Nigeria is in dire straight. The land is bleeding with blood and tears. The urgent need to halt her steady drift into the abyss is now a matter of serious concern to all and sundry.
As they say, security is the first law of nature. It is the primary reason people will voluntarily give up their sovereignty in exchange for state protection. For President Muhammadu Buhari, whose primary agenda is security, the escalating trend of killing, maiming, kidnapping, hostage taking, as well as armed banditry must have been a huge source of nightmare.
The entire nation had heaved a big sigh of relief upon his assumption of office in 2015, when he ordered the relocation of army commanders to the states already ravaged by the Boko Haram insurgents, promising to restore safety to the troubled region and the country as a whole. But barely eight months into the second tenure of the administration of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the activities of the dreaded insurgents and other criminal elements have not only assumed a more alarming dimension, but have also overwhelmed the government.
President Buhari further played into the hands of the opposition when he said in his response to the escalating security situation in the country that he was shocked at the trend of killing by the terrorist groups. This is coming on the heels of the planned withdrawal of troops in some states North Eastern states hitherto heavily troubled by the insurgents. The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, had announced the planned withdrawal of troops following the outcome of the security meeting held in Abuja, adding that the withdrawal would be done after a proper assessment of the situation in the affected areas.
According to Buhari, who spoke through his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Garba Shehu, the withdrawal is to allow the military focus on its primary duty of defending the nation against external aggression. The statement read: “The withdrawal is to allow the military focus on its primary duty of defending the nation against external aggression. It is the duty of the police to handle internal security since Nigeria is not at war. The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps will support the police to provide internal security. When it is time to withdraw, nothing will be rushed.”
In its self-comforting assessment of the security situation in the country, the APC-led administration has always insisted that Boko Haram has been degraded. But contrary to that self delusion, the nation has had to grapple with the grim reality of the seeming invincibility of the dreaded group.
According to some stakeholders, the lopsided security architecture of the country is partly responsible for the endless fight against the insurgents. For ethnic consideration, critics say, President Buhari deliberately skewed his appointment of Service Chiefs in favour of the North to further help the alleged conquest agenda of the Fulani herdsmen who have been on rampage in virtually every region of Nigeria.
Agitation for regional security outfit
The desire to secure the six states of the Southwest against the threat of banditry, armed robbery, kidnapping, as well as incessant Fulani herdsmen/framers clashes compelled the concerned governors to pool their resources together to launch a security outfit code-named Amotekun to complement the effort of the security agencies in protecting lives and property of the people in the region.
But the initiative met a stiff opposition from the Federal Government, as well as some certain interest groups from the Northern part of the country. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mallam Abubakar Malami (SAN), on his own part, had swiftly reacted by declaring the security outfit illegal, a pronouncement that sparked off a rage of protests, arguments and counter-arguments, which almost degenerated to name-calling between the Yoruba leaders and their Hausa/Fulani counterparts in the North. This was fuelled by the fear being expressed in some quarters that the initiative could lead to the breakup of the country.
Following the prolonged exchange of brickbats between the pro and anti-Amotekun security outfit, Malami recanted his words at a stakeholders’ meeting convened by Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), saying he was misquoted in the media report.
Since then, there has been a deluge of agitations from other regions for the creation of a similar security outfit.
The Secretary, Ijaw Elders Forum, in a statement made available to Sunday Sun, said: “The worsening state of insecurity all over the country caused by Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen, bandits, kidnappers etc coupled with the evident inability of the security agencies to arrest the slide to anarchy necessitates the adoption of alternative measures. Amotekun, the security outfit of the six western Nigerian states, is justified. We call on governors of the South-south to form their own security outfit (Operation Red-Crab) and also revive the BRACE commission to foster economic integration in the region.”
Similarly, the President General, Uhrobo Progress Union, Olorogun Moses Taiga, in a statement, said: “Amotekun is a response to the current security challenges in the Southwest. It is meant to help the Federal Government combat insecurity in the land. The baby should not be thrown away with the bath water because Amotekun is needed. We urge the Southwest to continue to dialogue with the Federal Government to smoothen the rough edges. We also call on the South-south, especially the government of Delta State, to study what the Southwest has done so that the South-south can set up a similar security outfit to support the police to combat insecurity in the region. If the South-south is not pro-active, by the time Amotekun succeeds in chasing away criminals from the Southwest, they will relocate to the South-south and the area will become uninhabitable.”
However, a notable leader of thought in the North, Dr Junaid Muhammed, speaking with Sunday Sun in a telephone interview, described Amotekun as ethic militia established to kill some people. He said: “People are being killed on a daily basis. And in the face of this challenge, some people are trying to introduce ethnic militia to kill other people. These are the issues that concern me not this funny language about the so-called security architecture.”
Rising religious tension
Added to this endless controversy is the rising religious tension in the country which compelled the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs to call on President Buhari to declare a state of emergency on security. This followed the recent killing of the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State, Rev Lawani Andimi by Boko Haraam insurgents and subsequent exchange of words between the Christian leaders and the presidency.
Recently, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, had to lead a large crowd of Christians on a peaceful rally in Lagos where they offered prayers for God’s intervention in the affairs of the nation.
Earlier, President Buhari had responded to the alleged religious persecution being raised by the Christians, saying more Muslims had been killed by Boko Haram than any other religion.
Junaid, reacting to the worrisome development, said the new trend was a deliberate attempt by some people to polarize the country.
His words: “There are people who will like to introduce religious dimension to every issue for purely political agenda to make the country ungovernable. This is not the first time we are seeing this. There was a time T.Y Danjuma made irresponsible statement. Obasanjo had also done the same thing talking about Islamisation of Nigeria. I don’t know who wants to Islamise Nigeria. We have heard irresponsible statements from the likes of Wole Soyinka and Pastor Tunde Bakare, all them Christians, making anti-Islamic statements regarding the issue of Sharia or Hisbah, for which they have offered no proof. So, we can see that there is a deliberate attempt to polarise and overheat the polity for whatever reason I don’t know.
“I keep saying if this country goes asunder, all of us will be diminished; the entire black race will be diminished. And even more importantly, I don’t think there will be a winner. In fact, those who think they can emerge the winner in a religious mayhem are likely to be the loser.
“People are merely taking advantage of the incompetence of the government in handling the security challenge. And we can see clearly that the government does not want to initiate meaningful change. For example, they have refused to remove the Service Chiefs. The police have also failed. At a time like this, people can easily take advantage of religion to achieve what they want. We cannot deny the fact that the government has not succeeded in handling this issue. The statement emanating from the president also shows his ignorance of the happenings in other parts of the country other than the core areas where Boko Haram is operating. And it is disturbing.”
Also a former governor of the old Anambra State, Dr Chuwuemeka Ezeife, in his reaction, warned of the dire consequences of introducing religious dimension to the security issue in the country.
“We heard the statement attributed to the president that 90 per cent of the people who are hurt by Boko Haram are Muslims. I think anybody who is introducing religious divides in Nigeria is not helping at all because we are all worshipping the God of Abraham in Christianity and Muslim. I watched the video of the killing of Chairman of CAN in Adamawa, for me, that is not God’s own people. God never intended that we, His creation, can behave like that. And that is not Muslim; that is not the true picture of religion of Muhammed. Our system has collapsed,” he declared.
The Chief Imam of Ansar-U-Deen Society of Nigeria, Abdulrahman Ahmed, also added his voice, calling for caution against introducing religious sentiment to the activities of Boko Haram terrorist group so as not to overheat the polity.
He warned that making such inflammatory statement could set the country ablaze.
His words: “Those who are introducing religious dimension into the issue of insecurity are friends of terrorists and enemies of the people and the country. At this time, Nigerians must be very conscious. Everyone should be very careful about what they think and what they say because we are already sitting on a keg of gunpowder. Words are powerful; they could ignite it and set the whole country ablaze.
“Terrorists and terrorism have no religion. They have no humanity, they have no scruples. And so, we should not unwittingly give them protective shelter under religion. Crime is crime, there is no Christian armed robbery, there is no Islamic armed robbery, there is no Muslim insurgency, and there is no Christian insurgency. All these are crimes against humanity. All people of good conscience must rise in unison to condemn and stand up to these heinous crimes no matter the ethnic or religion of the perpetrators. Those who are whipping up religious sentiment must remember that in all places where there had been wars and genocide, it had always been preceded by words like these by profiling particular religion or particular ethnic group. And usually, it does not end well. So, we must be very careful at this point in time.”
Perceived lopsided security architecture
Penultimate Tuesday, in response to the increasing public concern, the Senate inaugurated an ad-hoc committee to look into the current security architecture of the country and recommend ways to improve on the present security situation. Inaugurating the 18-member committee, the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, charged the members to be rigorous in their assignment, saying “in order to deepen the understanding of the nature of the security crisis, have a realistic assessment of the problem and proffer workable solution”.
While some people have commended the National Assembly for this intervention, others say it is diversionary. Junaid reacted: “First and foremost, I don’t know what they are talking about security architecture of the country. It is a way of introducing elegant language which does not address the issue.”
Former governor of old Kaduna State, Balarabe Musa, expressed a different perspective, blaming the endless security challenge on the incompetence of the president.
He argued: “As far as I am concerned, performance of Service Chiefs only depends on what the president can do. There is no need to blame the Service Chiefs. We have to blame the president because he has all the powers to deal with the security challenge and he gives order to the security chiefs. So, why should we blame the Service Chiefs?
“What brought about all this is the incompetence of the president and his party. It is their incompetence that has caused all this. Let the president sit up and do the right thing. He can initiate programme of reconciliation, unity, and progress. He has the legal and moral authorities to do it. The National Assembly should also sit up because the leadership can talk to him directly to do the right thing. His government is completely incompetent and that is what is causing all these crises.”
State of emergency
Worried by the worsening security situation in the country, the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA, urged President Buhari to declare a state of emergency.
In a statement, the group said: “The level of insecurity in the country has reached an unacceptable crescendo that declaring a state of emergency on it appears not only necessary, but also pressing.
“Therefore, the Council stridently calls on the Federal Government and all its agencies (including the military) to use whatever means possible to arrest this descent into anarchy. Nigeria cannot just continue like this with the blood of the innocent being shed unjustly and human security being at its lowest ebb. The situation of Nigeria today is desperate and desperate situations require desperate measures in the collective interest of well-meaning Nigerians. Let the monster of insecurity be tackled actively and proactively with the full weight of Nigeria’s security and defence capacity!”
On this note, questions are now being asked as to what modalities to adopt during the emergency. Junaid raised the poser, saying: “I will not mind declaration of emergency on security, but this may not be the right time to do that. I will like to know what the details would be. Details must be spelt out and it must be such that are acceptable by the people, at lease, the elected representatives of the people.”
But in the opinion of Ezeife, the declaration of emergency is long overdue. He said: “I think the state of emergency is in everybody’s mouth. I think that has been declared already by the people of Nigeria from North to South, from East to West. We see it with our eyes every day. The social media report insecurity everywhere. The state of emergency is already there. It is just a matter of government reacting to the emergency that exists now. I believe what is needed is government’s recognition of the danger for every human being in the country. Instead of looking for what to do to take care of a state of emergency, you will not believe that people in government are planning on how to hurt other people who are saying the truth about the situation. What we hear they are planning make us very worried. We have to pray to God to rescue Nigeria. I believe in one Nigeria, but everything is being done to break it up.”
Alhaji Shuaib Oyedokun, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), while lending credence to Ezeife’s submission, also said: “If there is anything in the country today that should be given utmost priority, it is the security of lives and property of Nigerians. The state of violence, killings, kidnapping, and all other vices is so grave now that some urgent needs to be done to stem the tide. Calling for a state of emergency now is a fine cry and I hope government will give listening ears to it. The first necessity of life is security.”
Balarabe Musa, however, disagreed, dismissing the move as a diversion. “I think we don’t need that. Let us call on the president to do whatever he has to do to address the issue of insecurity. He is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces; he is in control of security agencies, why can’t he deal directly with the state of security? He should deal with it. There is no need for diversion,” he insisted.