The callous destruction by yet unidentified people of the police command headquarters and prison facilities in Owerri, Imo State, as well as the freeing of prisoners underline once again the awful state of insecurity across the country. It is unthinkable that criminals would have the courage to vandalise a police headquarters and get away without being challenged or apprehended. The police network in Owerri must take responsibility for failing to stop that extraordinary violent destruction of government buildings, as well as public and private properties.
What point did the vandals intend to convey by freeing prisoners arbitrarily and destroying vehicles and other valued properties in the vicinity of the police command headquarters and the prison? The ramifications of the dastardly act will be felt across the country for years to come because the prisoners will find a way to sustain themselves through crime. Armed robbery, kidnapping, assassinations, break-and-enter, as well as other criminal activities are likely to increase.
All these reflect the poor quality of national and state leadership. Lawlessness is widespread but no one seems to care or take responsibility to put an end to the breakdown of law and order. Nigeria is overdue for a major peaceful revolution. For how long shall ordinary people, many of them impoverished, live under the current climate of terror? There is violence everywhere. No place is safe. No one is protected. No institution is too big to be vandalised or attacked. There is impunity everywhere.
Failure by government to tackle insecurity unwaveringly is disaster writ large. I cannot see how the government can move the country forward politically, economically and socially in an environment in which lives are unprotected and fear rules people’s lifestyle. Endless state of lawlessness drives public anger against the federal and state governments, high-profile political leaders, ministers and heads of security agencies.
Insecurity is now the unstable ground on which Nigeria stands. Our present and future existence is being dictated and framed by criminals from diverse ethnic, religious, and cultural settings, including those who pass through our borders illegally from overseas countries.
Insecurity has given many people a platform to agitate for the splintering of Nigeria. If we are not protected by the Nigerian state that has an obligation to cater for our welfare, our wellbeing, and our security, our personal objectives in present-day Nigeria would be best achieved when we go our separate ways. Perhaps, what we cannot attain under the current unstable arrangement, we might attain through our individual efforts.
There is evidence to show that something disastrous has happened and is still happening in Nigeria. It is not a disaster that can be fixed in a decade or two. The cord that held various regions of the country precariously together since Independence has ruptured. That is the first indication that Nigeria as a country is struggling to meet its obligations to citizens. The pervading fractious mood is a preview of the imminent implosion. It will not be long before that happens.
For many years, political leaders presumed that Nigerians were gullible and could be easily fooled. We have now reached a point in which citizens can no longer tolerate lies, endemic corruption, general misuse of public funds, treachery, unfulfilled promises, deception, and abuse of office by political leaders.
Let me reinforce a point I made in a previous essay. The main reason Nigeria has remained the way it was since independence is politicians’ insensitivity to people’s worsening socioeconomic conditions, including growing poverty, rising unemployment of youths, collapse of infrastructure, lack of healthcare, and others. Add to all these poor governance and indifference by the nation’s leaders. Incompetent leadership has always been an obstacle on the nation’s path to economic development.
Never before in the history of Nigeria have citizens been so disheartened by the low quality of political leaders, and their shameless attachment to dishonesty.
Worsening state of insecurity says much about the lack of ability by those who are elected to govern and those appointed to oversee the security of the nation. Every year, Nigeria sets aside large sums of money to enhance security. Every year, insecurity deteriorates. No one accounts to citizens and the National Assembly how the money budgeted for security has been expended or embezzled. National security is a significant ethical, political, social and economic issue.
Everywhere you look in the country, you will see unruly bands of criminals have taken over our social and economic space. They disrupt people’s lives. They influence psychologically the locations where people can visit or avoid. Everyone is concerned about losing their lives, about being kidnapped and about being dispossessed of their property. Clearly, the present situation is not acceptable.
The primary duty of a government is to protect the life and property of citizens. But our government has failed that responsibility. Extremists and radical groups who feel aggrieved by the state now take out their anger on government officials and citizens by striking indiscriminately at government institutions, government offices and government property. While all this is happening, security forces appear to be overwhelmed. It was the inability of the police in Owerri to disrupt and apprehend the criminals that wreaked havoc on the police command headquarters and the prison that gave the vandals the space and time to operate freely with little resistance.
Why do gangs of criminals who destroy life and property appear so mysterious, so slippery and so difficult to be apprehended by security forces? They have demonstrated the ability to strike when the police least expect. They are able to get away because of weak intelligence gathering capabilities of the police and other security agencies. A more effective intervention plan must be devised by the police to end the provocative activities of these vandals.
Civil society can no longer continue to live with their hearts in their mouths, terrified by what is likely to happen to them in the day and in the night. Calls on the government to protect the lives of citizens and to take national security seriously have gone unheeded. Rather than subside, the situation has become uncontrollable. The nation has reached a point of despondency.
Why has the government adopted the attitude that nothing is wrong in the country? Why is it that no one cares about the sanctity of lives that are wasted in Nigeria by bandits every day? Is President Muhammadu Buhari aware of the dreadful situation in the country? If he is aware, what vigorous security measures has he put in place to enforce the rule of law and to halt insecurity across the country?
Buhari must act now to show leadership and to demonstrate that he cares for the lives of Nigerians. He must show that duty of care that every President or Prime Minister is bound to uphold.