After the mindless attack on Imo State Police Command headquarters and a Correctional Centre in Owerri by unidentified gunmen, the South East governors met in Owerri and announced the formation of a joint security outfit for the region codenamed Ebube Agu, which loosely translates to the aura of a lion. Lion in Igbo folklore is imbued with great power and fearlessness. Other animals live in great dread of the lion, the king of the jungle. Even hunters dread lion, the king of animal kingdom.
It is therefore little wonder that the Igbo venerate the lion for its braveness and power in stories, proverbs, drama and poetry. Even our novelists used the lion in some of their stories. Some dreaded masquerades are named after the lion. Brave people are given the name of lion. Agu is also a totem in some Igbo cultures. Despite the Igbo world-view of the lion, it is a little surprising that some Ndigbo are making jest of the newly formed security outfit, Ebube Agu.
Granted that the South East governors came a little too late with the formation of the regional security outfit. Their intervention came when more harm has been done to the security of life and property in the region. At the same time, it is better late than never. Their dithering over the matter might have led to why many Igbo people deride it. The alienation between the governors and the people they govern also contributed to the growing disenchantment on the workability of the new security outfit. I have argued elsewhere that the absence of the South East governors’ response to the deteriorating insecurity in the region made the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, to form the Eastern Security Network (ESN) to secure Igbo land against killer herdsmen and other criminals.
Now that the South East governors have woken up from their deep slumber over insecurity in the region, I think that they should be given the benefit of doubt and the necessary support and encouragement to succeed instead of the present scorn in the social and traditional media on the matter. I say this because security is a serious matter that must not be trivialized. The pervading insecurity and burning of police formations in the South East should worry every person from the zone. What is happening in the South East will not bode well for the people and the entire country if it is allowed to degenerate. It is true that the South East governors have not been able to act in concert or speak with one voice on issues that affect the people of the region, including security.
They are even not on the same page on how to solve the socio-economic problems besetting the region such as unemployment, infrastructural development, low ease of doing business and bad governance, which had been the lot of the people of the region since the return to democracy in 1999. Let me state here that there are few exceptions in the region on the issue of mis-governance. In all, the region cannot compare favourably with the South West or even the South South in terms of delivering democracy dividends to their people.
Just as the Yorubas rallied round their governors to support the Amotekun regional security outfit, Ndigbo should rally round their governors to support the formation of Ebube Agu, which hopefully will be made to work with the police and other security agencies in the region to secure Alaigbo for the people and others living in the zone. The current dissipation of energy over the meaning and nature of the security outfit is diversionary and unnecessary. What is vital is for the governors to make it a legal entity whose functions will be clearly spelt out. Any other group in the region wishing to be part of the internal security arrangement must be ready to subsume itself to Ebube Agu.
The formation of regional security outfits such as Hisbah, Amotekun and Ebube Agu and others, is a pointer to the dire need for state police, an idea the APC federal government has been playing politics with in recent times. Hisbah, Amotekun and Ebube Agu have boldly underlined the necessity for the creation of state police in the country. In spite of those who go by the usual mindset that Nigeria is not ripe for ‘this or that,’ I make bold to say that Nigeria is eminently ripe for state police. The time has indeed come when governors will be really in charge of security in their states. The present system which makes governors chief security officers of their states without being in charge of police in their states is not working and will never work.
That is why we are all witnessing rise in insecurity in almost all the six geo-political zones. There is need to ensure that state commissioners of police are indigenes of the states they are presiding. This will make them understand the terrain as well as the people. Domestication of security through state policing will make Nigeria overcome its current security challenges. The over-centralization of policing is one of the reasons behind the growing insecurity in the country. We can learn more about decentralized policing from the United States (US) from where we borrowed the presidential system of government without internalizing its basic tenets.
The absence of indigenes in the management of security is more obvious in the South East where almost all heads of security agencies in the region are not from the region. This lapse was captured in the recent statement issued by the World Igbo Congress (WIC) on the formation of Ebube Agu. Since the names of those heads of the security agencies are already in the public domain, there is no point repeating them here. The Federal Government should look seriously into what WIC said with a view to redressing the anomaly.
The decentralization of policing is an issue that the federal government should not run away from or choose to politicize. The lack of direct foreign investment inflows as demonstrated by Twitter having its African office in Ghana is due to the degenerating security situation in the country, our poor performance in the ease of doing business and other impediments. According to Twitter, Ghana was chosen because “it is a supporter of free speech, online freedom and the open internet of which Twitter is an advocate.” It also said that “Ghana’s appointment to host the secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement Area (AfCFTA) aligns with our overarching goal to establish a presence in the region that will support our efforts to improve and tailor our services across Africa.”
With the worrying security situation in the country, it will be pretty difficult for any foreign concern to come to Nigeria. With epileptic power supply, lack of potable water, unconducive business climate, Nigeria cannot attract the much needed foreign direct investment. With over 200 million population and large market, Nigeria should have been an investors’ destination. This is what should worry our leaders instead of blaming poor ordinary Nigerians for demarketing the country as the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed would have us believe.