Security or, more appropriately, the lack of it, is on the top burner of Nigeria’s discourse today. We talk about it every day, everywhere, because there is nothing more important than the lack of security that stares all of us in the face. Not poverty, not COVID-19. We, therefore, cannot stop talking about security, until we are secure. And because we are all desperately searching for answers to the problems, we have found that some of those who should be a part of the solution are turning out to be a part of the problem by spewing out insane narratives that can lead us to nowhere.
It is the height of confusion, the height of our helplessness and the feeling that we have run out of viable ideas for the solution of this intractable problem. If we were honest brokers in this matter, things would not have reached this stage where we are in a place we did not want to be, a place that is a spitting distance from hell.
For many years now, Nigerians have offered viable solutions to our security problems. We had the Presidential Committee on Police Reform in 2006. We also had the 2014 National Conference that made far-reaching recommendations on how our security could be organised for maximum effectiveness. The recommendations included the creation of a secondary police force in the states to support the Nigeria Police Force. This document was a product of multilateral contributions from various persons, organisations and groups, which made it very comprehensive and national in outlook. It wasn’t a partisan document of any political party but political party bigots have told us that they have no intention of letting their eyes stray into the document lest it makes them blind. They told us, too, that the 2014 National Conference convened by President Goodluck Jonathan was simply “job for the boys.”
And after their failure to come up with any original ideas of their own the leaders of the ruling party, APC, decided that it was better for them to set up an APC committee that would produce a document that they could use in tackling the country’s multifarious problems, including security. They chose one of their own, an experienced man in governance and Governor of Kaduna State, Mr. Nasir El-Rufai, to lead in the search for the solution to our existential problems, a solution that would have an APC stamp. Mr. El-Rufai and his team travelled to various parts of the country, received memoranda and listened to the people in all the six political zones. On the basis of this, they wrote a report in which they recommended, among other things, restructuring and the creation of state police. That report is about two years old in someone’s office gathering dust and cobwebs even though the creation of the El-Rufai Committee was not for the purpose of creating “jobs for the boys.” Rufai has said several times that the creation of state police is the right answer to our security problems.
A roundabout confirmation of that viewpoint is the fact that various states and regions are forming one kind of security apparatus or the other, bearing different names but doing the same security work. This is proof positive, if any was needed, that a state police force is an idea whose time has come.
Since the beginning of this republic, various governments at the centre have been toying with various ideas on security, including deploying soldiers to police beats, partnering with vigilance groups in various communities, looking the other way while some state governments establish their security formations and more recently establishing community policing. None of these ad hoc measures has helped us to have a security situation that we all can be proud of. The reasons are not far to seek. The country is too big for a single police force, centrally organised and remotely controlled, whose leadership hankers after political correctness rather than security achievement.
The central government can never fund a single police force singlehandedly in a satisfactory manner. That is why the Nigeria Police Force is substantially supported in all the states by all the state governments. The operational control of the police force that is far removed from the states and local governments, as the Nigeria Police Force is, can never achieve the rapid response and rapid results that are needed in many crime situations. Those are some of the reasons, including the paucity of numbers, that the police have fallen far short of accomplishing security goals despite the injection of many soldiers into many crime scenes.
No government in Nigeria, no matter how well-intentioned, will be able to tackle satisfactorily our security problems without a secondary or state police. Even in the present circumstance where soldiers are drafted into police beats, there are still several problems. Besides, the soldiers are taken away from their core responsibilities, which no one else can do. Now, because the security forces, police and soldiers, are overwhelmed by the task at hand, we are being advised not to be cowards but to rise up and protect ourselves. My question is: Really?
So, things have now come to this. And what will those paid to defend us going to be doing? Go on sabbatical? Well, if we are to defend ourselves by ourselves, you must provide us with the sophisticated arms that criminals flaunt today. I remember that when retired Lt. General T.Y. Danjuma urged his people in Taraba to defend themselves a few years ago, he was called an anarchist. He said, based on his assessment, that the security forces had shown a large dose of partisanship. That has been manifested malevolently in the herders/farmers’ crisis. That partisanship is now spilling into the polity and poisoning the nation’s bloodstream. Now we are being told that the herders are foreigners and we can do little or nothing about them. I suspect that they probably came before our 2015 and 2019 elections to do their duty since their leaders also came here to campaign for our leaders and we saw nothing wrong with that. Now we are being told that the bandits who capture people on the roads, school, farms and highways and take them into the forests for maiming, killing and raping should be given a “blanket amnesty” like the Niger Delta militants who were fighting for justice and equity on the utilisation of their crude oil resources. Can someone tell me what causes the bandits are fighting for when they drag innocent persons into the forest to pay ransom before they are freed?
That will be a redefinition of crime and punishment and if we are looking for a perfect way of incentivising crime, that is it. And all of a sudden we find ourselves searching for an answer to a question whose answer we thought we all knew: who owns the forests in Nigeria? We thought the Land Use Act had settled that. Now Miyetti Allah, the herders trade union group, says it owns all the forests in Nigeria and can graze its cattle anywhere it wants. The state governments who legally control all the land in Nigeria, except Abuja, are struggling to establish suzerainty over their states’ land in the light of the punch-in-your nose and a finger-in-your-eye arrogance of the herders’ trade union and their sponsors, backers and supporters.
This seems to be the season of madness and the height of ridiculousness. In life, people never know what is enough until they have had more than enough. These people who are pushing the country down the slippery slope seem to feel that they have nothing to lose but everything to gain from these insane rantings. Probably so, but I doubt it. We all will lose, if we go beyond this dangerous point where we are now.
I notice that the President is sending a team round the country to pour water on the raging fire, while some other people are pouring petrol on it. The President’s peace overture may buy us time but it is not the permanent solution to our security crisis. I ask him to take a look at the report of the El-Rufai committee and implement what his own partymen recommended so that the nation can breathe a little better. Right now, people in various parts of the country can’t breathe at all. They are choked either because their relations have been kidnapped or killed or raped by unknown assailants or they are choked by the thought that they have no idea who might be the next victim, they or someone they love.