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Jemibewon, who is thoroughly disturbed by the rising waves of insecurity in the country and acerbic remarks directed at the military wondered what he would have done if he was still young and in the army.
The retired general spoke to reporters at Ado-Ekiti, Wednesday, where he chaired the sensitization workshop for stakeholders in Ekiti State governorship election organized by the Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Inter-Party Affairs, Senator Ben Obi. Rather than criticisms, he said the troops combating the Boko Haram insurgents need the support of all Nigerians to succeed because this is not a conventional war and instead of being rescued the over 200 abducted Chibok school girls might be killed if full force was applied.
His take on the Ekiti governorship election sensitisation workshop
When something is good you build on it. The objective of this seminar is to promote peace and harmony before, during and after the election. So, I think it’s a good idea and strategy to promote peace in our country.
On series of violence trailing the campaigns in Ekiti and how to curb it
It’s unfortunate but to put a stop to it or to reduce the intensity of such unworthy actions is the reason for this workshop.
I am sure one of the objectives of this workshop is to bring all the contestants together, the stakeholders and even those of us who stay by the side to look, including the press, to dialogue and arrive at a consensus to promote peace and understanding. Let’s face facts, what is election? Election is just a way of selecting leadership, particularly in a democratic setting and if the constitution makes provision for just one person to occupy a particular position, whether there are 10 or 20 contestants, it is one person that will get there.
So, we must learn to accept the winner. However, those who lose must be convinced that the process leading to the emergence of the winner was a proper process. That is to say that the purpose of this workshop before the elections is that we can all come to a conclusion that we want peace so that whoever deviates from that decision will be held responsible.
On how he perceives the Boko Haram insurgency and what could be done to address the challenge
I must be honest with you, what is happening in the country today is very sad. I just imagine: If I were still in the army as a young man, what would I have done? I don’t have what I may call total solution. It’s just to express a view based on your question and then also to work on the suggestions being put forward by most Nigerians. I think it’s unfortunate but we must understand that conventional war is slightly different from the situation we have today.
It’s not exactly a total war because in a war, you know your opponent and your opponent knows you. Even by the uniform he wears and the weapon he carries, you will know your opponent such that when a gun is shot, from the sound, by your experience, you can almost say this is the calibre of gun that is being shot. Now, you won’t know who a member of this group is.
So, to say that our soldiers are not well-equipped and well-armed are not appropriate statements. But I can understand that many people who do the writings or make the statements never had any form of military training and this is why in some societies they advocate compulsory military training. If everybody had gone through military processes, they will know that this is not total war and that makes it more difficult to fight.
So, I am just hoping that solving this problem will require a combination of most of the suggestions being put forward by various Nigerians; that is that it would be solved through dialogue, negotiation and a little bit of application of force and action.
Again, we must realise that with these girls abducted in Chibok, if we apply full military force to attempt to liberate them, they would be killed. So at the end you will ask yourself what have we achieved.
Some people are not happy with the way the military is tackling the Boko Haram insurgency, efforts to rescue the abducted Chibok school girls, the contradictory comments they make and exposing of their strategy. How do you view all of these?
I think there ought to be a central point where information must go to and where decision as to what goes out or diseminated is taken. But I know that there are competent people there that probably know better. However, what we need to do now is to encourage the military and wish them well.
I am using this opportunity to put forward a suggestion. I have sat down to look at it critically. If we all believe that what is happening is a national tradegy, something that every Nigerian should be concerned about then we ought to make an effort at the national level to support our security men. I deliberately didn’t use armed forces but security men –the Army, Navy, Airforce, Civil Defence, DSS, police, etc. During the Nigerian civil war, some people came up with the Troops Comfort Fund and it encouraged us. The fund raised was applied in many ways, providing food and other needs.
So, I advocate the setting up of Security Trust Fund. All those involved will know that the Nigerian society sympathise with them and know how this money will be used. Now, many of our troops including the police may come back with amputed legs and hands. This money can be ploughed into a central medical centre for the rehabilitation of those who would have been maimed during this crisis.
And the fund will be such that every Nigerian who believes that what we are facing now is a big tragedy for us will contribute to the fund. This is my idea. We need a National Security Fund to assist our security men in this operation particularly if you believe that this a national problem and needs the support of everybody.
On comments that poor intelligence gathering is hurting the anti-terror war
What is intelligence gathering? Intelligence gathering is simply information gathering before and during events and then you project into the future to see what is likely to happen. For example, I will expect that some people ought to be assembled somewhere to be thinking what would happen if this Boko Haram crisis comes to an end because it will still have some after effects. It is just like what we are doing in this workshop, trying to promote peace before, during and after the election.
Perhaps, our problem as a nation is that we did not anticipate what is happening so as to get prepared for it. But now that it has happened, how do we get information, analyse the information and also anticipate; when this will come to an end what should we do? This is important because even when it ends, something will come out. We ought to learn some lessons. For example, how are we going to rehabilitate those who are bereaved and what actions are we going to put in place to prevent recurrence of such attacks?
Intelligence comprises of many things. For example, those giving us headache today, it must have taken them some time to acquire the strength and weapons they have acquired. They live within human communities. Soldiers were not based in those areas. If these people had come to the appropriate authorities to say we are seeing some strange faces in these areas, etc, that is intelligence.
On comments that military intervention is responsible for Nigeria’s problems
That sounds ridiculous to me because it is similar to the general statement that the British created the problem of Nigeria. If 54 years after independence we are still blaming British, then I feel sorry for Nigerians.
On military training for our youths
It has been canvassed for in the past; it is becoming very stale now. In fact, basic military training should be introduced to the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). They should be taught how to handle weapons, and through that you we will move the nation from a general level to reasonable level of general knowledge and understanding in the handling of weapons.
On fear that current security challenges could actualise the American prediction that Nigeria would breakup before 2015
They did mention it. At that time, many people were writing in newspapers insulting the source of the information instead of working towards ensuring that it didn’t happen. So, I am praying that the country doesn’t break up. The information that was brought to our knowledge many years ago, which is what I said in terms of intelligence, was the kind of information we ought to have worked with but unfortunately, we didn’t.
On whether the National Conference could halt the break-up that appears imminent
I wouldn’t say our break up is imminent. But in any case, what we have to do is to work towards ensuring that the prediction does not work. And to ensure it doesn’t come to reality, it is the responsibility of all of us to promote peace and understanding.
On South-West delegates’ demand for restructuring of the polity as the surest way to move Nigeria forward and their minimum condition for remaining part of Nigeria
Perhaps, they should let us know what they mean by restructuring and the nature of that restructuring. There was a time there were no states in Nigeria. Then we started with 12 states, went to 19 and wow we have 36 states. That is restructuring. Those who are advocating restructuring, I don’t think they are wrong but let them tell us exactly what they mean.
Other regions also have their positions. What does an association mean? It simply means a group of people who have agreed to form an association. There will certainly be discussions, disagreement and agreement but at the end, if they really cherish their coming together, there must be a way by which they must reconcile their differences and come to a consensus for the good and unity of that association.
What is the necessity of holding these workshops since most states are not learning from past experiences in Edo, Ondo and Anambra given the level of violence trailing the campaigns?
Have you sat down to imagine what could have happened if these seminars were never held? When you are teaching something, you should allow for gradual assimilation. So, without those workshops, maybe the situation would have been worse. And I am sure that as this seminar holds, each state will ensure that the result of its own election will be better than the previous ones. I don’t think because one or two of your children didn’t do well in school, you won’t send the third one to school.
Thursday, May 29 was democracy day. What do you make of democracy Day 15 years after?
To be honest with you, I don’t understand what Democracy Day means. We had democracy before in this country but unfortunately something went wrong politically and the military came in. Thereafter, between the various military governments they attempted democracy again. Then from 1999 to date, we thank the Almighty God that there had been no political disruptions. So, to just select a particular day as democracy day, I don’t understand.