From Ogbonnaya Ndukwe, Aba
Retired Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Azubuko Udah, wants Nigeria to adopt new global standards in digital security to tackle the current upsurge in banditry, kidnapping and wanton destruction of lives and property across the country.
He is also unhappy that governors of the Southeast states reneged and failed to work in synergy with the rest of the country in establishing regional neighbourhood security outfit to confront the menace caused by herdsmen, kidnappers and other miscreants making life unbearable in the zone. Excerpts:
Nigeria is currently in a state of chaos due to insecurity. How do you look at the situation?
Well, the security situation in Nigeria is very worrisome, but that is the nature of human existence. You cannot be in an utopian situation where there is absence of crime and criminal activities. The problem we are having is the threshhold of crime, crime being committed in a brazen manner. A rising crime wave can only be controlled with the support of the government, not just at the federal and state levels, but will include the local governments and the citizens themselves. That’s why all over the world, the trending security architecture combines digital policing, not the analogue type being practiced here in Nigeria, with neighbourhood watch. People that are cooperating will dial 911 and the scene of crime will be surrounded by security agents to deal with the situation expeditiously. So, I think that is one of the handicaps the police are having because when you talk about internal security, it is the Nigeria Police that is at the helm of affairs. The military can only be called upon for sporadic short term action, not what we are seeing today where they have taken over police jobs and making their own core duties to even suffer. Most of these insurgents, most of these bandits, these Boko Haram people, have trans-international dimensions coming into the country. These people should be made to stop coming to disturb the peace of the country.
What’s your take on the call for the sack of the Service Chiefs so that new persons with fresh ideas on how to tackle the malaise would come in?
The argument has always been that this is the prerogative of the president. I think that with what is happening now, there is no doubt in my mind that he is having a rethink, because of the way he spoke the other time. From what I may regard as almost his last warning to the Service Chiefs, he said they have to up their ante and that warning is a veiled threat that he cannot tolerate any further breakdown of law and order to the extent that bandits, Boko Haram people, kidnappers will continue having a field day and nothing is done to checkmate them. You saw what happened with the abduction of 334 school children in Kankara, Katsina State. We just thank God that it ended well without any casualty and all of them were released after negotiations.
The #EndSARS protests have attracted criticisms for and against the government as well as the organisers. As an ex-police chief, what went wrong and how could it be remedied?
You see, I am a police officer, though retired. You do not water potential crisis. We do not see a simmering imbroglio in the making which is an outburst of crisis that is happening then you continue to give them the vent to go ahead. It will go out of hand. It has been well established that those that started the protests were peaceful, but at the end of the day, we now saw that hoodlums took over. It is because we have a lot of unemployment in the country. There are a lot of idle people and when they see that kind of opportunity, they use it to loot, to commit crime and go scot-free. That was what exactly happened in Rivers and Abia states, particularly in Aba. It happened in Lagos, in Abuja and many major cities in the country where hoodlums hijacked the situation. It is quite unfortunate that this kind of thing happened, but it has nothing to do with any group or tribe as is being insinuated. The whole thing cut across tribe and religion. Those that did it were not from a particular tribe or creed. Authorities in Abia State ought to have come up to counter claims in certain quarters that destructions in Aba were carried out by non-indigenes. When such accusations came up in Lagos, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu quickly came out to debunk it. Yoruba in Lagos had said the Igbo were responsible for destroying property, but the governor said no, that the protesters cut across religion, ethnicity. That was what we expected from our own governor here. We all are stakeholders in Aba and it was the taxes paid by the people that were used to build the property, including the Town Hall, police stations, courts and other structures that were destroyed.
Still on security Sir, Southeast governors and leaders met in Enugu to set up a regional security outfit to handle neighbourhood watch, but later reneged …
(Cuts in) The way I look at it, when we try to compare Southeast governors with their counterparts in other zones of the country such as the Southwest is that I look at those in the Southwest as having formed formidable unity despite political party affiliations. This is, however, my personal opinion, you know. Our situation in the Southeast is that everybody is on his own and God for us all, because our governors are not working in concert with the people. They don’t seem to know the prompting or come together to tackle the common problems of the zone. If they have the interest of the people at heart, no one would have been complaining. Talking about having a community outfit like “Amotekun” as exists in the Southwest, people were expecting that our governors would come out with a similar group to checkmate criminal gangs that are tormenting our communities, kidnapping our relations and parading as herdsmen and destroying our farmlands, crops and abusing our women and society. Our governors should stop thinking only about themselves and their immediate families and work towards protecting the people of the zone. They should be people-oriented in their leadership.
Do you believe the thinking that Ndigbo are not united to produce a consensus candidate that all would accept should the presidency be zoned to the Southeast in 2023?
I don’t look at this from the tribal or ethnicity angle because when you are talking about the zoning arrangement, it is between the North and South of the country. Nigeria has more than 200 ethnic groups and every one of them is supposed to be interested in the presidency if it is being appropriated that way. We are talking about geopolitical zones and we have six of them. Since the North will leave the seat in 2023, the office will normally come to the South and I believe the three zones in the South will now sit at a roundtable to discuss which of them that will take it. In this regard, justice and equity demands that the Southeast be given the go-ahead to produce the next president because the Southwest have had their turn in Chief Olusegun Obasanjo while the South-south had Dr Goodluck Jonathan. It is only the Southeast that is yet to have the go and there ought to be understanding in this matter. People should do the right thing. They should fear God and be truthful in all they do. Let there be an opportunity to show the people of the Southeast people that they are part of the country and are needed here. We have good, qualified persons that can be president of Nigeria from the Southeast zone. We must be given a sense of belonging in Nigeria.
In 2015, you were among prominent Abians that wanted power shift to Abia South senatorial zone; would you say you have been vindicated with what is on ground?
As far as I am concerned, what is happening in Abia State is very shameful. I have gone round this country, worked during my service and have been on retirement for about eight years now. When one comes to Abia, one begins to shed tears. I feel very, very bad that in Abia State, we have an inept administration. There is no state in Nigeria you will compare with what is happening in Abia. Come and look at Aba. Whenever it rains, you cannot move to anywhere. I supported the shift in administration, but our expectations have been dashed. We were thinking that the government we will have in Abia will have the interest of the masses at heart, but it is not so. Aba has lost its commercial potency. To go round Aba is now a problem. It is unfortunate and many of us are not happy about it. We are hoping that in 2023, the people of Abia will reject the continued destruction of the state. You have seen what happened in the so-called local council elections held on December 18th, where results were compiled and announced in centres and polling booths where they did not hold. Particularly, let me talk about my home Local Government Area, Bende. How can someone who calls himself a professor, call results for Bende? Where and when did the elections hold? Which polling booth? Nothing like that happened. People waited until 3 O’clock in the late afternoon and no elections held and they are calling that PDP had so and so and APC, so, so and so. Therefore, PDP has won. I’ve never seen such a sham in my life. This is laughable and criminal.