By Sunday Ani
The fact that Nigeria is grappling with serious security challenges is no longer in doubt. From North to South, East to West, terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and all manner of criminals are running riots in the country. They kidnap for ransom, rape women and girls, maim, kill and destroy property worth millions of Naira on a daily basis, while the security agents helplessly watch and do nothing.
Of great concern to many is what should be done to urgently halt the nation’s imminent collapse.
Last week, the Niger State Governor, Abuabakar Bello, told the world that Boko Haram terrorists had overrun 50 communities in Kaure and Shiroro Local Government Areas in the state and hoisted their flag there. Prior to that, a military camp in Niger State was reportedly closed down as a result of incessant attacks, not only on the civilian populace, but also on the military personnel and other security agents in the state.
Following Gov Bello’s revelation, the House of Representatives on Tuesday last week, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a state of emergency on security without further delay.
The lawmakers asked the Federal Government to recruit more personnel into the military and the police, because the current capacity falls far short of the required number to effectively secure the country.
Close watchers of the political developments in Nigeria have argued that the call by the Green Chambers of the National Assembly did not come as a surprise to many Nigerians because there have been similar calls from different quarters in the past, but the government has adamantly refused to listen. They believe that the difference is just that this time, such a call is coming from a hallowed chamber of the House of Representatives, which by extension, is a clear indication of how dire and serious the situation has become.
Rising from the emergency meeting of its National Executive Committee last week in Abuja, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also issued a communiqué backing the call by the House of Representatives. It urged the President to listen to the voice of reason and declare a state of emergency on security as soon as possible.
The party also charged President Buhari to convoke a national conference on security to galvanise ideas and options on how to tackle the prevailing security challenges.
The PDP Chairman, Uche Secondus, expressed fear that the 2023 election might not hold if the ongoing security challenges were not resolved. He said: “Herdsmen are menacing in the West, gunmen are causing havoc in the East, and the militants in the South-South all killing, looting, raping, maiming and burning down homes. The situation is bad. Nigerians all over are living in fear. All the ‘noise’ about the 2023 election will amount to naught if the security challenges are not drastically addressed.”
Some Nigerians believe that the current All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government under the leadership of President Buhari is completely bereft of ideas on how to tackle the current security situation and that even with the declaration of a state of emergency, the situation would remain the same or even worse. Those who hold this view insist that the President’s silence and carefree attitude to similar calls in the past were all they needed to buttress their position.
However, many also believe that the President’s move last week to seek assistance from the international community to contain the worsening security situation in the country equally lends credence to the views in some quarters that he has been overwhelmed by the situation and that even declaring a state of emergency would not change anything.
While seeking the United States’ assistance, the President was quoted to have said: “The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impacted more negatively, by existing complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region.
“Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and her security forces remain resolutely committed to containing them and addressing their root causes. The support of important and strategic partners like the United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations, hence the imperative for concerted cooperation and collaboration of all nations to overcome the challenges.
But the Katsina State Governor, Aminu Bello Masari does not think that the House of Representatives and the PDP were right to have called on the president to declare a state of emergency on security at this point in time. To him, the situation has not gotten to a point where a state of emergency would be the best option.
Analysts are of the views that Gov Masari is not alone in his position.
Since the position of the House of Representatives and the PDP as well as the counter-view by Gov Masari became public knowledge, Nigerians have been dissecting the issue.
There are those who believe that there is absolutely nothing magical about declaring a state of emergency. To this class of people, whenever the government decides to declare a state of emergency on any sector, what it means is that more than the usual normal routine attention would have to be paid to that sector, with a view to addressing the issue that is so troubling, which would require all the efforts to deal with. They also believe that even if the above is actually what a state of emergency on a sector like security entails, declaring a state of emergency on security in Nigeria today would not change anything because the sector has always been in emergency.
Again, there is a segment of the Nigerian populace who disagreed with the above definition of a state of emergency, describing it as absolute nonsense. These are people who believe that when a state of emergency is declared, all the democratic structures in the state would be collapsed for an administrator to come in.
They insist that what has been troubling the Kastina Governor, and by extension, other governors that have not spoken against the call, is the possibility of the move turning out to be the second brand of emergency call.
Many Nigerians support the call for a state of emergency, while a few others are reasoning alongside Katsina Governor.
National Publicity Secretary of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Alex Chidozie Ogbonna, said there was no better time to declare emergency on security than now, warning that any delay would cause more havoc and Nigeria would be history. He urged the Presidency to sit up and hasten to tackle the problem of insecurity in the country.
President of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, Yerima Shettima, equally maintained that a state of emergency should be declared as a matter of urgency because “everything is getting out of hand.”
Former Theater Commander, Operation Safe Haven in Jos, Plateau State, Maj-Gen Henry Ayoola (Retd), said it was long overdue because the country has never been as tense as it is since the end of the civil war.
He said: “Anybody telling you otherwise is not being honest. Look at the tension all over the country; it has never been as bad as it is today. We fought a civil war even when things were not as bad as they are today.”
Ayoola’s position was also maintained by the President of Ndigbo Lagos Foundation, Maj-Gen Obi Umahi (retd), who argued that the need for a state of emergency on security was the right thing to do.
“I have said it before that the need for a state of emergency on security in Nigeria is not only imminent but also the right thing to do,” he said.
But, for the President of the Middle belt Forum, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, declaring a state of emergency would have far reaching implications as the state governors would lose their offices and administrators would be put in place, thereby suspending democratic structures in such places.
He argued that what was needed was a functional army that could take the war to the bandits’ enclave and not the one that would wait for bandits to attack before they react.
Former governor of Anambra State, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife agrees with Dr. Bitrus, and by extension, Gov Masari, in a way.
He thinks it is too early to talk about a state of emergency, as he would want the government to first, find out all the causes of insecurity and know whether they are the type that could be controlled by a state of emergency. “Otherwise, we might just be making a very big political mistake thinking that we are doing good,” he advised.
For elder statesman, Tanko Yakassai, a state of emergency on security is just playing to the gallery by the National Assembly. He said such a move is like helping the enemy to spread their propaganda as it would not solve any problem but rather help the insurgents to intimidate Nigerians.
“The senate president and the speaker have access to the president and they can advise him rather than passing a resolution, asking him to declare a state of emergency on security,” he said.
But, for the former Secretary General of National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Frank Kokori, declaring a state of emergency on security means nothing but creating more hardship for the citizenry. “Every time they tell us that they are on top of the situation. So, if they declare a state of emergency on security, they will still be on top of the situation. It won’t change anything. Declaring a state of emergency on security is just to suffer the people again, so that they don’t go out to do their business.”
He lamented that Nigeria got to this point because some people were allowed to roam about and do whatever they like.
Kokori made reference to Mao Tse Tung’s popular statement to drive home his point. “According to Tse Tung,” he said: ‘We are the advocates of the abolition of war. We don’t want war, but war could only be abolished by war. And in order to get rid of the gun, you have to apply the gun.’
“All this rubbish is happening because Nigerians don’t have guns. If you have a gun and I have a gun, the bandits and kidnappers would all cease. What is the meaning of a state of emergency without a gun.”
However, the Coordinator of Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG), Joseph Evah, is angry at the members of the House of Assembly for not taking their jobs seriously. He also maintained that declaring a state of emergency on security is needed now more than ever before considering the prevailing security situation in the country, particularly the recent development in Niger State.