By Emmanuel Nkemdi
The worsening security challenges in the country seem to be getting out of hand. Many who have so far commented on the issue have painted pictures of hopelessness. To say the least, it has reached a point of despair and, as human beings, Nigerians are beginning to doubt if we can survive it and live together once again in a peaceful society.
Prominent personalities in the country, including the Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, seem to have given up hope, which led to their conclusion that the only way out of the quagmire is for the Federal Government to seek foreign assistance to tackle the security challenges bedevilling the country.
The main opposition political party in the country, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had also told the All Progressives Congress-led government at the centre that Nigeria needs external help to address festering insecurity in the country.
On his part, the immediate past President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, said President Muhammadu Buhari was overwhelmed by the security challenges, insisting that government needed urgent help and must seek such without wasting time.
He lamented the multiple attacks on life and property in the country almost on a daily basis and concluded that the situation cannot continue and cannot become Nigeria’s new normal, stressing that it is obvious that President Buhari and the APC need help from all under the present situation.
The former Senate leader urged the President to seek help wherever it can be given saying, “This matter has gone beyond what the government can handle alone. The President should know that calling for help in our present situation is not a sign of weakness.”
He also advised the President to bring together all former Presidents and heads of state, serving and former chief justices, serving and former presiding officers of the National Assembly, serving and former heads of security agencies, traditional rulers with relevant experience, leaders of the private sector, development partners, friends of Nigeria in the international community and all others who can help in finding solutions to the problem at hand.
“The meeting must hold expeditiously and must be followed by immediate actions. I know there are many people who believe that the fact that this suggestion is coming from a source outside the government is a good reason for the President to ignore it. I think the attitude this time around must be different. This is definitely not a time for partisanship or for people to play politics with the lives of the citizenry and the future of the country,” he said.
The ex-Senate leader further called on the National Assembly “to be more assertive in finding solutions to this issue of insecurity,” saying that the legislature would not be helping the Buhari regime if they did not become more insistent and decisive in their approach to getting the security crisis tackled immediately.
“Even those of us in the opposition party recognise the fact that we can only exist if we continue to have a country. Thus, we are willing to cooperate with the government in finding solutions to this problem. Our former leaders, I am sure, are ready, willing, and able to assist the government with their wealth of experience”, he said.
In his comments on the issue, the National Leader of the APC, Sen. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, said that Nigeria needs unity to surmount the current security challenges observing that every nation will go through difficult times and “we must unite to succeed.”
He added that no President wants a country in chaos, noting that only a concerted and united response will end the numerous security challenges.
“The best way is what we are doing; coming together to reduce banditry, to move for unity and be able to bring a better Nigeria to the people. The welfare of our people is extremely important. And, yes, every nation will go through these curves and difficult times. How we communicate it to the people, what are the areas to help make it easier for people to bear, those are ideas on how to be able to change the leadership of the country,” he explained.
The truth, however, is that the situation is not yet too bad as is being projected by many stakeholders. All hope is not yet lost. This is not to say that they are not right in their observations and recommendations.
The situation can be salvaged through collaboration with all stakeholders, especially traditional rulers, religious leaders, synergy among security agencies and the ability of the federal government to provide a level playing field devoid of ethnic, religious or political interests.
Time has come when the role of traditional rulers in peacekeeping must be recognized at all levels. They are the custodians of the people’s culture and, to some extent, their religion. Traditional rulers because of their closeness to the people can play a great role in solving the security challenges if properly mobilized and engaged at local government, state and federal level.
If the traditional rulers at various localities across the country are fully engaged, they could be the major source of information to the security agencies in terms of identifying any criminal elements lurking around their domains because they know who is who in those areas.
There is also the need for security agencies to work together in the fight against insecurity in the land. There must be a uniting force among them so that, at any point in time, one agency must be away from what the other is doing to avoid not only duplication of duty but also to be alert based on information passed across various formations.
The ugly incident that took place in Maiduguri some days ago where a fighter jet belonging to the Nigerian Air Force bombed soldiers going to repel Boko Haram attack, is a clear indication of lack of proper information and coordination among the two agencies. All agencies at the theater of war must be up and doing in information gathering and sharing to know when, where and how to strike when the enemy approaches or at most to, through such information, nip in the bud plans of such enemy and prevent them from approaching not to talk of striking.
Religious leaders, through their various organizations such as Christian Association of Nigeria, Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, and Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, among, others must also be engaged and enlightened on what to preach to their followers and how to monitor their activities.
These men of God are respected by their followers to the extent that whatever they preach is swallowed hook line and sinker, whether such utterances would cause chaos or not. They should be properly mobilized and sensitized on the dangers of wrong preaching that could pit the various religious sects against one another.
Examples abound where crises have erupted from worship centres due to what the leaders must have told their followers to do, either to retaliate a perceived injustice or the other. With proper sensitization, such would not happen because they must have been educated on what to preach and what not to preach while with their followers.
It is pertinent to state here that all these would come to nothing if government at all levels fail to provide a level playing field for peace to reign. Government must strive to provide basic amenities that would engage the youths and take their minds away from crime.
In trying to solve the security challenges, government must always ensure that it does not take sides based on ethnic, religious or political differences when addressing issues of security breaches. Perpetrators of crime must be treated equally according to laws of the land, no matter who is involved.
A clear example of treating some criminals with kid gloves is the purported arrest of some operators of Bureau De Change in Kano that are allegedly sponsoring activities of Boko Haram insurgents. Up till now, their identities have not been revealed, which has had a negative effect on the fight against insurgency.
Government must ensure that it is always in touch with the people, especially at the grassroots, to know what it is doing about the present situation in the country in order not to allow rumours to thrive. With these, Nigeria will surely surmount the security challenges that have bedevilled it for over a decade now with much ease.
•Dr. Nkemdi, a public affairs analyst, resides in Abuja