By Gabriel Onoja
The use of maximum force to quell Terrorism, Extremism and Separatism (TES) the world over has been largely successful, though its deployment has not sometimes failed to attract condemnation.
Research has shown that some of the reasons military operations could be adjudged as unfair and unnecessary are when there is an excessive use of force and when through human error the casualty on the civil populace is high.
There could also be a backlash if the order is to serve the selfish interest of leaders and is clearly at variance with the wish of the people like when Bashar Al-Assad deployed troops in Syria to mow down innocent women and children in 2011 or when Robert Mugabe murdered almost 20, 000 in Ndebele for being against his government.
But left for these few instances, military operations on the activities of these three groups have been largely welcome as they are successful and with positive results.
In recent times the military even helped to strengthen democracy like it did in Egypt to restore calm and normalcy to the North African country giving birth to the democratic process now in place and recently in Zimbabwe where it shunned the temptation to take over the reins of government.
In Nigeria, the experience has been similar with numerous cases of success with a very few aberrations.
As the monopoly of violence under international humanitarian laws lies with the state, it seldom deploys its fighting force, mainly the military, to stop, end or mitigate the effects of criminal actions that could result in mass deaths and threats to women and children.
In Nigeria, the power to do so lies with the federal government and has going back in history, not failed to utilize same when the occasion demands.
From the breakdown of law and order in the South-west region during the First Republic to the civil war and later to such uprisings as the Maitatsine, Boko Haram and IPOB threats, the Nigerian government has been compelled to mobilize the military and in all the cases succeeded in restoring peace, law and order.
There have been backlashes such as the concerns over the use of force in quelling some of the uprisings like the ones that greeted the capture of the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky who had amassed large caches of arms in collaboration with his foreign backed sponsors, all in preparation to overthrow the democratically elected government of President Buhari operating in the north
and that of the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) leader, Nnamdi Kanu backed by disgruntled politicians in the South-East and South-south.
But such incidences have been few and restricted to those whose sentiments betray their objectivity.
Even with the two episodes it can be seen clearly that the result of the intervention by the military has been to the benefit of Nigerians as since the December 2015 removal of the IMN structure in Zaria, many residents now move about freely and without fear of molestation by any group. The frequent cases of harassment, assault and molestation by trigger happy IMN members in Zaria and environs has since finally been laid to rest.
In the case of IPOB, since the Operation Python Dance episode which led to the raid of Kanu’s residence who was receiving arms and training his Biafra Secret Service, there has been a drastic reduction in cases of kidnapping, armed robbery, ritual killings and even people being compelled to carry flags of the secessionists or pay taxes not known Nigerian laws and people are now free to go about their businesses without the least threat.
Going back in history, one recalls in the case of the Maitatsine uprising in Kano in the early 80s, it was after the intended police action failed for weeks that the federal government deployed the military who within 24 hours brought the situation under control and Kano has since then been the better for it.
It has since then been free from such extremist elements for decades that the remnant adherents of the dreadful sect had to relocate to Maiduguri in Borno State and later to Yola in Adamawa State to ply their trade.
The military against its wish had also been drafted to crisis scenes in Jos, Plateau State in both 2001 and 2008. While some may not agree with the measure, it stands to the credit of the military that it was only after personnel arrived the scenes of violence that peace and calm returned.
In the Southern Kaduna area, the state government had to request the continuous presence of the military by building military formations in the area as a way of ensuring peace. Areas where the Army is yet to mobilize has remained nightmares to innocent citizens who most of the times caught between herders and farmers who clash over farmland and their cattle.
All these are appreciation of the role of the military and this underscores the need for the federal government as the monopoly of violence to continue to use the institution to address terrorism as in Boko Haram, extremism as in the case of IMN, separatism as is the case with IPOB and any other affiliated organizations that may be in the reckoning of the intelligence network.
This is because most terrorist organizations started either as people fighting the state through secessionist agitations or those proclaiming extreme religious views and fighting the state where certain views of life dominate or prohibited.
The military as is shown previously in the piece, had stood by the larger population of the people and has never quavered when called upon for duty even in the Goodluck Jonathan days when their welfare was being toyed with and they were undersupplied sufficient weapons with which to engage the insurgents.
It would be recalled that the military actually defeated Boko Haram shortly after the organization’s intentions and identities became clear. Not only that, it captured their leader and handed him over to the police and the movement was subdued but was only able to resurface after more than two years due to the poor handing of the post-crisis era.
Recently, the military has seen itself being called upon to take up more responsibilities within the country in the bid to ensure the security of the citizenry and in recent times has launched various types of operations to capture the essence of such operations. These include operation ‘Crocodile Smile, Scorpion Stings, Lafiya Dole and several others.
Due to the success of the operations, some have started clamoring that such measures should be taken in arresting new threats like cattle rustlers and imported ethnic militias who come into the country to wreck havoc on the people.
Supporting the military where this becomes necessary should therefore be seen as a nation service and when these criminal elements hide within us to spit fire on them, we may not a soothsayer to know their real mission in the society.
Onoja is Convener, Coalition Against Terrorism and Extemism, wrote from Jos, Plateau State.