16 February 2015

Election Shift:How to stop Boko Haram in six weeks by Gen. Olanrewaju.

General Tajudeen Olanrewaju, a former Minister of Communications, during his service years served as commander, Corps of Artillery and General Officer Commanding, Third Armoured Division of the Nigerian Army, Jos, a post once held by General Muhammadu Buhari at the beginning of the eighties.

Olanrewaju, now a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Lagos State in this interview reviews issues emanating from the shift of the elections among other things.
What was your reaction to the shift of the elections?

If we really want a free and fair election, we must create a conducive environment for it.  And I believe that the last two or three weeks for INEC have been a very, very difficult time for them not being able to meet the responsibility of ensuring that most people have access to their PVCs.

And it would be unfair to the large segment of Nigerians to be denied the opportunity to exercise their rights of voting.  So, that alone is a positive thing towards ensuring that there is a free, fair and transparent election.

But on the other hand, the issue of security is something beyond INEC.  It is beyond our own understanding because in the last few days we now have other foreign forces working together with us in ensuring that we are able to tackle this problem once and for all.

Superior capability

They will need sometime to work together in order to ensure that they nip this problem in the bud.  It will require some time.  This is what we call time and space in military warfare…

(Cuts in) But do you see the military doing in six weeks what they failed to do in five years?

I am not going to dip my finger on that to say that the war definitely will take about six weeks.  There is this sub-regional effort with the collaboration of the United Nations.

It will command a formidable and superior capability that can respond more actively in the battlefield. The air force and the ground forces must work in a collective, integrated and fashionable manner to keep the enemy ceaselessly on the defensive and keep the initiative off their hands because attack is the best of defence.  If they can adopt this strategy it will go a long way to work within the time and space available.

Logistics and administration must be sustainable so that there will be no break and finally some confidence building will be attainable if all these measures are properly co-opted and directed.

This is just my own analysis of the threat perception that I can get from the media reports and, on the basis of this, being a former GOC of the area, the 3rd Armoured Division, and of course you forcing me to talk (laughs) that I have given my own advice in the interest of the nation.

This operational concept which I have suggested is becoming a worldwide answer to insurgency that is ravaging some part of the globe.  The regional force is also what the USA, United States of America is adopting in collaborative alliance with other national forces to counter insurgency that is ravaging some parts of the world.

So, the dimension that Boko Haram has taken will require a regional force and ground strategy to deal with the threat posed by it, particularly in some West Africa countries.  This is so also because it is not only that they are adopting guerrilla tactics, but they are coming out en-masse in carrying out their threat.  They are in the open and also fighting conventionally.  It is a combination of the two. They are identifiable forces when they are fighting in their own uniforms and boots.  So you need to employ a lot of intelligence to peep into their assembly area and carry the fight to them there.

At the end of this phase of the Boko Haram war, there should be a retraining programme on counter-insurgency for our armed forces.

Retraining programme

This is so because it is no longer the issue of guerrilla war alone but they are also combining it with conventional war.  It is one of lessons the US learned from the Vietnam war and I know this because I also trained there.  And this is the new concept of warfare with which America responds to insurgency.

Time is of essence. Do you think this will not affect the election time frame required for a smooth constitutional transition?

I believe that those who were able to give that timeline of six weeks must have considered so many factors in their anticipation of the situation and they must have come to the conclusion that, that time will be sufficient for that.

But then, if you want to lay that to preparation for the elections, it means that there must be concurrent activities.  While the war is going on then INEC itself must be going on with some of its own electoral plans and arrangements to ensure that, at least, there is no time lost.

It is not that one has to stop for the other.  No.  It has to be a thing of continuous effort on both sides to ensure that while the fighting is going on, INEC itself is doing its own job ensuring that people now have their PVCs and at the same time, there are other arrangements that must be put in place in ensuring that polling units are ready.

This is because people have only been concentrating on the PVCs whereas there are other things that are supposed to be done.  So, everything must work concurrently: making sure that logistics are put in place, personnel are trained in the use of voting materials.

Voting materials

In fact, this extension is even good for INEC so that they now have enough time for their own preparation.

Given that the elections were fixed over a year ago does this not mean that the security agencies were not working in tandem with INEC?

Well, I am working on the basis that there is no general awareness on the part of INEC because those issues they have just raised have not been on the discussion table where people have been commenting on them and so on.  But we have been hearing that they are going to use a new electronic system.  I don’t even know how it looks like and I am just going to see it for the first time when I get out there on the day of election.

We have been used to a semi-electronic system whereby you thumbprint and that is all.  But this time it is PVC and a card reader that will have to clear you.

I think the card reader system should be put into practice at this time so that all the shortcomings of the system will have been discovered and corrected ahead of time.  This is important because we are going to have this PVC card reader thing for the first time in the electoral history of this country and there has not been any kind of rehearsal for people to be able to know this is how this thing works.

That is why I think the extension is a blessing, as far I am concerned, to the political parties themselves as well as the INEC. So, you now have time.

But the only thing I cannot put my hands on is that, after failing in six weeks time, what is next

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