In the last couple of years, particularly in the last 12 months, the Nigerian leadership has been experimenting, so to say, with the various options of resolving the seemingly intractable security challenges of the nation. The major crisis started sometime in 2012 when a group tagged “Boko Haram” commenced their onslaught on the system. Initially, it was presented as an ideological group primarily against western education, before eventually assuming the status of a terrorist group. It was formed and nurtured then by Mohammed Yusuf that was extra-judicially, and in my view, prematurely (as that might still be his fate) eliminated by security agents.
At the time of his elimination, some of us felt that he could have been preserved to supply more information on the group’s activities and probably unveil some of the sponsors. Alas, this was not to be due to the ‘murder’. It was also rumored during the same period that the emergence and growth of the group was associated with the political activities of the period, where politicians made use of the members of the group for the purpose of manipulating the electoral process. It is instructive to quickly point out that, if Yusuf had not been extrajudicially killed, we most likely would not be in the mess we are in today. He probably would have been used as a solution. Since his demise, hell has been let loose, not only because of vengeance by of his people but because there was no central command anymore for the group. The consequence is what we are still witnessing today. This same treatment of extrajudicial killing was meted out to Gana in Benue and the ripple effects of that are yet to be tamed.
Obviously, the country is yet to learn any lesson from such premature extrajudicial killings, which have thrown the nation into turmoil. At times, acts of this nature tend to suggest a cover-up along the line. Today, Boko Haram remains the major albatross in the country, particularly in the northern part of Nigeria. In the southern part of the country, particularly the East and South, kidnapping and terrorist activities used to be the main challenge. They were largely reduced by the President Goodluck Jonathan administration through engagement and introduction of certain parity mechanisms.
Regrettably, the current administration would appear to have mismanaged the situation in the zones and unrest has suddenly cropped up again. The milieu in the zones is becoming fierce and degenerating badly. This is now aided by the agitation for self-determination. Inequality, injustice and unfairness in managing public affairs constitute the bedrock of the agitation. The campaign for self-determination in the zones is already assuming a dangerous dimension to the extent of unleashing attacks on state institutions, particularly security agencies and their personnel. The secessionist cry is already infecting the southwestern part of the country. Addressing the secessionist tendency requires just mere restructuring of the country in a manner that equity, fairness and justice will be enthroned. An urgent call by the southern governors in this regard must be heeded.
There is obviously so much lopsidedness and imbalance in the population of the federal agencies, too much in favour of a particular region. As if all these were not enough, herdsmen’s invasion started from the north and has engulfed all parts of Nigeria today. The latter is associated with open grazing by herdsmen with impact on farms and farmers. This tension is not unconnected with global warming and climate change impacts. It will be recalled that in my days as Commissioner for the Environment in Lagos State, I had warned about the desertification going on in the North and the need to urgently address it. Herders were busy losing green areas their cattle could graze on and inevitably had to be shifting towards areas with vegetation. I then predicted eventual clashes that could arise from this movement, if the impact of global warming was not contained. As expected, this has started happening and has become a major issue across the country.
The idea of cattle ranching has been mooted, which is laudable, but as a farmer, I know that it is not a cheap option. it requires major funding, which majority of herdsmen/cattle owners cannot afford. Certainly, a major intervention in this regard will be required. The cheaper option is to address aggressively the challenge of desertification, which will enable the herdsmen to occupy their natural habitat and territory.
In another ugly development, banditry has filtered into the country and is now rampant in virtually all the northern parts of Nigeria. Just as in kidnapping, a lot of this is economically driven. The poverty in the land is the major harbinger of this, certainly not unconnected with the level of unemployment in the country.
From data released by the National Bureau of Statistics, youth unemployment in Nigeria is about 45 per cent while general unemployment stands at over 35 per cent. This is clear evidence of the trigger of banditry and its ilk. Stemming this, therefore, requires, just as in the case of kidnapping, major upset of the poverty level as well as radical and rapid employment and empowerment programmes. What presently obtains is too transitional to make any meaningful impact. I am not too much a fan of the current social intervention programmes. I believe efforts should be geared towards a permanent engagement of the teeming unemployed youth. We need a holistic solution to the unemployment challenge and not tokenism. Now, in the last one decade, to be conservative, the major approach to solving the myriads of the security challenges has been through the use of force.
The authorities seem to believe that the solution is to engage the perpetrators through the use of force. Several billions of naira and dollars have been expended in the voyage without any commensurate result. In fact, rather than abating, the situation has been escalating and degenerating by the day. It is so bad now that the entire country is insecure and Nigerians live in fear all over. For how long are we going to continue this misadventure of force masquerading as solution? The starting point of any solution, basically, should involve proper diagnosis of the challenge. It is this that can provide the nation with the necessary prognosis, which may take a long time to be effectively utilised. To what extent this has been done is not apparent from the result we are getting from the combat approach.
Therefore, it is my belief that the country needs to embark on aggressive analysis of the situation through ascertaining the triggers of all these events. It is only when the causes are identified that we can appreciate the symptoms and then apply the right treatment. The best that is happening so far is the treatment of the symptoms. This explains why it is painful to witness the elimination of the leaders of some of the gangs like Yusuf and Gana. The latter was even reported to have renounced violence before he was mindlessly killed. A proper probe into them and their activities would have revealed the basis of their exceptionalism or deviancy.
In other characters, a proper diagnosis would tell us the basis of their misbehaviour. A person does not wake up and suddenly become a deviant and neither can a normal person choose to kill or maim another fellow human being without a cause. Similarly, a kidnapper does not start kidnapping for the sake of kidnapping or the various associated crimes committed under normal circumstances. There is always a factor responsible for an event.
Apart from the fundamental issues of poverty and weak intelligence in the country, a whole lot of other social issues are germane to the resolution of the crisis. For example, drug abuse, religious extremism arising from indoctrination, mental issues such as depression, corruption, etc. The summary of all the above is that there is a missing link in the country’s quest to tame the problems of insurgency, banditry, kidnappings and all other vices bedevilling it.
This lacuna lies in the failure to appreciate the role of our social scientists and the crucial value they could add to the elimination of the various vices.
How did intolerance amongst the tribes develop when, in recent past, we have peacefully cohabited together? Why would a sane human being take pride in banditry, robbery and other associated crimes? The rationale behind those misconducts can only be unveiled by the social scientists. Social scientists are researchers in the art of human behaviors and relationships. Their study provides primarily insights into the different ways individuals, groups, institutions make decisions, exercise power and respond to change. They range from the sociologists, anthropologists, economists, geographers, criminologists, political scientists, psychologists, philosophers and even historians, leaving out the controversies of the humanities. Therefore, as I listen to the discussion, engagement and conclusion of the country’s leaders, I marvel at the porous nature of the reasoning channeling their actions. For almost two decades now, continuous budgeting and release of funds for combat is what we have been witnessing and still, no remarkable progress has been made in the curtailment of insurgency and other vices. Still our leaders are yet to think out of the box.
They are still bent on the same methodology of force. Can you keep on doing the same thing the same way and expect different results? ME THINK NOT! I am not too sure that this is the road leaders in other countries walk when confronted with insurgency and other related crimes. Let me state without equivocation that no amount of force used in addressing the problem of insurgency and other challenges can work if factors precipitating them are not identified. Except and until we are able to detect the basis of their deviancy or misbehavior, the country will continue to wallow and wobble without success. It is my strong recommendation, therefore, that instead of applying the new appropriation to the acquisition of weapons only, a substantial portion, I believe, should be channeled towards the study of the causes of the misconducts of the alleged criminals.
We cannot continue to treat the symptoms without knowing the remote and immediate causes of the actions. Beyond the above, the state of intelligence is disturbing. It is not only weak and ineffective, it is inadequate. Beyond the conventional purchase of weapons, the country should divert or appropriate more funds into intelligence by recruiting more officers, engaging more private agents, enhancing the capacity of the officials and acquiring appropriate and modern intelligence equipment for the intelligence agencies. The government must also show great political will to deter all these crimes. Adequate logistics must be equally provided.
With strong intelligence, the country will be able to nip most of the disturbances in the bud. Lesser casualties will arise and minimum expenditure would be incurred on acquisition of weapons. The parity to this in the field of medicine is where more is spent on environmental hygiene; lesser sum will be incurred on clinical medicine with the multiplier effect of stronger and healthier population and corresponding higher productivity. These are the various ways of achieving progress in the fight against crimes in the country. Again, I have said this with the hope that sanity will prevail somewhere in applying the antidote.