From the beginning, political realignments eventually coalescing in the All Progressives Congress (APC) were, on many grounds, self-serving, with nonetheless conflicting, if not entirely incompatible, interests. But the general wish to dislodge the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015 warranted any group but the erstwhile ruling party.
Since that time, there had been combatants within the newly installed ruling party than from their political enemies. The re-election of APC for a second term seems to have worsened the situation, with mutual distrust, vaulting ambition among serving state governors, top party leaders, humiliation, accusations of marginalisation, alleged non-compliance with election promises, etc, all in the process of a shot at the presidency in 2023 on the platform of the APC. The dramatic controversy on the legality or otherwise of some states or zones establishing separate security outfits is all part of the game plan. In the process, an erstwhile fragile alliance parading as the APC is now more fragile. The party’s worst enemies are certainly celebrating what, for now, is the greatest threat to APC’s existence
The two issues involved must not be mixed. The first is Federal Government’s clampdown on the South West’s new security outfit as illegal, which should be of interest to the average Nigerian. The second is the potential impact of this open rift on the APC, which is the party’s business. For the 2015 general election, erstwhile opposition APC was loudest on issues of restructuring and insecurity. Since assuming office in 2015, the APC has been split on whether Nigeria needed restructuring and if so, in what form. Of course, this was tied to general insecurity in the country. The entire South maintains the loud agitation for restructuring, while only few states of indigenous minorities in the North back restructuring usually but northern states, Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Bornu, Plateau, Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, Niger, Yobe, etc, have been experiencing large-scale insecurity from both within and outside Nigeria.
Much as support for special/extra security outfits might, therefore, be taken to be forthcoming, failure to do nothing would raise eyebrows on APC’s government on security and restructuring. More important is the process, to avoid possible areas of friction. This should not be more than minor devolution rather than total surrender of federal government’s power in matters of security. The new South West security outfit does not in any way make the states equal or superior to the overall responsibilities of federal government on security matters.
Whichever, the reaction of two South West governors to Abuja’s nullification of the new outfit seemed uncompromising. In short, no going back. So defiant? Ondo’s Rotimi Akeredolu and Ekiti’s Kayode Fayemi are generally viewed by political observers as favoured sons of Aso Rock at the expense of their known erstwhile political benefactor, self-styled national leader of APC, Bola Tinubu. Could the two governors be fighting a proxy battle for Tinubu or were they merely grandstanding for (South West) public consumption? Tinubu himself has most political/electoral interest at stake
Within 24 hours Hope Uzodinma that was declared by Supreme Court as the duly elected Imo State governor, Tinubu rightly advised the new governor to be magnanimous with his political opponents. Yet, as at yesterday, Tinubu was still to react to the dismissal of the new South West security outfit. His predicament is unenviable. Hell-bent on contesting the 2023 presidential election on the platform of APC, Tinubu cannot afford to alienate either his (South West) supporters nor dare President Muhammadu Buhari on the legality of the new security outfit. Much as Buhari may not impose a presidential candidate on APC for 2023, yet his hasty body shift one way or the other may determine the electoral fate of any top aspirant. If, therefore, before now, Tinubu had been poltically tip-toeing, he will even, henceforth, understandably be avoiding banana peels. For example, he built his South West support base on assurances of political restructuring. That might not put food on his supporters’ table but they fundamentally believe in restructuring, whatever their understanding of the issue. The opposing group is unnecessarily scared about prospects/danger of restructuring.
The very idea of restructuring was triggered by bitter experiences and domestic factors exploited one way or the other by the ruling/competing class. Not the least of such factors/experiences is personal security on the highways, in the community or even the villages. There are then the contradictions like the enormous/exclusive powers of federal government under the Constitution to provide security. That, in practice, might not necessarily be correct. For example, in the First Republic, the four regional governments, Mid-West, North, East and the West, as well as Balewa’s federal government, were all collectively in charge of security in their respective areas without any conflict of authority. But the political crisis in the defunct Western Region grew out of control and overawed the police for four long years, leading to the army mutiny in January 1966.
The first Maitatsine insurgency erupted under President Shehu Shagari in the early 1980s but the insurgents were wiped out by the army within reasonable time, seemingly permanently. Ironically, the GOC of Third Division Nigerian Army, which attained that feat, was General Muhammadu Buhari. The same Maitatsine, about 20 years later, resurged under elected President Olusegun Obasanjo on his second coming. Leader of the insurgents, a certain Yussuf, was arrested by the army and handed over to the police, supposedly for prosecution, only to be murdered in circumstance unexplained till today. Obviously in protest, Maitatsine supporters violently revolted and have since held Nigeria hostage and adopted the name Boko Haram.
If a well-equipped Nigerian Army could be bogged down by a gang of murderers in parts of the country for more than 10 years, it is natural for Nigerians to embark on self-defence mechanisms. Emergence of the South West security outfit must be appreciated by the federal government as a necessity for filling the vacuum created by general insecurity. The complete standstill between the army, the polic, the air force and the so-called Joint Task Force on one hand and Boko Haram on the other unleashed other criminals in various parts of the country. Before Boko Haram, kidnapping was virtually unknown as a crime in Nigeria. But today, kidnapping has become a legitimate business as crooks in the financial and other sectors make easy hundreds of millions and eventual billions, while law enforcement agencies look on as accomplices. Why, for example, must law enforcement agents serve as negotiators in collecting ransom for kidnappers who should, rather, have been arrested? To rub salt into the wound, these kidnappers, after collecting ransom, still proceeded to murder their unlucky victims.
Nigerians are told every time that no ransom was paid to ensure release of victims. Yet, kidnapping has spread as an uncontrollable growth industry. Even senior military officers from the rank of colonel and above had been kidnapped and murdered on highways. A major-general was kidnapped somewhere in Plateau State and drowned. Lucky ones kidnapped and released purportedly without paying ransom included former Secretary to the Government of the Federation/minister of finance Olu Falae, mother of former federal minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, an indigene of Daura in Katsina state said to be a distant in-law of President Buhari and Mrs. Emefiele, wife of current Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele.
It appears some legalistic monstrousity to flaunt federal government’s exclusive preserve for maintaining security. Was that security maintained or guaranteed since the past 15 years Boko Haram and allied kidnappers had been rampaging all over Nigeria? Or did South West just develop the idea of special security outfit? In civilised societies, were law voluntarily associating people to be rigidly enforced, society would break down. but modernity, dynamics and variables compel societies to shift rules as occasions demand.
That was why United Kingdom devolved substantial powers and home rule to Wales and Scotland. The three nationalities, that is, including the English, still remain one country. On the other hand, rigidity forced the violent split of Sudan, Ethiopia/Eriteria, Yugoslavia, etc. In Nigeria, if federal government’s exclusive preseve on security had not broken down, kidnapping, armed robbery, murder, etc, would not have become almost free for all. Or in the present atmosphere of widespread insecurity, what is the big deal or special favour for states to assist in guaranteeing security?
When the formation of the South West security zone was announced, some states in the North, which in recent years had been reeling under widespread insecurity, expressed their desire to similarly set up security outfits. Why have those states since developed cold feet, leaving South West as the latest “bad guy” of the federation?
There is, of course, the risk of supremacy in any security operation involving federal law agents, especially the police on one side and on the other side, the new South West security outfit. Any such clash is unlikely, for obvious reasons. The South West security outfit has no business getting involved, for example, in student riots on campuses or public anti- or pro-federal government demonstrations. But, like the federal government, states would be legitimate to employ the security outfits in controlling anti- or pro-state government protests. The essential thing is to prevent anarchy, especially where and when federal law agents might not be available. State security outfits might also not be involved in controlling political rallies even in the states as long as federal police are available. It should be mandatory for state governments to request for federal police in the first instance, after which state security outfit can fill any vacuum.
Otherwise, the South West security outfit should exist mainly to secure local communities against criminals like kidnappers, armed robbers, burglars, invaders, murderers such as intermittently ravage states like Ekiti, Benue, Southern Kaduna, Plateau, Taraba, Adamawa, Zamfara, Katsina, Ondo, Edo, etc, all for which police are never instantly available or always show up hours after the criminals would have escaped. It is worrying why we give the impression of guaranteeing the escape of murderers and kidnappers instead of the safety of victims. Any state not attracted to the idea of security outfit should feel free and safe to do so since the security outfit in my Ogun State will have no authority to operate at Onitsha, Agbor, Katsina, just as the security outfit in Yobe will have no authority to operate in Osun, Sokoto or Makurdi orJos.
Is the Federal Government totally opposed to sharing the duties of police with the states? The real Resistance Movement comprises large retired police bosses, who, in retirement, still control their boys and, therefore, dread losing such influence. These fellows are incorrigible. As it was 20 or 30 years ago, they still dream to maintain. They are not answerable to voters, unlike politicians who can be blamed by the public for failing to guarantee their security.
For the APC, the electoral fallout of the controversy over insecurity or failure to combat it is inevitable. With President Buhari in his second term, there is no doubt about his determination for a showdown on the issue one way or the other. For Bola Tinubu, it seems a no-win situation. So far, perhaps because he was stunned by federal government’s clampdown on the South West security outfit, Nigerians are still waiting for his reaction.
Can there be a compromise between federal government (better read President Buhari) and South West (specifically Bola Tinubu) on the security outfit? Whoever gives way or fails to give way, APC may pay for it. Going? Going? Going?