■ Momoh, Col Ajayi, Ogunlewe, Okorie task Nigerians, FG
Omoniyi Salaudeen; Onyedika Agbedo
Barely 10 months to the 2019 general elections, indications have emerged that the success of the polls would largely depend on the Federal Government’s ability to tame the spate of insecurity in the country.
With over 1,000 Nigerians reportedly killed this year across the country, especially in the Middle Belt axis by suspected herdsmen, and the resurgence of the Boko Haram sect that has been terrorising the North-east geo-political zone, there are concerns that the coming elections would be an uphill task as there are heightened fears of more bloodshed in the country that could plunge it into total anarchy.
This, however, could be averted if Nigerians forge a common front and confront the current challenges starring the country in the face headlong instead of the current trading of blames, some opinion leaders said.
Sunday Sun findings showed that in spite of the alleged link between the killer herdsmen in the Middle Belt region and terrorist group, Boko Haram, as well as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the politicisation of the issue and heating up of the polity by politicians are encouraging the situation to fester.
Looking at the situation, former Minister of Information and Culture, Prince Tony Momoh, pointed out that securing the country before the 2019 elections is a challenge every Nigerian must embrace.
“Insecurity is a threat to life and existence for people who live in an environment. An environment that is not secured cannot grow. Love should bind people who live in a particular environment. Where there is no love, no communication and no security, nothing else can happen. So, without love and understanding there can never be peace and there has to be peace.
“If, for instance, we do not have security, I don’t see how there can be growth, how there can be understanding. Anything can happen. So, securing the country is the challenge of government at all levels; it’s the challenge of all communities; it’s the challenge of everybody. And there must be that security before the 2019 election,” he said.
Momoh advised that Nigerians could secure the country ahead of the elections through proper communication, noting: “We are politicising everything and that is not healthy at all. In fact, the motto of politicians is lying. There was this American congressman who was asked to apologise to his colleagues and he said, ‘I won’t apologise; I was exercising my prerogative as a politician to tell lies’. So, it looks like lying is the mantra of politicians and lying can never bind a community together. You know, truth must be spoken to power. Everybody must say their mind and let understanding be built among people. But let’s just not play politics with everything. Unless we understand ourselves, I’m quite sure we are not ready for anything. And Nigerians must know that Nigeria is greater than any individual and any interest.
“Politics is an area in which people express interest and in which people invest for the opportunity they think will emerge. But we must put Nigeria first before any other thing and then communicate with one another across boundaries, across board and across interests. That way, things would be good.”
Also speaking on the issue, a retired officer of the Nigerian Army, Col. Gabriel Adetunji Ajayi, maintained that providing a peaceful atmosphere that would ensure peaceful conduct of the 2019 election is in the hands of Nigerians.
He said: “All those talks about ISIS are just make-belief something. The point is that we have a problem in Nigeria, which is very novel to us in this country. We have never been confronted with this type of problem before. Therefore, all of us must have to stand up as a nation to face this challenge. It is a great challenge that is inhibiting our progress and national cohesion. Bloodshed is abhorred; the more you shed blood, the more blood will be shed. Blood will always ask for blood. This should be a concern for everybody. It is not about ISIS. The only thing the government needs to do is to ensure that what caused the problem originally is nipped in the bud and is not allowed to raise its ugly head in other places. It was the mismanagement of Boko Haram crisis that led to the present security challenge in the first instance. If we have uprising here and there and they are not properly managed, it will always lead to this kind of arm struggle. So, it is not about ISIS, it is about our collective effort in this country.
“How do we get out of this dilemma we have found ourselves? It is for the stakeholders from the president to the governors, national and state assembly members, chairmen of councils and even the councilors to find a solution to our problem so that we can have peace in our land. It is not about blame game. All of us must be security conscious. We must be our brothers’ keeper. We must care for what happens to the next person. People cannot be living in poverty, while others are living in splendor. There won’t be peace.”
Ajayi praised existing the bilateral relationship between Nigeria and the U.S., describing the recent arms deal between the two countries towards combating insurgency as something Nigerians should be proud of.
“Today, it is a good thing that we could officially ask for procurement of arms from the U.S. That is a good sign that our democracy is working. That is a good sign that other countries have built confidence in us, believing that if they sell arms to us, it will not get into the hands of their enemies. It is a good thing for us; it is something we should be proud of,” he said.
Also, former Minister of Works, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, said: “The U.S. has so much information about the lapses in our security system and could be of help to Nigeria in addressing her present security challenges.
“What we don’t even know, they know. I was at Harvard; they have a building there where they can monitor everything that is happening in Nigeria. They showed us. We should have asked for drones and experts to monitor our security. All these killings can be stopped if we involve the Americans. They will send drones with which we can monitor the movement of these herdsmen. But it must be on request. Instead of buying these fighter jets, they can give us sophisticated equipment to deal with the insurgency. We don’t need those jets to fight this insurgency.”
On his part, the National Chairman of the United Progressives Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, said security was the real issue ahead of the 2019 election.
He noted that the recent statement by the Minister of Interior, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau (retd) that over 350 million illegal weapons were in private hands in the country was enough to compel the government to take extra-ordinary measures not only to secure lives and property, but also to ensure a credible, free and fair election in 2019.
“The level of insecurity in the country is a threat to the election. There is no way you can hold a free and fair election and on a level playing field in a state of insecurity. And the time is so short for the security agencies to reassure the people that they are equal to the task of providing security for the conduct of the election. If you remember, in the Anambra State governorship election, the police claimed that they deployed 25,000 of their men in addition to whatever number the Civil Defence, DSS and army also deployed. But what those security agencies did, as there was no security challenge in Anambra as everybody noticed, was to collaborate with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials to manipulate the election in favour of the highest bidder. When people complained to the police that votes were being purchased openly, they had a rehearsed answer that their duty was to maintain law and order and that if the complainants were aggrieved, they should go and get their own money and buy the votes themselves as nobody would disturb them. This was the response they got from police personnel in every polling station in the state.
“Another thing that happened in that election that has not been denied is that INEC officials set aside the secret ballot system provided in the Electoral Act and brought the ballot boxes outside the cubicle so that whoever was thumb printing can show his/her prospective buyer that he/she voted for the party that would pay and thereafter went and collected his/her money.
“With this experience, the people must take additional steps to protect their votes and secure their states and constituencies against invasion by neo-colonialist. The people want to give their mandate to whomever they want; they don’t want to become slaves in their own place. And Nigeria does not have enough security personnel to protect the entire nation.
“So, I’m saying that security is a real issue ahead of the 2019 election, especially now that the Minister of Interior admitted publicly that over 350 million illegal weapons are in private hands in the country. This kind of situation must compel both the government and the electoral body to ensure that nothing is done to provoke a break down of law and order because the country does not have the security to handle the anarchy that will follow in the event of any such break down,” Okorie said.