Tony Nyiam is a retired Army Colonel. In this interview during the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) symposium to mark the anniversary of June 12 in Lagos, he speaks on the security challenges Nigeria is facing, secessionist agitations and call for restructuring, among others. ANAYO EZUGWU reports
One of the takeaways from the symposium to mark this year’s anniversary of June 12 is that NADECO is in support of twhe recent resolution by the Southern Governors’ Forum. What are your thoughts on that?
We support what the southern governors have done. In fact, we also go along with what the Middle- Belt Forum has agreed. If a military man is to speak on security and he is talking about the challenges we face, right now I don’t need to tell anybody that Ndigbo are being killed and going through a lot.
There are a lot of killings in the South-East. If you come to the South-West, many border towns are witnessing trans-national Fulani herdsmen coming in and attacking and taking peoples land. In the far North, the Hausas are being killed in Zamfara, Katsina and Sokoto. You may have heard a few days ago, the governor of Katsina State that is the President’s home state crying out. In Niger State, the bandits have taken over many local governments and of course, we have in the North-East, Boko Haram, which is now a window for the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) that is the deadliest of all; those who killed the Boko Haram leader.
This is two years since President Muhammadu Buhari changed the Democracy Day from May 29 to June 12, how would you address the challenges facing democracy in the country?
I think the best is that there is no choice to restructuring. Restructuring has to be first and foremost and if there is no restructuring, I don’t think that there will be Nigeria. So, we are under challenges. Apart from these challenges you see, we have a demographic challenge that is population. If you look at many cities and states, you will see an influx of young people coming in and taking over. Take a city like Ikoyi for example, if you check the residents of Ikoyi are about one resident owner to about ten settlers not to talk of other cities in Lagos. Having given you a picture of the challenges we face, what then is the role of the people? Let me remind us that a country is made up of people and the people are sovereign. The nation-state is an agent of the people and there is a distinction between nation-state and government because at times we mix them up. The nation-state is an agency of the people; it is not the other way round. The government is an agency of the nation-state. What I’m saying is that the people have the power but in Nigeria, we have become so docile that we do not realize the power of the people. It is the power of the people that made the changes in Egypt and Tunisia.
During the President’s recent interview on Arise Television, he spoke about grazing routes in contrast to the ban on open grazing. What is your take on that?
The President illustrated his mindset and his mindset is a very backward mindset in that he was insensitive to the killings by his own people, his own ethnic group, a people he is their grand patron. It is insensitive to make that comment about open grazing even when governors in the North have agreed to stop open grazing.
What do you make of insecurity in the country?
Security is so poor that I cannot say anymore. And it is an embarrassment to the military professionals and to the president, who under his watch, Nigerians are most insecure. We need to understand that without appropriate national security architecture, a constitution can only be on paper because the constitution would not be enforceable. It is the national security architecture of a country that makes the government and the governed respect the constitution. You would have seen that if there wasn’t proper national security architecture in the United States (U.S.), Donald Trump would have taken over. It is the national security architecture that gave force to U.S. constitution and made Donald Trump not to get away with his plans. So national security architecture is very important but at the moment we don’t have national security architecture in Nigeria. Nigeria is a country of many nations and this is always ignored. A few of us who has dual nationality will know that as a system of British security architecture, they do not have in Scotland, for example a military unit that has English soldiers or officers.
The regiments in Scotland are all Scottish regiments. The officers and men are all Scottish people. The regiments in England are manned by English people. The regiments in Ireland are manned by Irish people. Once a constitution doesn’t have clauses that devolve national security powers to confederating units, that constitution may be there but may not be obeyed. It is in this line that I think we need to devolve our national security architecture in the following national security lines: the first line of national security has to be anchored on the unconventional citizens’ arm of local government based self-defence forces. There is a necessity to have at least a 30-man platoon in each ward of a local government in Nigeria. They will be the first response to any crisis. Just to give you an example in the South-West, the Agbekoyas can form part of this self-defence forces in the rural areas and the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) can be in the urban areas. That is the first line of security. In order words, the locals of each area should play a part in their self-defence. The second line of national security has to be one that is partially conventional and partially unconventional. We can use the example of U.S. Remember that the U.S, states own the National Guard. They are not owned by the federal. We need such models in Nigeria because the call for state police is not enough to secure our people. Already the South-West is setting the pace; Amotekun better armed and better trained can serve as a model of second-line defence of Nigeria. The last line and the third line of defence is obviously the conventional armed forces of Nigeria as it is. We need this revolution of national security powers otherwise we would have a constitution that cannot protect the people. I will give you an example, Ethiopia has one of the best federal constitutions in Africa but recently it has been proved that because that constitution is not backed by an appropriate national security architecture, one of the provinces of Ethiopia are being forced by the other parts. For us to have a meaningful national constitution that constitution must have clauses that spelt out a proper national security architecture that befits the country.
How do you think that the Federal Government should deal with the issue of secessionist agitations in the country?
The issue is that the Federal Government has to allow for selfdetermination because the issue of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has a cause, and government has to deal with the root cause of that. The Federal Government has to allow people to determine their future. We all cry for state police; state police as the name suggests should not be seen as Lagos State Government Police or Oyo State Government Police. It should be seen as Oyo Citizens or Peoples Police. This is the practice universally. I have a second home in Scotland. The police in Scotland are not controlled by the country’s executive or judiciary or legislature. The police are controlled by the state. It is controlled by the people. The Police Service Commission in Scotland is made up of Civil Society Organizations, clerics and the traditional rulers. The government has no control over it. That explains why former President Jacob Zuma of South Africa was indicted by the police. And this is why we have in Israel right now the Prime Minister, indicted by the police because the government does not control the police. The police are controlled by the citizens, and that is what we need. The idea of having a centralized national electoral commission undermines federalism. In any federal state, the people of the federating units are the ones who man the commissions that elect the people. An over centralized electoral commission like the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would be taken advantage of as has been the case in Nigeria.
Nigeria is going through another round of constitutional amendment, what do you make of it?
Let that constitutional amendment continue but the issue is that Nigerians have gone beyond amendment. Nigerians want restructuring and as you would have heard, without restructuring; people are now seeking to go their separate ways. The only bridge that can help those who want Nigeria as it is and those who want to separate from Nigerian is to restructure.
Do you support the call for another national conference?
I think there are enough books of reference in Nigeria. The 2014 National Conference and the 1960 Constitution can be terms of reference which we can raise a team of about 70 people to gather and discuss.
So, that will not be a national conference?
It is a conference of a sort but not jamboree and each member of that conference should come on his or her own expense.