Defence Chief: Is Deception A Methodology? By Emmanuel Onwubiko

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Emmanuel Onwubiko

Nigeria has the misfortune of always having in place, top Generals in the military holding commanding positions but who are often media celebrities, rather than endeavouring to become tough with terrorists, hard working and successful warriors.

The Current chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Gwobin Musa, is not an exception, except that he has surpassed all others before him in such a way that he has made it daily to the front pages of the newspapers and have made dozens of appearances on prime time television interviews, explaining why terrorists aren’t defeated yet.

He has blamed judges for granting terrorists bail. He has blamed the political authority for not establishing good governance and he has bemoaned what he calls inadequate finances to the military institutions.  But has done nothing innovative and significant to demonstrate any kind of passion, resilience, capacity and will-power to crush terrorists.

Ordinarily, the duty of the defence chief is such that should not give the occupier that latitude to constantly be a guest of one media house or the other, speaking from both sides of his mouth in such a way that a message may be given out to the audience to suspect that deception is the methodology of the military institutions.

The duty of a military General holding the nation’s highest position, is that of a very quiet but resilient, hard working and a thoroughbred but silent professional soldier. A military General does the work and let his successes speak for him.

But whilst the defence chief and all other service chiefs, including the Director General of Department of State Services, Inspector General of Police and all others, in such sensitive defence related jobs are busy talking in the media, crimes and criminality, terrorism, insurgency and kidnappings, have virtually become big daily national security threats.

Every now and then, in different parts of Nigeria, citizens get kidnapped, taken away into the deep forest by kidnappers, and for many days the entire security architectures in Nigeria will prove so incompetent and incapable of crushing these kidnappers, bandits terrorists or armed Fulani herders, to rescue the victims.

Ironically, both soldiers and the police have also shamefully become victims of kidnappings routinely.

Kidnappers have virtually become uncontrollable but the defence chief, alongside the service chiefs, are overwhelmed and have opted to be talking always in the media to deceive their commander-in-chief to believe that they are working hard.

Eye service has become their stock in trade.

I will mention just a few cases of daring kidnappings, just so I expatiate.

I will start with a case of kidnapping that just took place just few kilometres away from the hometown of the chief of defence staff.

The story from dependable sources goes that Mrs. Grace P. Mallam, was kidnapped at her residence in Mararaban Rido, Chikun local government area of Kaduna State at about midnight with her niece.

This was on December 2nd 2023. The family of these victims have paid out over N3 million ransom demanded and even purchased three motorised bikes for the kidnappers. But close to a month, these women are still with the kidnappers because the kidnappers have kept making different demands.

These kidnappers also killed the brother of one of the two victims because he attempted to fight the kidnappers to stop them from succeeding in taking these women with them. The kidnappers have opened channels of conversations on telephone through which payments have been made.

Ironically, even when the police and the Army were told about this, the security agents have not rescued the victims and have rather asked the family members who reported the crime to fully play along with the kidnappers so they can get their sisters released. So, what becomes of the drones the police took so much money from the public till to buy? Why is the Army incapable of staging rescue operations?

What is shocking about this case is that, the family of these two women have two officers who are both colonels in the Nigerian Army.

They too, confessed that they are helpless. Yet, the chief of defence staff is often seen talking endlessly in the media rather than focus on his job to implement result oriented strategies to beat these kidnappers and terrorists in their tracks.

A Divisional Police Officer attached to the Delta State Police Command has been reportedly kidnapped by armed men along the Benin-Asaba-Onitsha Expressway near Asaba, the state capital.

The DPO, who sources simply identified as Mbanu and was said to be heading one of the divisions of the Asaba area command, was abducted while returning to the state capital from Agbor in Ika South Local Government Area of the state on Sunday.

A dependable source within the state police command, who confirmed the abduction to our correspondent on Monday, said a five-man armed gang carried out the abduction and his whereabouts remained unknown.

Sources within the command gave the rank of the abducted senior police officer as a superintendent of police.

“I can’t give you the name of the kidnapped officer but the abduction took place on Sunday along the Agbor-Asaba axis of the highway. He is a DPO under the Asaba Police Area Command of the Delta State Police Command.

“The gunmen didn’t know that he was a senior police officer at the time he was waylaid and kidnapped by arms-wielding men numbering five. The command has been holding meetings since morning on how to rescue the officer and we were warned not to disclose his abduction to pressmen.

“We learnt that the kidnappers have contacted the family but I don’t know how much the ransom is. The command is trying to keep the incident under wraps pending ongoing operation to free the victim,” one of the sources told our correspondent.

Another officer said, “The life of the officer is in danger. If the gunmen get to know that he is our colleague, they will kill him. Secondly, the matter is being shrouded from the public; it does not speak well for the image of the Nigeria Police Force.”

When contacted, the state Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Andrew Aniamaka, said, “I have no confirmation on this information.”

Then comes the most annoying case of kidnapping.  The Students of the Federal University of Lafia in Nasarawa State have cried out over the serial kidnappings they have been experiencing in the Gandu community close to the institution which accommodates over 6,000 students including the local residents.

It was reported recently that no fewer than 12 students of the university had so far been kidnapped for ransom by the gunmen who usually carry out their nefarious activities unhindered.

These serial kidnappings prompted the students numbering over 500 to embark on a peaceful protest, demanding an end to the dastardly act.

The students who carried placards with several inscriptions such as “Our lives are in peril,” “Daily kidnappings torment us,” and “We need security”, occupied the federal road in Lafia for several hours until a detachment of security agencies dispersed them using tear gas.

One of the victims of a recent kidnap in the Gandu community who is a student of the institution, while pleading anonymity, said he had been traumatised and scared since the incident occurred because he had never imagined that he would be a kidnapped victim in his lifetime.

He said, “On the day that I was kidnapped, we were all in our lodge in Gandu when about 10 men came in with cutlasses and ordered us out of our rooms. We obeyed them because they had weapons. They seized our belongings that night and later took me and some others away.

“But luckily, I was able to escape that night when they were taking us to an unknown destination. The others were later released when their families paid ransom to the kidnappers.

“I am of the opinion that the police should collaborate with the military and other security agencies to tackle these issues of insecurity in communities around the university. We are now living in fear because we do not know who the next victim will be. We are appealing to the government to help us out of the situatiA final-year student of the University who simply identified himself as Emmanuel said that he recently relocated from the community to the Lafia city centre for fear of being kidnapped by the bandits.

According to him, “Since the beginning of this year, kidnapping has become routine within the students’ environment. Sleep has eluded us, and despite the promises from the governor that a security outpost would be mounted, nothing has been done.

“Some of us are from poor homes. Our parents do menial jobs to ensure that we are educated so that we can also be relevant in society.

“I am calling on the authorities to act swiftly. Our (students) lives now hang in the balance. Our plea is that the government should ensure our safety so that we can have a relaxed mind to study without being scared,” he pleaded.

Speaking on the development, the Students Union Government President of the University, Comrade Ibrahim Ogabo Ismaila, emphasised the need for concrete action to be taken by the government to forestall future occurrences.

He urged the security agencies to develop new strategies towards nipping the situation in the bud instead of waiting until the students are kidnapped before taking action.

“The security operatives should focus on blocking key access routes to the Gandu community. Securing these few roads would greatly help in tackling the issue of insecurity in the area,” he advocated.

On his part, the community’s District Head, Abdullahi Mohammed, expressed deep concern over the worsening insecurity in the area.

Therefore, he called on the state government to urgently intervene in the matter through the establishment of a police post and the deployment of military personnel to the community.

Meanwhile, the Institution’s Information Officer, Ibrahim Abubakar, while expressing deep sadness over the security situation in the Gandu community and other students’ residential areas, reiterated the unwavering commitment of the university’s management towards ensuring the safety and well-being of the students.

He revealed that the school’s management was making arrangements to enter into a Public-Private Partnership for the construction of additional hostels within the school premises to proffer solutions to the security risks that the students are facing.

“We have already established a dedicated vigilante team which would be collaborating with the regular security agencies to ensure a secure environment for all students,” he added. The police has failed to be proactive or even effectively reactive to tackle this increasing trend of armed kidnappings.

Then comes a report that in a chilling repetition of an alarming trend, the recent abduction of over 23 residents in Dei-Dei town, situated off the Kubwa-Zuba Road in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), has reignited concerns about the escalating wave of mass kidnappings in Abuja.

This unfortunate incident unfolded in three housing estates in the area, bringing to the fore the disconcerting reality that kidnappings, often orchestrated by individuals donning military uniforms, persist despite official denials from the police.

The details of this incident, reported with vivid clarity, underscore the urgency of addressing the pervasive insecurity that has gripped the nation’s capital. These cases of kidnappings have been debated in the National Assembly but the chief of defence staff,  the National Security Adviser, the service chiefs, have no coordinated response to crush these kidnappers and deliver swift justice on them. However, the military chiefs are often in the media often seen talking endlessly about why they have no effective leadership to conquer these terrorists and kidnappers. The Defence chief has even gone a step further to shift blame to politicians for failing to deliver good governance which precipitate kidnappings and security issues.

The Defence chief, said military solution to terrorism is 30 percent while good governance, equity, fairness and justice make up 70percent.

“We urge our political leaders to do the right thing. Anywhere you find good governance, it reduces insecurity. Our present challenges in Nigeria are man-made. We in the military are not magicians.”

He noted that any officer found wanting after investigation of the Kaduna bombing of civilians would be severely punished.

According to him, “I always mention that wherever we operated we have standing court martials. The court martial is not to scare anybody, but to tell you that if you are, you would be held accountable, if you committed no offence, you don’t have anything to fear. We want to always complement our troops when they do well so that we can also encourage them to do more.”

The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), has another blame game coming.

General Christopher Musa, seemed to be locating the reason for poor performance to poor remuneration when he revealed that military personnel are paid N50,000 as monthly salary while he and other officers, regardless of rank, are paid N1,200 daily as operation allowance.

“The issue of cash allowance where we feed, any time we are on operations, I as a General, I am being paid N1,200 per day with my soldiers. From the first general to the last soldier, it is the same amount; that is what we manage.

“My soldiers collect less than N50,000 as salary in a month. We all know the situation on the ground; my appeal is for them to have a salary that is worthy of the work they are doing; we deserve to have that so that it can encourage them to want to do more,” he said.

The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Christopher Gwobin Musa has also been all over the media seeking to explain why the Army accidentally bombed over 100 villagers to death. He asked Nigerians to stop been critical or else they will not be motivated to win the war on terror.

The Nigerian Army says Nigerians will not have a country to live in if the soldiers, who have recently come under intense public criticism over intermittent accidental airstrikes killing innocent citizens, are withdrawn from their locations of operation. Nigeria’s chief of defence staff, Christopher Musa, asserted.

The General stated this in an interview with Channels TV on Tuesday, insisting that Nigerians should be wary about their comments not to demoralise troops over the recent mistaken bombing of at least 126 civilians celebrating Maulud at Tundun Biri, in Igabi LGA in Kaduna.

Honestly, this isn’t how to defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria. Nothing is ever achieved by been deceptive and garrulous.

Some experts who wrote about the use of deception by public administrators, stated metaphorically, that dishonesty in politics is important because it poses a threat to electoral accountability.

Citizens who can detect political lies are more safeguarded against attempted manipulation by elected officials. This in turn incentivizes politicians to avoid disseminating blatantly false information, lest they be punished by the electorate in the future. On the other hand, if the public largely fails to detect politicians’ mendacity, this poses challenges to the free and fair dissemination of ideas—and debate thereof—that comprise political discourse. Politicians who can convince a large swath of the public to believe their lies would have outsized impact in the shaping of public opinion.

There is some evidence that voters have developed the ability to root out politicians’ lies. Woon (2017) finds that citizens can detect the truth from transcripts of political speeches. Rossini (2010) tested people’s ability to correctly identify political truth from politicians’ facial expressions and voices, rather than the content of the political speeches themselves. However, the political science literature about detecting deception is predominantly focused on fact-checking, which is the adjudication of political statements by mass media outlets such as Politifact.com and the Washington Post. These studies examine whether fact-checks can ultimately change public opinion, and under which conditions they are most effective (e.g., Berinsky, 2017; Capella & Jamieson 1997; Fridkin et al., 2015).

In this study, we conduct an experiment in which participants attempt to uncover dishonesty by watching videos of politicians who might be lying. Our research contributes to the literature on political deception in two ways. First, we draw upon the extant psychology literature on deception detection, examining fourteen specific cues across four categories (verbal, nonverbal, paraverbal, and general demeanor) that voters are most likely to draw upon when considering the veracity of political statements. To our knowledge, no previous study has systematically examined such a broad range of cues. We find that verbal cues (specifically, the amount of detail in the speech) and general demeanor cues explain the success (and failure, respectively) of veracity judgments far better than paraverbal and nonverbal cues. Second, we examine whether truth bias—that people are more likely to judge statements to be true than false—exists in a political setting, where voters may be more skeptical. We find evidence of a truth bias but also that gender plays a deterministic role for veracity judgments in political context; female politicians are more likely than their male counterparts to be judged as honest. Let the chief of defence staff realise that they can deceive some persons some of the times, but certainly, they can’t deceive all of the people all of the time.

I honestly wish that these service chiefs are succeeding in defeating terrorists.  But it is ironic that the chief of defence staff embraces media publicity like a typical social celebrity,  rather than working from the background,  to formulate, implement and provide strategic leadership so the war on terror is won, not in the media, but in the actual battlefields.

Emmanuel Onwubiko is the head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) And was NATIONAL COMMISSIONER OF THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA. 

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