By Omoniyi Salaudeen
Escalating security situation in Nigeria has reached a befuddling height in the recent months with an atmosphere of despondency virtually pervading everywhere. And with finger-pointing and game-blaming creeping into the scenario, it does appear that the country is permanently destined for self-destruction. The transition process within the Armed Forces and the much anticipated reform of strategy that is expected to follow the recent exchange of batons is taking forever, as the carnage continues unabated.
Yet, those whose responsibility it is to guarantee safety of lives and property of the citizenry aren’t giving any concrete assurance or hope for possible end to the ceaseless killings, banditry, kidnapping, and other forms of criminalities bedeviling the nation. Rather, the narrative has been mass abduction of innocent school children and payment of ransom to bandits without apprehension of the culprits.
The media aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mallam Garba Shehu, recently added some comic relief to this sorry spectre when he told the nation that his boss would soon name and publish the sponsors of Boko Haram insurgency and banditry. Distraught families and individual victims yelled and decried the unwarranted outburst, but nothing has happened since then. While the Commander-in-Chief proceeded to cool off in London under the care of his personal physician, criminals are all over the place having a field day. From Southeastern state of Imo to the far flung Borno state in the Northeast, it is the same story of killings and attendant vicious circle of mourning.
Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State, following the footstep of his counterparts in Zamfara and Kaduna states, recently took the intrigues a notch higher, accusing the opposition of being the masterminds of the serial attacks on police formations in his state without bothering to name names. The close he got was pointing accusing finger at a former governor of the state.
For some analysts, this kind of game-blaming only shows the cluelessness of the Buhari administration, as well as lack of political will to address the fundamental cause of insecurity in the country. Prominent leaders of thought who spoke with Sunday Sun, dismissed the statement made by the presidency and amplified by the compatriot governors as hollow, insensitive and a clear lack of direction.
A former minister of Transport, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, speaking on the matter, accused those in government of benefitting from the proceeds of criminalities going on in the country.
He said: “There is no doubt that this government is benefiting from banditry, kidnapping and ransom taking. And there is nobody that is as culpable as the Nigeria Police. When some of these things happen in other countries, there is a way they tackle them. How can victims be paying N10 million or N15 million to unknown persons and the government will be pretending not to be aware of it? Can’t the Central Bank print separate currency to pay ransom so that the culprits can be easily identified when they begin to spend the money? That is what they do all over the world. But everybody seems incapacitated. Ransom taking has become a big business. It is the people at the top that share the money.”
To end the menace of kidnapping and banditry, he recommended death penalty for any offender. “The National Assembly should make kidnapping a death penalty. You have to kill people that are killing people. General Theophillous Danjuma said it three or four years ago that self defence is the only way to go because he had seen it all that this is not a serious government to tackle insecurity. It is a pity for our country. Nigeria is already a banana republic. Anywhere you are going on the highway, they (kidnappers) can pick you up. They even have the audacity of going to a school to pick up over 300 children. Where will they keep 300 children in any part of the country and government will not know? There is no other country like this in the world. They can penetrate them, but everybody is handicapped because they don’t know what the president is going to say,” he posited.
According to him, the only way to end the present state of insecurity is for the country to address its defective federal structure. He argued: “All of this is because of the defective federal structure we run. And the earlier we address those issues, the better for all of us. Security cannot be over centralized in a country as large as Nigeria. Insecurity happens largely at the local level. And the only people who can handle it are the governors and chairmen of local governments. But they are incapacitated because of the composition we have in our constitution.
“The governors should be unanimous in their demand for control of the police in their states. There is no substitute to state security apparatus. That is, state police. Over centralization of security is defective and it will not work. We have to sit down to address this issue. Nigeria is doomed unless we address these issues.”
Chief Chekwas Okorie, while also expressing a similar view, said: “It is only when we take the issue of security back to the grassroots where the majority of Nigerians will be a part of owner of security setting that we will begin to deal with those sponsoring kidnapping and banditry.
“There are intelligent reports that community members will never give to security agencies of the type we have today, but will share with vigilante groups with the confidence they will not betray such intelligence reports.”
Okorie also described the failure of government to expose the sponsors of criminalities as embarrassing and lack of political-will. He added: “The aspect that I found most embarrassing is the government’s refusal to name names and prosecute such individuals. If the government was not ready to name names and prosecute those people, it has no business telling the nation that they know those behind banditry.
“The Governor of Zamfara State made that statement loudly and up till now, he has not followed it up by releasing the names. With the kind of immunity they enjoy, I expected the DSS to have swung into action to get the necessary information from him. The statement has turned out to be a big embarrassment to the government. It is unfortunate. Even the former IGP was so quick to accuse the IPOB of being responsible for the attacks on police formation in Imo State on arrival in Owerri. If he had that information, what was he waiting for before that attack happened? I am sure that the government must have been embarrassed by that type of statement coming from the head of Police and which was why they didn’t allow him to come back to Abuja before they sacked him. It is not a noble way of ending a career at that leveI. I am now a member of APC and I have no reason not to defend its course. But these are some of the things that are difficult to defend.
“That is not how any serious government should respond to a very critical issue that is threatening the cooperate existence of the country. I believe again, quite regrettably, that government lacks political will-power to address issue of insecurity from fundamental base, which is community policing. The Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, who is the number two man in the country, has repeatedly called for it. The National Assembly too is foot-dragging on it, forcing the regions to do something haphazardly.
“On the other side is the issue of justice. The issue of justice has not been adequately addressed. And there can never be peace where there is no justice. Some of these criminal activities bother on some kind of grievances. There are those who are angry with the way things are and they believe that destabilizing the country will draw attention to their cry for accommodation in the country. Frustration can lead to anything.
“I am so afraid that even when people gather to sit on this important issue in town hall meetings or television, they just scratch the surface. Some people are even afraid to say what should be done. The president has two more years in office and I believe there is so much he can do to change the narrative before leaving office. He shouldn’t handover Nigeria like this. I won’t expect him to handover this kind of Nigeria to his successor.”
Also, a prominent leader of thought in the North, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, in his submission, called for stakeholders’ meeting where the issue of insecurity would be jointly addressed for an enduring solution.
“I don’t believe they know the people behind the insecurity. They are just speculating. My own opinion is that Nigerians from all parts of the country should put their heads together because this problem concerns all of us. Let us as Nigerians put our heads together and come up with ideas. Let us tell the government our thinking about how to solve the problems. This idea of game blame cannot work,” he said.
Expectedly, there is already a rising anxiety and suspense over the refusal of the government to name and apprehend the alleged sponsors of the state of insecurity in the country. There are some who feel that the government is still compiling the names and others who have trashed the claim in a waste bin.