A former Minister of Foreign Affairs and member of the defunct Presidential Committee on Boko Haram during the Jonathan administration, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, has said that external forces were undermining the country’s security and that the forces were stronger than the country.
Akinyemi, in an interview in Lagos on Tuesday, added that Nigeria was experiencing the worst level of insecurity under the current government since the return to democratic rule in 1999.
He also flayed the Nigerian Army’s counter-terrorism approach to the Boko Haram crisis.
The former minister said: “It’s always difficult to comment on matters dealing with security because there are always details that are only available to security operatives in the country and the President as the commander-in-chief. So in a way, one can only use common sense. And, when you feel that an issue that can be addressed by common sense wasn’t addressed then you wonder. There’re forces – very strong forces, external, and when I said ‘external’, I meant (forces) external to Nigeria – that the Nigerian government is incapable of controlling those who’re actually masterminding these operations.”
When asked if he agreed with the claim that security in the country is at its lowest ebb under the current regime, the elder statesman said: “Yes, I’ll agree with it and it is because there are forces at large internationally and those forces are looking for sanctuaries all over the world. Nigeria has been identified as one of such sanctuaries that they can operate in. Also, there’s competition for dominance in Nigeria by these forces.
“I’m worried. I am worried because it confirms my suspicion. My suspicion that there are forces – very strong forces, external to Nigeria – that the Nigerian government is incapable of controlling those who’re actually masterminding these operations. That’s what I’m worried about.”
When asked to expatiate on the external forces he was referring to, Akinyemi said: “ISIS is one of such forces. Number two, I think that we didn’t pay enough attention – of course, I mean when the people you put in charge of institution are actually not deep in the issue they confront, you’re going to have things like this. I served on the Boko Haram committee that was set up by the Goodluck Jonathan administration and we came across facts that I found frightening. Fortunately, this is a strange thing to say – the committee itself wasn’t unanimous on its interpretation of the realities that we came across.”
Citing an example of how precarious the state of insecurity of the country is, Akinyemi stated: “You’d recall that during the Jonathan administration, a ship laden with weapons was captured in Apapa and it turned out that an Iranian diplomat and other Iranian personnel were involved in this. It was of sufficient concerns to the Iranian government that they sent to Nigeria their foreign minister as the head of a delegation and they smuggled out of the country the diplomat who was involved in the arms issue. The other personnel were charged to court and sentenced to jail for their role in it –and then quietly released and expelled them from the country.
“But what’s happening in Syria if caution isn’t taken can be replicated in Nigeria. Let me give you another example: again, under Jonathan if you could recall, some weapons were found in a bunker in Kano. The DSS said they discovered those weapons. I got to know that it was the Israelis who tipped off the DSS as to the existence of those weapons. People were charged to court; what happened? I don’t know what happened to the people that were charged to court. But under the existing regulations, if weapons were found in a building, it is supposed to be demolished. And, I know that the DSS applied to Jonathan for permission to demolish that building. Permission wasn’t granted.
“Definitely then, you know that Iran is involved in Nigerian spectacle. The Israelis are involved in Nigerian spectacle. The Palestinians are involved in Nigerian spectacle; and the Saudis. There has been penetration of our security forces –our security agencies –by some of these elements. So, we’re dealing with forces that are larger than Nigeria. The forces involved in the Nigerian debacle are by far stronger than the Nigerian government. Even if you changed your president, his successor would have a major battle on his hand if he decided to confront these elements.”
Alluding to some conspiratorial activities in the Nigerian government, Akinyemi expressed his angst over reported sabotage of military of a particular military operation in the North-East.
“On CNN, about three weeks ago, there was a news item interviewing some of the soldiers involved. These soldiers were supposed to have been five miles from the headquarters Boko Haram and they were stopped. They got orders from above to stop their operation; their movement and they stopped obeying the last order and then they were attacked massively. “CNN carried the story; showed the pictures. The army denied that any such order was given. Of course, they would deny, wouldn’t they? But the soldiers who were on the frontline – of course, anonymously you would expect – said they did get an order to stop advancing making their position available for a counterattack by Boko Haram. Tell me, what’s going on?”
Akinyemi also urged Nigerian politicians and the public to pay attention to what the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said concerning the possibility of the military taking over the reins of power against the backdrop of the ongoing socio-political upheaval rather than see him as an alarmist.
“We don’t learn from history; not only politicians but even the public. That was really what Ekweremadu was saying: that the politicians –if the antelope decides to be so proud that it just marches with majesty and pomp and pride, it must remember that there are hungry lions around; that the field isn’t cleared. That’s all Ekweremadu was saying. Let those who have ears to hear, let them hear,” he said.