Opinion: Jonathan’s State of Emergency and the art of war

by Dolapo Aina


The amnesty deal offered by the government wasn’t comprehended by all and sundry until the declaration of military involvement.
“Generals are assistants of the nation. When their assistance is complete, the country is strong. When their assistance is defective, the country is weak. When the generals are completely thorough, their plans do not leak out. If they are defective, their formations are revealed outside” – Sun Tzu.
On Tuesday, the 14th of May 2013, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Yobe, Adamawa and Borno states respectively. While a majority of the populace didn’t see this “handwriting on the wall” coming, anyone who wasn’t “playing politics” concurred that this presidential declaration albeit behind schedule and long overdue was and still is the best alternative.
Like a large chunk of the 68 million youth movement, I am not a huge fan of this administration (this much I mailed the once popular Friday and Sunday columnist who jumped ship in 2011) because this administration has recorded more official mishaps and gaffes than achievements. Be that as it may, it must be stated that the declaration of the state of emergency was and still is the only viable option via military involvement. My reason for supporting President Jonathan’s masterstroke strategy is solely based on a classic book by Sun Tzu titled – “The Art of War” written over two thousand years ago. A book still relevant in strategic studies. A book any military general worth his/her salt must have or must read. A book world leaders sure do have in their collectors’ library. A book still read by Asian leaders and consummate strategists of all professional strata in the global spheres of business, politics, sports and the media. This article would endeavour to intertwine some of Sun Tzu’s military strategies cum quotes, with the early stages of the state of emergency.
After President Jonathan’s speech, the military and her special forces rolled into the three states and began a clinical sweep to flush out the irritant insurgents. There was and still is, so many hullabaloos about the President’s sudden change of tactics by some prominent persons, who have and are still questioning his use of the military. The only question a discerning and politically astute individual would ask those against the President’s move is, “why the opinions rather than clear-cut advice? Why not give Nigerians a better and credible alternative?” Pardon me, I don’t know of any well-articulated alternative yet.
The government seemed to have implemented several strategies via dialogue, amnesty and eventually military. Anyone who has read The Art of War would easily figure out the government’s modus operandi with the Boko Haram sect. So it is baffling when those who should know begin to “play politics” (after several years of dillydallying with Boko Haram) with the President’s decision which must have been deliberated upon by the best brains and strategists in the military, finance and government.
For those questioning the President’s action, Sun Tzu said “the general rule for use of the military is that it is better to keep a nation intact than to destroy it. It is better to keep an army intact than to destroy it, better to keep a division intact than to destroy it, better to keep a battalion intact that to destroy it, better to keep a unit intact than to destroy it.” And in this context, it is better to keep a nation intact than to destroy it. And what does a nation do when her olive branch is being rejected by a recalcitrant posse? Go on her knees and plead or take decisive action?
The amnesty deal offered by the government wasn’t comprehended by all and sundry until the declaration of military involvement. Sun Tzu said “it is the very stubbornness of the smaller side that makes it the captive.” The amnesty deal wasn’t comprehended by politically astute individuals because amnesty is usually brought to the fore after government forces must have demoralised, depleted and defeated insurgents (examples abound in the cases of Sri Lanka and Columbia). The amnesty makes more sense after the military involvement because according to Sun Tzu “a surrounded army must be given a way out.” In this context, the irritant isn’t an army but pockets of individuals.
Comments were and are still pouring in their torrents on why there was a media black-out during the initial stages of the military’s activities but I dare ask, which nation’s military divulges possible tactics on capturing the enemies of the State? (Not even nations in the West). Can a civilian government tell the military how best to carry out her activities? Sun Tzu said “if the civilian leadership tries to control able generals, it will be unable to eliminate hesitation and avoidance. An enlightened leadership is one that knows its people and can delegate authority effectively. In the field it is necessary to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves without hesitation.”
And to be candid, the government has implemented a strategy that can’t fail if implemented to its last detail. The government and military can’t lose because the land is their own turf with all the constitutional backing. Sun Tzu- “so it is that good warriors take their stand on ground where they cannot lose, and do not overlook conditions that make an opponent prone to defeat.”
Furthermore, I have observed that two weeks into the military operations, the generalisation of public comments has evolved and has become positive, shifting from scepticisms to acceptance, maybe due to a clearer picture of the Boko Haram’s sway in some states and that at the end, Nigerians would come to the realisation that the President’s declaration was the only option available to quell the insurgency in some parts of the North. Sun Tzu said “when directives are consistently carried out to edify the populace, the populace accepts. When directives are not consistently carried out to edify the populace, the populace does not accept. When directives are consistently carried out, there is mutual satisfaction between the leadership and the group.”
Sun Tzu said “defence is for times of insufficiency, attack s for times of surplus.” Since the Finance Minister-Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (the former World Bank topgun) has stated that there is money to prosecute the operation, why should we not believe her? When we kowtow to those who are solely for amnesty, how would that portray the entity called Nigeria from the insurgents’ viewpoint? No small nation, even though islands like Papua New Guinea, The Bahamas and Macau would ever want to be viewed as weaklings by the organised crime syndicates in those islands, less talk of the most populous black nation who is the 5th largest contributor of soldiers (peacekeepers) to the United Nations. Nigeria has issues she is grappling with, but Boko Haram shouldn’t think victory is close by rather it is defeat for the unrepentant members and amnesty for the repentant ones who are intelligent.
Robert Greene in his book 48 laws of power stated that “everyone admires the bold, no one honours the timid”, President Jonathan must realise this. President Jonathan’s administration seems to have thought this thoroughly and with the $7 million bounty on the Boko Haram leader by the Obama administration, isn’t the end near? But one has to wonder why it took Nigeria several years before she designated the sect a terrorist group? Playing politics with national issues? Baffling how the initial grudge of the Boko Haram sect was against Western education, but the sect’s leader’s assets were frozen in America, which is in the West!
And for those who still throw pellets on the government’s action, without any credible alternatives, a quote by Sun Tzu aptly encapsulates them “ordinary people see the means of victory but do not know the forms by which to ensure victory.” Enough said.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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One comment

  1. Geez!!! Can’t people talk without all these complicated quotes from complicated books?? :s :s

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