Rev. Fr. Timothy ETSENAMHE
Sometime in 2019, Malte Zeeck, founder and co-CEO of InterNations, a web community where people from different nationalities meet, connect, and exchange information, opined that ‘’Brazil, South Africa and Nigeria (the bottom three countries in the safety and security subcategory) are also the three worst-rated destinations for personal safety in particular.’’ Nigeria is defoliated of its apparatus to wield power and authority on internal and external aggressors. Terrorists, bandits, insurgents, and armed robbers seem to have taken over the country. Killing and kidnaping have become common phenomena. The inability of the government to tackle these issues headlong beats imagination. Rather than identify the challenges before the government, the presidency is busy developing rhetoric of defense.
It is sad to note that the President’s speech in the virtual meeting with the United States of America’s Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, on security, where he demanded the movement of AFRICOM from Germany to any of the countries in Africa, actually began by praising Joe Biden for revoking the ban on travels and visas for some Muslim countries. In his words he asserted, ‘’Let me in this connection express appreciation to President Joe Biden for… to repeal the immigration restriction known as the Muslim ban on travel and visas for citizens predominantly from Muslim nations and African countries, including Nigeria.’’ Listening to the president’s speech one is tempted tofeel that he does not care solely about Nigeria’s problems. Perhaps at best he does not know the seriousness of the challenges of insecurity faced by the country he superintends. He continues to treat with kid gloves issues of senseless killings, kidnapping and abduction of students on daily bases, and at best compares the situation now with how it was with the erstwhile government.
Nigeria is inundated with frightening security challenges. Over the past months the media have been flooded with tidy sum of school abductions and a plethora of reportage of killings, kidnapping and social unrest in the length and breadth of our nation. How would one explain a situation where bandits freely ride into schools and abduct students without resistance by security forces? The kidnap of some Students of the Green Field University and other tertiary institutions across the nation recently brings chills to the spine. The insecurity in the Northeast is escalating. Boko Haram, according to reliable sources has established its presence in Bauchi, Kaduna and Niger. Very recently it was reported that the hoisting of Boko Haram Terrorist flag in Niger State sent schools in Abuja closing up because they do not know which school would be the next target of their evil mechanization.
Other parts of the country are not safe either. In the Middle Belt, people are being massacred in their farm lands helplessly. In the southeast, correctional facilities and police officials are plundered at will. The agitation of IPOB for Biafra Nation is becoming like a heist. The Southwest is battling with ‘defulanization’ of its forests and a host of other crimes bothering on ritual killings and jungle justice. In the south-south there are cases of police brutality and harassment; fraudsters and money ritual syndicate, just to mention but a few.The economic insecurity is no less than the environmental and personal insecurity. Our economy is falling so fast, even falling behind that of Ghana. There is hunger, unemployment and the prices of commodities are exorbitant. Indeed to state that Nigeria is at a crossroads is to state the obvious.
Nigerians are demanding for the safety of their life and property; they are tired of the blame game going on and the ineptitude that has engulfed the President Mohammadu Buhari led administration. Nigerians do not so much care about jobs anymore, they have learnt to create jobs for ourselves; Nigerians do no longer complain about lack of electricity supply; they have learnt to live in darkness, and the rich, provide makeshift power supply by themselves; Nigerians do not ask for good roads anymore for they have mastered the pain and ache potholes inflict on them when they ply the roads; Nigerians do not ask for quality education anymore because they have lost hope in the educational sector because it is sick and epileptic. Nigerians just want to be safe in Nigeria. As a people, Nigerians have learned hardship inflicted on them by some selfish political leaders over a long period of time. They have imbibed it as a culture, and have developed shock absolvers to take and live with difficulties. When there are obvious options to take to avert suffering and hardship we would choose the part of suffering. Little wonder then Fela lyricizes, ‘‘suffering and smiling’’. We are indeed suffering from the psychological state of learned helplessness.
Our nation is on the brink of the grave. A country where government institutions are attacked, officers of law enforcement and armed forces are hacked down without an iota of respect say so much of the extent Nigeria has dipped into. What this tells us is that people are fed up with the Nigerian polity. There is so much incompetence, impunity, ineptitude, tribalism, favoritism, nepotism, bribery and corruption, injustice and marginalization in Nigeria. The truth is that this present government has only done well by spraying the high level of bad governance on the faces of the masses. The result of this is the present agitations both well and badly coordinated, seeking a change from the seemingly abnormalities of the Nigerian state. Action must be taken to prevent the country from going through the path it is navigating. The government cannot afford to do nothing in the face of escalating insecurity in Nigeria.
The government in power should produce good leadership. This is because it came to power under pretense of bringing good governance to bear on the Nigeria Project. Today it has become clear that the electorate was deceived and it was just a mere strategy to steal power and no preparations were made to serve and better the plight of the people. The scores of the crises of Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, killer herdsmen, armed robbery, rapists, fraudsters, IPOB, et cetera, that have heighten the temple of insecurity in Nigeria are as a result of bad governance. The government of Mohammadu Buhari must be seen to be up to its responsibilities and must earn its legitimacy by shunning every trace of bad governance.
Power needs to be devolved so that the federating units have somewhat autonomy. One step away from the bad situation of things today in Nigeria is restructuring. This will give each region or unit of the federal government the power to harness all her resources to develop its areas and effectively take care of the welfare of its peoples. It will guarantee security and development because it would breed healthy competition. If for example‘unit A’ is unsafe and ‘unit Z’ is safe, you would notice a drift of people from ‘unit A’ to ‘unit Z’. Usually, the first set of people to move out of ‘unit A’ would be people who are technocrats. This will cause brain drain in that unit and it will affect its economy too. The unit would now be compelled to secure its environment in order to be economically viable by securing her experts. It goes for all other aspects of life.
The Nigeria Military should be equipped with modern weaponry to nip in the bud this escalating insecurity in the land. The Nigeria Armed Forces is no doubt the largest in Africa. The role she played in UN Peace Keeping Missions in Africa and beyond is still fresh in memories. The government should block leakages where military budgetary allocations pass through. The Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces should have the intention of wedging and winning war against terrorists and bandits abound the country because the intention of the Commander in Chief is the mission of the military.
At this point in our history as a country state policing is very necessary. It would involve decentralization of the powers of the Police Force, to make each state take responsibility of securing her citizens. It is not the time to think via negetiva about the misuse of the state apparatus by state governors. State policing will go a long way to solving the flagrant disposition of bribery and corruption, tribalism in recruiting officers, bureaucracy, dispiritedness, poor funding and despicable welfare of the officers. Besides, it will bring policing closer to the people at the grassroots where most of the heinous activities of the men of the underworld take place. If state policing is enacted urgently it would be a stitch in time. This will go a long way to ameliorating the incessant kidnapping, killing, maiming and arson on public property.
We cannot over emphasize the importance of the local vigilante groups across the country today. Now more than ever before these groups should be lawfully enacted and gazetted. We cannot but use Amotekun as a basis, partly not because it is the first of its kind but the lawful process of its establishment and the threats it imposes on criminal elements. Today many states are coming up with vigilante groups. It is a welcome development, it is the way to go. Every state government should empower its various local government- a tier of government that seems to be in extinction-to finance and provide the necessary level playing ground for the vigilante group to strive.
As a country our borders are porous. There is no doubt that in sub-Sahara Africa there are a lot of security challenges posed by marauding Fulanis who are looking for where to call their home. Our borders seem to be very free and opened to all manners of people. Though we have immigration officers at the entry points, just a tip will grant you entrance clearance. We should be able to tighten our borders. There are many Nigerians today who are not Nigerians, doing business illegally and perpetuating all kinds of evil because of our weak border control system. Our country has become a dumping ground.
The crises we are going through today are not totally pristine and exclusively preserved of the Nigerian State. They are common and at best ubiquitous. The intriguing reality is the fact that we have the ability to curtailing our situation but nothing is being done. No arrest is made, no bandit or Boko Haram members have been convicted. They are rather compensated; ransoms are paid by the government and a special ‘commissioner’ is appointed to speak for them. The only thing Nigeria needs to win this war against insecurity is taking action against anyone involved. The Nigeria government should go to war against banditry, Boko Haram terrorists and every other life threatening sects like the IPOB and Niger- Delta Avengers.