INFLUENCE OF PUBLIC SUPPORT ON MILITARY OPERATIONS
“We sleep safely at night because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us.”
Winston S. Churchill
By Chioma Okorie. Chioma is a graduate of Mass Communication from University of Adekunle Ajasin, Akungba Akoko, Ondo State.
The influence of public support in military operation has long been debated in the anal of military history. We cannot by any means discuss the influence of public support in isolation from the role of the military in a democracy and their interaction with the society.
The principle of political control of Armed Forces as we know it today is rooted in the concept of a representative democracy. It refers to the supremacy of civilian institutions, based on popular sovereignty, over the defence and security policy-making apparatus, including the military leadership.
In a democracy, the role of the military is to defend the people, uphold the constitution and secure the territorial integrity.
However, With the current spate of crimes and criminalities across the length and breadth of the country, the military has been saddled with the responsibility of prevention and control of crimes and disorders as well as the detection and apprehension perpetrators of crimes and violence in the country.
These additional roles have been effectively carried out with a lot of successes. Though, this is done in collaboration with other sister agencies who according to military sources, have been very supportive. As such, this new role has created an intimate dealing with the large segment of the Nigerian populace.
The image of the military, the opinion of the public about the military and its operations and the support the populace will give it of paramount importance in the 21st century operation environment. According to Abraham Lincoln, He said, “PUBLIC SENTIMENT is everything …With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed.”
Therefore, if a military operations looses popular support, it affects troops morale and their performance in the battlefield. Hence, there is need for the public to appreciate the numerous efforts and sacrifices of our heroes who are not sleeping to make us sleep well, who sleeps in the bush to make us sleep on our water bed, who socializes with rats and wild animals to make us attend those events in the biggest events halls and who dies for us to live.
Though, there might be challenges in some part of the country, but I am talking from a point of authority that our military and even other security agencies are working day and night to ensure our safety. The whole process might not be perfect, but the fact is that these guys are working tirelessly and not relenting in their approach to end insecurity on our land.
The public attitudes towards the military are influenced by ideology, politics, individual experiences and contemporary values. In recent times, with the advent of social media, a lot of perceptions about the military have been created by elements hostile to the Nigerian state. Such perceptions have hindered operations and embolden sympathizers of crimes and criminalities.
As opined by Clauswitz, the three essential elements necessary for successfully prosecuting a war are, the government, the will of the people and the military. This theory is referred to as the “Clauswitzian trinity.” The media is essential for establishing and maintaining public support for any military operations. Without the will of the people, one of the three elements of the “Clauswitizian trinity” is missing and, hence, war cannot be successfully prosecuted.
Therefore, there is need for very cordial relationship between the military and host communities. The locals should endeavor to share information which would assist the military in tracking, fixing and attacking these criminal elements.
Our soldiers’ efforts should also be celebrated by the people they protect. It has become a norm in the military to carry out developmental projects in their areas of operations. They build schools, construct roads, teach students in schools, conducts medical outreaches and many more. These are aimed at developing and maintaining a cordial relationship between host communities.
The media plays an ever-increasing role in shaping public opinion and thus influencing military operations as we progress into the information age. The television news media has a great deal of influence on the news decision making process which, in turn, guides what Nigerians view on their television screens.
The media also has a great deal to do with the action viewers will take on certain issues by determining what bits of information the public will see and hear as well as what they will not see and hear. No one can deny the power of television news on the formation of public opinion.
On this note, the importance of news selection is crucial. This makes it very important for the media to be conscious of what they report about the military operations. They should give more publicity to the successes of the military than the nefarious activities of our common enemies. Publicizing criminal activities will boost their morale and makes them wants to do more.
So also is publicizing the efforts and contributions of our military. It builds morale of troops to protect us better. I am not of the opinion that we should not mourn the victims of these attacks, or neither am I saying the inaction of the military or other security agencies should be covered in secrecy. As a matter of fact, I want to seize this opportunity to condole our fellow citizens, women children and families who are victims of insurgency, terrorism, Banditry and kidnapping. May God be with you all and heal your wounds.
Nevertheless, My opinion is that we should celebrate the successes of our military on the street, in the media, in our hearts and amongst ourselves to the detriments of our common enemies as it is done in other parts of the world.
In an age of instant communication, capabilities available to the media have had increasing important impacts on military operations. They serve as a conduit of information not only to the Nigerian public but also the rest of the world.
Dramatic visual presentations can rapidly influence public – and therefore political – opinion so that the political underpinnings of war and operations other than war may suddenly change with no prior indication to the commander in the field.
In recent times, the insurgents in the northeast and the and the bandits in the NorthWest have undermined the support the military is getting in their various operations in the respective regions.
Politicians are spreading propaganda and luring gullible Nigerians to embrace their negative narrative against the military because of selfish interest. This was aimed at swaying the public support the military hitherto enjoy in those regions. While the military’s various operations in that region has yielded success, those successes have been enveloped by apathy by the people due to false propaganda and malicious slander from other notorious elements.
Nevertheless, the military operations in the northeast have yielded a lot of successes, as the dreaded Boko Haram terrorists have been degraded and pushed into the bush. Nevertheless, they carry out attack on soft targets which is one of the characteristics of insurgency and guerilla warfare.
On anti banditry in the northwest, they have succeeded in the degradation of bandits. Zamfara State remains the most volatile area and the epicentre of armed banditry in the entire North-western States. However, series of military operations have been conducted to contain the threat during the period in focus.
Accordingly, several bandits were either neutralized or captured with lots of ammunitions, Magazines, firearms and locally fabricated weapons were also confiscated.
Operations Hadarin Daji have succeeded in recovering of rustled animals and returned to their owners through the State Committee on the Recovery of Rustled Animals. According to military sources from the internet, as at 20 Mar 20, a total of 3,567 cattle, 2,499 sheep, 973 goats, 15 camels and 14 donkeys have been recovered.
Furthermore, following the rigorous anti-kidnapping operations of Operations Hadarin Daji, many kidnapped victims have been rescued at different times from bandit’s camps. Cases of kidnapping have also reduced significantly since the onslaught on the perpetrators. Close to 50 suspected kidnappers were claimed by the military to also have been arrested across the theatre.
The military is doing a wonderful job in relating with the public through some laudable programmes and Armed Forces Radio Station which is gradually shaping the narratives and changing the public support. However, I recommend having the station in the three regions across the country and the lingua franca should be their indigenous language in the respective region.
The military should be the first to tell it tales and not wait to do rebuttal when the story is distorted. By so doing the masses will have firsthand information and this could sway its support in the favour of the military. The military cannot reachout to all nook and carnies to win support for itself and its operations but it can build bridges across other professionals and religious leaders.