Dear Mr President
Today’s epistle is written with the simple and hopefully clear intention of publicly, passionately and for the records inform you that Nigeria is at war.
The missive is addressed to you in your quality as the number one citizen of the country and by virtue of your position as the Chief Commander and head of political affairs of the country. Given who you are personally, some might find it somewhat odd for a civilian to have to inform a General, albeit retired, that his country is at war but that is where we are today and the facts must be told.
It must also be noted that beyond your specific case, such is the way in this system called democracy that we have chosen to practice and in some monarchical system that we moved away from. Let’s face it, there is nothing really new here, history and geography abound of chronicles wherein Generals far more tried, tested and decorated than you have had to report to and take counsel or even orders from civilians who have the responsibility of pointing out what must be done in times of war and peace.
The recent attacks that occurred withing hours a few days ago, one on the Kuje Medium Security Custodial Centre in Abuja and before then the attack your own convoy transporting your advance team to Katsina might very well be or not even at all related, let alone coordinated but they both reek of defiance in style and scream of challenge in deed.
To make things worse, such daring and, in most cases, ruinous attacks are neither new, sudden nor mysterious, rather it is just a sad new height of a growing crescendo of crime and impunity that commenced with audacious and provocative kidnappings and killings of unarmed civilians then transformed into capturing entire communities and storming of government symbols of power and authority such as police and military forts. Even the symbols of the achievement of this administration such as the train from Abuja to Kaduna has been attacked.
Mr. President, with no intention of excusing or justifying you, it must be said that these attacks, euphemistically described as “security challenges” started rearing its ugly and nefarious head before you came into office. By the same token though and with no intention of making you feel worse that you probably feel, it must be remembered that one of the major reasons that led to you and your party winning the elections held in 2015 and your consequent ascension to the office of president was the general believe and the hope that with you at the helm of affairs the attacks on the country will come to a victorious end for Nigeria.
“A general in charge of Nigeria will defeat our enemies” was the crux of the reassurance given by many to those that doubted your ability to perform once in office. Full disclosure here: that many given reassurances between 2014 and 2015 included this writer. Alas Mr. President you have thus far failed all of us and there is no other way to say it, if one wants to speak in knowledge and conscience.
Contrary to those that argue that you do not care and even go on to denounce the existence of a link between you and those terrorizing Nigeria, I personally but strongly believe that you do care and that you do not take delight in having these unpleasant events occur on your watch. It is my view however that you are simply and sadly in water too deep to stand in, you also seem to lack a sense of urgency and a sensibility for emergency that cases like these require.
You also seem not be lucky to have capable, committed and lucky generals around you, what seems the saddest feature in the tale of your unlucky and underachieving Generals however is that you, the Commander-in-chief, do not seem to see them for what they are. You seem to see things with a third eye that sees beauty and strength where others using logic see squalor and flaws. That needs to change now, not soon.
As a people, we have spent so much, too much time debating, attacking and defending based on the ethnic origin and religious affiliation of those attacking us and the country. Whilst some of us raised the logical idea of classifying those attacking us as terrorists, some disagreed and the government under your command was initially lukewarm. With the recent attacks, it should be clear to all and impossible for those that want to be honest to fail to see that these attackers have declared war on the country. The attack on your convoy Mr. President should be treated as nothing less that a warning shot and a clear statement. Just in case we doubt them, those attacking Nigeria want all of us to know that they can attack anyway and at any time, just in case we still have doubts, they want us to know that they are not just cowards preying on the weak and unarmed souls.
A Warning Shot as you teach us General, is an intentionally harmless artillery shot delivered with the aim of enacting compliance from enemy forces, it is an accepted symbol of indicating planned confrontations be it on land, sea or air. Those that attacked your convoy are too organized not to know that you were not there, they knew those vehicles were transporting your advance party. They have sent a signal of war by targeting you the head and corporate symbol of the country called Nigeria.
The time for talking is hence over, it is time to agree that Nigeria is at War; scholars and analysts can debate and decipher the nature and features of this asymmetrical war, but war it is. The government, led by you in person, needs to mentally develop a sense of urgency and sensitivity that gives all the assurance that you get it that we are now operating in extraordinaire circumstances.
You need to set up a war cabinet whose main aim is to device and execute ways to defeat those attacking our lives and properties. Citizens of this country as well as allies and foes need to see that you know this is war, that you can and that you are willing to fight for Nigeria. In war, there are only two options: you can only fight or surrender there is no option for pretending not to know it is war.
Join me if you can @anthonykila to continue these conversations.
-Prof Kila is Centre Director at CIAPS Lagos. www.ciaps.org.
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Dear Mr President