Great video featuring Dr Fatima Akilu, a psychologist, and the Director of Behavioural Analysis and Strategic Communication in the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA). Dr Akilu used to work as a psychologist for the UK’s National Health Service until she was hired by Nigeria’s National Security Adviser to assist in Nigeria’s battle with Boko Haram. Her role is to complement the military battle with Boko Haram with ‘soft power’ approaches aimed at socio-psychological approaches to countering Boko Haram.
Dr Akilu spoke in Washington DC, USA, at the Center For Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). In this video she made some eye raising revelations such as:
- many Boko Haram members do not read, and have never read, the Koran. Their knowledge of orthodox Islam is poor.
- contrary to popular belief, most Boko Haram members do not join the group due to poverty. Rather the group offers youths a sense of belonging and Boko Haram takes advantage of youths’ desire for belonging, and transition into adulthood to recruit.
- Dr Akilu’s department focuses on a programme called Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). CVE has four elements: (1) de-radicalisation (de-radicalising Boko Haram members in prison or those exposed to their doctrine), (2) counter-radicalisation (preventing people from being radicalised to begin with, identifying at risk youths and and pre-empting them from being recruited by Boko Haram – at ‘centers of imagination’), (3) strategic communication (countering and challenging Boko Haram’s narrative, rendering alternate non-violent interpretations of the Koran), and (3) a framework for psychology.
- Dr Akilu’s looked at battles against terrorism and insurgency in other countries such as Algeria, Australia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, UK, USA, and spent a year researching other countries’ approaches to terrorism elsewhere.
- Not all Boko Haram members are uneducated. Some have degrees and PhDs.
- Many Boko Haram members have poor knowledge of the Koran and have never read it.
- Boko Haram tends to oppose western secular education, music, and arts – areas that encourage critical thinking in young people. The obvious subtext is that exposure to such subjects makes people more resistant to Boko Haram’s message.
Start watching from around 50 minutes.
The Death of MKO Abiola: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02w68yg
The Death of General Abacha: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02vyxqq
How quickly we forget. Almost exactly 17 years ago, the political situation was as follows:
- Nigeria was being ruled by a ruthless and reclusive military dictator called General Sani Abacha.
- General Olusegun Obasanjo was in prison, along with over 50 other army officers were in jail (some awaiting execution) on charges of coup plotting.
- Nigeria had become a pariah nation after being expelled from the Commonwealth for executing Ken Saro-Wiwa and other activists who were campaigning for a fairer share of Nigerian oil revenues and against the environmental damage caused to their lands by the drilling and spills of big oil companies.
- Lt-General Oladipo Diya, Major-Generals Abdulkareem Adisa and Tajudeen Olanrewaju, and several other officers were on death row awaiting execution for their role in another coup plot.
- The winner of the acclaimed June 12 1993 election Chief MKO Abiola had been in jail for 4 years, kept incommunicado from the outside world.
- General Abacha was on the verge of transforming himself from a military ruler to civilian President having strong armed all the 5 political parties (“five fingers of the same leprous hand”) into adopting him as their presidential candidate.
- Genuine democracy seemed far, far away.
Plus a lot of the “pro democracy” activists shamelessly abandoned Abiola to join Abacha (Olu Onagoruwa, Baba Gana Kingibe). Even ministers in Abacha’s regime were not safe. The Guardian Newspapers (owned by Abacha’s minister Ibru) was proscribed by a newspaper proscription Decree and shut down after it criticised the government. It was the paper’s continual criticism of Abacha’s regime that led to the near fatal assassination attempt on Ibru.
The Abacha -v- Abiola power struggle was holding the entire country hostage (Abacha’s desire to remain in power and Abiola’s unrealised mandate). Even if Abacha was removed, what would the country do about Abiola who won a credible election five years earlier?
Then the following cataclysmic events happened in the space of 30 days:
- On June 8 1998 Abacha dies of a heart attack and is hurriedly buried without an autopsy by the time the news filters through to most Nigerians. Nigerians publicly celebrate the death of a reviled leader with wild jubilation. General Abdulsalam Abubakar quickly replaces Abacha and announces that Abiola will be released but that he had to realise that his mandate had expired. A lot of chicanery was used to get Abiola to renounce but he refused. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is sent to talk to him and explain that his “term of office” had expired since 5 years had passed since the June 12 1993 election. All to no avail.
- Exactly one month after the death of Abacha, Abiola suddenly dies of a heart attack on July 7 1998.
- With Abacha, Abiola and the June 12 issue out of the way, General Abubakar announces a swift 10 month programme for a return to civilian democratic rule. Just 10 months after Nigeria seemed doomed to perpetual military rule under General Abacha, the military steps down and a new democratic government is elected under President Obasanjo.
- The speed with which Abacha’s infrastructure was dismantled just seemed too contrived. With Abacha alive and Abiola incarcerated, most people thought democracy was years away in Nigeria. Just 10 months after his death everything he did was undone: his killer squad was dismantled, coup convicts and pro democracy activists released, Nigeria back in the Commonwealth, democracy restored, and the army back in the barracks. Note that a lot of Abacha’s supporters survived in office and resurfaced in subsequent dispensations (Sarki Mukhtar – NSA, Jerry Gana etc).
Somehow exactly 30 days apart, both men die of heart attacks. Abacha is prevented from becoming a civilian ruler, from executing the condemned men like Diya, Adisa and Olanrewaju, and a recalcitrant Abiola (who refuses to renounce his mandate) also dies. Problem gone, debate over, fresh start. All rather convenient isn’t it?…. How easily we forget….
Outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan led president-elect Muhammadu Buhari on a tour of the presidential villa at Aso Rock in Abuja. Jonathan gave Buhari the presidential handover notes. Buhari was accompanied by his son and daughter.
Boko Haram has been the beneficiary of some training and equipment from ISIL,” Barlow continued. “Prisoners have told us that Boko Haram is and has been supplied and supported by ‘Europeans’ who have arrived in their safe areas by helicopter.”
Great five part series on the recent gains made by the Nigerian army against Boko Haram. Including the role of South African private military companies, Nigerian special forces, and new weaponry received by the army.
Very interesting documentary and interviews with Nigerian soldiers and the National Security Adviser Lt-Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd). Dasuki said:
- On the fate of Nigerian soldiers sentenced to death for mutiny: “The military law is clear…There could be executions…you know what the punishment is. It is like getting involved in a military coup”. He likened mutiny to a military coup: failure attracts death.
- Says quality of some soldiers is poor. Many soldiers joined the army simply to get a job, but without any desire to go to the battlefield.
- Denied accusations that soldiers are poorly equipped; citing the fact that Boko Haram shows of massive inventories of weapons seized from the army as evidence of how well armed the army is.
- He admits to issues in weapons procurement from Western countries, and that Nigeria “hit brick walls here and there” when trying to buy weapons from other countries. He said Western countries gave “all sorts of excuses” for not selling weapons to Nigeria.
- Over time – the military being in government does not go much good. It affects the morale and discipline of the army. The “main pre-occupation of any military administration is self-preservation. Your greatest threat is the military.” Thus their capability to overthrow a sitting military government is reduced if they are not armed to the teeth. Dasuki is well qualified to comment on this issue because he has been a part of multiple military governments and has participated in a military coup.
Colonel James Hall (former British officer who spent last 3 years of his career advising Nigerian military):
- Said he has never come across a military as disciplined as Nigeria’s: “They are an immensely disciplined force. I don’t think I’ve ever come across an African army that has a clearer says of discipline at all ranks”. Says the discipline of the Nigerian military would challenge that of Western armies. However that discipline can break when subjected to extreme pressure in the battlefield.
- However there are “massive challenges” facing the Nigerian military. “They have got it badly wrong…things have got worse rather than better”.
- “Their equipment is old, broken, and is frankly not well maintained“. Soldiers are facing Boko Haram fighters who are armed with identical weapons to the soldiers.
- Communications are poor – commanders often try to communicate with their units using mobile phones (which are unreliable, and often get switched off during military operations).
- Thinks Nigeria’s military should be given pick-up trucks, APCs, and radios.
- Training: there was a time when the Nigerian army was “the best trained” and one of the best equipped armies in Sub-Saharan Africa. military takes academic training very seriously but “their tactical training is not as good as they think it is”. Troops need more combat training, e.g. coping in a firefight/combat.