Situating the the ‘Whole-of-Nation’ Approach in Our Internal Security Operations
by Chidi Omeje
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Oladayo Amao made a profound statement when he hosted the Acting Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, in his office recently. He stated that the current security challenges in the country require a ‘whole-of-nation approach’ to be surmounted. According to him, “Twenty first century security challenges require strong collaboration and strategic partnerships among the security agencies to successfully overcome them”.
By purpose extrapolation, his statement is implying that in times like this when the country is mired in serious internal security challenges that threaten our national security; when the military is at war with formidable terrorist organisations and in battle with relentless cross-border bandits, it is the whole country that is at war (and not just the military). He is saying that for Nigeria to decisively win the various wars and battles waged against her by various adversaries, the whole nation and her people must own up to the challenges, face them squarely, each contributing his or her own quarter, until victory is assured and law and order, peace and security become the order of the day.
To be clear, this approach is actually different from its precursor, Whole-of-Government (WGA) which refers to the joint activities performed by different government departments and agencies in order to provide a common solution to a particular problem or issue. The whole-of-nation approach is more of a partnership between the government and the various segments of society in solving existential problem. The basic assumption of this approach is that government (and its agencies) cannot go it alone if when it has exclusive right for coercive power. It is characterized by the growing interplay between military responses (kinetic actions), law enforcement measures and people-centred initiatives, and hopes to enlist public and private sector entities in the nation’s overarching quest for the maintenance of social order.
But how do you make “Whole-of-nation” approach work? As we have seen from the foregoing, the approach basically entails a more participatory process in the business of solving common existential problem like insecurity. The key component and action word in the approach, therefore, is synergy. Creating and building synergy will bring about reinforced partnership between the state and the non-state actors for sustainable positive results. Synergy results to shared intelligence, joint operations and commonality of focus that are devoid of unhealthy competition or mutual suspicion. Without synergy of purpose and action between and among all stakeholders, the country cannot successfully stamp-out terrorism nor trump banditry and other forms of violent crime assailing it. Everybody has a role to play using this approach as it integrates preventive education, involvement of women and youths, and the civil society, promotion of peace and moderation as a counter-narrative, conflict-sensitive reporting in the mainstream media and more effective use of the social media in containing terrorist messages online.
But the Chief of Air Staff was not just theorizing. He understands the issues at stake and his action and that of his fellow Service Chiefs since coming into office have given Nigerians a refreshing hope for great things to come. The old stories of inter-service rivalry and unhealthy competition have been rested and we are now seeing effective synergy and collaboration between and among the tri-service armed forces on one hand and other security, intelligence and response agencies on the other. Just a few days ago, Nigerians were told of how the timely arrival of air cover provided by the Nigerian Air Force was pivotal to the eventual obliteration of scores of Boko Haram terrorists who invaded Gaidam town in Yobe state. It was reported that the terrorists invaded the town in ten gun trucks to attack residents of the town who were about to break their fast on Friday evening. However, the NAF fighter jets were swiftly scrambled to repel the terrorists who would have overwhelmed the ground troops with their sheer number. The story would have been different but for the reenergized effective synergy of action between the ground and air forces.
Another case in point of this new found inter-agency collaboration was the successful busting of the operational headquarters of the IPOB/ESN that led to the killing of the mastermind of the recent attacks on Police Command and Correctional facility in Owerri. Reports had it that it that the operation was made possible because of the efficient partnership and collaboration of the joint security forces comprising of troops of the Nigerian Army, elements of the Nigerian Police Intelligence Response Team and operatives of the Department of State Services. If the agencies were working at cross-purposes for individual glory, the effort would not have paid off.
But the support and collaboration of the civil populace in internal security operations are unquantifiable. Security agents work with information and if members of the society decide to say something when they see something and timely too, the job will a lot easier for the security agents.
What could be more horrendous than not only denying our troops useful information that will help them rout the adversaries but actually sabotaging their efforts by leaking their movement or position to terrorists or bandits? What will be more unfair than a reporter using his medium to orchestrate a sensational story that has the capacity to not only demoralize our troops but put them in the harm’s way? Who is more unpatriotic than a politician who takes up media spaces to malign the military or rubbish their efforts unduly because he believes that by so doing, he is getting at the ruling party? What is more devious than working in cahoots with the adversary to bring the nation to its knees?
*Chidi Omeje is the Editor-in-Chief of Nigerian Security Digest