From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja

Former governor of old Kaduna State, Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar, has said that Super Tucano aircraft won’t end the insecurity bedevilling the nation, insisting that this could be achieved only with ground forces.

Umar also said that the $460 million spent on the procurement of 12 Super Tucanos is enough to recruit, train and pay the emoluments of about 200,000 soldiers for one year.

Umar, in this exclusive interview with Sunday Sun, wondered what difference the change of Service Chiefs has brought into the fight against insurgency in the country, pointing out that the key in the fight against insecurity is massive increase in security manpower and equipment.

“More boots on the ground not more fixed wing aircraft like Super Tucano.

“All the forests of the Northwest and some parts of North-central must be combed and dominated by ground forces and surveilled by helicopter gunships. Wild bombings with the use of aircraft amount to wild goose chase. Fixed wing aircraft are not ideal weapons of choice in the fight against banditry and kidnappings,” Umar explained.

Umar dwelt on this and other thought-provoking issues. Excerpts:

The year 2021 is running out and the season of politics is beginning from next year. In the last six years, we have seen the All Progressives Congress (APC) that promised to deliver in all fronts, including insecurity. You are a farmer and we know insecurity has gone all high in the country. How do you feel about insecurity in the country? As a farmer, how are you averting problems in your farm?

Of course, like every citizen, I am very much concerned about the  growing insecurity in the country. The primary responsibility of any government is the security of life and property of its citizens. People give up most of their rights to the state with the hope that their security will be guaranteed. It goes without saying that nothing else matters in the absence of security. What benefit do people derive from the best physical infrastructure in the absence of security? I, therefore, urge this government and future administrations to pay greater attention to the issue of security. Nigeria is currently facing existential challenge due to growing and rapidly metastasizing insecurity. To the second part  of your question. I took the painful decision to shut down operations on my Ostrich farm. You will be surprised to know that I have disposed of all my ostriches due to insecurity and high cost of feed. I have actually not been to the farm in the past three years. That is what I mean by asserting that no economic activity is possible without security. I am currently fully retired.

Kaduna which you once governed has been very hostile security-wise, with bandits packing students from time to time. Since all these things are happening and your state, Kebbi is relatively peaceful, have you moved away? And how are you coping?

Unfortunately, Kaduna is not the only state facing this problem. It may be one of the most affected. It is, however, the state of my residence, like many retired military officers and civil servants. I have no intention of relocating. In fact, the greatest problem I face is how to travel to Kebbi through Zamfara State.

People are taken aback that Kaduna that is home to several military formations is held by the jugular by bandits and other criminal elements. What is your view about this?

Well, these military formations are not tasked with internal security mission. For example, Command and Staff College, NDA, Depot NA and Air Force Training Command  are all training institutions. One  Mechanised Division has operational responsibility beyond Kaduna State. Kaduna, like all other states, has the problem of anaemic shortage of security manpower.

El-Rufai’s policy of not paying ransom to bandits: how do you view it? Is it the right way to go?

It is not difficult to see El-Rufai’s rationale. There is a direct nexus between the astronomical rise in banditry and kidnappings with ransom payments. But the alternative to ransom payments is the use of force to prevent or rescue victims. Unfortunately, such force is absent. Relatives of victims are left to bear the burden. I really sympathise with governors who have not the wherewithal to marshal such force. Perhaps, this makes a strong case for state police.

How do you rate the APC on its promises of tackling insecurity, corruption and the economy?

Well, the answer is within your competence as a senior journalist. Luckily, I am only a retired military officer and retired farmer. I have also since joined the late Chief Bola Ige’s sit-down-look party. An honest answer to this question is likely to attract to my person, ad hominem reactions. I beg to pass on this.

Would you say the APC deceived Nigerians with empty promises just to acquire power by all means in 2015?

This appears to be a leading question. I have already indicated my response earlier. If you are not satisfied, you may direct the question to a PDP member.

There was fear sometime ago due to happenings in the country that the military may stage a come back. Having been in the military and rose to the top, how do you see this feeling in some quarters?

Military rule has always been regarded as an aberration even when people welcomed it in the past. As Winston Churchill aptly opined, “Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others.” Election continues to be the best form of choosing leaders.  Regimes’ abysmal failure is the most efficacious catalyst for mobilising the electorate to vote them out. We must continue to tread the path of democracy instead of undemocratic ways like coups. We must, however, fortify our democracy and make military regimes less attractive by insisting on regular free and fair elections. We must ensure the presence of checks and balances by the different arms of government. Democratic dividends are the fruits of any functional democracy. Africa as a whole must tackle the problem of sit-tight leadership. It is an illiberal form of democracy, worse than military regimes.

Nigerians demanded for the removal of Service Chiefs. But when it eventually happened, they were appointed ambassadors. How do you see the move by the presidency?

Well, that shows that the Presidency was satisfied with their performance rewarding them with those appointments. I honestly do not believe mere change of Service Chiefs is the elixir in combating our current security challenges even though it was the right decision for the president to submit to public demand and pressure to effect those changes. You may wish to ask, what difference has that change made? The key is massive increase in security manpower and equipment. More boots on the ground not more fixed wing aircraft like the Super Tucano. All the forests of the Northwest and some parts of North-central must be combed and dominated by ground forces and surveilled by helicopter gunships. Wild bombings with the use of aircraft amount to wild goose chase. Fixed wing aircraft are not ideal weapons of choice in the fight against banditry and kidnappings.

Elsewhere, the military is for external aggression, but here, they are battling Boko Haram and bandits and for over a decade, our military who have excelled in various peacekeeping missions abroad, have not defeated Boko Haram. What is happening to our military?

What is happening is that our military is overstretched. It is engaged in both military and police duties. Yet, it suffers from shortage of manpower and equipment. It is too thinly spread nationwide. If this trend persists, our security forces will become demoralised and ineffective. Adequate troops strength is key to successful mission performance. It also provides for troops rotation. A situation where manpower shortage necessitates lengthy tour of duty, particularly in a hot war, may also lead to fear and low morale amongst troops. Our troops are doing their best and they need to be commended and encouraged. We need to improve their capacity.

Military hardware like the Super Tucano and the conditions given by the United States Government: how will they help to tackle insecurity?

I am not aware that the United States  Government  gave those conditions. They would not sell those planes if there was any possibility of their misuse, particularly in human rights abuse. As I mentioned earlier, fixed wing aircraft like the Super Tucano have great limitations in the kind of warfare we are prosecuting against bandits and kidnappers. The reports of successful operations against bandits are clearly exaggerated. For emphasis, more ground troops are key. The $460 million spent on the procurement of 12 Super Tucanos is enough to recruit, train and pay the emoluments of about 200,000 soldiers for one year. Enough troops strength and time to flush out bandits from their firm bases in the Northwest forests are what is needed.

Farmers-herders crisis: Southern governors banned open grazing and the North is supporting ranches. What is the best way to stop the farmers-herders clashes? Do you support open grazing or ranches?

You know the herders-farmers conflict is an age-old problem. It has always been a struggle for the control of diminishing land resource. It is being exacerbated by the astronomical rise in population and expansion of crop farming. There is also the problem of desertification in the North leading to shrinkage of arable land. These elements and the primordial method of livestock farming which has the herder roaming in search of pasture and water intensifies the conflict. Even in the era of abundant vacant land, seasonal conflicts occurred. Very few governments paid attention or even attempted to address this very serious problem. Now that the conflicts are getting out of hand, there are attempts to address the problem albeit in an uncoordinated fashion. Truth is, we need protein and crops. We must, therefore, try to create a sustainable method of producing both. The governors are constitutionally empowered to handle this. They must act. You should, however, note that one of the problems that led to the recent worsening  relations between herders and farmers is growing incidence of banditry and kidnappings in which rogue Fulanis as distinct from herdsmen, are largely implicated. The fact that herders and some of these criminals share ethnic identity, being Fulanis, makes the herder culpable in a case of mistaken identity. It is true that the herder is often guilty of trespass, but is hardly involved in banditry and kidnappings. Actually, many herders are also victims of these crimes perpetrated by their kinsmen. We must realise and be aware of this distinction, otherwise all Fulanis are in danger of negative profiling and indiscriminate reprisal attacks.

What is the way out of secessionist agitations in the country?

Someone correctly observed that with all the imperfections and weaknesses of our federation, it provides a security umbrella to all the federating units. In the event of Nigeria’s balkanization, almost all the independent units will face the challenge of heterogeneity or diversity. Nigeria is also endowed with natural resources such as vast land area, minerals and large population. All the federating units stand to benefit from these endowments. But since man does not live by bread alone, there are those intangible needs which must be satisfied for him to want to freely belong in the union. Things like equity, justice and fairness are some of the necessary conditions. They are the pillars, the centripetal forces on which a virile, prosperous and united nation exist. Most rational citizens will protest or even demand to exit from an inequitable union no matter the abundant material benefits they stand to gain. It is in this context we should view secessionist agitations. This must have informed the United Nations’ decision to provide for people’s rights to peacefully demand for self determination. President Buhari’s decision to consider the request of Ndigbo elders to release Nnamdi Kanu is a welcome development. I hope he grants their request. Looking at the pattern of this government’s appointments, particularly in the senior positions of our security agencies, the Igbo are fully justified to complain about being excluded or marginalised. Most Igbo leaders who express satisfaction with the status quo must be doing so out of personal consideration. I, however, recognize the right of any person who disagrees and believes that the case of Nnamdi Kanu should go through judicial process. But sometimes, political compromise and settlement are much more beneficial and preferred means of settling such political disputes. Nigeria has an enviable history of such political settlements which helped immensely in our national reconciliation and political social stability. For example, after our 30 months civil war, July 1967-January 1970, which led to the loss of over two million people, the General Yakubu Gowon government decided to pardon the Biafran secessionist leaders in an effort towards national reconciliation. Although Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu was declared wanted, President Shehu Shagari pardoned him in 1982. He returned from exile and contested election under the president’s party, the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN). In the spirit of political compromise and fairness, I appeal to Mr President to grant state pardon to Senator Joshua Dariye and former Governor Reverend Jolly Nyame. I honestly believe that considering their offences, the anti-corruption bar has been set too high for the duo. Judged by the same standard, most serving and retired governors would be in jail.

Going by happenings in the country, any hope for Nigeria?

Of course. Countries which faced greater challenges in the past had overcome and taken their pride of place amongst some of the most developed or developing countries. After the World War 1 (WW1), the Allies sought to cripple Germany. The Versailles Treaty of 1919 took away all German colonies and some of its most valued land possessions in Europe like the rich Alsace Lorraine. It was made to pay war reparations which resulted in the crippling of its economy and massive pauperisation of its people. Twenty years later, in 1939, Nazi Germany under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, embarked on a most destructive war, WW11 of 1939-1945 aimed at reversing the Versailles Treaty and expanding its frontiers in Europe. Of course, it lost the war and was left in ruins. Today, Germany boasts of the strongest economy in Europe. Coming closer home, nobody gave Rwanda a chance after its early 1990s civil war in which a genocide that claimed the lives of over 800,000 civilians in less than three months. Today, Rwanda has the fastest growing economy in Africa with an annual GDP growth of over eight per cent. It enjoys socio-political stability. Nigerians are a well determined and industrious people. I have absolute complete confidence that we will overcome our current challenges. It is well.