• Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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Calculated vagueness versus brutal frankness (1)


Q: Terrorists are not normal, rational beings: Most studies of terrorism demonstrate that terrorists are generally quite sane. The tactic of suicide bombing maximizes minimal capabilities, and terrorist leaders often talk in cold cost-benefit terms

It was on Christmas Eve (24th December 2010) in almost freezing weather and we – retired partners of KPMG – had converged in London and its environs with considerable anticipation of a glorious evening of wining and dining to celebrate the abundant blessings of the Almighty. The beauty of such occasions is that we tell the same stories and jokes every year!! The bond between us regardless of whether we are partners or “accompanying spouses” is far too robust to be subverted by repetition of stuff that must have been hilarious the first time round but may have withered subsequently. The camaraderie is eternal and requires only occasional lubrication with the best of wines and Champagne accompanied with oysters, lobsters, salmon, Dover sole, pheasant, OssoBucco, Kobe beef, and caviar for which KPMG refuses to pay. Anyway, we had a great time and inevitably as the evening wound down, the conversation switched to financial and economic matters especially the new lingo of “economicspeak” which is characterised by calculated vagueness. It owes its origin to Alan Greenspan who was chairman of the Federal Reserve [Bank] of the United States of America from 1987 to 2006 and served both Republican and Democratic presidents.

Whenever he spoke at public gatherings (or on radio and television), he delivered his views and forecasts most eloquently but would end up confusing everyone as nobody was quite sure about exactly what he had said.

That has become the new norm. We did not consider it our business to challenge or make a fuss over the new language which only the smart guys could comprehend anyway. We would have to rely on them to interprete matters for the rest of us.

It must have been when the exquisite desert (sweet) was being served that the conversation became somewhat agitated over the new phenomenon of terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism. Those of us from Africa were dumbfounded by the revelations of our European and American colleagues. Even more alarming was the prognosis that our beloved Nigeria was in the eye of the terrorist storm that had commenced in the Magreb and had already overwhelmed Mali and almost consumed Mauritania. Starting with Al-Queda which had been able to loot Libya’s vast armoury after Mohammed Gaddafi was toppled, the awesome list of Africa’s new wave of colonisers by force includes Al-Nusra, Al-Shabaab, Ansaru and Boko Haram which has openly branded itself as an affiliate of ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria].

After the dinner, I could not help alerting the Nigerian government. The response was surprisingly lukewarm instead of reacting with vigour to what was not only imminent, but was already a present danger. J.K. Randle Professional Services ended up sponsoring what was tagged: Security Summit” (Closing the Security Gap) at Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos on Thursday, 27th January 2011.

Although the then National Security Adviser, General Owoeye Andrew Aziza declared the summit open, he appeared to be somewhat distracted and pre-occupied with other matters. Most sadly, there was no follow up whatever from the NSA until the bombing of the headquarters of the Police and the savagery of the attack on the UN building in Abuja with heavy casualties. What followed was a slew of contracts topped by the procurement of CCTV [Closed Circuit Television Cameras] through a process that was clearly deficient in transparency.

All those experts from within and outside Nigeria who had committed their energy and intellectual resources to the endeavour to rescue Nigeria before it became too late were left totally bewildered by the official nonchalance and almost disdain for their patriotic exertions. There was no commendation whatever. Even the proposal to convene a follow up summit to generate public awareness (scheduled for 15th December 2011) was treated with similar subversive inertia.

It was entirely coincidental that seated amongst another group of diners at Belmond Le Munoir aux Quart’ was a very impressive academic who had been researching a book on terrorism. She was, according to her formidable reputation, which had preceded her to Oxford University, destined for the very top for which she was being head-hunted.   Louise Mary Richardson has justified the future foretold by becoming the first female Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University in its entire 800 years history. On her twitter page she is described as an Irish political scientist whose specialist field is terrorism. Her resume is truly formidable and awesome.

We, the retired partners of KPMG have bought numerous copies of the book: What Terrorists want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat” by Prof. Louise Richardson. Even the copies we sent to the Nigerian government were never acknowledged. Maybe they were stolen!! We are now compelled to send President Muhammadu Buhari the following abridged version:

Four common myths about terrorism

(1) Terrorism is new, especially the mixing of religion and politics: No, terrorism has existed for thousands of years and before the French Revolution religiously inspired terrorism was more the rule than the exception. (2)Terrorism stems only from Islam: No, there are terrorists from all major religions and walks of life, Islam has no monopoly on terrorism. (3) Terrorists are not normal, rational beings: Most studies of terrorism demonstrate that terrorists are generally quite sane. The tactic of suicide bombing maximizes minimal capabilities, and terrorist leaders often talk in cold cost-benefit terms. (4) Terrorists are amoral. All terrorists Richardson has met believe passionately in the morality of their cause, and immorality of their enemy’s cause.

(to be continued next week)


Bashorun J.K. Randle, OFR, FCA