The human, material and psychological costs have been unspeakable nightmares for most peace loving Nigerians. Since 2009, a counter-insurgency operation (COIN) has defined Nigeria to a great extent. The anxiety, uncertainty and encounters with various dimensions of the campaign have left many ruined or partially so, constituting a national security theme of grave concern. Nearly 15 years of that, the war remains inconclusive. In fact, it has assumed diverse dimensions, reinforcing the thesis that every discursive practice such as that campaign suffers from a lack or incompleteness or what it excludes or “forgot” to capture and that every such lack comes back to haunt the discursive practice. That is, practice could actually redefine an initial problem by redrawing the boundaries.
It is not clear to Intervention if the managers of national security in Nigeria have reflected on this hauntological implications of the war on bandits, terrorists, kidnappers and sundry irregular combatants. That is, if they have contemplated that the longer the campaign lasts, the chances of its lack coming back in a different and even a more challenging form to haunt Nigeria.
It cannot be that the national security establishment in Nigeria cannot rethink the campaign with a view to bringing it to a close as a strategy of blocking the campaign from morphing into something completely different from what we thought we are fighting. Evidence suggest that that establishment is sophisticated enough to do that rethinking. If it has not done so, then the problem may be in the nature of most security operations to lead to insecuritisation.
There should be nothing surprising or contradictory about that because the Nigerian security establishment cannot define itself. Like every other entity, it can only be defined from outside of itself. This is the reason why the military establishment, for instance, is never headed by a commander but always by a non-military person who is also an elected president.
What ending the counter insurgency requires, therefore, is for the Commander-in-Chief to take charge of the political leadership of the operation and get the military commanders to rethink the operation.
There would be nothing wrong for the Commander in Chief to demand a deadline for ending the current campaign on sundry irregular combatants. The field commanders will know what to do when the Commander-in-Chief makes that demand. The campaign has lasted too long. It is not enough to argue that “new wars” take long time to bring under control. The four key reasons for that argument does not apply to all “new wars” uniformly across the world.
National security at this point demands bringing the counter-insurgency to a certain close or, at worst, a reframing of it. By doing so, the military will save Nigeria from the risks of a hauntological dislocation. The military and security establishment will also consolidate the successes of the campaign so far. And, should they opt for a reframing of the campaign, they would have injected a quality of newness that can invigorate Nigeria.
Intervention is convinced that to keep the campaign as it is going is to risk too much. For example, the past two weeks have been full of stories of increased kidnapping in Abuja area. It cannot all be hype if, as we write, a university don is in his fifth month in captivity from one of the universities around Abuja. His university has a policy of not paying ransom. The family obviously does not have the huge ransom demanded and the security establishment does not appear to know about it. Yet, it is true. And if this is possible in Abuja, then the scenario in the villages is better imagined than mentioned. In any case, this is the one example that Intervention is aware of. Yet, for Nigeria, Abuja is not just any other city and the reality of insecurity around and even within Abuja main areas is not expected. It is not that the security establishment are not working hard or incompetent. Anybody observing the town will know they are working but reality or as journalists put it, the news is not the 99 flights that took off and landed successfully. It is always about the one plane that crashed, even if it carrying just one person – the pilot.
What does closing the COIN imply. Intervention would argue they imply two things. It requires the idea of the citizen combatant which empowers ordinary citizens to reduce the burden of security management on the Police and the armed forces. This is a rapid-result exercise the national security establishment can accomplish in a matter of a week or two.
The second task is for the political leaders, particularly President Tinubu. It is through a programme which can bring him face to face with history. There is nothing difficult in establishing six federal farms, one in each of the six geopolitical units in Nigeria as a matter of urgent priority. Each of these farms can be designed to absorb a million jobless youths who will be screened and admitted as eaglet entrepreneurs rather than employees. In the far to be run by stern managers rather than any set of typical Nigerians, these young men and women will exert themselves as producers of whatever they choose. Negotiating a Fair Trade deal for their products will subsequently become a major plank of Nigerian foreign policy. If taking six million young men and women out of the unemployment market at one fell swoop does not constitute history, what else would? An FG guaranteed loan of half a million Naira for each of these young Nigerians should not be such a herculean task nor should finding Nigerians and expatriate farm managers be. If the FG wants the strategy to work, it will work. Intervention would argue that there are few other methods by which the FG can decongest the pool supplying the terrorism, kidnapping, banditry and criminality industry with cheap labour within so short a time.
The citizen combatant programme which the national security establishment will supervise and the federal farm project which the president will personally supervise will save this country from the risks of the discursive lack in the COIN. The COIN is not a bad approach in itself but it is a discursive practice and is, like every discursive practice, plagued by its lack, about which no one can do anything.