By Gidado Ibrahim
It was the 33rd president of the United States, Harry S. Truman, who was famously quoted to have said, “The Buck Stops here.” Derivativly, it means the president accepts the responsibility of his office and will not pass the buck. In Nigeria, the 1999 Constitution (as amended) empowers the president to double as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Hence, the buck stops on the president’s table. Specifically, Section 14 (2b) states that the welfare and security of the citizens shall be the primary purpose of government.
That was the quality President Bola Ahmed Tinubu demonstrated with last Thursday’s meeting with service chiefs and heads of various security agencies. Coming barely 72 hours after taking the oath of office, the meeting demonstrates clearly the direction of Tinubu’s administration on security.
In his very first official engagement with the country’s security and intelligence formation, Tinubu ordered the security chiefs to deal ruthlessly with oil thieves. Categorically, he said he will not tolerate the menace and that wherever the problem is coming from it must be crushed as soon as possible.
From President Tinubu’s standpoint, it is clear that Nigeria is not lacking the capacity to defend itself in terms of National security or national defense. As he has rightly identified a lot of ambitious steps that needed to be taken to increase or fortify the pillars on which Nigeria’s security architecture is laid. This also includes more economic inclusion of the citizens.
Security experts have blamed crimes and criminality and other deviances that threatens the Authority of the Nigerian State on economic exclusion or deprivation, which manifest its ugly head in form of poverty, unemployment etc. The president is not oblivious of this and had hinted on holistic review of wages structure during the visit of the progressive governors to the presidential villa.
The meeting with service chiefs is the first and right step to take. Though Tinubu is not new to the programmes and policies of the outgone government, as the man directly in charge now, he needs to be brought up to speed with efforts so far and take brief on the direction of his government on security from the security chiefs led by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj Gen Babagana Monguno (rtd).
Suffice it to point out that when the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari took office in 2015, with Monguno heading the country’s security and intelligence architecture, a good number of local governments in Borno and Yobe were under the control of the dreaded Boko Haram sect. However, as of May 29, 2023, when he handed over to his successor, no inch of the Nigerian territory was under the control of any sect.
This success can be attributed to the formidable security architecture orchestrated and supervised by NSA Monguno. That is why opinion leaders are advocating for the retention of some of the service chiefs, especially the NSA who has distinguished himself.
It is important to identify how we got to this level of deplorable security situation. This will help to avoid future pitfalls and more so, it will help in the accuracy of strategies we are adopting in tackling the menace. Some of the factors that led to the current security challenges in Nigeria include difficult economic conditions of day-to-day life of Nigerians. Majority of Nigerians are bugged down by the challenges of ekeing a living. This has led to youth agitations and restiveness around the country.
The President can address the problem of economic inclusion by handing the responsibility to competent hands like NSA Monguno (rtd). He is not only competent, but also has the supporting character to deal with the challenge of extreme poverty.
In Tinubu’s inaugural address last Monday, Tinubu had promised Nigerians that security would be a top priority of his administration. He promised Nigerians that “Security shall be the top priority of our administration because neither prosperity nor justice can prevail amidst insecurity and violence.
“To effectively tackle this menace, we shall reform both our security DOCTRINE and its ARCHITECTURE. We shall invest more in our security personnel, and this means more than an increase in number. We shall provide, better training, equipment, pay and firepower,” Tinubu added.
The president is unequivocal about the foregoing as his article of faith with Nigerians on how he is going to keep them and their property safe. He is indeed matching words with action. The new administration of Tinubu has shown it has no luxury of time. He is acting like a man on a mission, hence does not have the pleasure of been slow.
The alacrity with which he delved into security issues reminds one of the way the famous former United States president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK), reacted to the 1962 Cuba missile crisis. It would be recalled that in 1962, the United States national security architecture was put to test when for 13-days (October 16 to October 29, 1962) a confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union brought the world close to a full blown nuclear war.
The Soviet Union had deployed a ballistic missiles in Cuba waters, 90 kilometre off the coast of Florida. President Kennedy responded by convening a marathon national security meeting. For the 13 days the Cuba missile crisis lasted, security meetings continued non-stop. JFK ordered his service chiefs to use ‘All means’ to remove or stop the Soviet Missile in Cuban waters. Nikita Khrushchev, then Soviet leader, seeing that JFK was ready for war, caved in and the Missile was dismantled. In that incidence, JFK demonstrated the capacity of a Commander-in-Chief to protect his people.
Like JFK, Nigeria’s new president, Bola Tinubu, who is just a week old in office has demonstrated the capacity to lead a country where the toppest priority of government is first the protection of lives and property. Like he has consistently reiterated, “I know the enormity of the challenges confronting our nation.”
The Notions of national security can be grouped into two categories namely traditional concepts and the non traditional concepts. Traditional concepts include both external and internal threats experience. External threats require the balance of power and alliance building threats, whereas internal needs internal peace and order. At the moment, Nigeria is not facing imminent external threat; the security challenge is internal. The outgone Buhari administration tried its best to curtail these menace, but it is not yet uhuru.
To ensure maximum national security, President Tinubu must rely on the instrument of diplomacy to rally allies and isolate threats, marshalling economic power to facilitate or compel cooperation in maintaining military and intelligence circle.
Nigeria is a densely multi-ethnic society, hence avenue for conflicts are many. For any system to enjoy peace, military security, intelligence security, political security, economic security, environmental security, security of energy and natural resources, as well as cyber security must be be strictly maintained.
Another area of consideration for President Tinubu is to provide model security equipments for the provision of intelligence as practiced around the world. With this, we can avoid insiders’ whistle. In addition, the government should maintain high capacity in building the moral of the security agencies, especially the soldiers and opertives in the field, in order to keep them on top of their game.
Now that President Tinubu has demonstrated his willingness to tackle insecurity head-on, the onus is on all of us, as citizens, to support his government by being patriotic. We must avoid anything that can undermine the country’s national law enforcement agencies and its image. The citizens should cooperate with security agencies by supplying them useful information on suspicious movement and criminal activities.
– Ibrahim is director, Communication and Strategy, of the Presidential Support Committee (PSC).