Borno State repel yet another attack by the insurgents and killed over 50, arrested some, and confiscated about ten trucks, 70 motorcycles and rifles from them.
Now, we are urging as patriotic, and primary stakeholders in this counter-insurgency campaign that government should please reciprocate and extend support and cooperation to the communities, particularly the famous civilian JTF by ways of provision of operational tools such as 4×4 vehicles, torch lights, trainings on civilian security, and some form of allowances, preferably inclusion of the youth in special FGN youth empowerment schemes such as SURE-P employment programmes, YOU-WIN, Youth in Agric etc. It will interest you to know that the major strength of these youth in the on-going operations is the employment of their massive numbers against the insurgents, and for them to achieve that, they have to forfeit their menial jobs that earns them N200- N300 daily, to participate in operations and offer 24/7 surveillance. It is only fair that government comes to their support. Thanks that Mr. President has given them the enviable epithet of ‘ New Heroes of the Nation’. We believe as a father of the nation, he will do more than the needful to encourage them and inspire other youth across the nation to become active participants in nation building.
There are fears that elections may not hold in the affected states as the emergency keeps on being extended.
We have agreed in that chamber as responsible representatives and leaders of our people that at such a time when issues that are at stake are human lives, sacred lives of human beings, we should put politics aside. And when we said we should put politics aside, that includes the very offices that we now hold, because you don’t play politics with the lives of people. The moment you politick with such sacred matters, then the threshold of responsible leadership is crossed.
You held a meeting with the service chiefs, could you let us into some of the things revealed by them which convinced some of you to approve it?
Of course some of the information could be a bit confidential, but there are those I believe will not be counter productive to the operations on the ground. Most of them are already known, but it was an opportunity for us to ask them to pass the message to the honourable members.
Such issues are one, they gave us a graphic representation of the situation on ground and the fact if not for certain strategic operations that are going on, the situation as it is now that people think is bad could have been worse. Members actually believed that those of us from the area knew all these things, because we and our people don’t just know, we have been feeling its intensity.
But for those who never had the experience, with this graphical representation, they very clearly came to terms with the position of the Nigerian government and that of the military. I think that in particular, gave reason for that unanimous decision.
The Sambisa forest which is now considered as the base of Boko Haram, is too large an area for easy surveillance. Note that Borno State is as big as the size of some countries in the world, and just the Sambisa forest is as big as the size of some states in Nigeria. So you can imagine the size of the area under coverage, and they have to ensure complete surveillance. Another aspect of the area that hampers smooth operation is that it is a thick forest. But, the military seems to be on top of it from the briefings we got.
The briefing gave us a clearer understanding of some of the issues bothering members, regarding the operations, and gave us useful insights, got to understand the dynamics of the campaign better. In a nutshell, it is not your conventional type of war we are engaged in.
There are concerns raised about the welfare of the soldiers on ground in the affected states, that they’re not being taken care of very well; have the lawmakers also raised such issues with the service chiefs?
I think some members did raise concerns on that, the issue of motivation, allowances and what have you. It was gladdening to hear from the Chief of Army Staff that evidenced concerted efforts are being made to further improve on that, and I believe most members were satisfied.
Let me urge that we should be offering constructive rather than destructive criticisms. Most of us that talk, have access to the high command, you don’t shout and yell because all of your suggestions are not taken. Why will they be taken? Are you privy to all the information they have? No. Do you know all the challenges they have? No. Are we perfect in executing our own task as lawmakers? NO! So, If we’re not perfect, why do we demand perfection from others? It’s unfair.
What do you expect in the next six months?
We expect tremendous success. We expect great outcome that the counter-insurgency campaign succeeds much earlier than the six months, particularly if the additional inputs and suggestions are incorporated into the campaign. We pray for the best outcome.
But as leaders, including the leadership of the security institutions, we should also be prepared for the worst scenario, because global terrorism as we can see from all over the world is a very dynamic and adaptive kind of movement. It’s not like a conventional war where you go and bomb barracks; you weaken your opponents that in most instances their locations are pretty predictable, and the rules of engagement are expected to be abided by both sides at war.
Whereas, for the insurgents the moment they get the slightest inkling that you’re coming to attack their camp, it only takes them minutes to flee into the wilderness. . And they can within seconds break into cells of fives or tens, and because they don’t wear uniforms, they can seamlessly disappear into the crowd. They then look like the inhabitants of the area they’re living. That’s why we said we should prepare for the worst scenario, not that we’re raising an alarm, NO! But certainly anything is possible.
By the briefing from the service chiefs, I am sure they are on top of the situation. Who knows in the next three weeks they could come and tell us a very gladdening and cheering news that ‘look, we don’t need your state of emergency. We’re done.’ I hope and pray for that”.