By Raymond Oise-Oghaede
It is sad, painful and very unfortunate that we are still where we are as it pertains to the issue of insecurity ravaging the nook and cranny of our polity despite the concerns that were raised in the past to averting this calamitous situation. Though, our leaders have always been assuring us that they are on top of the situation; but, as it is, it appears that they are ‘very far’ from finding lasting solutions to the menace. In as much as this review is not meant to join in the blame trading that is now trending; it will however, reflect on the nitty gritty of the problem and ‘call a spade a spade’ in line with the guiding principle of the writer. Therefore, it will not be far from the truth to say that our leaders have not been united in the fight against insecurity; because, to a very large extent, most of them are currently enmeshed in underground horse trading (political maneuvering) preparatory to 2023 and beyond. So, instead of coming together to seeing the menace as a NATIONAL PROBLEM; they see it as a BUHARI’s PROBLEM or APC’s PROBLEM. As a result, the matter is not being tackled head-on as expected; because, the prevalence of mutual suspicion has divided them along the lines of political, religious and ethnic jingoism.
Presently, the issue has been ethnicized by some people; and, this has led to the ‘banishment’ of the ‘suspected culprits’ (the Fulani herdsmen) from different parts of the country. This dangerous dimension is gradually degenerating to ‘ethnic clashes and reprisal attacks’ which are capable of snowballing into full blown civil disturbances. I saw the handwriting on the wall years back; and, I delved extensively on the subject matter in some of my numerous articles i.e. “HERDSMEN AND THE STATE OF THE NATION” (published February, 2018); “FROM CHIBOK TO DAPCHI: LET’S STOP THE TREND” (March, 2018); “POLITICS OF INSECURITY IN OUR NATION” (July, 2018); “AT 58, OUR DEMOCRACY MUST BE SUSTAINED” (October, 2018); “THE REAL ENEMIES OF OUR NATION” (May, 2019); “INSECURITY AND THE PRESIDENTIAL IMPRECATION OF NECESSITY” (June, 2019); “MUTUAL SUSPICION AND WORSENING SECURITY SITUATION” (July, 2019); “THE POLITICS OF HAILERS, HATERS AND WAILERS” (July, 2019); “NIGERIA AT 59: SO FAR, SO…? (October, 2019}; and, “NIGERIA AT 60: LET’S END POLITICS OF MISTRUST” (October, 2020). Dishearteningly, nothing has changed because of the insincerity of those at the corridors of power who are very quick to politicizing advices/advises (especially when such are not coated with honey and hypocritical praise-singing). Little wonder why similar warnings of prominent leaders and statesmen on the imminent dangers inherent in the growing state of insecurity in the country were trivialized and tagged as the “wailing of shakabula generals”.
Taking a closer look at the situation, it is obvious that the problem is multifaceted. Some people are indulging in these crimes to ‘make ends meet’ because of the rising rate of employment and the stifling economic situation; some are involved as a result of ‘conflict of interests amongst different groups’ (which is the root cause of the persisting herders/farmers clashes); while, some others are carrying-out these criminalities ‘to cause disaffections amongst the people and destabilize the government’. So, whether it is pleasant to hear or not; the fact remains that as many Nigerians (across all ethnic, political, social and religious divides) are weeping and wailing as a result of their losses (loved ones and valuable properties); some are also laughing all the way to the bank with the proceeds from these nefarious activities (either as direct perpetrators, accomplices or beneficiaries of the precarious situation); and, some others are boosting their electoral chances as a result of the unpleasant state of the nation. Thus, if we continue to tackle it sentimentally from ‘narrow angles’, we can only fail woefully or at best, achieve minimal success; while, the menace will continue to devastate the polity and make it almost impossible for the government to thrive. However, if we tackle it from ‘broader perspectives’ (as I have identified and proffered in my earlier referenced articles), then, we will definitely achieve excellent results.
Expectedly, our leaders and the citizenry are now disunited in the fight against ‘the monster’. Most people have been made to embrace the ‘general belief that the Fulanis are the major culprits’ of the heinous crimes across the length and breadth of the country; due to the fact that they mostly traverse in the forests which have been identified as the ‘hideouts and operational bases’ of the ‘criminals’. So, whenever any crime occurs in that terrain, the Fulani herdsmen readily come to mind. At this point, the questions that require prompt responses should be as follows; “How many of ‘these Fulanis’ have been apprehended so far?”; Do we have credible evidence(s) to substantiate their culpability in the numerous incidents?”; If so, “How many of them have been apprehended and are currently in police custody?”; and, “what is delaying their arraignment, prosecution and conviction to date”? The honest answers to these questions are very germane and would go a very long way to helping us to unraveling/confirming the identities of the criminals and finding lasting solutions to the problem. It is only then that we can know and be sure whether they are truly ‘Fulani herdsmen’; or ‘Yoruba ritualists’; or ‘Igbo kidnappers’; or ‘Edo robbers’; and, or ‘whoever they are’.
Interestingly, I have posited in the past that the ‘agents of destabilization and enemies of our nation’ are very smart/strategic; and, they are capable of employing numerous tactics in carrying out their nefarious activities. They seeds of hatred amongst the citizenry to cause disunity and restlessness in the polity. In this situation, the people will lack the needed unity and impetus to jointly tackle the problem squarely. This unscrupulous elements have the capacity to perpetrate crimes and make them look as if they were carried-out by any of the ‘ethnic nationalities’. In other to carry out and consolidates their destabilization agenda, they can attack the herders and rustle their cows in the morning, and come back in the night to destroy farm settlements in the same area to make it look like reprisal attacks by the former. They can set churches on fire in the morning, and return in the dead of the night to destroy mosques to balance the equation. They can destroy Igbo businesses in the morning and return in the night or few days after to do same to Yoruba or Hausa businesses to cause confusion in furtherance of their set objective(s). From the few scenarios painted; you can now see that, it is very easy for the ‘enemies of our nation’ to cause disaffection amongst the citizenry. Presently, the Fulani herdsmen have been successfully painted as the ‘major criminals’; while, the ‘real criminals’ are walking freely amongst us.
Unfortunately, ‘the hopelessness of the situation and the people’s survival instincts have driven some individuals and groups into embarking on self-help to defend themselves and their people’. In as much as these moves would not have posed any problem in an unambiguous situations where the real perpetrators are identifiable and known; it becomes problematic where such actions are hinged on ‘mere suspicions’ and ‘hearsays’. Therefore, there is need to take a ‘lot of precautions’ so that ‘innocent people’ would not be made to suffer; otherwise, the law will catch-up with whoever is adjudged by a court of competent jurisdiction to have infringed on other ‘innocent and law abiding people’s rights’. So, we should all have it at the back of our minds that, ’no matter how defective or unfriendly that the present constitution is said to be; its provisions are still sacrosanct and binding on everyone under its purview until when it is repealed and replaced’. Also, in the case of conflicts with other laws/statutes in the country; the constitution remains supreme. Thus, we must be guided accordingly in order not to become victims of avoidable and unfortunate circumstances where ‘our today’s heroes’ would end up as ‘tomorrow’s culprits’. We should ensure that our actions does not send ‘wrong signals’ that could lead to ‘reprisal attacks’ on innocent and law abiding nationalities from or in other regions. We are all in it together; and, we should be prepared to come together to tackle the problems together without parochial and myopic sentiments. Our focus should be on the flushing out of criminal elements from our polity (within the ambit of the law) regardless of their ethnic, political, religious and social affiliations.
So, if we truly wish to curtail the dangerous trend of insecurity in our nation, all hands must be on deck to supporting the government to achieve the feat. We all know that it is the cardinal responsibility of the government to protect the lives and properties of its citizenry and other people within its territory; the co-operation and support of the people are required to achieving this feat. However, our case is very complicated because of the complicity of the people in the matter. For example, the security agencies need vital information from the people so that criminal activities can be nipped in the bud; but, in our today’s society, reversed is the case; because, some people would rather give criminals information to successfully carry out their activities and avert the long arms of the law, than to give information that will expose them (criminals) to the police and other agents of government. In the same vein, rather than join hands with the government to finding solutions to the menace; majority of our leaders across the political divide (depending on their political calculations/permutations) would prefer the lingering of the menace to make the government unpopular in the eyes of the electorates/citizenry and the international community. It would be recalled that the present administration also capitalized on the unpleasant security situation under the last regime to gain supports at the 2015 polls. This politics of tit for tat is very dangerous and undesirable in any progressive society; because, the electorates/citizens will always be the ‘ultimate losers’.
Consequent upon the aforementioned, you will agree with me that even if we continue to change our Service Chiefs on monthly basis (with due respect to the suitableness/capableness of the past and newly appointed Service Chiefs); it will not solve the problems with the kind of ‘mindsets and attitudes of our people’. Thus, I wish to enjoin the people to jettison their old ways and join hands with other well-meaning people to finding lasting solutions to the problem of insecurity in our country for the benefits of all and sundry.
Our security agencies should be reorganized to make them more people-friendly. Bad eggs and negative influencers should be flushed out; and, others, re-orientated, adequately trained, fully equipped and bountifully remunerated. By so doing, the level of professionalism will be very high; and, people/citizenry would be comfortably disposed to giving them necessary information required to assisting them in carrying out their functions comprehensively. Today, many people are of the opinion that it is ‘unwise and unsafe’ to ‘say something when they see something’; and that is why criminal activities are flourishing in our society.
The proliferation of arms and ammunitions in the country is also a contributory factor to insecurity. Therefore, the Joint Task Forces on border patrol must ensure that illegal immigrants and contrabands (especially weapons) are not allowed into the country. If our borders are secured (not closed), the influx of arms and ammunitions will be a thing of the past. Today, it is commonly alleged that the criminals are usually armed with sophisticated weapons (which are not produced in the country); so, they were imported or smuggled into the country. Therefore, the agencies in charge of the borders and the Ministry of Interior have an ‘uphill task’ to handle. Also, if detailed investigations are carried out on weapons recovered from such criminals; the manufacturers and the eventual importers could be traced and made to explain how they got into the country and to wrong hands.
Also, the traditional rulers should be upright in the discharge of their functions as the ‘custodians of cultural values and true royal fathers to the people within their respective domains’. They should always operate an open door rulership whereby the locals/villagers/natives/settlers can feel free to give information in confidence without fear of repercussion(s). Otherwise, how is it possible (as an example) for ‘rustlers’ to successfully attack the herders (injuring and killing some in the process) ‘steal’ their cattle and disappear into thin air without the villagers/natives having an inkling of the crime? So, it is either, they are partners in crime; or, they opted to keep silent because of the fear of the ‘consequences of talking’. This explains how the herders graduated from ‘using sticks’ to ‘carrying guns’. However, that should not be a justification for using the weapons to committing crimes; and, that is why whoever is found guilty must be made to face the full wrath of the law.
Furthermore, the ‘real herders’ should also make it a point of responsibility to report and expose the criminal elements within their settlements carrying out kidnapping, murder, raping, wanton destruction of lives and properties to their leaders, rulers/elders of their host communities, and or the security agencies so that there would not be cases of ‘wrong accusation(s)’ which would make them become ‘victims of unfortunate circumstances’ as we have it today. In the same vein, the natives should also endeavor to say something when they see something rather than keeping quiet and allowing mutual suspicion degenerate to situations where ‘innocent people are made to pay for the crimes of others’.
Instructively, members of the National Assembly and State Assemblies should collapse all their ‘so called juicy committees’ into the National and States Security Committees (respectively) to thoroughly and objectively deliberate on issues of insecurity bedeviling us, with the aim of unearthing/resolving the root-causes such as the herders/farmers conflicts; high rate of employment; moral decadence amongst our youths which has greatly worsened criminalities and other societal ills; rising cases of cult clashes; issues of marginalization that has increased regional upheavals and quests for secession; the alleged Fulanization/Islamization agenda; police brutality; and, social imbalances that have, to a very large extent, hindered the discharging of dividends of democracy to the people. My article on “THE 9TH ASSEMBLY AND OUR DEMOCRACY” (published in June 2019) is still very much relevant and crucial in this regard. This Security Committee should constantly liaise and follow up with the Service Chiefs on evolving security challenges with a view to proffering workable solutions together.
Also, members of the ruling parties and the oppositions (at every levels of governance) should come together to work together for the benefits of our country and the people regardless of their political differences. If you truly have the interest of the people at heart, you will jettison politics of bitterness/mistrust and work together for the overall benefits of the people.
In the same vein, the Governors Forum should also see the security challenges of one state as that of all other states; so, they should always come together regardless of their political and ethnic/regional affiliations to fight the menace as one indivisible family. There is no state that does not have indigenes in every other parts of the country; as such, the governors should see and treat people from other states as their own. Therefore, you must find a way of joining hands together to helping one another, The situation of leaving state governors to ‘carry their individual crosses’ on security issues is very wrong and should be discouraged. As it is presently, the governors are just the ‘Chief Security Officers’ of their states ‘on paper’; they do not have absolute control over any of the major security agencies within their states.
Flowing from the above, the Inspector General of Police, the Comptroller Generals of Immigration, Customs, Nigerian Correctional Services; the Commandant General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps; the Director General of the DSS and other related agencies should always endeavor to promptly send crucial and urgent signals/directives to their respective States Commissioners/Comptrollers/Commandants/Directors on the appropriate actions to take during complex and emergency situations. The chairman of the Governors’ Forum should constantly liaise/follow up with the presidency/service chiefs/heads of other security agencies on serious security challenges affecting any of the states.
The Federal government should also operate an open door system to encourage all well-meaning and patriotic citizens to contribute their quotas towards ensuring that the issue of insecurity is put to permanent rest. The government belongs to all Nigerians and should not be seen as that of a particular political party and a section of the country or selected of few. Our leaders should welcome contributions from every reasonable quarters, and treat those on security matters very seriously and objectively.
Furthermore, all aggrieved and disgruntled freedom fighters should tread softly and be guided by the law in the execution of their fight against insecurity. They should avoid infringing on the rights of innocent and law abiding citizens in order not to end up being caught in the web of lawlessness. This is also necessary to prevent reprisal attacks that could degenerate to unnecessary civil disturbances/war. “A word is enough for the wise”.
Journalists and social media influencers should desist from sensational reporting which are capable of compounding the already tensed atmosphere. This is not the time to want to be ‘hypocritically active’ for the purpose of ‘personal aggrandizement’. You must be highly professional and cautious in your reporting and circulations to avoid ‘pouring petrol on fire’.
To all those that are directly or indirectly fanning the embers of destabilization in our nation; you are enjoined to have a rethink and discontinue forthwith; because, the judgment day is very near. If you are no longer comfortable and happy with the government; you need to wait for the right time to do the needful with your ‘votes’. That is the beauty of democracy as “the government of the people, by the people, and for the people”.
Finally, I am calling on all well-meaning people to join hands together to save our country from ‘the pangs of insecurity’ that has deprived us of good governance over the years’.
Oise-Oghaede writes from Suru-Lere, Lagos State, Nigeria. He can be reached via [email protected]
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