Hamisu Bala Wadume, Gana, Herdsmen, and all those outlaws whose names are known or not yet known to us, are conflict entrepreneurs. The rise of conflict entrepreneurs is predictable in a country with a weak law enforcement and judicial system like ours. With vast ungoverned areas, Nigeria is a haven for them.


On September 8, Terwase Akwaza, a.k.a Gana, a wanted Benue State militant, was killed by the Nigerian military and his corpse was exhibited like a trophy at the back of a pick-up truck. There is something wrong with how we treat human beings, dead or alive. It betrays a fundamental loss of dignity in us, and others. The story of Gana as a terrorist or a liberator depends of who you talk to. To his Tiv people, he was a protector of their land from marauding herdsmen. Many people believed he was killed by his sponsors and collaborators, to prevent their cover from being blown. It was reported that Gana accepted the terms of the amnesty of Benue State government, only to be executed on his way to a meeting in the Government House. We may never know the truth, as he is dead. What we should not pretend about is the rise of conflict entrepreneurs within Nigeria.

Hamisu Bala Wadume, Gana, Herdsmen, and all those outlaws whose names are known or not yet known to us, are conflict entrepreneurs. The rise of conflict entrepreneurs is predictable in a country with a weak law enforcement and judicial system like ours. With vast ungoverned areas, Nigeria is a haven for them. Espen Barth Eide, in his article, “Conflict Entrepreneurship”, defined these conflict entrepreneurs as, “actors who use a specific situation or condition for the purpose of establishing a conflict in order to gain something through the exploitation of new power relationships. The gain can be personal (economic wealth, political power) or it can be seen by the conflict entrepreneur to benefit a collective with which he identifies. Instigating a conflict can even be seen as a prerequisite for preserving and protecting that collective against (perceived or real) external threats.”

Have we found ourselves in a circle of insecurity that is almost impossible to get out of? President Dwight Eisenhower, a sage, nationalist and a retired five-star Army general, the man who led the allies on D-Day, was profoundly disturbed as the cold war deepened and conflicts in Vietnam, as well as nationalist struggles, escalated across the globe. On January 17, 1961, he gave America a dire warning about the destructive entrenchment of a military industrial complex. Eisenhower described the military industrial complex as a formidable union of defence contractors and the armed forces as a threat to democratic government. In his farewell speech from the White House, he said; “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”

The business venture has now been diversified and franchised to include kidnapping for ransom and cattle rustling, since every business needs multiple sources of income. This new vista of opportunity will stress Nigeria’s fiscal template as the conflict entrepreneurs go in for new frontiers.


For Nigeria, there exists a new front – a military commercial complex. Every where you turn, there seem to be a game plan to induce war. For a deformed post-colonial state or in the case of Nigeria a “semi-democracy”, in the churlish observation of The Economist, the incursion of a military-commercial complex can be catastrophic. The war against terror in Nigeria’s North-East has become a business.

There is no framework or institutional process for accountability and those involved are in no hurry to end a profitable business venture. The execution of Gana brings to mind the previous execution of the founder of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf. The business venture has now been diversified and franchised to include kidnapping for ransom and cattle rustling, since every business needs multiple sources of income. This new vista of opportunity will stress Nigeria’s fiscal template as the conflict entrepreneurs go in for new frontiers. There are doubts though whether the country’s fragile finances can cope with this. If it cannot cope, our semi-democracy can always be shoved aside. After all, for democracies, conflicts come with a cost and the very nature of conflicts erodes the efficacy of the civil society.

War and the military-industrial complex is intricately intertwined globally. Nigeria has taken it a step further by creating its own military-commercial complex. It is all about profits. In a society without the proper safeguards, it is easy with some unpatriotic elements within the military to create insecurity as a way to remain relevant and make money…


We should not pretend not to know how we got to this sorry pass. After Obasanjo’s presidency, the military was sufficiently weakened as to feel emasculated. After long years of the military gravy train, we ushered in democratic rule and rendered military rule obsolete. How does the military, which has tasted power remain relevant with all the accouterments of political power, and without holding executive power? I will try and paint a scenario. Anywhere in the world, there is no effective system of oversight on military expenditure in conflict zones, by a civilian government. In a zone overtaken by strife, no one will be interested in knowing how much diesel is consumed by tanks, the number of ammunition or hours of assets deployment. No one will focus or question parts procurements and many other things. In a place like Nigeria, the lack of oversight enables military bad actors to claim allowance for dead soldiers in their payroll scams. Top military hierarchy allegedly connive with contractors to inflate defence procurements, and deliver substandard platforms and kits. The list goes on and on.

Indeed, a few of these scandals boil to the surface to exact some semblance of accountability. Most often, huge amounts are recovered from the bank accounts of Generals after retirement. Many conspire with powerful men in the security architecture and law making bodies. When these instigators of conflict are embedded, it is often impossible to prosecute them. I have come to the conclusion that it is a system. Creating and promoting insecurity is an avenue to get security votes released. War and the military-industrial complex is intricately intertwined globally. Nigeria has taken it a step further by creating its own military-commercial complex. It is all about profits. In a society without the proper safeguards, it is easy with some unpatriotic elements within the military to create insecurity as a way to remain relevant and make money without really taking ownership for government failures. It is a win-win situation for them. If democracy fails, they position themselves as the last resort. These people did not join the Army to retire poor.

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst writes this weekly column, “Bamidele Upfront” for PREMIUM TIMES. Follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo