Yinka Ogunsanya, former Major of the United States (US) army, is an alumnus of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, where he studied Estate Management and Appraisal. He worked as an Estate Surveyor and Appraiser in Nigeria, specializing in the appraisal of commercial and industrial properties.
Major Ogunsanya later relocated to the US where he enlisted in the US Army, where he served for 15 years. He was commissioned in 2001 through the Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Fort Benning GA in the Air and Missile Defense (AMD) Branch, where he was one of 5 Distinguished Military Graduates for his class.
This seasoned and versatile security personnel had the opportunity to command an Air Defense Patriot Battery in Fort Bliss, TX comprised 100 Soldiers with equipment in excess of $100 million. He also commanded an Infantry unit in Fort Benning, GA, where he ultimately trained a total of 700 civilians; shaping them into world-class Infantry soldiers who were ready to deploy anywhere in the world upon graduation.
He held various staff positions at both Battalion and Brigade levels, most notably being handpicked to be the Brigade Information Systems Officer responsible for both tactical and mobile networks of an AMD Brigade. He was privileged to have been deployed at the initial stage of the Operation Iraqi freedom where he was part of the Invasion Task Force, and later deployed into Afghanistan to a remote outpost as a Combat Advisor to the Afghan Army on the Pakistani border.
Major Ogunsanya is very versatile in anti-terrorism defense, VIP protection and insurgent operations.
All these earned him awards and decorations which include:
The Bronze Star; Army Commendation Medal (6th awards), Army Achievement Medal (2nd awards); the National Defense Medal (2nd numeral device); Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; the Korean Defense Service Medal; the Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon; Navy Presidential Unit Citation; Iraq Campaign Medal; the Afghan Campaign Medal; NCO Professional Development Ribbon, the Parachutist Badge and Combat Action Badge.
He holds a Master’s of Arts, Leadership and Management, University of Texas, El Paso, Texas and MBA Management Information Systems, Western International University, Phoenix, Arizona, US.
In this interview with Bayo Adekoya, Major Ogunsanya bares his mind concerning the security challenges the country is battling as well as proffering solutions to some of the issues. excerpts:
Given your experience on security, what is your view about the Nigerian security system?
The Nigerian security systems need to be overhauled generally, synchronizing of efforts, and prioritization of resources are lacking. There is no synergy among our security systems. We need to redefine jurisdiction, who has the legal right to do what and where. We just need to go back to the basics. We need to develop a true intelligence picture and have a plan in place to enforce security without jeopardizing the fundamental rights of the citizens.
What do you think about this prolonged fight against terrorism especially issue of BokoHaram in the country?
Honestly, Boko Haram issue is very political. There are invincible hands that are controlling parameters around it. If we are ready to do it well, let the professionals handle it and you will see it disappear within two years maximum.
But recently Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, immediate past Chief of Army Staff made a statement on his verified Facebook page that Nigeria may continue to suffer terrorist attacks for 20 years. What’s your take on that?
He has an insight to the political handicap that is causing this unnecessary terrorism to linger, so he might be telling us something in codes that only intelligence officers can decode. If I was in his shoes, I won’t say that, you have to display optimism with a high degree of confidence in the ability of your men, his comment can be demoralizing for the rank and file. It might also be a clue to the rest of us that the intent to crush the insurgency is not there.
What appropriate responses can be used to crush insurgency in Nigeria?
Crushing insurgency entails firstly, winning heart and soul; secondly, overwhelming combat force and thirdly economic development of the region. As the saying goes, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop, we have too many unemployed youths in those regions. They have to survive which is a human instinct, in doing so they are willing to collaborate with terrorists, who easily cater to them and their family.
Some critics stated that inadequate or lack of sophisticated weapons is one of challenges hampering fight against terrorism and banditry in the country.
You need weapons as a tool to enforce conformity, true but weapons don’t win insurgency. Take a close look at Iraq and Afghanistan did the US totally win, no. I was in both theatres of operations multiple times. Winning hearts and economic development have to go alongside combat operations. Nigeria has the weapon needed; maybe aerial surveillance and highly classified communication equipment should be added.
Should Nigeria seek foreign help in countering terrorism?
Yes and No. Nigeria does not need a foreign government to help us; but we need the citizens that have performed at the highest level in foreign countries to help us out. There is nothing Boko Haram is doing that is different from what the Taliban or Al-Qaida did in the past; they are using the same template and adapting it to our peculiar terrain. We need a true intent to want to crush this monster. Right now we are playing with a ticking time bomb.
There is also the problem of banditry in the North-west Zone. How can this be arrested?
The northern leaders need to be honest because I have followed most of their statements. We as a country need to expand education in the region, no child should be left behind. Islamic schools should not be a substitute for formal education. Every child should be given the opportunity to grow and be someone in the society, not given out as an Almajiri; that is creating a pool of bandits. Modern-day policing tactics are needed with the right equipment and also economic growth of the area is very paramount.
Some political and religious leaders are calling on the government to negotiate with the bandits. Do you agree with that notion?
They are culpable. These are blackmailers trying to force the government into paying bandits. I do not agree with paying bandits, why do we call them bandits, they are criminals who are disturbing the peace of the locals.
As an expert in security matters, what is your advice to state governments?
The state governments need to engage security experts, they get security votes on a monthly basis, so why are the monies not being used to secure their states? There is a template that might work for them depending on what the threat is in different states. The governor is the state’s chief security officer and must secure his people.
In the South, there is the problem of farmers vs herdsmen, worsened by kidnappings and wanton killings. What is the way out?
Like I said earlier, the federal government needs to be sincere in its policies and intent to secure the people, we are playing politics with security and it’s dangerous. I have lived in Texas for over 25 years. and they produce a high amount of beef but I have never seen cows on the roads or in cities. Open grazing is primitive and needs to be changed to a well-organized ranching system. The herders are violating the laws of the land by carrying AK-47, so they should be disarmed immediately or allow farmers to arm themselves too. Personally, taking the weapons off the herders is the best approach.
Most of the zones in the country are adopting regional security outfits. For instance South-west has Western Nigeria Security Network popularly known as Amotekun; the East has Eastern Security Network and so on. Do you support such move?
Honestly in principle I won’t have supported it if the federal security systems are working because it’s a duplication of efforts. But when those who are responsible are not doing their job or not doing a good job, there is a need for self-preservation. Can you really blame people defending themselves from being killed for sport by terrorists? I don’t know why we refer to terrorists as bandits. A terrorist is a terrorist no sugar coating needed. The issues I foresee happening here is since these security outfits are ethnic based, we are gearing for potential restructure along ethnic lines or else we might have ethnic conflicts in the future. Who will centrally command and control these outfits and synchronize their efforts with federals security systems? There are too many uniformed Agencies in Nigeria, which tells me we are confused as to who is supposed to do what. They are good concepts but training, equipment and coordinating with existing security systems will be a challenge, as we saw in Southwest last month when Amotekun officers were arrested and shot but police. Honestly, we need a lot of training on proper procedures and policing.
What is your advice for those in charge of Nigeria’s security?
They need to put the interest of the country above themselves. We have to take this very seriously and as an emergency, this is holding up the growth of our country and economy. They need to seek help from all willing and able Nigerians worldwide to work on this issue.
To fight terrorism and banditry, the northern borders have to be shut down, there are certain elements of warfare that must be done. Cut their communication, cut their supply lines, cut their finances and follow the traces of the money you will see a turnaround. Cutting supply is most important. Also, they need to clean their ranks, Boko Haram has sympathizers among them.