The following is the second half of an interview with Air Vice Marshal Bala Danbaba, Plateau State Coordinator for Operation Rainbow. Click here to read the first half.
TMV: In view of the protracted crises the state has experienced, what proactive measures will Operation Rainbow adopt to forestall future reoccurrences?
Marshal Danbaba: That is why I have told you emphasis is on intelligence gathering. We are putting in place a very robust intelligence network. Of course, if you get to know the crisis on time you will be able to stop it before it even starts and then escalates to something nasty so, the important thing is let us know what’s happening. So you must be ahead. Pragmatic steps must be taken so that you will nip it quickly.
TMV: I was asking about the degree of preparations of O.R for the daunting task ahead however, you have said so much concerning that and …
Marshal Danbaba: (Interjects) We are already working. Rainbow is operational only in the physical aspect—even the physical aspect you have seen the deployment, but it is not fully. We will be fully deployed, fully operational if we deploy to all the other parts of the state. Right now we are concentrating on Jos North and Jos South until we get all the elements in place. We cannot cover the entire state so we are doing it in stages. But in the political aspect and the economic aspect we have started the process, even the social aspect. Sensitizing the public on the need for peace, for example, is one of the things we have put in place. Arranging seminars and workshops for key political office holders is one of the objectives so that they know the need for co-existence. The need for good policies of government, the need for good economic policies—these are some of our objectives—to make sure that the youths are fully empowered to be on their own, to have something to do because that is where the problem is. A lot of poverty is within the society. How do you reduce poverty? It’s through employment. You must create avenues for people to be gainfully employed. If you don’t do that then you are just sitting on a keg of gunpowder. So you must make government understand why there must be jobs, why there must be quality because those are the areas that will fit other critical areas. If you emphasize some critical areas it will have ripple effects on parts of the society.
TMV: Some more rumours have it that the recruitment into O.R has been politicized because politicians seem to have hijacked it, hence the publics’ loss of confidence in the exercise.
Marshal Danbaba: If you had it all correct. I am not a politician and it was done professionally. It is not a political outfit, it’s a security outfit and if you want the best from your security outfit you must do it professionally because in every community we have people from different political parties, even within your family you have different backgrounds. The person you might like might not be whom your wife might like. That doesn’t mean that we you cannot live together, so it is not correct to say that preference was given to anybody. What we did was to go round all the local governments. We advertised it on the radio and the television we told them the dates we are going to go round, interested members should come out and forms were issued to everybody that came out. Maybe what will disqualify you will be the medicals. We are going to sample them through medicals, not too rigourous but rigourous enough to say yes this man can undergo some basic training. So if you are screened medically, that is not political. There’s nothing political about it at all!
TMV: Recently, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof. Shedrach Best in a six-page postulation berated what he termed the “Federalist approach to security arrangement in the state”. He further advocated for a state police. Do you subscribe to that?
Marshal Danbaba: You see, it is the approach even as it is if you remain professional you will be effective. The key word is having a professional outfit that will serve the people and that will protect the people. That is the point. You can have a state police that will be politicized, unprofessional and at the end of the day it will not help the system. You can have a federal system highly professional that can serve the people. The most important thing even if you want to run a state police is it must be professionally done. Security issues must not be blemished with emotions. It must be professionally done and must be seen professionally. No emotions when it comes to security issues. So it is not the system, but caliber of people, caliber of leadership of the security outfit that matters. Once that is compromised, if you like change the name to whatever—you will not get the service that you desire. So mark my words, you must have professionals to head the security agencies.
TMV: At the recently concluded five-day retreat for top government functionaries at the Obudu Cattle Ranch, Cross River state, among many other things, the state governor, Jonah Jang said, “The military is saying that O.R can not cope with the security challenges”. What’s your take on that sir?
Marshal Danbaba: The governor said that?
TMV: Yes sir, he obviously was quoting the military, it was on some national dailies.
Marshal Danbaba: That will be incorrect because if the Task Force can cope, O.R. can even cope better because of the composition. Like I told you, it’s the same members of the armed forces that will form the bulk of the elements in addition to that we have brought in the paramilitary. Yes, so the equipment— even if that’s what we are talking of those coming from the Rukuba barracks, they will have virtually the same equipment. So once you have the logistics that you want, that you need to meet the security challenges, there’s nothing that they can not tackle. It’s the same members of the armed forces that will be there. There’s no special training that the Task Force have done that those in Rukuba barracks have not gone through, it’s the same internal security exercises that they have been participating in. They are talking as if those from Rainbow are coming from another country. No, they are going to be picked from the same armed forces like I told additionally we are having the paramilitary because it is not everything that you will send the army for to go and tackle. If the women are going on riot or demonstration, Civil Defense will go in, police will be there, or for students demonstrating you don’t send soldiers, you send police. You have Civil Defense, but sending the soldiers depends on the threat at any particular time. If they say there are people attacking with guns somewhere, you don’t have to send in Civil Defense. So the threat will determine who you send there at any particular time. So it is not correct for anybody to think that Rainbow, with the composition that have been approved, cannot handle it.
TMV: Still, at that retreat, Governor Jang further called for the withdrawal of soldiers from the state, citing that “The armed forces have started taking sides in religious crises.” Do you thing the withdrawal of the soldiers of the Task Force is healthy for the state?
Marshal Danbaba: In every profession there are bad eggs. Every profession! And there are few bad eggs here and there, but that doesn’t mean that the whole armed forces is bad, I don’t think that is a true picture. Like I said, in every profession we have some bad eggs. What probably [Governor Hang] was saying was that, okay, these people might have stayed long, let them go, and of course, the ones that have been proposed to come in from the barracks might replace them, but I don’t think he is saying that the armed forces should not, can not perform at all, no! I don’t think that was the picture he was trying to paint.
TMV: The Bokom Haram scourge seemed to be defying solutions in some North Eastern states, Borno to be precise, what other measures do you think government can adopt to put an end to the menace?
Marshal Danabab: The government must come with a very robust intelligence network and be very adaptive to the changing tactics of the insurgents. You must be ahead of them so that you can counter whatever moves they intend to take and good intelligence. The tendency is that you will get to know their next moves, where they are, their tactics and other things. So the first thing is adequate training of the operators. You must train, train, train and be ahead of them. Number two is you should be very adaptive, which should be part of the training. To adapt which is like a mouse game and it is the guy who is proactive who is ahead in terms of tactics—in terms of orientation that will carry the day. You must have some logistics to be able to properly do justice to the service. And it is not just force. There are those that are at the borderline, those can easily be taken out and then of course you sieve them from the extremists.
TMV: Finally, do you think it is a wise decision that the federal government has elected to openly negotiate with Boko Haram in view of some of their staunch demands? Such as suspension of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, dissolution of the present system of government, establishment of Islamic government and states and adoption of shariah legal system in every part of the federation?
Marshal Danbaba: That is left to the federal government, both the executive and legislators to decide whether the demands are what the country should take. You have an issue where somebody is making those demands, now it is left to the federal, the legislators to now say this is where we want it to move. Those are constitutional issues, serious constitutional issues raised and it is only the executive and the legislators— the lawmakers that will take far-reaching decisions on those issues. Are those demands the country can take? If not what do we do? Those are not simple issues. They are very serious questions raised that require some serious thinking.