(AGENDAWATCHDOG) – In the early hours of October 31, 2020, American Special Forces, including Navy SEALs, rescued 27-year-old Philip Walton.
Walton, who kept camels, sheep and poultry and grew mangoes near the border with Nigeria, had been abducted from his home in southern Niger’s Massalata, by six men on motorcycles, armed with AK-47 assault rifles, and taken to northern Nigeria where he was held hostage. His wife, young daughter and brother were left behind by his abductors,
who demanded for money and searched the family’s home before leaving with Walton.
During the sneak rescue mission by the Special Forces, some of Walton’s abductors were killed, while no U.S. Military personnel were hurt, according to US officials.
Commenting on the rescue, President Donald trump tweeted that it was a “Big win for our very elite U.S. Special Forces today”.
In another tweet, Trump further said: “Last night our country’s brave warriors rescued an American hostage in Nigeria. Our nation salutes the courageous soldiers behind the daring nighttime rescue operation and celebrates the safe return of yet another American citizen.”
However, despite the buzz the rescue operation by foreign military operatives on Nigerian soil generated, Nigerian authorities (civilian and military) chose to remain non-committal about such a significant security issue, until Nigerians started asking questions such as: Was the Nigerian Government aware that an American citizen was being held hostage by bandits on its territory? Did the American military establishment obtain clearance from the Nigerian Government, which is the standard procedure among allies, before ordering the rescue operation? Did the Nigerian military supply crucial intelligence to their American counterparts? Was there any form of agreement between both countries on the rules of engagement, modus operandi et.al? Did Nigerian security operatives participate in the operation proper?
The aforementioned questions were among the several that were fired at the Nigerian government by its concerned citizens. But surprisingly, it took a couple of days more before the government thought of commenting on its supposed role in the said rescue operation, following a casual reference to the matter by the Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd), who, during a media chat at the National Assembly, following the defence of his ministry’s budget, disclosed that the Nigerian government permitted the American rescue operation.
Accepted that classified information on military operations are not usually allowed into the public realm, which might be the Nigerian government’s excuse for holding back, the public, nonetheless, should have been hinted on the nuances of the aforesaid operation, which is of national security significance, immediately after it occurred.
That President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s Commander-In-Chief, has till date failed to make even a passing reference to the matter in all the public statements he has so far made since the rescue operation is saddening. If President Trump could publicly congratulate the US forces for a job well done, immediately news of the operation’s success reached him, why did the Nigerian President, on whose turf the operation took place, not do the same?
Agenda Watchdog recalls that security formed one of the major planks on which the incumbent administration of President Muhammdu Buhari sought and won political power in 2015 and 2019 respectively. That is why this government owes it as a duty to the electorate who brought it to power against all odds to always open up on security and other significant affecting their well-being.
For a country already engaged in high stakes wars with insurgents in the north-east, bandits and irredentist groups in other parts of the country, those at the helm of its administrative machinery and security establishment must be transparent in their dealings with the people they serve. The channels of communication between the country’s leadership and the people must be fluid.
Agenda Watchdog is appealing to the authorities to correct their droopy dispositions to issues of common interest in the future, such as national security matters, by carrying the people along, as not doing this will leave Nigerians with no other choice than to assume that the country’s territorial integrity can be brazenly breached by foreign powers without the knowledge and approval of the Nigerian government, which will confirm the fears in some quarters that those constitutionally charged with the mandate of managing and guaranteeing the security of the country and its citizens are abdicating from performing their core duty.
In the future, President Muhammadu Buhari should not hesitate to delegate a military egghead or competent spokesperson to formally address the security concerns of Nigerians, if he is too busy, as is usually the case during national emergencies. This will act as a confidence building measure that will allay the fears of Nigerians, assuring them that their collective security is not being compromised by a leadership they willingly brought to power.