Beyond Nigerian Army’s Spiritual Warfare

By Casmir Igbokwe

Like many Nigerians, most of our security agents are “deeply religious.” Last week, I went to a police station in Lagos to honour an appointment with a female inspector. Recall that I narrated my experience with that bribe-seeking inspector on this page last week. Her colleagues told me she was in a fellowship within the station. She later emerged from the fellowship with the two suspects I had a case with. They all clutched new Bibles and looked like angels. I wondered if they just repented or were simply being hypocrites.

It was with the same wonder that I read the story of a seminar on spiritual warfare against terrorists held by the Nigerian Army last Monday. The theme of the seminar held in Abuja was “Countering Insurgency and Violent Extremism in Nigeria through Spiritual Warfare.”

The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, explained, “The fight against terrorism, Boko Haram and ISWAP, as well as other security threats, cannot be left to the troops in the battlefield alone. Yes, we will do our duties, but the need to tackle groups through spiritual warfare and re-orientating the followers against the ideology is also a necessity.”

The army chief noted that terrorism and terrorist groups could not be totally eliminated by mainly military actions. This, he said, meant focusing their efforts on the underlying narratives through ideologies that were employed by these terrorists to lure innocent citizens to their fold.

To an extent, Buratai is right. Extremist religious ideologies have caused more harm than good in the world today. In Nigeria, deviants of the two major religions, Islam and Christianity, are the worst culprits. Boko Haram adherents, for instance, believe that Western education is a sin. Some others believe that killing an infidel automatically takes one to paradise. These sects indoctrinate their members such that they constitute serious nuisance to right-thinking members of society.

Surely, religion is one way to get people to act without reason. Hence, many politicians and public office-holders employ it to maximum use. They sponsor religious pilgrimages when it should have been a personal affair. Sometimes, they sow the seed of discord among people by deploying religious sentiments to achieve selfish ends.

Unfortunately, many Nigerians have resigned themselves to fate. They hope and believe that only divine intervention will cure the country of its many maladies. Early last year, for instance, the then Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Mr. Konbowei Benson, reportedly hired a powerful man of God, Dr. Uma Ukpai, for a three-day crusade against ritual killers, kidnappers, rapists, pirates, armed robbers and other sundry criminals in his Southern Ijaw Constituency 4.

I am not sure how far that crusade went in eliminating the evildoers in Bayelsa. I am not also sure how far Buratai’s spiritual warfare will go in eliminating Boko Haram. What I know is that soldiers are trained to ward off external and internal aggression. It is not for nothing that they are called armed forces and not armed spirits. Just as terrorists conscript people by force and throw their ideologies down their victims’ throats by force, our soldiers should use maximum force to dislodge them.

Yes, engaging the citizens to counter the ideologies of terrorists is a good counter-insurgency strategy. But there are some questions we need to answer first: Are the soldiers fighting the insurgents well motivated? Are they well equipped with modern, sophisticated weapons? Do they go for regular training? Why has it been difficult for our professional soldiers to defeat this ragtag team of terrorists?

Only the military authorities and the Presidency can answer these. In the recent past, there were reports that the top echelon of the military supplied substandard equipment and starved troops fighting Boko Haram of some allowances. In 2014, the morale of soldiers in Maiduguri was so low that some of them attacked the then General Officer Commanding the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Ahmadu Mohammed. The man was addressing his troops when some disgruntled soldiers fired gunshots at him. He escaped narrowly.

Today, the morale of these soldiers is still low. Nothing much has changed. To solve part of the problem, members of the House of Representatives are tinkering with the idea of creating a special fund for the armed forces. But throwing money at a problem is never a solution to that problem.

This type of special fund is prone to abuse and diversion. Towards the end of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s regime, there was a special fund amounting to $2.1 billion. It was meant to procure sophisticated arms to fight the terrorists in the North-East. How that money was used remains a contentious issue till date. Today, a general is facing trial for allegedly ferrying about N400 million cash, which became public knowledge when the soldiers escorting the consignment hijacked it.

Before embarking on any spiritual journey, the military should first of all deal with every act of corruption in its system. It should critically monitor some of its officers and overhaul its intelligence network. Look at what happened in Taraba State the other day. The police arrested a suspected kidnap kingpin, Hamisu Wadume. But some Nigerian soldiers waylaid the policemen, killed three of them and a civilian and released Wadume. Luckily, the man was re-arrested.

Recall that, during the time of Jonathan, the American officers who came to help rescue the young Chibok schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram in April 2014 reportedly said they would not share intelligence information with their Nigerian counterparts.

What were the American soldiers afraid of? What is it that actually makes them tick? How have the Israeli armed forces been able to subdue militants from hostile neighbours? Is it spiritual warfare that made the Russian and Chinese armies what they are today? I leave you to ponder over these posers, General Buratai.


Re: The other side of Nigeria Police Force

Casmir, your experience and many others have made mockery of the slogan ‘Police is your friend’. The leaders cannot claim ignorance of such actions. Hypocrisy! In the country we call Nigeria, you will see such in every facet of life. Only God will save us.

– Pharm. Okwy Njike, +2348038854922

Nigerian police station is not a place where someone should pray to go because of what you will pass through if you have a case. But there is a slogan that says police is your friend and bail is free. All these things don’t work in Nigeria. With what is happening in stations, you should ask God not to allow ugly things happen to you that will take you to a Nigerian police station.

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

My bro, this is just an eye-opener/part one to show you what ordinary people pass through in the hands of Nigeria Police Force. Secondly, if commuters narrate their own stories, you will agree with me that the system is rotten. NPF only specialises in how to go after defenseless citizens like IPOB, IMN, but facilitate the compensation of bandits and Boko Haram. Some people prefer to complain to God rather than the police.

– Smart, +2348134774884

Re: Now that Buhari is ‘eminently qualified’

Constitutionally speaking, Muhammadu Buhari is academically qualified, it is also a trite fact that he is eminently qualified, having had the requisite experience and even acquired certificates that surpass the minimum academic mark or platform as contemplated by the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended. But the argument goes beyond this point! A combined reading of sections 131(d) and 318(a-d) of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution discloses the meaning, intents and purposes of the framers of the Constitution regarding the minimum academic entry point for one who intends to vie for Nigeria’s presidential seat. Without further explanation, Section 131(d) merely states that ‘he has been educated up to at least school certificate level or its equivalent’.

Which school certificate level does the phrase refer to? In Nigeria, we have many school certificate levels such as senior secondary school certificate level, junior secondary school certificate level, primary six school leaving certificate level and the like. And does it mean the acquisition of the school certificate itself or reading up to the exams level and passing or failing same? Or reading up to the exams level but not partaking in the certificate exams? Section 318 (a-d) has generously supplied answers to some of these questions in the following order: S.318(a) secondary school certificate itself (b)education up to secondary school level (c)primary six school leaving certificate, though with additional ‘qualifications’ as stated in (c) (1-111).

Section 318 (d) has particularly thrown open a much wider and accommodating platform, which is subject to abuse by the leadership of INEC. It states thus: ‘Any other qualification acceptable by the INEC’. Having dissected sections 131(d) and 318(a-d),it can be observed that, while there is an academic qualification ‘floor’ for one who seeks the presidential seat, there’s no ‘ceiling’ attached to it. It is not now contentious that the minimum academic entry point for one to contest for Nigeria’s coveted presidential seat is primary six school leaving certificate.

The 1999 Nigeria’s Constitution with regard to the minimum academic qualification for a presidential candidate is too elastic to the extent that all and sundry are easily accommodated. And isn’t it a huge fraud that has needlessly opened the floodgate to today’s controversy? As contemplated in section 318(d) where a candidate’s fate is tied to ‘any other qualification acceptable by INEC’, can’t any ‘bread label’ that assumes the semblance of an academic certificate be made to pass this qualifying test? We need an amendment of our Constitution.

– Edet Essien Esq., +2348037952470

  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, October 7, 2019.

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