Mercenaries, otherwise known as soldiers of fortune or hired guns, are the second oldest profession, rudely beaten to the second position by prostitution, unarguably the world’s oldest profession. Mercenaries and prostitutes, provide essential services of different kinds, and at what some uninitiated might consider outrageous professional fees. The beauty of their operation is the similar operating principles; the mercenaries fight without regard to any political interests, same with the prostitutes, who have perfected the act of not asking their esteemed clients any question(s), as to why they want their services.
Nigeria has had a mutually beneficial relationship with mercenaries of all shades and colours, dating back to the Nigerian civil war. Nigeria and the Biafrians both relied heavily on foreign mercenaries in a war that from the outset was an unequal contest. The Biafrians managed to prolong the war through the exploits of the 4th Commando Brigade, commanded by the mercenaries.
So, the enlistment of mercenaries is nothing new in Nigerian affairs. And it must be stated from the very outset, that there is no law, absolutely none, outlawing the use of their services. In a sense, using them is nothing more than asking for the sincere assistance of friends, be they French, Czech, Russian, South African, especially when, in this instance, Nigeria lacks the capacity in terms of men, arms and logistic challenges to deal with her security challenges.
The proposal by the North-west governors is not entirely new. Professor Babagana Zulum, Borno state Governor, had at various times, but more specifically on March 3, 2022, at the North-East Governors Forum, vigorously pushed for the engagement of foreign mercenaries in the war against the terrorists. Interestingly, Zulum’s call was never challenged by Reverend Joseph Hayab, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) card carrying Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Kaduna State Chapter and Barrister Mike Ozekhome, due to an appalling lack of standard.
The prognosis of the situation by the frontline North-west governors is not radically different from that of Zulum, so it’s not surprising they came to the same conclusion. It must be vehemently stated that the hiring of the mercenaries by the governors is all about saving the lives of their people. It’s similar to the security challenges of 2016, which forced the North-west governors to fund the military campaign, which the federal government only recently refunded each state the N100 million it spent.
In 2014, the Goodluck Jonathan administration, at the height of the dreaded Boko Haram insurgency, engaged the services of the mercenaries, without hues and cries from the likes of Joseph Hayab, and Mike Ozekhome. Just in the event Hayab and Ozekhome have suddenly developed amnesia, it’s important to remind them that Eeben Barlow, a mercenary and founder of Specialised Tasks, Equipment and Protection (STTEP), extensively worked for Jonathan prior to the 2014 elections. It’s also an undisputed fact that the 2014 elections were postponed for six weeks, to enable the mercenaries sufficiently degrade the insurgents, an objective that was substantially accomplished.
Hayab, who claimed to have paid over N500 million in ransome for kidnapped victims (don’t ask me the source), for clearly political reasons is stiffly opposed to the hiring of mercenaries by the North-west governors, who have their backs to the wall, and are naturally open to every option. The problem is that Hayab, erroneously, believes that hiring the mercenaries is an initiative of Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state, his nemesis, hence his unprincipled opposition. The other plausible reason, is because it will deprive him of a “relevance”, built on “fighting” for Christians. Lastly, because Hayab can’t imagine being denied the use of “insecurity”, to continue to hammer El-Rufai, his punching bag.
In war situations, despite the horrors, there are all kinds of interests that hardly want it to end, including some elements within the military. There are moles within the military as confirmed by report into the funding of Boko Haram. This innate greed that blinds man, the effect of war on the people, is the theme explored by Sergio Leone in The Good, The Bad and Ugly.
El- Rufai was very specific, that it’s a North-west governors’ initiative and that the option will only be triggered if the federal government doesn’t take urgent steps to address the security challenges. Predictably, Hayab and Ozekhome were quick to reject the option without putting forward any suggestion. For Hayab, expectedly, it’s call for more prayers, forgetting that Jesus Christ discouraged prayer without work. While Ozekhome engaged in legal gymnastics, whichhat cannot in anyway help solve the problem.
It’s important that Nigerians know that for pure mischief, Hayab will continue to vigorously peddle the convenient falsehood that El-Rufai “compensated some herdsmen”, to advance his narrow political objectives. But as a top official in the late Governor Patrick I. Yakowa and Ramallan Yero administrations, Hayab certainly knows that the compensation, which El-Rufai paid, was for victims of the 2011 election violence, which Yero paid the likes of former vice president Namadi Sambo, Yusuf Hamisu Abubakar and some key supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), while the poor people were as usual abandoned until El-Rufai administration paid everyone that was affected.
Hayab and Ozekhome’s position on the mercenary issue not only stands logic on its head, but are also absurd and laughable. Are they denying the existential threat posed to the country by the terrorists? Isn’t the deteriorating security situation cogent reasons for the governors to take action, to protect the lives and property of their people?
Despite concentrating their attacks on Kaduna state, the disturbing fact is that the seven states of the North-west and Niger state, in North-central zone, are all facing serious security challenges, the difference being in the varying degree. For instance, because Jigawa state doesn’t have any forest, cattle rustling and kidnapping aren’t as high as in Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina, and Niger states, which share a forest range, that stretches from Niger state up to Niger Republic. So these five North-west states, including Niger state, are badly affected.
Hayab, in rejecting the mercenaries option, without doub, is impaled by his own manic delusion of importance, which the El-Rufai administration has denied him. On terrorism , Jonathan Ishaku, an authority on Terrorism and Counter Terrorism, is a more credible voice than Hayab and the rambling Ozekhome. Ishaku’s verdict based on fact iis that mercenaries have been of immense help all over the continent and it’s an option worth considering.
The North-west governors should move forward with speed to hire the mercenaries, so the terrorists, who are becoming more brazen by the day, can be decimated with loud reverberation around the world that other terrorists will avoid.
Musa writes from Kaduna.
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