Ayo Oyoze Baje
Let all Nigerians who are sincerely concerned about the terrifying and ever soaring wave of insecurity in the country come together, synergize and proffer lasting solutions to prevent the wanton wasting of human lives, sooner than later. And let those in government; constitutionally empowered with the protection of our lives and property walk the talk to save more lives.
Truth be told-Nigeria cannot continue to be run this way. After all, the primary purpose of government as enshrined in Section 14(2b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is to guarantee security as well as provide for the welfare of the citizenry. That perhaps, explains why socio-cultural groups such as Afenifere, Ohaneze and the Pan Niger-Delta Forum(PANDEF) have joined the clamour, asking President Muhammadu Buhari to be more decisive in tackling of all manner of insecurity challenges bedeviling the nation.
Cumulatively, they have assumed the status of a hydra-headed monster ready to bring the Nigerian nation to its begging knees. Even the House of Representatives has as at Thursday 11th April, 2019 given the president 48 hours to do the needful. One cannot blame them.
In retrospect, one of the salient reasons why Muhmmadu Buhari, then the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) edged out the incumbent president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of the Peoples’ Democratic Party(PDP) in the 2015 elections was the public perception that given his military background and hailing from the Boko-Haram infested North, he could wave the magic wand and pronto, send them back to wherever they came from.
In fact, he and his party did promise that with them in power, Nigerians would within a few months say ‘good bye’ to the menace of insurgency and we believed them. But that was then. And this is now! Some four years down the line, the insecurity incubus has worsened so much that the Boko Haram insurgency, kidnapping for ransom, killings by herdsmen, cultism of several shades and armed banditry are all on the upswing! For instance, bandits have turned the once peaceful Zamfara state into a wasteland. The governor has openly admitted that he was no longer qualified to be called the Chief Security Officer of the state.
Ditto for the states of Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Kaduna, Taraba with the insecurity that has spread to Sokoto and Katsina. The scourge of insurgency continues to rage with the passion of pugilists at war. Like a bolt out of the blue, the challenge took on a new toga as it metamorphosed into the killer herdsmen(or herders) sending not a few hapless, innocent citizens to their early graves in Benue, Taraba, Plateau down to Enugu state. The answer to the clarion call for Mister President to do the needful was that the herders came all the way from Libya!
Meanwhile, as usual there are conflicting figures as to the true causalities involved in the insurgency-related killing sprees that have been going on for a decade. According to Amnesty International, the widely-held estimates of 3,000 to 4,000 go for deaths of civilians by Boko Haram between 2009 and mid-2013. Between May and December 2013, according to the United Nations Humanitarian Agency (OCHA), 1,224 people were killed by Boko Haram. Some 4,000 fatalities were reported in 2014.
As expected, there are three to five times more people killed than made public. Higher figures are reported by the Nigeria Security Tracker, a project run by Africa programme of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). It estimates the death toll from May 2011 (when it began its work) to August 2014 at over 17,500. This includes 6,742 deaths linked directly to Boko Haram, and a further 10,806 killings involving “Boko Haram and state perpetrators”. And as at January 2018 there were speculations that at least 50, 000 Nigerians died from terrorism in 2017 alone!
Yet, some figures do not add up. While Nigerians have gotten used to the angst that trailed the Dasukigate allegations of billions of security votes converted to slush funds for the ill-fated PDP campaigns of 2015 there are still more questions begging for answers. The humongous amounts allegedly spent so far to drastically reduce insurgency vis-a-vis the pervasive insecurity on ground gives cause for serious worry. Concerns were raised in December 2017 when the National Economic Council approved $1 billion dollars or N350 billion to combat the insurgency. Some were of the opinion that the president should not fall into the same trap that his predecessor complained about.
In all of this what matters most is for a holistic approach to bring solutions that last. The root causes of insurgency, banditry, kidnappings and armed robbery must be taken care of. We have to begin with the family unit that has virtually broken down. Every killer comes from a home. If the parents are there for him or her and if he is sufficiently engaged in some worthwhile, lucrative venture the lure of blood money would not be there!
In addition, the government must be there to provide a buffer against the shocks and pains of poverty and unemployment. With Nigeria as the world’s headquarter of extreme poverty and the sixth most miserable country to live in, government must go beyond giving matching orders to top security personnel to deal ruthlessly with culprits, to looking for sustainable approach involving both the public and private sectors. A lot of public enlightenment and sensitization of young minds against come-quick riches and religious extremism has become a necessity.
The time has come to be more proactive; to put in motion, mechanisms that prevent all manner of crises than being reactive when they do rear their ugly heads. It is good to arm, train, insure and pay our soldiers and policemen well. It pays to be transparent and accountable with regards to security funding. But we need politio-economic restructuring; with community policing to bring security closer to the people. We must also do away with the culture of impunity. The masterminds behind Boko Haram still walk our streets as free men. Giving amnesty to killers is not the best way forward. Wrong doers, no matter how powerful-be they politicians or traditional rulers- must be brought to speedy justice; to serve as strong deterrence to other evil- minded perpetrators.
Nigerians desire and indeed deserve a safe, secure and productive environment for gainful employment, where their potentials can be identified, honed and maximized. The blight of insecurity hurts us all. A government should act like a father figure- that protects and provides. Anything short of that is inimical to peace and development.
Baje writes from Lagos