Note: I am not a security advisor. If I was, I’d be making hundreds of thousands of dollars on the crisis in Nigeria right now. Terrorism and counter terrorism are big business in the new century. That said, take this post for what it is: my observations and predictions of things to come based on the information available to me, which is of course limited…because I’m just a regular ol’ civilian, not a security advisor.
In my new book ‘Act Like a Diplomat, Think Like a Terrorist: A President’s Guide to Success in West Africa’, I detail how current leaders – and those to come -can use historical trends as a tool to help create a more peaceful and prosperous continent for us all. And to do this, they have no further than to look than at the presidency of Barack Hussein Obama.
I know that I have been critical of Mr. Obama in the past because I am fundamentally at odds with much of his liberal agenda, but there is one thing I will NEVER take away from him. And that, folks, is his killer instinct. You see, unlike President Bush, who was extreme in his brand of “cowboy diplomacy”, President Obama is far more subversive. You will never see Mr. Obama coming. One minute you’re sipping sweet tea in your well hidden nomadic compound, and the next minute you’re dead. No warning, no finesse; just dead.
These are the tactics African leaders – particularly in this hour of militant extremism under the false guise of Islam and “carrying out the orders of Allah” – must employ. It is very clear from the response to the kidnapping of the Chibok 234 that West African leaders in general, and the Nigerian government in particular are not serious when it comes to security. They wait for things to come to critical mass and REACT, instead of being proactive in preventing this level of scourge. Boko Haram has been wreaking havoc on the Nigerian people for close to 5 years now, and in all that time, the government hasn’t switched up its tactics. Why? Because they are still conducting warfare like it’s 1999. This is 2014. It’s time to get techy with it.
President Obama has taken a lot of heat for the use of drones in his combat against global terrorism. We will never know the true number of civilian deaths and unintended targets from drone strikes. Have insurgents been hit? Absolutely. But there is no denying that the deaths of these innocents who find themselves in the mix is akin to going under the guillotine to alleviate a migraine. America and the Western world is willing to help Nigerian bring back these girls – whose numbers keep swelling as just this Sunday Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau ordered more girls kidnapped and promised more to come – because they understand that terrorism anywhere is terrorism everywhere. The West has more to gain from West Africa’s stability than it does from its destruction. Where else where they get their cheap chocolate and diamonds from if Boko Haram takes over?
It is unfortunate that ECOWAS or the AU (or whoever is supposed to be presiding over Africa’s security) has not taken these threats seriously. If you see a kid with matches in his hand next to your house, do you wait to see smoke and flames before stopping in his tracks? No! You take his intent and his threat seriously. Abubakar Shekau, a deranged madman and product of forced child marriage, reminds us all that he made his intentions known from the beginning. He not only showed us his matches, but told us all that he planned to set the entire neighborhood on fire. Part of his hour long web rant included this warm and fuzzy edict:
“I am going to marry out any woman who is 12 years old and if she is younger I will marry her out at the age of nine just like how my mother, Aisha, the daughter of Abubakar, was married out to Prophet Mohammad at the age of nine.
You are all in danger, I mean all of you.
I am the one who captured all those girls and will sell all of them. I have a market where I sell human beings because it is God that says I should sell human beings. Yes I will sell women, because I sell women.
I captured and abducted girls in a western school and it became a worrying issue for all of you.
You have forgotten that I have said that it is not only girls’ education I am against; I am against everyone who attends western school. Girls should go and marry, I am repeating it again. Slavery is allowed in my religion and I shall capture people and make them slaves.
Don’t think we are done yet because we are not. We are on our way to Abuja and we shall also visit the south, not to look for Jonathan but to destroy the nation’s refineries.”
So as President Jonathan and his military corps NOW scramble for answers because of a massive, global social media campaign (and thank God for it), we now know they should have been working with leaders in the region to develop an elite tactical force specially trained to deal with this level of insurgency years ago. On the surface, it’s great to look clean cut and show up on Jimmy Kimmel to crack a few jokes, but behind iron doors, you better have your Navy SEALs cranked and ready to go. To the civilian, you must look like a diplomat – but to the terrorists you MUST appear completely unhinged. The job requirements for leading in the 21st require a degree of bipolarism that only President Obama seems to have perfected. The man is the nicest stone cold killer you will ever encounter.
Abubakar Shekau has already said he will sell the girls on “the market”. Now, the first idea people who operate within the boundaries of decency will conjure up is to run to the market to rescue the girls. But if you pause and think like a terrorist, you’ll quickly realize that these girls are nothing more than bait to get as many military forces into a single area and blow them all to smithereens. You can’t send a battalion after Boko Haram. What is needed (in my humble opinion) is a small, agile force of outstanding African men AND women trained in combat and rescue operations. The idea of sending in large coalitions to do this sort of job is obsolete and ineffective. If it sounds like I’m talking about developing our own wing ofThe Expendables, you’re precisely right.
America has offered to send immediate assistance to end this scourge. I don’t know what America will want for its trouble (and they will surely want something in return for their assistance in this crisis), but I hope Nigeria is prepared to pay it. It’s glaringly obvious that this situation is beyond the country’s resources and know-how. I hope that other West African leaders are watching, learning and strategizing. Yes, our people are hungry and desperate for jobs, but jobs are no good when you’re dead.
It’s time for West African leadership to get truly focused on creating both a sense and reality of security for its people, but you can’t do that if your days are consumed with fighting over party slogans and looking for a bump in your ex-gratia/government remittances. However, if the turmoil of 18th century Europe has shown us anything, it have proven that the challenges are many and diverse, but they are not insurmountable if you Act Like a Diplomat, but Think like a…
PS: I really don’t have a book coming out by that title. But you might want to write one. Go ahead and use it if you like. My gift. 🙂