By Olowogboyega Oyebade
Are you aware that 1st January, 2020 was celebrated as a day of peace and sharing? Do you know that the celebration was aimed to unite and spread message of peace by promoting an idea that Earth is a one global family so as to make world a better place to live for everyone? Do you know that Pope Francis’ speech of1st January, 2020 underscored the need for peace? Do you know that Nigeria or the world cannot afford another war? The voice of Pope Francis cuts in: “For the year 2020, peace is a journey of hope ,a journey in which progress is made through dialogue, reconciliation and ecological conversion.”
Are you aware that the Yoruba States Joint Police Force to protect the region from kidnapping and other forms of ‘Tawari-like’ crime is set to take off? Do you wonder what a ‘Tawari-like’ crime is all about? Have you heard the news? Have you heard of the mass killings in Tawari, a community in Kogi Local Government Area of Kogi State in the early hours of Friday last week by unknown gunmen? Do you know that the killing spree was confirmed by the Commissioner of Police, Kogi State Command, CP Ede Ayuba Ekpeji? Do you know that 23 persons were feared dead as suspected militia invaded the community to terminate their lives? Do you know that the right to life is fast taking a sudden flight from our world? Do you know that the State Governor has directed security agencies to swing into action and ensure that those who carried out the dastardly act face the law? Do you know that these are common challenges of our time that we must innovate to arrest?
Are you aware that the Yoruba States Joint Police Force is proposed to insulate the region against these senseless killings of innocent lives? Do you know that the force is code-named ‘Amotekun‘? Are you aware that the security outfit was conceived in July 2019 at the height of serious security challenges in the region as could be seen in Osun, Ekiti and Ondo States? Do you remember the two security summits organized by Mr Adegboyega Oyetola, the Governor of the State of Osun to mobilise the populace against terror attacks that wanted to berth in the mining corridors of the State? Do you know that his pro-activeness proved very timely and effective? Do you know that the DAWN Commission has leveraged on this initiative and such other progressive ideas of other brother-Governors in the region to put on a giant security architecture that is compatible with the geography of the region?
Do you know that ‘Operation Amotekun‘ will be a two-layer operation…one at the central level and another at the local level? Are you aware that one hundred and twenty vehicles will be deployed for the central operation with the headquarters in OlajokunPark along Ibadan/Ile-Ife Highway, Gbongan in the State of Osun, ? Are you aware that each of the six States of Oyo, Osun, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti and Lagos provided well-kitted security vehicles for the outfit? Do you know that the personnel of the outfit will be drawn from our reserve of local hunters, vigilance groups, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and the valiant Oodua Peoples Congress? Do you know that the police component will be headed by an Assistant Commissioner of Police? Are you aware that the outfit will be managed by a regional committee that will have membership from each of the States in the region and the Office of the committee is sited in Ibadan, the regional capital? Do you know that the outfit will take off soon to put 2020 security deterrence in good perspective?
Are you aware that year 2020 is strategic to issues of security to the world? Have you read through major messages of leaders? Do you know that year 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, a body created in 1945? Are you aware that humanity narrowly escaped total extinction in the previous two World Wars that took place between 1914-1918 and 1939-1945? Do you know that the 75thanniversary of the founding of the UN affords the organisation the opportunity to launch a Decade of Action for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a “blueprint for a fair globalization”?
Have you read the 2020 new year message of the UN Secretary-General António Guterres noting that the world is in turmoil and that the youth are its ‘greatest source’ of hope? Do you know that the world body declared that young people are “rightly demanding a role in shaping the future” free of war and the making of emergency heroes? The voice of the UN Secretary-General cuts in:
“From climate action to gender equality to social justice and human rights, your generation is on the front-lines and in the headlines. I am inspired by your passion and determination..rightly demanding a role in shaping the future. I am with you. The United Nations stands with you – and belongs to you. This year, the world needs young people to keep speaking out, thinking big, pushing boundaries and keeping up the pressure for peace and happiness in 2020”.
Have you been part of the celebration of the Armed Forces and Remembrance Day? Do you know that the seriousness in celebrating it defines all we do to other things in the year and how well we are committed to peace? Have you wondered aloud the fleeting life of a soldier and how he plays pawn in larger political games resulting into war and death? Do you know that whatever the fate of a soldier or any security operative, the ultimate liability of a bad fate is carried by his widow and orphans, particularly in the developing economies? Do you know that Gen. Qassim Suleimani of Iran is dead as he fell to the U.S. Airstrike? Do you wonder about the anguish lurking up in the heart of his wife and children? Do you know that this is the nature of the unpredictable life of a soldier? Who was this soldier? You care to know more? Come along.
Do you know that In Iran, General Suleimani was a respected military/political figure and was close to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei? Do you know that to many Iranians, he was a war hero afterbecoming a commander while he was only in his 20s during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s? Are you aware that General Suleimani led 20 years of spying and proxy warfare with excellence? Do you know until his death, he was the leader of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a regiment that leads Iran’s operations abroad? Do you know that at 62 years of age, he was the country’s top security and intelligence commander and was behind nearly all military and intelligence operations orchestrated by Iran in the past two decades and directed Iran-backed militias in the fight against the Islamic State? Do you know that the drone-strike on Friday 3rd January, 2020 that killed him was the latest escalation between the two nations after a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base, believed to have been carried out by an Iran-backed militia, killed an American contractor on 27th December, 2019? Do you know that the United States propelled by Trump’s ambition, hit back with air-strikes on an Iranian-backed militia that killed 24 and prompted outrage among some who saw that attack as a violation of Iraqi sovereignty?
Following that aggression, are you aware that pro-Iranian demonstrators broke into the United States Embassy compound on Tuesday 31st December, 2019, a seeming diplomatic breach, a veneer that prompted Mr. Trump to order roughly 750 additional American troops to be deployed to the region? Are you aware that the General’s prominent role meant that his death could have a ripple effect in any number of countries across the Middle East where Iran and the United States compete for influence and possibly beyond? Do you know that like Boy Scout, Nigeria has to prepare in terms of security to vital installations? Do you know that the State Department urged American citizens to leave Iraq immediately following the strike that killed General Suleimani in Baghdad, citing “heightened tensions”?
Can you believe that Iraq’s Parliament held an emergency session over the weekend to address the air-strike, which Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi called “a brazen violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and a blatant attack on the nation’s dignity”? By this development, is it not right to ask: in whose interest is the United States acting in the region? Do you know that the strike, regarded by analysts as perhaps the riskiest American move in the Middle East since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, threatened to inflame hostilities across the region and the world? Do you know that this air-strike dramatically hightened up tensions between Washington and Tehran, and Iran’s leaders quickly promised retaliation for the General’s killing, meaning that many more people will die and more heroes to be created for Remembrance Day next year?
Do you know that the Pentagon has readied 4,000 troops for a similar security mission to Kuwait for deterrence, joining 750 troops already deployed as an appropriate and precautionary action in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities? Are you aware that Iran’s United Nations ambassador, Majid Takht Ravanchi, called the killing of Gen. Suleimani “an act of war,” and vowed that it would be met with “a harsh revenge”? Do you know that when the ambassador was asked if Iran would act militarily, Mr. Takht Ravanchi said: “That’s for the future to witness.” Do you know that Tehran’s most likely target may be the American private sector, telecom companies related to America, infrastructure systems and more than 200 oil, gas and heavy machinery companies around the world? As we are celebrating the Armed Forces and Remembrance Day, do you know that we have to be prepared too in Nigeria not to be kept napping in any eventual cross-fire? Do you know that our valiant men in the security agencies must be put on red alerts to ward of any religious extremism on the issue?
Do you know that the cross-fire may be cyber-related? Are you aware that since 2010 when an Iranian nuclear facility was the target of a joint American-Israeli cyber-attack, Iran embraced such attacks as part of its strategy of asymmetrical warfare? Do you know that its specialized teams in the Revolutionary Guard have learned how much destruction they could cause to vulnerable systems in various jurisdictions harbouringAmerican interests? Do you know that cyber-security experts tracked Iranian hackers and confirmed that they had significantly advanced their capabilities beyond wiping data to sophisticated attacks on financial networks, internet infrastructure, energy companies — and, even more disconcerting, sites like the Bowman Dam and the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory in the United States? Do you know that as the conflict with the U.S. continues, Iran may engage to test how far they can get into company networks, universities, federal networks and smaller government networks in towns and cities and countries where American interests are domiciled?
Do you know that all these escalations of hostility might be connected remotely to the coming 2020 Presidential Election in the United States? Can you now see why we have to value and celebrate every security operative lost in battle to bring peace to our country and communities? Do you know that they all volunteered to die even for issues they know nothing about? The statement of Trump, speaking to reporters from his resort in West Palm Beach, .interludes: “Suleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him. We took action last night to stop a war, we did not take action to start a war. If Americans anywhere are threatened, we have all of those targets already fully identified, and I am ready and prepared to take whatever action is necessary.”
Do you know that his death is a considerable blow and has spurred mass displays of public mourning by Iran and its network of allies across the Middle East? Do you know that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for retaliation and for three days of national mourning? The statement of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cuts in: “His departure to God does not end his path or his mission, but a forceful revenge awaits the criminals who have his blood and the blood of the other martyrs last night on their hands.”
Are you aware that as tensions escalated, U.S. stocks fell on Friday last week? Do you know that Brent crude spiked as much as 4%, gold hit a four-month high, and the dollar fell to its lowest level in nine weeks due to this calamitous drone-strike? Do you know that the price of Brent oil surged in the early hours of Hong Kong trading to nearly $70 a barrel — an increase of $3? Do you know that this immediate increase in the price of oil was among the largest since an attack on a critical Saudi oil installation on 14th September, 2019 that temporarily knocked out 5 percent of the world’s oil supply? Do you know that the little gain Nigeria will make in oil revenue during this crisis may fizzle out to pay subsidy on imported petroleum products as we depend on such imports to survive as a nation? Do you know that our failure to fix our refineries is fatal to any chance of cashing in on the present crisis to make huge gains from our oil? The voice of António Guterres, the United Nations’ Secretary General, while expressing deep concern over the recent rise in tensions in the Middle East, via spokesman, Farhan Haq, cuts in: “The world cannot afford another war in the Gulf. This is a moment in which leaders must exercise maximum restraint.”
Do you know that the killing of General Suleiman might probably end any prospect of negotiations to save the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the landmark nuclear agreement Iran signed in 2015 with the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany? Do you know that this drone attack was the height of the furore between the United States and Iran which began with the 2018 decision by President Trump to withdraw from the well-packaged nucleardeal widwifed by the Obama administration? Apart from the walking away from the nuclear deal by the United States as the cause of this blue murder, Do you know that the United States had been pursuing General Soleimani for decades as he was perceived to be the face of Iran’s military interventions overseas and what the U.S. government described as the country’s “malign activity,” including training and deploying proxy fighters and supporting Bashar Assad in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, and Shiite militias in Iraq? Do you know that the US alleged that his operations within Iraq at the height of the Iraq war killed hundreds of U.S. personnel? Despite all these allegations, do you know that the drone attack on him violated international law, a situation that has put the entire world at the tipping edge of fear and tension? The voice of Agnes Callamard, the United Nations expert on extrajudicial executions cuts in: “Use of lethal force is only justified to protect against an imminent threat to life. Use of drones for targeted killings outside active hostilities was “almost never likely to be legal.”
Can you see how our collective omission or commission is fouling the pool of peace in the world? Do you know that we need to reflect more on issues of peace as we prepare to mark this year’s Armed Forces and Remembrance Day in Nigeria? Do you know that many nations around the world observe some kind of Armed Forces Day to honor their military forces? Do you know that in Armenia, the celebration is held on 28th January to commemorate the formation of the armed forces of the newly independent Armenia in 1992? Are you aware that in Australia and New Zealand, the day is a public holiday commemorated on 25th April as a national day of remembrance to commemorate all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations and the contribution and suffering of all those who have served? Do you know that in Bulgaria, this day is called the ‘The Day of Bravery’ and Bulgarian Armed Forces Day is commemorated every year on 6th May? Do you know that in Chile, it is a national holiday celebrated every 19th September, a day after the independence day? Are you aware that the People’s Republic of China celebrates the day on 1st August in commemoration of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army during the Nanchang Uprising of 1927? Are you aware that on 30th June1933, the Central Committee for Military Revolutionary Cases of the Communist Party of China (CPC) voted to declare 1st August an annual holiday and got it ratified by the Congress on 11th July of that same year, when this decision was approved by the government of the Chinese Soviet Republic? Do you know that France celebrates its Armed Forces during the military parade of 14th July of every year? Do you know that Greece marks its Armed Forces Day on 21st November? Do you know that in Nigeria, Armed Forces Day, also known as Remembrance Day, is celebrated on 15th January? Do you know that it was formerly celebrated on 11th November of every year to coincide with the Remembrance Day for the World War II veterans in the British Commonwealth of Nations, but changed to 15th January in Nigeria in commemoration of the surrender of Biafran troops to the Federal troops on 15th January 1970? Do you know that the day is marked with a Remembrance Day parade at the Cenotaph in Abuja and in the 36 State capitals? Do you know that the Cenotaph in the State of Osun is located in front of the House of Assembly in Osogbo? Are you aware that the ceremony includes 21 gun salute, playing of the Last Post, a minutes’ silence, laying of wreaths by special dignitaries and release of pigeons to symbolise peace?
Are you aware that In the past month, ArmedForces Remembrance Day emblems have been on sale across the country and proceeds of the sale of the remembrance emblem go to the Nigerian Legion? Do you know that contrary to expectation, many of us do not attempt to purchase these emblems? Do you know that this is a denial of respect that our heroes deserve and this narrative must change? Do you know that the mass media, governments and schools need to popularize the sales of these emblems to support the memory of these heroes? Do you know that we must collectively think aloud about their widows and children as they multiply everyday in the face of insurgent attacks ravaging our communities? Do you know that with the coming of Amotekun, the States of the South West must be thinking of funds for the rehabilitation of the families of the civilian volunteers of the scheme who may killed or maimed in the operations of the force? Do you know that we need to be thinking of their health insurance and other things to promote their welfare? Do you know that the region may eventually need a very robust security fund that all residents of the region have to pay as tax? Do you know that this is the surest way to give life to the agency? Do you know that the outfit need to be ICT-driven to make it compliant with international best practices?
Are you aware that the Nigerian Legion is the Nigerian association of ex-servicemen of the Nigerian Army, Navy and Air Force? Do you know that officers and men of the armed forces are trained to fight and kill or be killed? Do you know that when they are not killed in wars and they retire or are retired due to incapacitation, they discover to their chagrin, that there are no ready-made jobs for them to do? Do you know that many of them retire with injuries sustainedin battle and the Legion helps them to integrate into society and take care of them? Do you know that by law the Legion is permitted to operate certain businesses in order to raise money for its members? Do you know that members of the legion also serve as security guards at government establishments? Do you know that in recent years members of the Legion went through great hardship while trying to collect their pensions and gratuity? Do you know that this is the time to rally round all of them to encourage others to sacrifice for all of us?
Do you know that President Buhari inaugurated the 2020 Emblem Appeal Launch for the Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration with a donation of N10 million on behalf of the Federal Government? Do you know that the members of the private sector need to register their contributions too as stakeholders and major beneficiaries of peaceful environment to conduct business? Do you know that all of us need to make contributions? Do you know that President Buhari has encouraged all citizens to donate generously in support of veterans and dependents of the fallen heroes and also called on Nigerians and others resident in Nigeria to procure and wear the emblem with pride to identify with those who sacrificed their lives for the peace and security of the nation? Do you know that he enjoined government agencies at Federal and State levels to continue to patronise services of Nigerian Legion Corps of Commissionaires in the provision of security services including ‘Amotekun’? Do you know that experience matters in this respect? The voice of the President cuts in:
“I am happy to note that the Legion has continued to be a rallying point of veterans and has done its part in catering for the welfare of their ailing members. I enjoin the leadership of the Legion to continue in this spirit. I also urge Nigerians to accord them the needed support, friendship and patronage. It is indeed befitting to honour the memory of the gallant officers and men who paid the supreme sacrifice to keep the country united. For those who survived with varying degrees of incapacitation, they require our attention and care and we will continue to provide and cater for them.”
Do you know that we must reflect on all issues promoting insurgency in Nigeria? Do you know that we must grow the economy to facilitate employment of youth? Do you know that we must incorporate science and technology into the production of livestock and poultry to minimise herdsmen and farmers incessant clashes? Do you know that we must sustain food security in rice and other grains? Do you know that the out-of-school children lurking in the streets in our country is a moral burden? Do you know that the slow pace at which Nigeria incorporates vocational and technical education is only prolonging the doomsday? Do you know that all hate speeches are short steps to war and set us at a tipping edge? Do you know that the least act of religious extremism is a smart ballistic that has an in-built mechanism to explode with devastating payloads? Do you know that the least delay in putting more people in the social safety net is like allowing a daring ram to display in a china-shop? As we take care of the members of the legion, we must collectively reflect on their widows, wives and orphans created by them. We must accord the members of all security outfits the respect they deserve. The time to be more vigilant and concerned about communal, regional and world peace is now. Happy 2020. The statement ofPresident Buhari cuts in:
“The Boko Haram terrorists have been substantially defeated and degraded to the extent that they are only daring soft targets. However, all hands must be on deck to check the attacks on soft targets, mostly innocent Nigerians. The peace and security of Nigeria is non-negotiable and the security agencies must continue to do their work diligently…We shall not rest until all our displaced persons are safely resettled into their communities without fear of further attacks.”