The Economist, the Nigerian Army and the Counterinsurgency – Blueprint Newspapers Limited

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“Text” does not simply mean “paper with writing on it”, but a coded output. -S. Sim & B. Von Loon

The Economist of London is undoubtedly one of the world’s leading magazines, that is, in a world apart. If he was in the literary space, he would have been one of the canons of literary works.

Founded in 1843 by British businessman and banker James Wilson, The Economist is not only one of the most influential; but also one of the most recognized magazines in the world.

Over its 178 years of existence, it has continued to dominate as a global media brand, with “a primary editorial office in the United States, as well as major cities in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Orient (except in Africa) ”.

From its primary mandate of “rallying support for the abolition of the British Corn Laws (1815-1846), a system of import tariffs”, The Economist broadened its coverage into “Politics, Economics, Opinion Columns , special reports, political cartoons, readers »letters, cover articles, art reviews, book reviews and technology features.

Perhaps the only magazine that calls itself a journal, one of the house styles that stands out from The Economist, is its editorial anonymity. In nearly two centuries of existence, the influence and reach of the global newspaper has grown steadily and in 2019, “its average global print circulation was over 909,476, over 1.6 million digital presence. and 35 million audiences on social media platforms. It is impossible for a journalism or public relations student, and even a practicing journalist, not to have met The Economist.

Stemming from a magazine tradition myself, The Economist was one of the weekly newsroom magazines of The Market magazine that was a must read for all newbies. Our editor-in-chief, Malam Rabiu Ibrahim, made it a point to familiarize us with both the form and content of the global media brand. To this day, perhaps much more than any international magazine, perhaps NewAfrican magazine, The Economist is no longer in my library, including the annual publication, ‘The World in (Year)…’ editions.

Despite its long tradition, reach, influence, broad and authoritative reporting and analysis on global issues, I am not naive in excusing The Economist for its neutrality. As a student of literature interested in deconstruction and post-colonial studies, I am fully aware of the narrative of “the other” or of what some literary theorists call “the other’s otherness”, through stereotypical narratives in the shoot of Joseph Comrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness.’

His opinion piece, “The Crime Scene in the Heart of Africa: Insurgency, Secessionism and Banditry Threaten Nigeria” fits the established narrative of Africa, as a continent with countries known only for bad things and bad news, which is continually and constantly amplified. and regurgitated by various Western media – what Richard Dowden, in his book “Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles”, calls “the reputation of poverty, disease and war”.

It is easy for many Nigerians and others around the world who are on the fringes of the counterinsurgency operation in the northeast and the fight against other crimes to underestimate and underestimate bravery, courage, sacrifice and patriotism, exhibited by the Nigerian armed forces and other security agencies. But as someone who has followed various operations across the country, it would be unfair to say that successes have not been recorded in all operations against terrorists, insurgents, secessionists and other criminals.

What The Economist has done, like all Western media organizations, is part of what Hausa call lefi tudu ne, taka naka ka hangi na wani – which roughly translates to: ignore one’s own flaws and amplify flaws others.

For me, and perhaps for millions of Nigerians, who love their country and appreciate their army and other security agencies, the argument is not whether we have a perfect army – no! No country has one, including the superpowers. Like many Nigerians, I can’t wait to see the end of the insurgency, terrorism, banditry, kidnappings, armed robberies. Nigerians yearn for peace and security.

However, it is important to note that, if winning an unconventional war is a yardstick for measuring the resilience of military forces around the world, then it would have been fair to say that all armies – superpowers, developing countries , fit into The Economist’s description as “mighty armies on paper”.

As Malam Mahmud Jega alluded to in his column, the mighty armies of the United States and the United Kingdom have also failed miserably to win direct and proxy wars, let alone insurgency and guerrilla campaigns.

Experts on global terrorism and insurgency perpetuated by criminal non-state actors, sometimes backed by state actors, unite on empirical evidence that asymmetric warfare is a very difficult war.

Indeed, the United States, as the most powerful nation in the world with the most powerful military, is an example of how unconventional warfare has humiliated powerful forces. From Vietnam to Somalia to Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, unconventional fighters have succeeded in undermining the military might of the United States, time and time again.

In the front of Sean McFate’s book The New Rules of War (2019), retired United States General Stanley McChrystal (who was commander of the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF and commander of the United States Force in Afghanistan, USFOR-A and author of My Share of the Task: A Memoir, 2012), succinctly summed up the challenge conventional militaries face in dealing with insurgency and terrorism: “It It is intimidating to face an enemy whose sole objective is to destroy you. When the enemy’s goal is chaos at all costs, the fight is hopeless.

In his book Wining Wars Among the People, Case Studies in Asymmetric Crises (2014), Peter A. Nass said: “In the new world, where the dominant form of war is internal conflict, the enemy is really more, fellow citizens. … They don’t wear uniforms, they hide among civilians, and launch their attacks among civilians. They target civilians and civilian infrastructure and the symbol of state power. Their aim is not to destroy the security forces, but to gain control over the thinking and behavior of the population.

It is also necessary to remind The Economist, that since the end of World War II and particularly the end of the Cold War, there has been an increase in intrastate conflicts and a decrease in interstate wars. In his book, Waging Insurgent Warfare: Lessons From the Vietcong to the Islamic State, (2015) Seth G. Jones, states: “Between World War II and 2015, there were 181 insurgencies. They last on average over twelve years, with a median of seven years. Indeed, Jones further states that: “”

The Economist has also, I’m sure, deliberately ignored what experts call “the influence of technology on insurgency warfare.” As Seth Jones noted: “The conduct of insurgent warfare has evolved rapidly due to technology and other changes … it took less time for the insurgents to achieve relatively high levels of technical sophistication in manufacturing. improved explosive devices, IEDs ”. In a similar vein, Marc Goodman, in his book Future Crimes: Inside the Digital Underground and the Battle for Our Connected World, (2015) said: “Advances in technology have benefited our world immeasurably, but… criminals are often the first and most innovative adapters in modern technology and times have led to modern crimes. “

However, what The Economist’s findings on the Nigerian military have shown is that a lot of work needs to be done by all stakeholders to tell the story of Nigeria, especially military history. As I have noted in several forums and in this column, there is a need to take conscious, deliberate and proactive steps to build positive narratives about the gains of the COIN operation, in particular, and the decades of it. efforts of the Nigerian Armed Forces for Peace. Support operation on the African continent and in the world, which is not entirely the responsibility of the military. While the military and other security agencies may be tasked with routine reporting on their activities, there is an urgent need for a whole-of-government approach to create a positive public perception that positions the Nigerian Armed Forces as a national institution. friendly. .

It is therefore clear that all of the criteria used by The Economist to measure the Nigerian military and, by extension, the Nigerian armed forces are not only bogus, but flawed and malicious. Rather than unfairly criticizing the Nigerian military, The Economist should focus on the movement of small arms and light weapons, SALW in particular on the African continent with the negative consequences that ensue. While these weapons, which are not made in Africa, along with the behavior of conflict entrepreneurs, which have continued to fuel the crisis in various nation-states, the Western media has paid little or no attention to the sources of the conflict. these weapons and the need for a global effort to stem the threat.

As an American historian and writer, who became the 26th president (1901-1909), Theodore Roosevelt said in the passage “The man in the arena”, in his speech entitled Citizen in a Republic at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, April 23, 1910:

“It’s not the critic that counts; not the man who shows how the strongman stumbles, or where the perpetrator could have done better. The credit goes to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marked by dust, sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who is wrong, who fails again and again, for there is no effort without error and without failure; but who really strives to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a good cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails by daring greatly, so that his place is never with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.


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