By Agatha Emeadi
Col. Hassan Stan-Labo (rtd) is a veteran of the Nigerian Army with a wealth of operational experience covering part of his 31 years in the army’s Elite Infantry Special Forces Corps.
His combat duty tours took him to Liberia, Sierra Leone, West Darfur and Bakassi Peninsula.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, Stan-Labo, a recipient of the prestigious Rockefeller Foundation Award for Service and the national security director of the National Obidient Patriots – a mobilisation platform for the OBI-DATTI Presidency – said that the 2023 general elections was the worst election ever in the history of Nigeria. He also spoke about other issues. Excerpts:
The 2023 general elections are over, what is your assessment of the outcome of the election from the presidential to the least?
My assessment of the election is that the 2023 general elections is the worst election ever in the history of our nation. Our conduct and execution of the electoral process leave much to be admired. For me, the disturbing aspect of the just concluded election was that we demonstrated to the younger generation of Nigerians who were likely voting for the very first time all the negative things not expected of them in an election during their own time. Today, the young generation has been taught to believe that to be a successful politician in Nigeria with capacity to emerge as governor or president, one must recruit, train, arm and maintain a robust army of aggressive killer thugs as a compulsory requirement. Again, such array of thugs and killers should also be overwhelmingly loaded financially. Among their strategies would also be to proceed far ahead of time to negotiate and buy off the loyalty and commitment of all stakeholders, including the regulators, INEC, security agencies, government officials, judiciary, the clergy, professional bodies, etc. We also taught the young generation to go ahead and dominate the political space and influence the selection of principal key actors on the regulatory body, INEC. And again, never to play down on the role and efficacy of money power to the media, youth groups, women associations and civil society organizations; and finally to also maintain and nurture a huge support base in the said institutions.
As the National Security Director, though the case is in court, what do you think is the next plan of the Labour Party?
Well, to start with, as the National Security Director of the National Obidient Patriots – a mobilisation platform for the OBI-DATTI Presidency and a card-carrying member of Labour Party in Lagos State, I got invited by some well-respected senior colleagues who felt my service was needed in strengthening the security threshold during the Labour Party presidential nationwide campaign tour. This I saw as a call to duty and we made tremendous success of the opportunity. For the next plan of the Labour Party, it is to await the outcome of the courts and take it on from there. The leadership of the party would direct accordingly what specific steps and in what direction to go. Nigerians are also observing the graveyard silence across the country with an eye on the judiciary. Though no one is asking to be favoured, but Nigerians urge the judiciary to do the simple right thing. The case is beyond Peter Obi, rather the rebirth of a new Nigeria. A Nigeria where the son of a nobody can become somebody without knowing anybody.
How did you see the recent appointment of the Security Chiefs?
Well, the recent appointment of the Security Chiefs is quite commendable. It saw to the introduction of yet again, sound professionals into the battle space. In the National interest and harmonious co-existence, we saw good geographical spread which would help in availing the required cooling-off of nerves in certain parts of the country that feel short-changed. Interestingly, from the selection configuration, I can perceive the ease with which operational synergy can be achieved and sustained for national good. Worthy of note is the fact that Naval Chief and his Air counterpart are childhood friends who met in Nigerian Military School, Zaria as teenagers. Then, since they have been together all through their days in the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) and subsequently got commissioned as officers at the same time; they can work together. Also in the military, course mate bonding could go beyond brotherhood. Having gone through thick and thin together watching each other’s back under life threatening conditions on land, air and sea; it is a good workable match. The Service Chiefs all have requisite credentials and operational exposure to match the demands of their respective appointments. It is a good one. Both have held command, staff and instructor appointments along career progression to the zenith of their respective arm of service. While Nigerians wish them well, let us see how they will bring their wealth of knowledge, expertise and experience to bear on the multifaceted security challenges we face as a nation.
How would you react to the calls by some Nigerians for the two presidential candidates, Peter Obi of Labour Party and Atiku Abubakar of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to withdraw their cases and join President Tinubu to move the country forward?
All those calling for such are indulging in blackmail. You cannot be referred to as ‘Your Excellency’ when the process that brought you in is not excellent. Kindly note that an allegation as weighty as ‘stolen mandate’ is what some people are urging as a nation to overlook? What impression, therefore, are we giving to our kids for crying out loud? That it is okay whenever an election approaches, to recruit, train and arm an army of armed thugs with the intent to kill, injure and forcefully falsify results that project you as the winner of the election? Afterall, at the end of the day, agents in the guise of responsible citizens who have lost all sense of moral uprightness, including clerics, traditional rulers, community leaders and even government officials would rise to request all parties to withdraw their cases and join hands with the selected leader to “move the country forward”, act of blackmail I call it. People who are calling for forward, I ask them forward to where and on which platform? To move the country forward on the moral strength of a stolen mandate? Another pertinent question of mine is when did we degenerate this low as a nation? You cannot build ‘something on nothing and have boastfully told aggrieved parties to “go to court” and they are in court with all evidence to proof their case precept upon precept. Interestingly, all eyes are on the judiciary expecting them to do their job, even though no one is asking to be favoured; let them just do the right thing and let justice, equity and fairplay be seen and served.
As a security expert, what would you advise the present government to do, especially on insecurity?
First and foremost, I would advise them to embark on national security sector reforms and national security sector governance template. I would want them to note that (a) and (b) above has the potential of addressing about 65 per cent of the challenges in the national security sector cover amongst other issues like funding, manpower challenges and logistics and equipment. Others include training and operations, welfare, motivation and intelligence and border patrol. They should not also overlook inter-service synergy characterised by the 3Cs of Cooperation, Collaboration and Coordination and finally put in place a resilient monitoring and evaluation institution. The C-in-C directives in the national interest is to be proactive, well prioritized, devoid of sentiments, be unifying, give hope and restore confidence for the security to function etc.
Now, with the removal of fuel subsidy, do you think it is a good decision, even when some loopholes have not been tied?
No doubt, the removal of the fuel subsidy is a bold step in the right direction. It was doing the nation no good, but instead lining the pockets of a few rich elite at the top; let it go. Yes, loopholes exist that ought to have been tidied up properly, prior to the removal of the fuel subsidy, but for the shabbiness that characterised its handling. Nevertheless, the situation could still be remedied though at some cost to the ordinary Nigerian on the street.
Do you think Labour Party presidential candidate Peter Obi would have done the same?
Definitely, the Labour Party’s candidate, Peter Obi would have done things differently. In the first place, the removal of the fuel subsidy would have come with conditions, not just like that. He would have put measures in place to cater for the aftermath on the people. From experience, he would have come up with necessary verifiable empirical data that would clearly indicate what our true consumption level is; what the cooked-up consumption level is; how much would be saved from the process. How much would be applied to assuage the pains of Nigerians; then how much gains would emerge for the people. All these I state here because “good governance characterised by transparency accountability and integrity would be seen at work.”