By Busuyi Onabolu
I just read a forwarded post on a WhatsApp platform titled “Fire: from Borno to Sokoto” written by one Mahmud Jega in Daily Trust recently. The story interested me when I reflected on discussions, we have all been having or words that have been circulating in this country: conspiracy theories. Yes, conspiracy theories have always existed, and they will continue to exist.
What is the basis of a good number of our present political parties? The history of different groups, amalgamation, overnight somersaults, etc. Whatever word you want to use, I think they all came together, you may use the word ‘conspired’ to have political power. I am sure the politicians among us would tell us of all the various conspiracies.
At any level, there is going to be conspiratorial tendencies. It is how we fan it and how we, get to understand the word and its application. But when we fan its embers into tribalism, into various ethnic groups, that is where the major challenge comes, because we are affecting many of our people. In looking at it, I reflected on our group; we are so blessed in this group, and many of us have been involved in government at one time or the other. When I say involved in government, I mean being involved in advisory capacities, in participating, in exerting some form of influence or the other.
At the end of it all, we are all still groaning and moaning. I think what we need to look at is what we have been able to do in the past, what has happened to them and what we can do. Not necessarily physically, because we are old. But old age has its values, so those values can come in different ways. But, are we listening to ourselves? We have amongst us today still many notable people.
Now, let’s have a look at the write-up of Mahmud Jega in the Daily Trust, “Fire: from Borno to Sokoto”. It started off by asking, “When and how did Northern Nigeria become the Ground Zero of insecurity in Nigeria, playground for insurgents, kidnappers, cattle rustlers, bandits, armed robbers, epicenter of senseless killings, burning of villages and springing up of IDP camps in every available school building and open space?”
Is that true? From what we read in the South? That the Northerners are coming, they have sent all their people here and they are planning a very major insurrection. That is a conspiracy theory. It could be true, some people may be imagining it. I would be surprised if some people are not. But is that a global enterprise? Or, have we left undone things we should have done over the years, bringing us to these state of affairs in our country today?
I reflect on a gentleman called Bukar Usman. He wrote a book titled, My Literary Journey (2013), and, in chapter five of that book, on page 63, he wrote on a topical issue –the case for local police –which I believe theoretically has been approved. But having approved it over the last six months what have we done with it? But let’s look at his case and what he said many years ago.
He wrote “The Nigeria Police Force is one of those experiments in Nigeria embarked on as an extension of our interpretation and application of the uneasy concept of federalism. Several years after, with corruption and criminality threatening the peaceful coexistence we once took for granted during the era of the local police, isn’t it time we jettisoned the NPF experiment?
As an experiment, the NPF has outlived its usefulness. The time is ripe for Nigeria to reintroduce the local police. The police went out of their way in those days to add value to the community. For instance, in emergencies such as fire outbreak or escape of prisoners, they blow their eerie bugle alarm and the whistle to alert the people of danger and mobilise communal assistance.
“Population is growing by leaps and bounds, there is no way effective policing can be assured by the current unified system, which to a large extent violates the principle of Federalism we all profess.”
He wrote, “there are two main arguments against state police, the fear of political vendetta and the natural resistance to loss of territorial power by the NPF establishment. But it is high time and other excuses advanced over the years gave way to effective policing at the grassroots, the lack of which is responsible for the proliferation of armed groups across the country.
“State policing should be instituted, and the sooner, the better. For sure, some interests may be inconvenienced, however, on balance, the security of the generality of the community would be better assured and the risk is worth taking now. Delay would result in greater loss of lives and properties as our security situation deteriorates further. Given its current revenue challenges, the Federal Government’s ability to provide adequate, decent barracks, as well as the logistics needed to sustain the unified police structure appears to have significantly diminished.
“Nigeria needs to reintroduce local policing. It could be by the creation of state police or some other local structure. We need to do this now as failure to do so means continuing to live with the menace of barbaric militias and vigilantes of all shapes and pretentions. For sure, we can’t make headway with the current police structure, which is not only unbearably costly but also largely inadequate without the full benefit of local knowledge.”
He went on, “At independence, fired by the zeal to build a strong united nation, we had Unified Armed Forces, Unified Prison Service, etcetera. So, in that nationalistic mood, we also mistakenly created a national police force, which had underperformed over the years. It is high time we corrected that mistake and decentralised this troubled Nigeria Police Force whose serious handicap has made our armed forces to operate routinely as a first line of defence and militarised the society.
“Naturally, the NPF hierarchy may not like a break up of its empire, while others may have genuine fears of political abuse of the state police. But who says there is no political abuse under the present arrangement when even the EFCC, a federal civil agency, was able to coerce some legislators into impeaching some state governors a few years ago?
“The power to the states to establish state police should be granted by law, stipulating conditions and standards, the breach of which could warrant the withdrawal of such licence.”
He ended that paper by saying, “Distant hoses can’t put out local fire. This truism is enough reason for those in authority to reexamine the issues and authorise the establishment of state police, which naturally would be better placed to fill the huge vacuum in intelligence and crime-fighting capability of the grassroots and our metropolitan centres. The time to act and save this nation is now.”
This was written seven to ten years ago. We are still not certain whether we are doing the state police or not. We’ve been given the freedom. The issue there now is that the North is now heavily infested. I recollected that earlier on, this same Bukar in the 1990s or 1980s spoke about the Fulani cattlemen and what they were doing in the North and destroying the North. It took another 15 years for them to infest the South, and then we woke up and, of course, we fanned the embers of conspiracy theories. Maybe the day we all come together and throw out conspiracy theories, Nigeria can become a better nation.
I recollect my meeting in 2004 with HRH Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, during the period of the rejection of polio vaccines in the North at the Lagos Airport. He was then, I believe a Director at First Bank. We have known each other for some time and as we were both going to Kano same day though on different flights, I requested his support for my advocacy effort with some prominent Kano leaders opposed to the polio campaign. He then asked me if I knew the story of what Pfizer did to their people and wondered what kind of a nation this was to have allowed that.
While that was news to me and helped me see another angle to the rejection, I pointed out the happenings then all over the country, Zaki Biam, Odi, Ibadan… etcetera?”
In truth, is there anywhere in the country free of ill? Is there anywhere in Nigeria that is safe.” So, let us start seeing how together we can throw out conspiracy theories and think Nigeria. It really does not matter who becomes President tomorrow… If we keep leaving undone what we should do…it really would not matter?
It will be the same story if we don’t come together and solve our problems, and now.