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Op Ed

Ndigbo and the Bugaboo of Unknown Gunmen

THE PUBLIC SPHERE with Chido Nwakanma



Herdsmen Kill 3-month-old Baby, 4 Mourners, Others In Benue

Between Lagos State Police Commissioner Hakeem Odumosu, Mr Joe Igbokwe and The Presidency at the Aso Rock Villa, we now have a clearer idea of the phenomenon of unknown gunmen and unknown robbers.

The “unknown gunmen” must be of immediate concern to everyone as they incite violence across the South East and South-South. It is time to interrogate the matter and for Igbo leaders to rise to the challenge. We must speak louder.

Unknown shooters initially posed a Whodunit to the land. There was palpable confusion. That confusion is clearing now, and we can see through the dust and smoke.

There are two narratives and one conclusion.

The conclusion is that both the Federal Government and IPOB owe the South East better. IPOB should desist forthwith from whatever makes people associate them with unknown gunmen despite their denials. The Federal Government owes the region better security and civic engagement than is at play currently.

READ ALSO: Father Mbaka Missing – Ohaneze

The first narrative alleges that the region’s young men, through the Eastern Security Network (ESN) of IPOB, have turned their land into a lawless centre of violence. Those pushing the narrative say the elders and elite of Igboland are complicit as they have allegedly failed to speak up against the unknown perpetrators.

The second version sees it differently and leans on the conspiracy theory of a false flag operation. “A false flag operation is an act committed with the intent of disguising the actual source of responsibility and pinning the blame on another party. The term is popular amongst conspiracy theory promoters in referring to covert operations of various governments and cabals” -Wikipedia.

They point to the Owerri escapade saying it compels a closer look and interrogation. Unknown Gunmen reportedly perpetrated the daredevilry of attacking the epicentre of security operations in Owerri. They targeted the headquarters of the Nigerian Police Force in Imo State and the Federal Correctional Centre. Within that vicinity are also the Nigerian Army, a police barracks, DSS and all.

As the story goes, these security arms helplessly watched as UGM shot into the Police Headquarters and the Correctional Centre for three hours. They did not put up a defence or a counter. Nothing. By some curiosity deeper than Alice in Wonderland saw, there was little casualty from the three-hour operation. How could that happen?

Soon, Governor Hope Uzodinma tipped his hand. He accused IPOB of perpetrating the attack. So did the former Inspector General of Police. They claimed that IPOB walked through the valley of the shadow of death, did not fear the Nigerian Police, Army or defenders of the nearby Office of the Governor and went away after three hours.

IPOB denied it. That organisation said it could not possibly have carried out the attack. Governor Uzodinma backtracked. He withdrew his accusation against IPOB and shifted blame to political enemies of his government.

Enter 6 May 2020. Nigerian Army claimed they repelled an attack by UGM on a divisional police headquarters in Imo State. They named IPOB as the culprit and had 11 bodies to show as evidence. The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig-Gen Mohammed Yerima, in a release, said “vigilant police personnel” resisted and “completely obliterated them” when a reinforcement team of the Nigerian Army and Nigerian Air Force arrived at the scene. The Army stated that the attackers “were said to have come from a forest in Ideato North.

My friend wrote from Owerri. “A couple of IPOB people declared that IPOB is not involved in the shooting. They say IPOB cannot kill Igbo police officers and destroy police presence in the zone, thereby exposing the people to greater insecurity. After the Army killed Ikonso, an ESN military commander, the military laid out his corpse. It displayed the charms, uniforms, and guns they had captured.  One IPOB person pointed out that IPOB does not have machine guns that use chain bullets. He said that they do not wear army uniforms and wondered where they got the military uniforms put alongside the man in the photograph. He also wondered how they showed only two magazines for the five AK 47 guns they laid out in the picture.

“A former Governor gave militants affiliated to the late Don Warney of Omoku amnesty after Governor Nyesom Wike had declared them “Wanted dead or alive”. He allegedly gave them 50m Naira, guns, military uniforms, and cars and used them in the last election. Those boys are still around, and they are very loyal to one of the former leader’s hatchet men, who come from Egbema. They are the people Hope Uzodinma suspects of being behind all that is happening. It is also possible that some local hoodlums are masquerading as ESN to achieve their purposes.”

The origin of the mayhem at Akokwa and Ozubulu are unclear. The perpetrators hijacked vehicles and deployed at Akokwa. The Army and the police stopped them.

Then Commissioner of Police Hakeem Odumosu gives police imprimatur to the piffle talk of Lagos State drainage commander Joe Igbokwe claiming IPOB seeks to attack Lagos. Odumosu says IPOB will attack unnamed “soft targets”. Several Yoruba and Igbo groups shot him down. Odumosu’s call came when Nigerian intelligence should be paying attention to American intelligence alleging possible siege on the cities of the South by Islamic terror groups. IPOB denied it as well.

READ ALSO: 2 Gunmen Killed, Riffles Recovered By Security Operatives In Imo

UGM and the new one of unknown robbers at the centre of power in Abuja paint the picture of an incompetent and derelict government. It is frightening in strategic terms because it says Nigeria is ripe for the taking by all forces. Government should not give the notion of lack of capacity and capability when Chad and Cameroon are so brittle.

What is going on? Whatever it is or whoever is at fault, Alaigbo should be watchful and mindful. Groups such as Ohanaeze, Nzuko Umunna, Society of Igbo Professionals must speak up. We must reject these attacks and name the two prime suspects: UGM and the Nigerian Security Forces. We must engage resistance, passive and active. If necessary, examine the counsel of Governor Samuel Ortom.

Our many challenges include the lack of a standard definition of the enemy. However, the threat is clear, and we can all see it. We should not romance either ESN or the Nigerian Security. These incidents endanger Alaigbo.

It is shameful and unacceptable if IPOB is responsible. Ndigbo should call them out. Everyone should chain his dog as our dog has gone astray.

In the government’s eagerness to give a dog a bad name to hang it, IPOB is the only culprit. Yet, things are not always what they seem. More significantly, the Federal and Imo State governments have a strategy of victimising or killing innocent people in the name of chasing ESN. Unfortunately, it will only win more sympathisers for the ESN/IPOB and gain converts. We saw this happen with Boko Haram.

A situation where the Unknown Gunmen strike at a place and go away, and for the next few days, the Army is going around rounding up young men and taking them to God knows where is not acceptable. No one has seen many of the young men since then.

Why do the Police not respond to the UGM? Why? Take the attack on the Uzuakoli Police Station. The authorities reportedly acted on intelligence and evacuated. UGM then attacked the station, not knowing the force had relocated its men. How come the intelligence did not instruct on a counterattack? So, even as the authorities knew the UGM was coming, they stayed away and allowed them to go scot-free. Why? The non-response sends a message of incompetence or complicity. Which is it? What is going on?


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Op Ed

Promises made, Promises kept or broken – Hope Eghagha



Hope Eghagha

In the course of our lives we make promises. We promise ourselves. We make promises to others – friends, family, business or political associates. Men promise women. Women also make promises to men. A promise is a ‘declaration or assurance that one will do something or that a particular thing will happen’. A lesser person could make a promise to his superior. The reversed position is also possible; that is, a higher person could also promise a lower person that things would go in a particular way. A promise is indeed an assurance or a reassurance. It is often soothing, deferring hope and making one believe in the future.

Some promises are voluntarily made. When a man makes a promise of marriage to a woman, it is often because he wants to guarantee the loyalty of the woman. Such a woman with a promise looming over her would not be expected to entertain another man. Promises could also arise from coercion. That is, we are compelled to make a promise owing to circumstances. A promise is meant to assure the other party that a certain action will be taken or not taken. Two stronger words for promise are ‘covenant’ and ‘agreement’. Whereas we use promise in informal discussions, an agreement is more formal. It is true however that we could also have an informal agreement; this is what people refer to as ‘gentleman’s agreement.

Consensus building is part of nation building. Of course, a general consensus carries with it a promise, the promise of stability, togetherness and the common good. A general consensus is and should always be superior to individual interests. In other words, individual interests are subsumed under the collective interests. If a politician appears to alter the national interest, the forces which are party to the settled goal or consensus will call him to order. A promise broken destroys confidence in individuals and in the state. There is a Gaelic proverb which says that ‘there is no greater fraud than a promise not kept’. If the State or Party could break its promise to the people, the people in turn do not feel obliged to respect the state. This is where anarchy sets. Sadly, when some politicians break a promise, they hardly appreciate the level of destruction which they have caused in the polity. For such persons, self is more important than the collective. It will be recalled that one of the reasons given by the coup plotters when General Yakubu

Gowon was removed from office was his decision to break the promise of the 1976 return to civilian rule.

Read Also: Nigeria To Start Petrol Imports From Niger Republic

Once a promise is made, it is expected that it would be kept. But promises are not always kept. It is for this reason that sometimes people summon witnesses to be present when the promise is being made. Others go to the extent of documenting the promise, witnessed by a legal instrument. For example, an informal loan may need to be guaranteed by someone else to ensure repayment. There could also be an unwritten agreement on power rotation in a polity.

In politics and politicking promises are often made. Promises are made to the electorate or stakeholders in order to secure a nomination or votes. An election promise is a ‘guarantee made to the public by a candidate or political party that is trying to win an election’. In the advanced world, politicians are often held to their promises. This does not mean that they do not break election promises. On the big issues, a party could win an election and embark on a vigorous implementation once it gets into power. In First Republic Nigeria, we looked forward to and Action Group (AG) did fulfill its election promise on free education. The same was repeated in the Second Republic under Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN).

The National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in the Second Republic promised qualitative education to counter the UPN initiative. It also promised housing for all. A study of politics in the western world has found that ‘parties that hold executive office after elections generally fulfill substantial percentages, sometimes very high percentages, of their election pledges, whereas parties that do not hold executive office generally find that lower percentages of their pledges are fulfilled’. We cannot say the same for political parties in Africa; certainly not in Nigeria. But politicians also break promises. In 2000, while campaigning for president, George Bush declared that ‘if we don’t stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we’re going to have a serious problem coming down the road. And I’m going to prevent that’. It was during his tenure that America went to Iraq second time and later Afghanistan. Barrack Obama promised to close Guantanamo Prison. As of July 2021, that prison is still standing. President Buhari promised to end the insurgency and build the power sector. We are all witnesses to his days in office.

Read Also: Why APC Can’t Fulfill Its Campaign Promises — Gbajabiamila

In nation building, there are unwritten agreements, just as there are usually written agreements. Britain, like Canada, China, Israel, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, is governed by an unwritten Constitution. This is a system in which codes of political conduct are not ‘embodied in a single document, but based chiefly on custom and precedent in statutes and decisions’. For such countries to succeed there is the need for maturity, mutual understanding and an abiding interest in the overall survival of the nation. In such countries, the nation’s primary interest is understood and appreciated by all stakeholders. This can only take place when issues of nationhood have been fully settled.

It is easy to break a promise, to ignore a written or unwritten consensus, especially when the levers of power are in the control of one man or a cabal. The message is that we are not only in government, we are also in power! What this means is that because they have the powers of state behind them, they can alter agreements. But we must remember that power is transient. A decision based on greed and self-interest could return to haunt one later in life. It could also lead to an implosion. It is therefore instructive for those who are in power to remember that soon their days in office would be over; soon their actions would be subject to intense scrutiny. On which side of the divide would they like to be remembered?
Finally, let me end this essay by quoting JFK Kennedy when he said “I would rather be accused of breaking precedents than breaking promises.”



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Op Ed

Could Drone Technologies Become more Prevalent as African Governments Step up the Fight against Terrorism?

By Col. Wes Martin



Recently, 77 member nations of a global coalition brought together to seek out solutions to combating the Islamic State (IS), convened to address the alarming increase of extremist terrorist activities perpetuated across African contest the continent of Africa.

“We see big challenges on the horizon. We recognize that we can’t tackle them alone”, U.S Secretary of State, Antony Blinken stated.

Africa’s strategic importance has risen sharply since the end of the Cold War in the eyes of foreign powers, as nations lobby to greater partner with leadership on the continent; particularly, seeking to collaborate to strengthen security cooperation internally in Africa in order to create new and sustainable opportunities for growth.

In turn, Africa’s military leaders are themselves looking to find effective, autonomous means for which to garner intelligence and engage from within Africa’s diverse, often austere battlespace environments where regularly, such violent terrorist activity is undertaken.

They appreciate the importance in taking advantage of recent breakthroughs in aerial reconnaissance and engagement innovation while minimizing the exposure of personnel or collateral damage in the process.

Meanwhile, overseas and for the past two decades, the role of unmanned systems on the battlefield has been steadily increasing, ushering in what has been referred to as a global ‘Precision Revolution’ by many notable warfare analysts.

Key to this development has been these systems’ ability to decrease the exposure of friendly forces and their effectiveness in engaging within both inhabited and uninhabited areas day or night, scenarios where the use of airplanes can be otherwise problematic.

These cutting-edge UAVs provide consistency in surveillance and support, offering greater real-time intelligence – be it from a matter of meters to thousands of kilometers in distance.

Moreover, they can engage unprecedentedly deep from within a given battlespace and even incorporate ‘swarm’ intelligence and precision strike capabilities in doing so, allowing for multiple drones to operate in formation.

And yet despite Africa being a priority theatre in the fight against terrorism and often the base of origin for what are today highly exportable global threats, many do not associate military drone technology with the continent. However, in terms of need, the exact opposite is true.

Recent advancements in both UAV affordability and their multi-purpose versatility have equated to serious consideration for drone technologies’ adoption by African militaries across the continent. This, coupled with Africa’s embrace of digital production and fourth industrial revolution (4IR) inspired technological prowess has meant the potential for a leapfrogging or skipping of individual stages of evolution in the aerial combat arena, embodied through the development and deployment of technologies such as drones.

As these systems continue to undergo technological change, the ability to deploy them has molded to users’ requirements and capabilities.

Previous ideas on the role of unmanned systems working in the long-range and long-endurance spheres have shifted, as the need to gather a high-fidelity, actionable threat picture has increased.

As the costs of unmanned systems have also dropped dramatically, the ability to create more disposable assets has become easier.

Of critical importance in the air domain, the mimicking by UAVs of some of nature’s key defensive and offensive capabilities – swarming – now means that military operators can gain a significant advantage over their adversaries.

Air dropped swarms have proven that decision-makers can saturate an area with sensors to provide a rapid, data-rich picture of activity within an area that would otherwise necessitate putting multiple people on the ground.

Improving the sensor processing of these swarms, as well as pairing them with advanced artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, can allow for greater flexibility and agility in the swarm, thereby reducing the burden on a human end-user, while enhancing responsiveness to dynamically changing situations.

In an offensive capability, the role of a swarm can be to ensure that a target is successfully attacked, and that defensive capacity is overwhelmed. As warhead size and capabilities are improved, creating drone swarms also means engaging more complex target sets – such as multi-building facilities or moving formations of vehicles. If a target’s defensive systems include mobile or portable systems, then a swarm can work to adapt to changes in real-time.

In rapid mobility operations, a frequent in African defense and security scenarios nation on nation, seconds count – Loitering munition technologies can be deployed quickly for rapid mission turnaround while throughout allowing for a significant reduction in the kill chain, as the time between detection and target prosecution can also be greatly reduced.

Further, with an endurance period that can measure into the hours, such systems can provide a flexible response if the threat picture changes.

As onboard sensors and communication technologies continue to improve, they can serve as a significant force multiplier for strategic and tactical operations. The potential for loitering munitions to operate in a swarm means that high-value targets, or key targets of opportunity, also have a higher chance of being successfully engaged than with a single missile strike from a traditional armed UAV.

Acknowledged on a global stage and heeded by the numerous international security partnerships forged on the continent, while also a chief mission of African militaries independently, there is a clear and present call to action to enhance airborne technological dexterity in Africa.

Moreso, to foster greater interagency collaboration to ‘get in front of’ and address in real-time a myriad of security threats afflicting development, such as extremist insurgency, piracy, kidnapping, bunkering, poaching, and trafficking.

Many military agencies however are operating under budgetary constraints compounded by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response, African-based Paramount Advanced Technologies (PAT), a subsidiary of global aerospace and technology company, Paramount Group, has recently launched its Meteorite, the front runner of the company’s N-Raven unmanned aerial vehicle fleet, as a next-generation turnkey aerial solution provider to the contemporary challenges facing the continent’s security and stability.

The 48 kg Meteorite is a fully automated, guided precision strike system, capable of operating at high speeds (up to 120km/hr) at a service ceiling of 15,000 ft (ISA) across a wide array of both precise and long-range missions (hosting up to 4 hours of loitering time at a full range).

The pilotless UAV provides self-sufficient ground strike capabilities with pinpoint accuracy; and, with its modular, multi-purpose warhead, the Meteorite has been designed to handle different types of targets with a large payload capacity, even from within a heavily contested ‘deep fight’ area.

From unprecedented piracy attacks off the Gulf of Guinea to Boko Haram pledging allegiance to once-rivals, the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP), to insurgencies in the northernmost region of Mozambique, the continent is facing fast degrading conflicts that threaten regional stability requiring coordinated responses.

From rapid deployment to swarm capable loitering, reconnaissance, and engagement assignments, the Meteorite, and its diverse competencies are the results of the manufacturing prowess of Africa and from Paramount Group’s deep understanding of addressing asymmetrical warfare on the continent; providing solutions that befit partner nations’ budgets and the often austere environments which they are tasked to protect.

The Meteorite has further been designed for digital technology transfer and transportable manufacturing from within partner countries; a robust yet cost-effective product of Paramount Group’s proven experience gained from its long legacy in the development of UAV systems, offering versatility, mission-specific accuracy yet at the same time, affordability.

Producing such highly integrated technologies from within customer countries can unlock industrial partnerships that create local defense industrial capabilities, local jobs, and skills transfer.

In response to the increasing demand from governments for the development and strengthening of such capabilities, Paramount Group has pioneered a portable production model that has been implemented by several countries around the world.

There is subsequently a timely opportunity for customer countries from across Africa to deploy advanced loitering munitions technologies such as the Meteorite, with proven ‘force multiplier’ effects – spurring economic diversification and growth while bolstering air defenses exponentially against threats known and unknown; providing operational depth, without, as Paramount Advanced Technologies (PAT) CEO, Lee Connolly suggests, “…African militaries having to resort to the procurement of expensive systems often associated with a traditional air force”.

When referencing the Meteorite’s unique applicability to the modern-day African battlefield, Connolly went on to state that, “We at Paramount continue to expand our unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) swarm technologies portfolio and look forward to the opportunity to present such a well-aligned solution to addressing the uncertainty of Africa’s defense and security landscape. The Meteorite is a game-changer for the continent’s armed forces and the latest in robotic warfare, replicable the world over”.

“To the Team at Paramount Advanced Technologies, true innovation means the adoption of highly customizable, affordable solutions, built for the purpose of our partners who require them. We are very proud that we can offer such a precision strike loitering munition system as the Meteorite, arguably a prerequisite as an investment in aerial reconnaissance, engagement, and ultimately modern-day state security in Africa, capable of foreseeing and engaging threats to a nation’s stability, yielding a substantial payoff and at the best levels of cost-effectiveness on the market,” Connolly concluded.

Paramount Advanced Technologies believes that its Meteorite is the next step in the ongoing unmanned ‘Precision Revolution’, ready to be manufactured in the end-user’s country.

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Op Ed

What is Nigeria Learning from China?

The Public Sphere with Chido Nwakanma



China, Nigeria

For good and for ill, we now live in the China century. China dominates the global discussion on various issues, from Covid-19 to super-scale infrastructure projects and international finance. It has been for four decades the manufacturing hub of the world.

China is proof of the Marxian thesis of the significance of the economy. Karl Marx declared that the economic conditions of man determine his every other state, being how he organises society and the impact that organisation has on every other thing. Economics and the deployment of the fruits also contribute to the determination of state power.

Africa is in hock to China as that country continues to pursue an extreme form of economic determinism. Nigeria is among leading African countries steadily and surely hocking its sovereignty to the Chinese economic might. Under President Buhari, there is a race to take on as many Chinese loans as possible and pile up debts for Nigeria.

However, we must go beyond loans in discussing China in Nigeria. We should be more interested in China’s trajectory and development path. I am yet to see our love of China revolve around the critical lessons from its choices and directions.

In December 2019, United States scholar Kimberly Amadeo noted, “China’s economy has enjoyed 30 years of explosive growth, making it the world’s largest. Its success was based on a mixed economy that incorporated limited capitalism within a command economy. The Chinese government’s spending has been a significant driver of its growth.

“China’s economy is measured by its gross domestic product. In 2017, growth was $23.12 trillion, the largest in the world.1 That’s 6.8% more than in 2016. China’s GDP grew at 6.5% year-over-year in the third quarter of 2018. China’s growth rate has slowed since the double-digit rates before 2013. Its economy grew 7.8% in 2013, 7.3% in 2014, 6.9% in 2015, and 6.7% in 2016.”

Please note the following. “China fuelled its former spectacular growth with massive government spending. The government owns strategically important companies that dominate their industries. It controls the big three energy companies: PetroChina, Sinopec, and CNOOC. They are less profitable than private firms and return only 4.9% on assets compared to 13.2%. But government ownership allowed China to direct the companies to high-priority projects.

“China requires several things of foreign companies who want to sell to the Chinese population. They must open factories to employ Chinese workers. They must share their technology. Chinese companies use this knowledge to make the products themselves.”

China focused on education, research, and innovation. One image sticks out from a trip to the Summer School of Birmingham City University in 2018. Students from China outnumbered the combined total of others from nine countries. They came to study and research all manner of disciplines. Chinese students constitute a growing and significant population of graduate schools worldwide, so much that former US President Donald Trump tried to restrict their numbers.

“Research and development (R&D) is the backbone of innovation. It supports the development of new products and services, which can boost growth and productivity. In recent decades, China has increasingly prioritised R&D, spending as a per cent of GDP rising from 0.72 per cent in 1991 to 2.13 per cent in 2017. Although this is less than the OECD average of 2.37 per cent, the immense size of China’s economy means that its R&D expenditure is now second only to the United States at $442.7 billion (in 2010 USD).

“Triadic patents are difficult to obtain but generally generate more revenue than other patent types. In 2016, China was the fourth largest contributor to triadic patents at 6.9 per cent, behind Japan (31.0 per cent), the United States (25.4 per cent), and Germany (8.1 per cent).”

Experts conceive of State power at three levels: (1) resources or capabilities, or power-in-being; (2) how they convert that power through national processes; (3) and power in outcomes, or which state prevails in specific situations. How a nation converts its capabilities into positive outcomes is the actual test of state power. The elements are national ethos, politics, and social cohesion. The outcomes a country generates depends on “power for what, and against whom”.

The Strategic Assessment Group is one of those institutions analysing and pronouncing on state power. The main categories of capabilities in the Strategic Assessments Group assessment of capacity are gross domestic product (GDP), population, defence spending, and a less specific factor capturing innovation in technology. In the SAG estimate, the United States is first but hardly the only power. The United States holds about 20 per cent of total global power and the European Union (EU) (considered a unified actor), and China about 14 per cent each. India holds about 9 per cent; Brazil, South Korea, and Russia have about 2 per cent each.

The World Bank has shown in its 2006 publication Where is the Wealth of Nations that human capital is the most strategic asset of countries. The authors submit, “The estimates of total wealth–including produced, natural, and human and institutional capital–suggest that human capital and the value of institutions (as measured by the rule of law) constitute the largest share of wealth in virtually all countries. It is striking that natural capital constitutes a quarter of total wealth in low-income countries, greater than the share of produced capital. This suggests that better management of ecosystems and natural resources will be key to sustaining development while these countries build their infrastructure and human and institutional capital.”.

Note the critical indices identified by the World Bank. They are produced, natural, human, and institutional capital as well as the rule of law. They note that while natural resources are essential, they are not as significant as produced capital from human and institutional factors.

What are we spending on R&D? What are we doing with education distinct from the charade of each head of our military arms setting up the university’s bureaucracy in their hometowns without the spirit and ethos of that universal crucible of knowledge?

Is anyone or group in the Federal Government, such as the Ministry of National Planning, understudying the Chinese? What strategies inform our engagement with them?

What are we learning from China, given our current romance with them?


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