Will drones cure our insecurity? - Bola Bolawole

Very soon, Nigeria’s airspace will be awash with drones. Virtually all the states in the Middle Belt and Southern part of the country that have been whacked by Fulani herdsmen and banditry violence are queuing up to acquire licence to procure drones from the relevant Federal authorities. The goal is to use this surveillance devise to monitor the movement of Fulani herdsmen and other bandits and terrorists in the forests from where they launch deadly attacks on hapless citizens and to which they retreat after their dastardly acts. Who ever thought Nigeria would come to this sorry pass! Thanks to the APC/Muhammadu Buhari administration whose kid-glove treatment; nay, romance and complicity with the murderous Fulani herdsmen has brought this calamity upon everyone. Having left fire on the roof top while he retreated to the “other room,” the entire house is now up in flames under Buhari’s very nose. This problem is self-inflicted. For reasons best known to him, Buhari has chosen to play Russian roulette with the destiny of Nigeria and Nigerians. We have had Fulani herdsmen for centuries until Buhari arrived the scene with his Adolf Hitler-style Lebensraum (living space) for Fulani all over West Africa. Nigeria is Buhari’s pet-dream “a place in the Sun” for the Fulani.

Neither of Buhari’s pipe-dream of serving as patron-saint of the Fulani worldwide nor the opposition to it is coming cheap. This cost already has the country reeling and bleeding. The country’s unity, cohesion, peace, and security that have been battered in the process will be hard to repair. To these must now be added the cost of acquiring drones to contain or curtail this self-inflicted disaster. Drones don’t come cheap. On June 20 this year, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) of Iran shot down a US RQ – 4A Global Hawk BAMS – D surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz. That drone cost a whopping $US182 million. Granted that we are not likely to go for such sophisticated drones to fight herdsmen whose invincibility appears to be the backing they receive from the powers-that-be; this is, nonetheless, a cost centre that is avoidable, especially with so many areas of need crying for attention. Money that should go into health, education, agriculture, infrastructural development, etc. will now be diverted into procuring drones.

Drones are not easy to maintain. Training and maintenance of manpower; gathering and analyzing intelligence; acting on such intelligence to provide the much-needed security will tax the resources and capabilities of states angling to acquire them. Going by the US experience and others before it, drones are not immune to enemy attack as they can be shut down by mere surface-to-air missile. How many drones will a state procure? How will they safe-guard them? With the sophistication that Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen have been assisted to acquire, how are we sure they will not easily shoot down drones? What are the guarantees that those helping them so far – with military uniforms and fatigues, high-calibre weapons, intelligence and other forms of top-secret information – will not sabotage the drones and the states acquiring them? Factoring the “Nigerian factor” into this latest fad, the rush to acquire drones may become another avenue for the kleptocrats in government to steal and launder public funds. This will be a convenient excuse for state governors to balloon their security votes – votes they do not account for and which are not audited. These are votes Nigerians have complained are opaque and shrouded in secrecy. Now the governors have the alibi they need to laugh us to scorn as they pillage the treasury in the name of security.

But without a police force of their own, how will states take full advantage of the intelligence gathered by their drones? Will they rely on the existing police force and the military? Will these forces still need to wait for orders from Abuja before acting? How can any rational human being expect the existing security architecture that has failed woefully to begin to function effectively with or without drones? Will the leopard of Buhari, and those of his wobbling and fumbling service chiefs, change their skin? With expectations that Buhari would take advantage of a second term that still hangs in the balance to change the misfits in his administration already dashed, what hope is there that the old wine in new wine-skin will turn a new leaf? Ultimately, the question of restructuring, which Buhari and his cohorts are running away from, will pop up again. Nigeria’s ostrich will not delude itself for too long. Time, I dare to say, is not on their side; especially as their shenanigans multiply by the day and their cup runneth over!

Now, two major causes fuel insecurity in the country today. One is the complicity of the Federal Government. The second is the duplicity of the security forces. As opposition party, APC stood against the then President Goodluck Jonathan and PDP’s fight against Boko Haram. Buhari himself as opposition figure described the fight against Boko Haram as enmity against the North. So, both APC and Buhari played politics and ethnicity/religion with a matter as sensitive as security when what was needed was bi-partisanship for all hands to be on the deck. Our people have a saying, to wit: You begin to trim the branches of an “iroko” tree when it is still within arm’s length; when it has grown into a mighty tree, trimming it becomes herculean. But God is a God of due recompense: It is the same APC/Buhari that has Boko Haram to contend with today. Have they learnt their lessons? If they had, they will not be complicit, again, with Fulani herdsmen. They have repeated with the herdsmen exactly what was done with Boko Haram, which some people planted for a purpose but which, after fulfilling that purpose, refused to disband but went ahead to become its own master, spinning its own sinister purpose. To many, Boko Haram has become the North’s own amnesty programme, a conduit-pipe through which the resources of this country are drained into private pockets in that region. Shall we expect to have the South-west’s own “amnesty programme” very soon?

This leads us to the second reason why insecurity persists and might continue to persist for some time to come. Those saddled with the task of fighting insurgency and providing security are duplicitous, to say the least. Top military leaders themselves have alleged sabotage. These have shown their ugly faces in diverse ways: Providing insurgents and bandits with military fatigues and uniforms; diverting government military weapons and hardware to insurgents; acting as moles and fifth columnists by supplying sensitive military information, especially as it pertains to troop locations and movements. How many times have insurgents ambushed and made mince-meat of our soldiers? How many times have they over-run military formations? Saboteurs within have also compromised the integrity of military weapons, thereby rendering our fighting forces as lame ducks in the face of enemy attack. So, we have heard cases of weapons not functioning in the hour of need. On top of these, we have read of mutinies and protests by the fighting forces against their bosses over issues such as lack of up-to-date military weapons and hardware; inferior and obsolete weaponry; lack of adequate welfare; diversion of resources into private pockets and humongous corruption; as well as deliberate efforts to unnecessarily prolong the war against insurgency because it has become the pot of soup of many. Similar accusations we heard during the civil war and Niger Delta militancy. It would appear that people cash in on situations to feather their nest, no matter how unsavoury the situation may be, and, subsequently, seldom want it to come to an end but would rather have it continue ad infinitum for selfish reasons. We have also heard of accusations of cowardice, laziness, unprofessionalism, and unwillingness to confront the insurgents from military top brass against their men and officers on the battle field.

What the above shows is that until the Federal Government truly works in the national interests; and the military top brass commits to the war efforts rather than pay lip-service, insecurity will continue, even get worse, drones or no drones. Witness the ridiculous brick-bat between the Army and police over the kidnap kingpin saga! It is a clear manifestation of the depth of unprofessionalism and corruption into which our fighting forces have sunk; how intractable the insecurity-cum-corruption situation has become; and how this hypocritical and incompetent government is an intrinsic part of the problem, rather than being a solution.

 

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