Averting Conflict, Insurgency And Militancy (2)

by Carl Collins Ogunshola Oshodi


Enthusiasm for spying on Nigeria has not waned since independence. Quite the reverse, Nigeria is almost certainly one of the top intelligence priorities for practically every government on the planet; reason why Nigeria in contemporary time, with regard to elaborate security white paper have led to the portioning of economic assets. Faced with overwhelming Nigeria military, economic might due to oil dividend and our colossal role in peacebuilding, our adversaries increasingly rely on intelligence to gain comparative advantage, to have their cut in our national cake, and the struggle for oil. A wide range of intelligence activities are used to attack systematically Nigeria’s national security interests worldwide. Yet while our enemies are executing what amounts to a global intelligence war against Nigerian, including the US, UK, Europe and Asia, we have failed to meet the challenge. Nigerian Military Intelligence efforts have remained fractured, myopic, and only marginally effective.

Today, we mostly wait for foreign intelligence officers to appear on our doorstep before we even take notice. The lion’s share of our Military Intelligence resources are expended inside Nigeria despite the fact that our adversaries target Nigeria interests globally, and putting our national unity in jeopardy; sponsoring religious extremism in the North and Militant activities in Niger Delta. Needless to say, the result is that we are extremely vulnerable outside of our borders, even more dangerously alluring within our security parameter. The country has a volatility scale per threat levels. The losses Nigeria has sustained within its borders are formidable as well.

Incessant clandestine and espionage activity have significantly weakened our intelligence and defense capabilities. Many spies have compromised Nigerian government secrets whose cost to the nation was in the billions of dollars, not to mention the lives of numerous human sources. Such unholy activity has gained its prominence since the early 1970s. Our adversaries have penetrated Nigerian Military Intelligence (NMI) materials, and other intelligence agencies (by recruiting spies) and operations (by running double agents), whose bulk of extravagance and luxury in the racketeering of our top secret, trading for a twenty five gold piece.

1. The theft of some of our most sensitive Government secrets allows states like China, Russia, US, UK, France, Europe and Asia to conduct espionage activity for business and economic purposes, and to reap the benefits of our research and development investments.

2. And while our defense is lacking, our current counterintelligence posture also results in the loss of offensive opportunities to manipulate foreign intelligence activities to our strategic advantage.

Nonetheless, the Nigerian government has its spy arsenals, which makes it equal in global, in the taming of our economic and political hegemony. Moreover, while stealing our secrets, our adversaries also learn how we spy, and how best to counter our efforts in the future, which in turn renders our remaining sources and methods even less effective and more liable to compromise and loss-a cycle of defeat that cannot be indefinitely sustained.

3. We believe that the Nigeria intelligence agencies have been plagued by a lack of policy attention and national leadership. We hope this will come when the federal government is ready to set up a progressively mitigating Unit, empowering the NIA to oversee counterterrorism/counterintelligence research, mobilization and strategic implementation, of averting possible national economic threat by foreign nations, and their spies in higher political offices and ministries.

4. But a new strategy alone will not do the job. As in the old-and clearly unsuccessful- approach to homeland security, Nigerian counterintelligence is bureaucratically fractured, passive i.e., focusing on the defense rather than going on the offense), and too often simply ineffective.

5 .But unlike Internal and interior affairs, Nigerian counterintelligence is still largely neglected by policymakers and those private establishments whose role typically strategic. In fact, counterintelligence has generally lost stature since Gen. Sani Abacha’s administration, eclipsed by more immediate counterterrorism needs. While not denigrating it outright, our top policymakers and Private security establishments have traditionally paid lip service to counterintelligence. Until, that is, a major spy case break, then we runs helter scelter like mad dogs. Even then, bureaucratic defensiveness tends to win out. The senate has largely addressed counterintelligence issues in its ad hoc committees, reacting to specific intelligence losses by replacing them with new technologies or collection methods, without addressing the underlying counterintelligence problems.

We are offering special recommendations to improve counterintelligence.

First that the NIA should serve as the planner, manager, and supervisor for all Nigerian counterintelligence efforts. Second, that NMI should create a new capability dedicated exclusively to attacking intelligence threats outside Nigeria- a capability our nation currently does not have. Third, that the SSS and NMI collaborative Field Activity be given operational and investigative authority to execute department-wide counterintelligence activities. Fourth, the NMI should establish a National Security Service that is fully responsive.

It was clear in the wake of the Jos religious crisis, and the Militant stronghold in Niger Delta, still indicates that we are still trying to grasp the nature of the new strategic challenge we face and how best to counter it. There is no better indication of this than the complete lack of consensus or common lexicon about what to call the threat. Is it “national terrorism,” “Religious terrorism” “MEND and its affiliates,” “Islamist radicals” or “terrorist extremism.” This is not just a semantic issue; words and names have vital operational import. Without clarity on who, precisely, is our adversary, we are unlikely to ever develop a clear and comprehensive understanding of its objectives, strategy, and operational character.

And without such a common understanding, it will be difficult if not impossible to conceive of an effective, let alone collective, response. Yet, nearly few years after militant surrender and ceasefire, and the halt of religious tension in the North, it is our assessment that there is neither a broadly accepted understanding of the challenge we face nor a comprehensive long-term strategy to counter it.

My preference is to classify this broader challenge as “militancy.” Like the MEND we feel it important to use the modifier “Militant/Extremism” – a politico-religious, and socio-politico movement within Nigeria – as distinct from “Islamic” – the cultural and religious origin. Imperative Unlike the recent events of unrest and ethnic/religious violence, however, we prefer the simpler, less loaded term “militancy/religious extremism” to “terrorism.”

Using the term “militants” to refer to those who either employ or espouse violent means in pursuit of political ends not only avoids the notoriously slippery definitional problems associated with terrorism but it also serves to underscore that the challenge is both multi-dimensional and more broad based than purely those who actually carry out terrorist attacks.

Indeed, Religious extremism, which brews from ethnic violence and tensions, has three main constituent groups whose memberships are constantly evolving and overlap in significant ways. There are first, the cross-cultural national religious fundamentalist groups that have an ethnic agenda (principally Boko Haram and its affiliates), second, the nationalist insurgent groups with essentially a local agenda (for example, extremist paraphelia, and some of the Islamic and Christian fanatic groups) and third, the miscellaneous

groups and networks that directly and indirectly support these organizations, having a political undertone.

Distinctions among these groups are difficult to discern. Indeed, increasingly new organizations and groups are emerging that share common traits with overlapping agendas.


Insurgency will persist even after the end of the conflict era, that are both religiously, ethnically, socially, economically and politically instigated. But as insurgent strategists recognize the bankruptcy of old techniques, especially protracted, rural “people’s war,” they will innovate. It is vital for those interested in preventing or controlling insurgency to think creatively, speculate on the new forms that will emerge, and craft new frames of reference to serve as the foundation for strategy and doctrine. It was on this base of Ideology that our think tank developed a training program to educate Nigerian elitist youths and citizens, with advanced schools specialize in unraveling these numerous tactics in the prevention of conflicts, its managements, and possibly its end.

The key to the Nigerian staged insurgency is its psychological component. The greatest shortcoming of marginalized and ethnically disintegrated states (including most of the Niger Delta, south-west and North states) is their inability to meet the psychological needs of their populations, especially a sense of meaning during the stressful periods of rapid change associated with development; and greater overhauling of allocating scare resources. This shortcoming will generate frustration and discontent which can be used by insurgent strategists.

Two forms of insurgency are likely to dominate the above mentioned areas, depending on their variable crisis definitions. Spiritual insurgency is the descendant of the cold war-era revolutionary insurgency. It will be driven by the problems of modernization, the search for meaning, and the pursuit of justice. The other form will be commercial insurgency.
This will be driven less by the desire for justice than wealth. Its psychological foundation is a warped translation of Western popular culture which equates wealth, personal meaning, and power.

The dominance of one of these two forms will vary from region to region. Niger Delta, the Middle Belt and North central are likely to suffer more from continued and expanded commercial insurgency than from spiritual. The North will be particularly prone to insurgency. Initially the spiritual form will be pervasive, with the potential for commercial insurgency to develop later. The likelihood of spiritual insurgency is also high in the core Middle belt, such as Plateau state. The east middle belt and north central region and some part of the west, like Osun, Ondo, Oyo, and the estuarine of Delta state, Akwa Ibom, and the Ibibio nomenclatures will probably experience both spiritual and commercial insurgency.


There will be many forms of low-level, protracted violence as the post-amnesty, and ease in religious war national security system coalesces. Of these, insurgency–the use of low-level, protracted violence to overthrow a political system or force some sort of fundamental change in the political and economic status quo–will certainly persist. After all, it has been one of the most pervasive types of conflict throughout history and today is epidemic. For many northern and Niger delta states of the country, simmering internal and local war is a permanent condition. As long as there are people frustrated to the point of violence but too weak to challenge a regime in conventional military ways, insurgency (in the name of amphibolies militancy, extremism, and ethnic tensions) will persist. It will, however, evolve from its cold war form.

A number of factors will drive or force the evolution of insurgency. Nationally, the most obvious is the demise of the Niger Delta Freedom fighters and its proxies. This dried up the assistance, training, inspiration, and ideological unity which, during the Militant campaign, sustained insurgencies. The overall issue is insurgents such as MEND and Boko Haram will still search for outside assistance in their post-cold war, but the source and motives of outside supporters will be more complex than during the weaponry era. Ironically, the revitalization of the Senate and its ad hoc post amnesty committee may serve to make insurgency more attractive to frustrated power seekers. At the height of the economic identity and religious dramatization war, insurgency tended to be a win or lose proposition. But with Federal Government’s activism in settling internal conflict, insurgents may see the possibility of making gains short of outright victory through a FG mediated peace.

Frankly speaking, within states affected by series of crisis, pending on their various intensity, causes and indicators; such as escalating urbanization, population growth, ecological decay, and the explosion of communication technology will change the nature of insurgency. The growing economic cost of insurgency is also an important factor. With the decline of politically and religiously motivated patrons to supply insurgents, they are forced to purchase arms and other supplies. To do this they develop other funding sources whether oil bunkering trafficking for Niger Delta Vigilante front of ASARI and Ateki Tom or the religious superiority paraphelia trade for northerners. Perhaps the most important change–and one easily overlooked–is the improving counterinsurgency capabilities of democratic regimes. After nearly four decades of successful revolutionary insurgencies, and their test cases internationally, counterinsurgent strategists appear to have caught up and even surpassed their antagonists.

Sensing that insurgency will evolve is easy. Charting the direction of this change is more complex. Traditionally the evolution of insurgency is like that of a species. Through success, one variant became dominant and was emulated. By the 1992, this was rural, protracted, “people’s war” of the MOSOP. Then, as emulators of that variant failed, such as operation Green Revolution, and the Kaiama Declaration (1999) , insurgency variegated waiting for a new dominant form to emerge, embraced by MEND and entwined by arid criminals for their bogus benefits; That is where we are today. None of the old models, whether MOSOP, MEND-style Guerrilla Warfare, or urban insurrection in the Mudakeke in Osun, NDV fashion, are dominant. Edward Luttwak (1982, ibid) noted that since strategy pits two thinking antagonists in conflict, success has a finite lifespan. The chance of failure increases as the other antagonist begins to understand and counter successful techniques, approaches, and stratagems.

Today, the methods that generated MEND in Rivers States to other parts of Niger Delta, and what appeared to gained prominence in the religious tensions of the North are almost obsolete. But insurgent strategists are both intelligent and creative. And from the look of things, if the FG is not sincere or decide to politicize its reconciliation process, such as its Amnesty and post amnesty campaign; I fear that a new hoard of insurgents, more determined, virile and articulate will spur up from the defacto deficiencies of the FG. They will innovate, and champion their device from a shrewder pattern of strategy. The question is: How will they attain this success? The present day elitist youths are watching with keen interest, FG’s sincerity to incorporate all youths, both in Niger Delta and elsewhere in its campaign to restructuring sanity, which has grossly affect all.


Spiritual Insurgency and the Search for Meaning, is evident in our national security and crisis nomenclatures. Spiritual insurgency is the evolutionary descendant of traditional revolution. Its predecessors are not only the Niger Delta insurgencies of the Militant campaigned, but also the slave and peasant rebe

llions that occurred throughout recorded history, that characterized both criminal and non-criminal activities in Nigeria. But these past rebellions were essentially about economic power, and ethnic liberation. Rebellious groups in collaboration with their various communities seldom questioned the basic sense of personal meaning defined by their culture. What will distinguish many post-crisis spiritual insurgencies is an explicit linkage to the search for meaning. Naturally, as much as poverty or repression, the desire for a more broad-based sense of fulfillment rather than the simpler needs-based motives of past popular uprisings, will drive insurgents.

The above is not totally new. There was usually some spiritual element in traditional revolutions. While most militants and extremist rebellions were inspired by specific local grievances, they “often included millenarian elements, views of the apocalypse, messianic upheavals offering the anticipation of a national purged of wickedness and suffering. . .” Even during the Kaduna crisis, the spiritual content of insurgency was important. Part of the appeal of classical school of thoughts, of the Marxist breed was that it served many of the same psychological functions as religion during a time of widespread secularization in identifying with the clause of religious balance. Successful Marxist revolutionaries from Lenin to Kim Ii Sung created personality cults to provide a framework of personal meaning for their followers. In the future, the spiritual dimension will markedly increase in importance, amplifying an aspect of insurgency that was there all along. At least two psychological factors undergird the relationship of insurgency and the search for meaning. One is the linkage between violence and liberation observed by Fanon.

Participation in political violence is a spiritually liberating event by someone who feels abused, repressed, or alienated by a socio-political system. By viewing themselves as agents of justice struggling against injustice, political violence gives meaning to the lives of its advocates, through political weaponry tactics. For the first time in their lives, revolutionaries find that they are taken seriously by the system. As militants they may live in danger, but at least they are not insignificant, a condition which many find far worse than danger. The second factor deals with tolerance of psychological stimuli. Modernization forces an increase in this. Stimulation becomes like an addictive drug where ever larger amounts are needed to satisfy the individual. Violence can provide such satisfaction. And, unlike street crime, political violence can provide stimulation in a morally uplifting way.

The essence of spiritual insurgency is rejection of a regime and, more broadly, of the social, economic, and political system associated with that regime. In most cases, this system is derived from the National and Transnational model. Insurgents often blame imported fabricated national ideas and practices–borrowed and imperfectly applied by the local elite–for the discontent, misery, and frustration which accompanies modernization. While direct colonialism has ended, theorists of spiritual insurgency see a form of cultural and economic imperialism every bit as insidious and exploitative as the old form. Spiritual insurgents thus use discontent with what they consider the alien Western ideas of their elite to mobilize support, but must offer alternative ideas and practices. Often they look to their nation’s past for these things and to create a more “authentic” model of development based on a fictional or mythical notion of history. The violent and extremist forms of religious tension provide the clearest contemporary example of this sort of rejection of national political culture, but the same phenomenon is occurring throughout local communities. Most ongoing insurgencies have some nativist element, and this is likely to continue and grow.


To this point, I have focused on generalities, on a macro-level paradigm of the ongoing variegation of insurgency. Yet it is obvious that insurgency is characterized by region-specific patterns derived from tradition, history, culture, and economics. The nature of regimes, their security forces, and counterinsurgency strategies also varies from region to region. International relations are also important since the presence or absence of external sponsors can influence an insurgency’s chance of success. So while all regions of the Third World, including Nigeria, and South Africa (known as the African Benchmark) will experience both spiritual and commercial insurgency, the proportions between the two forms will vary as will the strategic challenges posed by each form.

In general, spiritual insurgency will predominate in geopolitical zones composed of states that are heterogeneous in primal identity such as ethnicity, race, tribe, clan, or religion. Spiritual insurgency will be especially common where there are extensive cultural differences or variation in primal identity between the elite and nonelite. Put simply, stark differences between groups help overcome natural constraints on violence by dehumanizing of the enemy. To the extent that differences are based on more than simply wealth and power, violence is easier. Moreover, spiritual insurgency will occur where whatever model of development the elite attempted has clearly failed, thus leading to anomie and a sense of moral and spiritual decline.


By contrast, commercial insurgency will largely be determined by geography. For organized crime to grow to the point that it poses a security threat rather than simply a challenge to law and order, there often is some sort of geographic factor which allows the accumulation of extensive wealth by the criminal organization. Additional preconditions include weak legal and criminal justice systems, security apparatuses which do not consider commercial insurgency a security threat, and a tradition of both organized crime and political violence. The geographic factor may be a climate amenable to the Oil bunkering activities in Niger Delta, or location on a logical route for drugs in the west and part of the east. The geographic factor may also be a location and topography that contributes to nondrug related criminal activity such as smuggling, as was the case of the Asari and MOSOB relationship, which a major percentage of the Amnesty program was maled. The largesse behind the whole campaign for Peace in Niger Delta was an extreme chase of the midnight goose. This geographic limitation, however, is not absolute. Some forms of criminal activity which can support commercial insurgency such as arms trafficking can occur almost anywhere, especially in the electronic age when the need for local communications and banking centers is limited.

Niger Delta and some part of the east part of the country are likely to suffer more from continued and expanded commercial insurgency than from spiritual. With a few exceptions, Niger Delta, East (with its hoards of kidnappers in Abia State, politically fueled), the West (having ethnicity issues and boundary schism) do not have the ethnic, racial, or religious schisms that characterize many other parts of the Third World. Recent positive developments including the emergence of democratic political systems and the resuscitation of the region’s economy after a decade of stagnation have, at least temporarily, ameliorated some of the class conflict that undergirded past insurgency.

The strategic situation in Latin America makes external sponsorship of an insurgency unlikely. In addition, Latin America’s long tradition of revolutionary insurgency forced the region’s militaries to develop extensive counterinsurgency and counterterrorism skills. These will make it difficult for future insurgents to guide their movements through the vulnerable gestation period.

Still, there is at least the potential for the re-emergence of widespread spiritual insurgency in Northern, middle belt and a handful of western part of Nigeria. Population pressures will mount, urbanization will continue to concentrate discontent, and economic stagnation could return, thus increasing discontent and intensifying the search for personal meaning. And, spiritual insurgency is likely to persist in ethnically divided nations such as Nigeria where existing insurgencies are built on the split between WAZOBIA and the acclaimed minorities. Even among non-minority elites, there is a tradition of glorification of Ijaw, Ibibios, Kalabaris, Isokos, Urhobos, Itsekeris, Edos, etc and their varying typing customs and traditions, which provides an ideological foundation for spiritual insurgency.


Commercial insurgency, however, is likely to remain the more persistent problem in Nigeria. In a sense, the region is a victim of geography. Not only does it have the proper climate and topography for the production of crude oil, but it is also located near the European markets and has a web of economic and personal connections with Europe. The geography of regions like South East, South-South, South-West, and North central also makes it difficult for Nigeria to fully control the hinterland regions. This often gives organized crime time to gestate and grow before it is recognized as a security threat. And, in both Niger-Delta and East of Abia recently, the blending of narco-insurgency, traditional rural communist revolution, and, in the north, religiously and ethnically-based spiritual insurgency is a particularly insidious tendency.

The major determinant of the extent of insurgency in Nigeria will be the ability of the governments to sustain the construction of democracy and economic growth, and to control corruption and military involvement in politics. None of these will be easy tasks in a region were democracy and economic growth are precarious and corruption and military involvement in politics–as well as revolution–are long-standing traditions. In addition, the ability of Nigeria to successfully control its demand for Crude Oil and Agriculture will play a major role in determining the extent of insurgency in Nigeria.

My hope therefore is to see that our past glory, which can only now be whispered, is conjured again in the true spirit of federalism.

Yours faithfully,

Carl-Collins O. Oshodi, PhD.

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