By Wilfred Eya, Magnus Eze, Chinelo Obogo, Chukwudi Nweje, Noah Ebije Kaduna and Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has come under scurrilous attack for allegedly failing to secure the lives and properties of the Nigerians.
Reacting to the Katsina Governor, Bello Masari’s admonition to his people on Tuesday to acquire arms and defend themselves against bandits, the Ohanaeze, the Afenifere, the Middle Belt Forum (MBLF) and other prominent Nigerians, criticised the All Progressives Congress (APC) for failing to carry out its primary responsibility as a government. They agree that the security situation has reached a point where Nigerians must take their destiny in their own hands.
This is not the first time top government functionaries are calling for self-help over what they considered precarious situation. In February, Minister of Defense, Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi (retd) had challenged Nigerians to show that they were not cowards by defending themselves.
“In our younger days, we stand to fight any aggression coming for us. I don’t know why people are running from minor things like that. They should stand and let these people know that even the villagers have the competency and capabilities to defend themselves,” he said. In May, Governor Samuel Ortom had also enjoined residents to rise up and defend themselves against every form of attack.
Reacting yesterday, National publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Alex Ogbonnia said Masari’s call was a dangerous trend that indicated the failure of government in its social contract to protect the people.
“Now, the instruments of violence are no longer the monopoly of government and the government now asking the people to arm and defend themselves is a dangerous trend. Arms have proliferated among the people and it is a sign of a failed state.”
Ohanaeze calls on the government to work hard to avert the impending doom to Nigeria.
Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said Nigeria was in a mess and the situation in Afghanistan was already playing out in the country. He regretted that Nigerians were living in denial, saying the nation was gradually cascading toward a totalitarian state.
The elder statesman stressed the need to change the 1999 constitution, cautioning that the 2023 election may not hold if the status quo remains.
Publicity Secretary of MBLF, Dr. Dogo Isuwa, said the right to self-defence is constitutionally guaranteed, but that of providing defence that the Federal Government failed in should be vested in regional security outfits like Amotekun controlled by governments to prevent abuse.
But for the spokesman, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Emmanuel Yawe, governor as chief security officer has the constitutional powers to put in place security measures that would safeguard his state. He said other governors can emulate Masari if they feel that such measure would help their respective states.
“Governor of Katsina, as provided in the 1999 Constitution, is the chief security officer of his state. He is, therefore, permitted by the constitution to introduce security measures within the boundaries of his state and his state alone. If other states in the country see that his measures are good and have helped in securing the state, there is no stopping them from emulating his policies. Anybody who lives in Nigeria knows how bad our situation is. You don’t need to ask whether Nigerian citizens have a right to protect themselves.”
A group, Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF), said Masari urging people to acquire arms and defend themselves was a sign of frustration with the Nigerian security services. Its spokesman, Abia Onyike, said the call on the citizenry to arm and defend themselves was a natural reaction given the circumstances they found themselves in Katsina and other states. However, the Igbo National Council (INC) urged Masari to take the first step of self-defence in his state even as it pointed out that Igbo would protect themselves from the killer herdsmen and other hoodlums terrorising the zone.
Its National President, Chilos Godsent, in a statement, noted that it was a clear indication that President Buhari has failed to secure the lives of Nigerians and therefore called for his immediate resignation.
But Elder Statesman, Tanko Yakassai, said though the security situation is bad, it has not got to the stage where people would have to take up arms to defend themselves.
“Masari sounded like a pessimist by saying that. But don’t forget that we have 36 governors and he is just one of them. If it was a meeting of governors and they took a decision along that line, then it can be enforced. Whether someone is a governor or not, he is an individual in Nigeria and his views are not law; he is just expressing his personal opinion. I don’t see his statement as a positive development but I don’t give it the value others are giving it because I know that Nigerians are going about their businesses. So, the point is that the situation in Nigeria is not good but it is not as bad as it is being painted and I do not pray that we should get to the stage where people would have to take up arms to defend themselves,” Yakassai said.
But former lawmaker, Senator Rufai Hanga said Masari’s statement was a vote of no confidence in the president who also hails from Katsina.
“That also confirms what people have always said, that the security situation in the country is terrible and there doesn’t seem to be any capacity from the government to defeat it. Masari has only proved the president’s critics right.”
•Director Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu reacts
“We’ve heard of calls on citizens to pick up arms to defend themselves from other quarters, so it’s not an isolated case.The governor is the chief security officer of the state, therefore, the zeal and passion for the protection and security of his people is what I see here. I believe that the call is to promote citizens engagement in tackling the menace, such as forming vigilante groups, similar to the Civilian JTF in the North East. However, in the demonstration of this, it is necessary to remind ourselves that possession of firearms is a subject under regulatory or statutory control. We must understand that the employment or deployment of the instrument of violence is a function of state power and anything contrary could orchestrate breakdown of law and order.
“The Joint security forces are relentless and are working round the clock to ensure normalcy is restored in the troubled areas. Sadly, these criminals are taken advantage of the taciturn posture of the people, in not volunteering information to the security forces. Timely and actionable information is a major game changer in tackling this insecurity menace.
“We urge well meaning members of the public, particularly in the concerned areas to support the security forces and collectively, we can defeat our common adversaries.”