The point is moving command and control centre from one place to another has huge implications and the president does realise that Boko Haram cannot be defeated purely by military force alone
“Progress has been made in recent weeks by our security forces but victory cannot be achieved by basing the Command and Control Centre in Abuja. The command centre will be relocated to Maiduguri and remain until Boko Haram is completely subdued”. – President Muhammadu Buhari (excerpted from Inauguration Speech, 29 March, 2015) It is instructive that the only decision taken by President Muhammadu Buhari on the day of his inauguration as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces is one relocating the Armed Forces Command and Control Centre from Abuja to Maiduguri. This decision has expectedly started generating some debate, but I think to an extent, people are being precipitate and getting things a little mixed up at the moment.
First, many commentators on the issue report the president as relocating the Armed Forces headquarters or the Defence Headquarters to Maiduguri and naturally from that supposition a lot of political motives are unnecessarily being read into the decision. Yet, the real issue is that a command and control centre is not the same thing as the entire command of the Armed Forces. A command and control centre is basically a place, building or structure housing military communication devices and equipment and specialist personnel charged with directing and controlling the military forces on the ground through provision of information, intelligence and technical wherewithal towards the accomplishment of a mission.
Its main duty is to coordinate all the services needed for the success of that operation under the direction of a commanding officer from this tactical command known as the command and control centre or command post (where used by a military unit in a deployed location). So, the command and control centre is basically an information management unit. It monitors the quality of command, the effectiveness of the mission and the general system performance. The human resource and logistics to monitor these things are put in place at the command and control centre as a way of controlling actions in the field of operation towards achieving the overall success of the mission.
Obviously, every command and control centre will develop its own unique approach based on the nature of the military operation or mission in question, the available technology and other appropriate means and capabilities, the capability and capacity of the forces, a fair and factual behavioural assessment of adversaries and others and the environment in which the armies operate. This is because the command and control centre is established to achieve a purpose, which according to the president in our own case is the complete subjugation or defeat of Boko Haram.
The elements of a command and control centre would naturally depend on the purpose. Tasks to accomplish can differ. We might be talking the creation of something at a strategic level with the aim of using this at an operational level or it could be the execution of a specific task at the tactical level. Since the tasks are different, the resources needed to accomplish them can be different too. For one task, you might have organic assets to accomplish it and for the other, you might need to put together a large diverse coalition with different types of resources. This difference determines the set of metric appropriate for the task. While we must note interdependencies and fractal properties between both types of command and control centres, for an enterprise-specific one like the Boko Haram command and control centre, we’ll likely have those traditional control and command elements such as establishing intent, establishing operational rules and constraints, determining responsibilities, roles and relationships, monitoring and assessing the situation and progress of project, inspiring, motivating and engendering trust (very dependent on the kind of leadership), provisioning and training and education.
Anyway, what matters to us in this discussion is that President Buhari is the President and the Commanderin- Chief of the Armed Forces and in both capacities, he can determine how the armed forces should be organised for a specific mission. Of course, it is not exactly where you have the command and control centre for a mission that matters, as far as it serves the purpose of effectively directing the operation through the appropriate management of the relevant intelligence and information and as far as it applies the right tactics and strategy to achieve the mission. But if the Commander-in -Chief says move from A to B to achieve the mission, it is within his rights to do so, because he takes full responsibility for outcomes.
So, on the technical and military aspect of the decision, no one can fault the president, unless it fails. We cannot fault him from taking a lawful military decision (no matter our personal view), because that’s why we voted for him, that’s what he’s paid to do. However, the president can be criticised politically for making this decision at the time he did. Of course, the president as Commander-in-Chief can call a designated commander and give him orders as to what he wants accomplished with the Command and Control Centre, including, if need be, its relocation to any part of the country or operation theatre; however, making it a policy statement on the spot at inauguration raises a few questions.
How informed is the new president about the situation or effectiveness or otherwise of the current Control and Command Centre when he’s yet to take over as president and effectively evaluate their work so far? How sure is he that the progress he himself has noted in that same speech is not as a result of the Command and Control Centre being in Abuja and outside the battle hotspot? Is he sure that insulating the Command and Control Centre from the pressure of everyday demand of servicemen and women in the field is not a huge plus to the operation?
We know for instance that the service chiefs had relocated to Maiduguri since last year, so is this new order about relocation of the Command and Control Centre an improvement on that or a counter to that, considering that a designated commander of the Control and Command Centre will have to operate under his superior officers once they are there together? Or does the president intend to give orders directly to the designated commander bypassing his service bosses (that is, if in this case there is a designated commander outside a service chief)? Considering also that Nigeria’s participation in the campaign against Boko Haram in the North-East is as part of a multinational force (as the Boko Haram has been internationally recognised as a regional terrorist threat), wouldn’t it be wiser to come in and review what we are doing at the moment operationally with others, especially as it does seem to have helped in drastically dealing with the insurgency to the extent that today, we can clearly see that Boko Haram is no longer the force it used to be, say three months ago? Is this decision more a populist stunt than a necessity?
The point is moving command and control centre from one place to another has huge implications and the president does realise that Boko Haram cannot be defeated purely by military force alone. So, it certainly would have been politically savvier to come in, make a general if not very detailed review of the mission first before deciding what needs to be changed and what needs to be added. I mean, if he was making this decision a week or two after taking over, and after consulting with the necessary military and political authorities, people would have felt more confident that he’s making the decision from a knowledgeable point of view. Of course, he’s a general and would be more familiar with the technicalities, but as a president, politician and democrat, consultation and acquisition of necessary information before decision-making is a standard procedure in all things.
President Buhari needs to learn that quickly. Apart from the above, which is the decision taken by the president on day one, I would like to touch on a few things that are somewhat not related, but which I consider worthy of consideration going forward. The president must know that not many Nigerians trust the role the United States has played over Boko Haram and also during this election that has produced him as president.
This is the plain truth. The United States for inexplicable reasons during the Hillary Clinton period at Foggy Bottom simply refused to declare Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) when all the evidence was right there in their hands and even after other US state agencies, like the Justice Department, had recognised them as such. By the time they were being declared FTO in November 2013 by the Senator John Kerry State Department, Boko Haram had acquired enough arms and finance to prosecute its war against the Nigerian state for a long time. It also transpired that they were getting steady flow of arms from allies of the United States in Algeria, Libya and Mali.
When the Al Muntada organisation in the United Kingdom was exposed as financiers of Boko Haram by Lord Alton of Liverpool, a Member of the House of Lords in the United Kingdom, the Metropolitan Police didn’t think it worthy of investigation and the UK Charity Commission’s response was that there are a number of registered charities with a similar name to Al Muntada, “so the commission is not able to confirm at this stage whether or not this relates directly to a UK registered charity.”
(To be concluded tomorrow) •Kennedy Emetulu wrote in from London, UK