BY FRANCIS OKOYE, Maiduguri
Contrary to the arguments of critics, Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima, says there is no irony in the decision of President Buhari’s led government to use one billion US dollars in the ongoing fight against Boko Haram despite decimation of the insurgents.
Shettima, argued that going by best global practices, the best time to strengthen a country’s military is not when it is suffering defeat or weak but rather when it is in position of strength either, by winning a war or when there is even no security challenges facing the military.
The governor, whose state has been at the centre of the Boko Haram crisis, spoke in response to questions by Journalists in Kaduna on Sunday.
They sought his reactions to some critics of President Buhari’s administration who described the approval of one billion dollars to fight Boko Haram as an irony since the federal government has claimed to have decimated the Boko Haram.
Shettima was in Kaduna in his capacity as chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, where he attended the Kaduna (Northern) centenary celebration which held on Saturday.
“First, I think it is really important for us not to play politics with National Security because whatever ambition anyone might have for 2019, first, Nigeria has to be in continued existence before such ambition can make any sense. I was laughing when I read series of attacks on the federal government over that approval of one billion dollars.
“ Some of these statements even said it was an irony for such an amount to be budgeted whereas the federal government has claimed to have decimated the Boko Haram. I think those saying this need to have a better understanding of what National Security entails. The fact that Boko Haram is incapacitated is even the more reason why we should strengthen our military because the best time to make your military strong is when you are in position of strength not when you are weak.
“Let me give you one example. According to the 2017 Global Peace Index which ranked 163 countries according to their levels of safety and peacefulness, Switzerland is ranked amongst the first ten countries that are the safest and most peaceful in the entire world. Switzerland is spending 4.8 billion dollars to strengthen the capacity of its military.
“Mind you, Switzerland has a population of only 8.3 million and they don’t have Boko Haram, they don’t have ethnic militias, they don’t have rural armed bandits, they don’t have cattle rustlers, they don’t have kidnappers, they don’t have militancy and ethno-religious conflicts. Switzerland is not even vulnerable to external aggression of terrorists.
“The crime rate in Switzerland is one of the lowest on earth yet they are spending 4.8 billion dollars to make their military stronger than it already is. Again like I said, with a population that is less than ten million. Imagine our case in Nigeria. Ours is a population of 180 million that is threatened by declining Boko Haram fighters, kidnappers, ethnic militias, armed robbers, piracy on our water ways and what have you.
“Are we going to wait until Boko Haram regroups and begin to attack the military before we strengthen our armed forces? As second example, still from the 2017 Global Peace Index, Denmark is the fifth most peaceful and safest country in the world. Denmark has a population of only five million people but they are spending three billion dollars to strengthen their military.
“The entire country is less than any of our most populated States like Kano and Lagos. Denmark doesn’t have one per cent of our kind of security challenges yet they are spending huge to raise their military. People should know that if we are serious about securing this country, we must invest heavily in not just military hardware but also on intelligence gathering.
“You can’t get credible intelligence unless you spend huge. You guys are Journalists, how much do your organisations spend in news gathering for special reports or investigative stories. Gathering information is expensive. I know what it entails for information to be gathered before one single successful operation against a group of Boko Haram is carried out.
“I think those people saying all sorts of things should please not play politics with the security of this country. The NEC that approved that fund had Governors from different political parties. As responsible leaders, Governors know what security entail because every Governor deals with one or more security issues. Before you hear of one security incident, many might have been averted through proactive intelligence gathering and actions and these cost money.
“The President Buhari we all know will not preside over a situation where moneys meant for arms will be shared or misappropriated by anyone for whatever reason. President Buhari has proved to be more than sincere in all his efforts so far, in fighting Boko Haram. I am on ground. If President Buhari doesn’t show commitment, I will be the first to tell Nigerians because I will never keep quiet and allow the people of Borno to be dying in my silence.
“The lives of Borno people and indeed the lives of every Nigerian is beyond APC, PDP and all political parties put together. So, please whatever our interest are, we should stay clear of National Security. If you guys recall when the media accused the military under Jonathan of supporting Boko Haram, I came out heavily to defend the military.
“I hate to see issues of National Security being dragged into politics. Nigeria is ours and we all have obligations to ensure its continued existence,” Shettima said.