Rev Ladi Thompson of the Living Waters Unlimited Church, Lagos and strategic thought consultant, spoke with ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA on the insecurity in the land, calling on the government to jettison its present mundane military tactics and employ what he has termed pace, wisdom and non-violence communication means
Security issue is still a major concern with President Mummmadu Buhari’s second term in office officially kicked started, what is your view on this?
We have always been a people of peace, and the average Nigerian citizen believes in non-violence as the best tool in nation building. Recent developments have, however, forced many good persons to do a rethink. Our hopes of a better future together are being challenged by the stark realities thrown up by the unanswered questions in the sensitive arena of national security. We must learn from the counsel of Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr who said ‘If your opponent has a conscience, then follow Gandhi. But if your enemy has no conscience, like Hitler, then follow Bonhoeffer.’
What is the implication of this for us a nation then?
This could mean that we may have to restrict ourselves to the basics of nonviolent communication until the issues are clarified. The complexity of our security situation is the reason why many concerned voices called for the postponement of the 2019 presidential election that was slated for February 16 then. Our country was hemorrhaging and there were too many unanswered questions hanging in the air. It was clear then that there would be an escalation of terrorist activities after the elections as long as the questions remained unanswered. One thing that is getting clearer by the day is that we are dealing with an enemy that has no conscience whatsoever.
If that is the case, why are you leaning towards a non-violence solution?
There is an African adage that says the wise man never swallows hot soup in a hurry but the situation buildup in Nigeria today is one thing that has to be tackled with both pace and wisdom. While this should not matter, I am minded to declare openly that I cast my vote for the incumbent after deep reflection not minding the popular objection that the two major contestants on the ballot were a heads-they-win-tails-we-lose option from the cultural nation perspective. Standing on all the protocols of non-violent communication and emboldened by the investment of my democratic right, I have reasonable confidence that Mr. President is duty bound to answer our deep concerns on the issue of national security and the perceived absence of a clear grand strategy.
What gives you such a confidence the president will this time adopt a clear strategy?
One of the first things I learnt in mission fields was that ‘terrorism’ did not have any standard, approved global definition since one man’s meat is another man’s poison. Every nation, is therefore, duty bound to define terrorism in the context on which national policy would be structured. This is why the listed terrorist organisations vary from nation to nation. At its very best the Terrorism Prevention Act of 2011 opened up the conversation on the grey edges of the lenses through which terrorism is viewed in the champion nations of Africa. We, therefore, need a clarification that the tacit silence of our government over the activities of the globally rated Fulani herdsmen terror activities is not based on this loophole. I cannot claim any formal security training in the strict sense but I am a witness that this new war form began its campaign in Nigeria decades ago and it initially used its religious camouflage to isolate the Christian community of Northern Nigeria as a primary target. Initially fooled by the religious cover we thought it was a religious jihadist venture until further research opened up the fact that it is primed to destroy Muslim lives with the same ease with which it butchers Christians. Our research finding was a tough sell a decade and a half ago but now that the trickles have become rivers of blood and neither Christian nor Muslim is safe anymore, the devious construct of the menace is now easier to detect. The relevant question is whether or not a doctor can prescribe a cure for a loosely defined ailment? More so when the patient is an entire nation and the disease is highly pathogenic. It is deceptive to sell the idea that this new war form will answer to a strictly military answer but this appears to be what we are doing!
So what is the solution?
With all due respect to military training, I believe that our president cannot be a stranger to the Karl von Clausewitz aphorism that ‘war is the continuation of politics by other means.’ More so when the classic publication ‘On War’ and the ‘Trinity of War’ theory has enjoyed a rebirth because of the global war against terrorism. My confusion has stemmed primarily from the fact that the nations of the world all agree that the asymmetric warfare, irregular war form and hybrid threats of this non-conventional terror campaign, has created a new complex that has to be matched with certain innovative and ingenious responses. Initially, we cheered lustily in 2015 when Mr. President took charge of the war decisively and downgraded the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East but our shortlived joy turned to dismay when the dreaded and globally recognised Fulani herdsmen militants decided to raise their game.
What was responsible for this short-lived victory; was it that the government was more of political disposition than being altruistic?
Instead of the improvisations and innovations expected it seems that we decided to go in the opposite direction. Instead of the sobriety required in the redress of these costly invasions the government appointed spokesmen to unleash insensitive, inaccurate and mendacious media statements that flew in the face of the basic military convention that says ‘a war is never over until the enemy says it’s over.’ After the Nazi tradition of ‘grosse luge’ or the big lie concept, they went on to offer antiquated farmer-herdsmen spins as a cover for well-coordinated terror attacks. As patriots who believed in the Nigerian future, we became extremely worried when Mr. President announced that the nation should intensify prayers in response to yet another terror attack!
You must be disappointed by this development, what then would advise that the focus of the president should be?
It is tough to explain how it feels when fire fighters are called out to a burning building only to have the fire chief assemble onlookers to pray for rain. We would rather have Mr. President focus his energies on our defence strategies. Every day we watch reports of how other nations readjust to match unconventional warfare and hybrid threats with joint operational command structures and the acquisition of technologically advanced hardware for advantage. All over the world troops are being retrained to decentralise centres of command to enhance their effectiveness and adaptive innovations backed by with inter-agency collaborations in government are mushrooming.
Are we not properly equipped in these areas to take on headlong this hydraheaded war then?
Intelligence agencies are leaving no stone unturned to assemble the skill sets needed to answer the 360-degree engagements of this asymmetrical terror war form. Surely there must be a reason why the Nigerian effort has not moved beyond the first base out of four basic responses needed to checkmate the terror hydra. Our military strategist could not have been blind and deaf to the cheers and jubilation of Nigerian citizens when the terrorists marched in as heroes to r e – turn the Dapchi girls save one. Any sensible Nigerian would be worried because this is a war form that exploits cultural cracks and political gaps to advance its cause in the hearts of men. In many ways it is also a war of narratives that seeks to broaden popular support for tactical advantage. It’s has been questioning our national values and moral standards hoping to weaken us from within.
Do you think that the Nigerian government and military don’t fully comprehend the new dimension to this war form?
This shape-shifting, hydra-headed, unrelenting, patient, cold, ruthless, and calculating global supremacist agenda cloaked in religion defies all known rules of military engagement in the civilised world. Instead of admitting that the strategic text books on its operations are just being written across the world the Nigerian public has been assailed with antiquated opinions to distract us from the grim realities of war. It would seem that someone or some persons within our system have decided to entertain the world with an open show of “how not to respond” to global terrorism. It is a shame that our security services are subtly being portrayed as bumbling and fumbling fools because we refuse to consider the idea that there could be a degree of compromise in high places. Experts have mentioned that this war form also invests in soft terror to penetrate governance, the economy, financial services, education, entertainment, political and others to install moles, sympathisers and collaborators yet we have never heard of any reforms announced to address this factor despite the fact that former President Goodluck Jonathan admitted with candour that his own cabinet was not devoid of intrigues and moles.
Are you of the view that the present administration is infiltrated by moles or persons sympathetic to the cause of insurgents?
Mr. President should note that we don’t believe that there is any point sending young soldiers to their death on the battle front if we are not prepared to expose and neutralise the other enablers of the terror campaign against Nigeria. Without expending one kobo it can be proven that Nigeria has been permitting the terrorists to use force multipliers against us and good men need to speak up because something is not adding up here. There is a rotten stench wafting across the nation that is worse than financial crimes. The devaluation of our human worth is a worse form of corruption that deserves priority over your anti-corruption campaign focus. As the days increase it will be seen that we cannot be distracted because we cannot afford to be distracted until these issues are properly addressed. We plead for the appointment of believable and articulate government spokespersons who can clarify and communicate security issues to unify and build consensus instead of dividing and polarising a nation that is at war already.
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