Recently, the new Service Chiefs appointed on January 26, 2021 by President Muhammadu Buhari, marked their 100 days in office.
As part of that momentous occasion, the military apparatchik had taken out time to seek the views of senior editors of various media organisations in the country on security issues.
That was probably the first time such a meeting would be convened since the return of Nigeria to civil rule. It was very commendable.
It was not a reportorial event, but according to them, it was to enable them get a feel of the perception of the populace on the security situation in the country, to inform the editors about some of their activities towards curbing the menace, and also to solicit the cooperation of one and all in the onerous fight against insecurity.
At the meeting, editors had pointedly told the service chiefs that they had serious work on their hands as it appeared the situation had grown worse.
All the criticisms were taken in good faith, and there were assurances of increased tempo of strategies to combat what has been described as existential threat to the peace of the country.
It must be pointed out that in the last 100 days, a day ever passed without report of people being killed or abducted in one part of the country or another.
Under their watch, the situation in Kaduna State appears to have gone out of hand with the abduction of students of Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Greenfield University and unspecified number of other residents.
A number of government institutions, including correctional centres and police formations, have been destroyed by unknown gunmen in some parts of the country. Many policemen have also lost their lives in unprovoked attacks by hoodlums.
Within this period also, some communities have been overrun by bandits, terrorists and killer herdsmen. There have been consistent killings in Benue State.
A lot has happened in the last three months that seem to convey a message that it is either that the new service chiefs are overwhelmed or they are sleeping on guard.
Within this period, Abubakar Sani Bello, Niger State governor, has cried out that the Islamist sect, Boko Haram, has encroached into some local government areas of the state and has also hoisted its flag there.
The Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum has visited the President more than once to complain about the onslaught of the terrorists in his state. Within this space of time, Governor Samuel Ortom has been attacked by herdsmen and he escaped by a whisker. The governor has consistently cried out, even to the point of pointing fingers at Abuja as being complicit.
The other day, an Air Force combat jet mysteriously went down and there has been no official information on why the accident happened.
On the missing aircraft, the service chiefs however, said that a constituted board was looking into the matter in accordance with the process for accident investigation in the military, and that the report would be made public as soon as investigations were concluded.
Since their appointment, President Buhari has held series of security meetings, which conveyed a message that all is not well, yet.
In the estimation of many Nigerians, it would appear that nothing has changed since the new service chiefs mounted the saddle.
But it may be uncharitable to dismiss with a wave of the hand the efforts of the service chiefs; what must be pointed out however, is that there is the need for them to up their ante.
The need for citizens’ participation in the fight against terrorism cannot be over-emphasised, which was one of the points the service chiefs made. The military and, indeed, the current service chiefs must earn the confidence and trust of Nigerians. That is not the case at the moment.
One of the major drawbacks in the fight against insecurity in the country, currently, is the trust deficit. Many Nigerians appear to have lost faith in government and have adopted a “wait and see” attitude to the goings-on in the country.
The perception of unfairness and injustice by the Federal Government is negatively rubbing off on the work of the new service chiefs. There has to be a lot of purposeful communication, not just by the Military, but by different relevant institutions- National Orientation Agency and Information Ministry- on the programmes of government.
The new service chiefs inherited a divided military. There are reports about fifth columnists in the system who collude with the terrorists and bandits to wreak havoc on their colleagues on the field.
There are also reports of low morale among personnel that had caused a number of soldiers to abandon their duty post and disappeared.
To make a remarkable shift from the past, and to make a good mark henceforth, citizens’ rights must be respected. The social contract with the citizens must be respected.
The welfare and security of the citizens is the primary purpose of government and when the citizens have faith in government; when they have faith in the institutions, they are able to behave like true citizens they are supposed to be.
The military must do its best, but the most important thing to do now is to reset a lot of things. There is the need to reset on the military doctrine; reset on training; reset on capacity building and reset on the definition of who the real enemies are.
The unjust profiling of some people will not help the military. It must embrace professionalism and be apolitical in the discharge of its assignment.
Although in the military, soldiers are taught that the intention of the Commander-in-Chief becomes the mission of the Armed Forces, the military must not sacrifice the good of the citizenry for the interest of one man, which is what appears to be happening in the country right now.
So, there must be total reconciliation of the mission of the political leadership and that of the military. And when that is done, then shall we have properly started what is known as the reset button.