Again, the Global Terrorism Index has rated Nigeria as the third most terrorized country in the world. Nigeria has maintained this position for the sixth consecutive time out of the 163 that featured in the survey. The country is just behind Iraq and Afghanistan in the scary index. With that ranking, Nigeria is now the most terrorized country in Africa.
According to the report, the killings which have earned the country this unenviable rating are being perpetrated by a combination of Talibans, Boko Haram, Islamic State and Fulani extremists. Apart from the thousands of deaths that have been recorded from the activities of these terrorist groups, more than two million people have, so far, been displaced mostly in the northern fringes of the country.
As a matter of fact, northern Nigeria has come to officially assume the headquarters of violent killings in Nigeria. When the aforementioned terrorist organisations are not on the prowl, bandits take over the space, killing and maiming without let or hindrance. Only a few days ago, the Sultan of Sokoto, Saad Abubakar 111, lamented that bandits are overrunning the north. According to him, the bandits move about in villages and markets in the open with their AK47 rifles unchecked and unhindered. In the assessment of the Sultan, northern Nigeria is now the worst place to be in the country. All of this suggest that Nigeria is on a free fall. The country is cascading dangerously into an abyss. This disturbing rating, we must underline, was earned under the watch of a government that came into office principally on its much vaunted ability and capacity to deal decisively with the blight of insecurity.
So, how did we fall into this pit of darkness? Let us recall that in the frenzy to get Goodluck Jonathan out of office in 2015, one of the things which buoyed the hope and confidence of pro-Buhari campaigners at that time was his military background. They felt that as a retired General of the Nigerian Army, Muhammadu Buhari would do better than a “bloody civilian” like Jonathan in the battle against terror. After the frenetic run for the presidency, Buhari carried the day, even if by default. On assumption of office, he set sail. He took some decisive steps to curtail the terrorist activities of Boko Haram and related groups. Some successes were recorded. But that did not go far enough. Soon after, a reversal set in. Rather than consolidate on the gains, government began to lose grounds.
Five years after, government looks confused. It does not seem to know any more what to do to keep terrorists in check. This is the sad reality we are grappling with.
The situation in the north as we all know, and as has been underlined by the Sultan, has been worsened by banditry. Why are these people having a free reign in northern Nigeria? Why are our security agencies unable to deal decisively with gun-totting marauders who are not licensed to bear arms? Why are the Police and the Army helpless? Is the country being held hostage by insider conspiracy? Whatever may be the case, what we have on our hands is clearly a case of failure of leadership.
The situation in the south and Middle Belt regions of the country is a different story. Here, government appears to be the culprit-in-chief in the insecurity that has taken over the entire space. The headache here is the Fulani herdsman who masks his murderous activities with cattle-rearing. Terrorist herdsmen have infiltrated the entire south of the country, killing and maiming and government is gazing at them with sardonic satisfaction. They are fully backed by an organization called Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association ( MACABAN). But MACABAN , from what we can see, is not just about cattle-rearing. It is a full fledged militia group, and it is not pretending about it. The terrorists, by whatever name they are called, are on a free reign and the rest of the people are looking helpless. As things stand today, people die in their tens and, sometimes, hundreds on a daily basis from terrorist activities. It has become routine. It has become a daily fare in the land.
Before now, some people thought that what it would take for Buhari to have a hold on national security is to change the service chiefs. We know that he has done it before in the life of his administration. He is being asked to do it again. But that is begging the question. The service chiefs are not the problem. Discerning Nigerians have since come to realise that someone or some people are up to something. There is a poisonous agenda to have armed Fulani herdsmen overrun the country with the tacit support of the powers that be. That is why the central government continues to look passive each passing day. It is behaving as if it has no clue on how to save the country from the blight of terror.
But there are not a few who believe that the president knows what to do if he wants to rein in the terrorist herdsmen. Those who think this way argue that he knows the way out of our present state of anomie. The problem, they further argue, is that he does not seem to have the will to act decisively. The overriding belief here is that it will not serve the purpose of some vested interests should the president decide to tackle the menace that is about to bring the country to its knees. Unfortunately, the terrorists have cashed in on the lethargic disposition of the federal government. They have continued to test the resolve and resoluteness of the government. If they find their targets malleable, they will continue to push ahead.
All of this have eventuated in the strident calls for the restructuring of the country. But the push for restructuring is one-sided. Whereas the south of the country wants it badly, the agitation does not resonate well in the north. In fact, the north is suspicious of the southern intent on this matter. That is why some of their strong voices are pretending not to know what restructuring means. They want to hide under terminological inexactitude to frustrate genuine efforts at restructuring. They want everybody to be brought into a classroom where restructuring will be taught like a subject. Even at that, you will expect that some people will still not understand at the end of the day. Then, the delay tactic will go on.
Whatever the hangups may be, the truth of the matter is that the country needs to be saved from itself. Some people somewhere are holding on to the old, jaded position that the unity of the country is not negotiable. They say it is a settled matter. They do not recognise the place of change in the affairs of the world. What a stagnant imagination. But the saving grace is that quite a good number of Nigerians are forward-looking. They are the ones who know that part of the problem of insecurity that we suffer stems from absolute lack of patriotism by some state and non-state actors. It takes a very unpatriotic citizen to insist that Nigeria will remain the way it is today. It is because the structure of the country has become obtuse and unmanageable that insecurity now reigns and rules.