One Man’s Freedom Fighter Is Another Man’s Terrorist – Retired Colonel

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Col. Hassan Stan-Labo (Rtd)

A retired military officer, Colonel Hassan Stan-Labo, during an appearance on Channels Television’s Politics Today with Seun Okinbaloye, spoke about the categorisation of IPOB as a terrorist group. Read excerpts below:

What is a terrorist organisation?

A terrorist organisation, I will say, is any organisation within a geographical entity as Nigeria that bears arms, that constitutes a nuisance to national security, that kills defenseless persons, that does all things I will say that somewhat contradicts the law that binds us all together – not to even talk of a situation where you have an organisation that is even a secessionist organisation.

So, a secessionist organisation can be described as a terrorist group?

Sure, depending on their line of action; when they begin to be violent, begin to bear arms and so on. And let me just say something, Seun. In most cases, when we talk of bearing arms people often limit their definition of arms to AK-47. Even if you carry a pestle, you are armed. If you carry a knife, you are armed. If you carry a cutlass, you are armed.

Even a broken bottle?

You are armed. The definition of arms is not limited to automated weapons. No.

Some of the area boys we see on the streets…

Are armed. They are armed (and) the law can really pick up on them.

So, if you, for example, want to differentiate between a militant group and a terrorist group, then what is a militant group?

A very thin line separates a militia group and a terrorist group. They are all of nuisance value to national security. They both bear arms, they both kill defenceless individuals, they do things that contradict our very laws and so on. In fact, the militia is just at the mercy of the labelling authority.

At what point can a group of people who call themselves freedom fighters be described as a dangerous organisation?

One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist. However, even if you say you are a freedom fighter or you are pursuing self-determination or whatever, your approach, the manner in which you handle the situation can negativity upon you or attract public sympathy for you. There is a way (that) whatever IPOB and Nnamdi Kanu are doing could have really attracted sympathy for them.

In all the action that the military has taken, is there any way that the military, perhaps, has done what it shouldn’t?

I think they have even probably not done enough or they did not come in on time. I am speaking within the ambit of proactiveness.

The amount of information before government is not available to we ordinary folks on the streets. And most of this information borders on national security – intelligence – which may not be divulged to the public. The point I am trying to drive home here is this; government is gradually beginning to learn its lessons.

These are the mistakes we made until Boko Haram became as hydra-headed as it was, to a point that we could not contain it. It got to a point whereby even the authorities that ought to react where rather reading a different meaning into it, be it political or whatever and by the time we came in, it was already late.

El-Zakzaky in Zaria started a very funny thing. If you know Zaria very well, half of Zaria was under his control and he was getting larger than life. It became necessary to curb his excesses before we have another Boko Haram on our hands.

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