In August last year, I rested this column for understandable reasons. I had switched role then to work for the government of Imo State. That was the second time that BROKEN TONGUES took a bow following my involvement in government and politics. The first time was in 2009 when my romance with public office began.
I assume, and I know that you know, dear reader, that my second foray into the jungle called government was rudely terminated. Barely seven months after the government I served came into office, an eclipse took place. The government was brought to a rude end in very controversial circumstances.
The details of the removal of Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha as the governor of Imo State is too well known to elicit further elaboration here. Suffice it to say, however, that it is a dramatization of one of the oddities holding Nigeria hostage. We live in a bizarre country, a wasteland most of whose inhabitants have been reduced to unthinking proles. And so, when the unimaginable takes place, all we do is to shrug it off. We have long lost our sense of shock.
I will resist the temptation, as I have already indicated, to inquire into this violent assault on democracy. I can only note, as the venerable Zik of Africa once said, that history will vindicate the just. Regardless of all that, it is gratifying that months after the rape of justice in my home state, I have finally put myself together to resume my role as a commentator on national and international issues. It is a familiar turf, one in which I tread with near effortless ease. I am happy to reunite with many avid readers of BROKEN TONGUES who have been prodding me to launch back. We are back to exciting times.
Now, to the issue of the day.
Nigeria, as we all know, is never lacking in earth-shaking stories. It is a country of one day, many troubles. If Thomas Hobbes, the 17th Century English philosopher, were to live again, he would be glad to adopt Nigeria as his home country. Nigeria typifies his state of nature where life is nasty, brutish and short. We may not have a Thomas Hobbes in our midst today to theorise about insecurity and related issues. But we have actors who are at home with such matters that test our existence as inhabitants of this wretched earth.
One such person is Samuel Ortom, the governor of Benue State. As a state actor, Ortom has seen it all. He probably never bargained for what he got as governor. Even though he was well aware that the primary responsibility of government is to protect life and property, he never imagined that his state would be so dangerously exposed to the brigandage that he reaped on the last day of December 2017. That was when Fulani terrorists, on New Year’s eve, reduced Benue to a rubble of human wreckage. The Benue experience is not isolated. Some other parts of the country have had their own baptism of fire from nomadic terrorists. In fact, we have got to the point where human life does not matter anymore. Violent deaths have become routine and are now accepted as normal. The government at the centre appears weary. It appears to have lost control of the situation.
That is why we have gun licensing advocacies such as the one Ortom is proposing. Ortom is bold. He is outspoken. He does not suffer fools gladly. He says it the way he knows and feels it. He rose to the occasion when Fulani terrorists masquerading as herdsmen made his Benue a killing field. He banned open grazing in his state. Today, any cow found roaming in the streets or bushes of Benue State will be arrested and the owner must pay fine to recover it. This has brought some sanity to bear on indiscriminate grazing in the state. It has also helped to curtail the murderous activities of the herdsman terrorist.
But this is just a palliative measure. Ortom is interested in solutions that will endure. Like most of us, he knows that the reason the Fulani herdsman has grown wings is because he has exclusive access to sophisticated weapons in Nigeria. He wields prohibited weapons at will. He deploys it recklessly to kill and maim. Any time he does this, security agencies look the other way. When some natives whose farms have been converted to grazing fields dare to confront them, military men from the nearest army formation move in to fight for the Fulani herdsmen. This has incapacitated Nigerians whose lives and livelihoods are being trampled upon by the rampaging herdsman.
Ortom has a solution to the madness. He wants the Federal Government to grant licenses to interested citizens to carry sophisticated guns, preferably, AK-47, for self-defence. Ortom’s argument is that the Fulani herdsman is terrorising Nigeria because he has exclusive access to these weapons. He wields them freely even when he is not licensed to do so. The governor is proposing a counter-action. Let interested Nigerians be licensed to bear arms. According to the governor, if the Fulani herdsman realises that the community he has set out to invade would match him gun to gun and fire for fire, he would think twice before embarking on his murderous mission. Chances are that he would become less aggressive and less blood-thirsty.
Ortom’s advocacy tells the story of lawlessness in our country. In a lawless situation, there is need for balance of terror. Where this is absent, the stronger side will overrun the weaker side. In today’s Nigeria, the gun-totting, trigger-happy herdsman is stronger than the rest of Nigeria for the simple reason that he wields arms that no other person is permitted to touch. That is why Nigerians are no longer talking about the curtailment of terror. They have given up on that. They now want the capacity for terror to be democratised. Let the terror largesse go round so that nobody will complain of being out-gunned.
Ortom is not alone. It is the failure of federal authorities to curtail terror that led to the establishment of South West Security Network, otherwise known as Amotekun. Although Amotekun operatives, as we are told, carry only non-prohibited weapons, they are there to keep the Fulani terrorists in check.
It is a regional response to the failure of the centre. Since the centre lacks the capacity to protect life and property, any segment of the country that cannot put up with the hopeless situation can find its own solution. This is the gap that Amotekun is filling in the South West.
Then, suddenly, the central government that seems not to know what to do about the security of life and property is thinking community policing. It wants to bring regional security outfits under the control of the Nigeria Police. But concerned Nigerians are smelling a rat. They suspect that the Federal Government wants to clip the wings of the regions that want to protect their citizens. This is what the South West region is resisting. It has refused to subsume Amotekun under the Nigeria Police Force. I support them. I salute the unity of purpose of South West governors on this matter. Let Amotekun be. Maybe, one day, the other regions who have not yet found home-grown solutions to their internal security nightmare will borrow something from the South West initiative.