WEDNESDAY COLUMN BY USSIJU MEDANER
Everyone is on the same page as regards the security situation of Nigeria. From the presidency, to the streets and the camp of the opposition, the acceptance of reality is unanimous. We all know we are in a dire security dilemma. We all know, nowhere is safe in the country; we all know, we are all aware and alarmed at the realities of the frequent killings, kidnapping and displacement of Nigerians from their communities and sources of survival. The economy and our total lives as Nigerians have been overtly impacted negatively as a result; the palpable and heightened dread of what will be next and who might be next has taken over the citizens and the government alike. And unlike our many calamities of the past, it is difficult to resolve to live with this new reality of dangers, because unlike the economic hardships of the decades past, the bandits, kidnapers and the insurgents are prowling the streets and communities randomly without consideration or concern for status.
But one thing separates us all: the nature and structures of our responses to the common problem. The common men on the streets are groaning, not only for the fear of the menacing insecurity, but also of the economic consequences of the insecurity on the individuals and family economies, hoping and wishing for a resolve or respite to come by the way of government actions that would detonate the strength of the bandits, insurgents, kidnappers and other menacing forces that have lifted up weapons against the nation. The government worries about the situation and the incapacity of the nation’s security formations to restore peace across the country. We have seen massive investments to create formidable onslaught against the enemy forces; weapons, attack planes and training of officers; we have seen changes of leaderships of the security apparatuses to influence the seriousness of the counterinsurgency and the speed of recovery of the nation’s territories from all forms of attacking forces, all to no avail.
On the part of the opposition, we have seen an unparalleled commitment to holding the government responsible for the attacks; we have seen unhidden and unbridled desires to take advantage of the gory security state of the nation for political gains. Over the year, and more recently, we have seen opposition figures taking turns on the media to elaborate on the insecurity and its consequences upon the nation; we have seen conscious attacks using the national insecurity as tools to sell desires to win elections. Eventually, for the opposition, the killings across the country are blessings in disguise; the entire news making; all turning the citizens against the government; yet without a single prescription of solution to the national problem. Not a single member of the opposition, nor any of the individuals with affiliation to them, be they clergies or from the civil society, has till now, in the midst of the volumes of the elaborated finger pointing and blame game against the sitting government has offered a way out and solution to the problem.
In our states, we saw killings mounting and citizens collapsing under the weight of unbearable consequences of insecurity; in the North East, m North Central, North West, South East, South-South and the South West; states with executive governors as chief security officers who never failed for once to receive security votes. These governors are spread across political parties, and are supposed to share responsibilities for the security of their citizens, but unfortunately, the killings of the people of Benue state, for instance, is grossly laid at the table of the president while the governor amasses more popularity for joining the train of the blamers. This is a representation of one of the many factors that took away from us the capacity to stay on top of the nation’s security concern; the desire to play politics with the very critical national issue, and the more willingness to wager the security of lives and properties of Nigerians with the potential gains that could come with choosing insecurity as a political campaign pathway, instead of effectively, as Nigerians, to join the efforts at providing lasting solutions to the national problem.
How easy is it for us to ignore the responsibilities of the governors in providing security in their domains, and squarely blame the center for the killings perpetuated in those states is incomprehensible. At what time have we asked what efforts have the governors taken to safeguard their people; what have they organised to make insecurity an unprofitable venture in their domains? Beyond joining the attacks on the president, what has the governor of Benue state in his official and personal capacity done to arrest the unrest in his state? The same goes to Rivers, Oyo and other states, where the governors are by their positions expected to act but rather have joined the blame train against the center.
And for where we are today, we are the architects of our predicaments; choosing politics over humanity all through the decades when we were careless about what becomes of the streets while the politicians pilfer our national wealth. All the while when the poverty of resources and mind were becoming the most common currency of the citizens, while the few opportune politicians were reshaping the country to become their properties and perfecting their trades of converting the masses to domestic goats they could easily calm by throwing periodic carrots at. And gradually, the goats, having their backs to the wall, are turning against the system. It was our system that groomed the Boko Haram insurgency from infanthood to maturity; refusing to act when we had the upper hand to literally decimate the group. We were the one that stayed calm when the group was increasing in sophistication and population, getting affiliated with foreign terrorist groups and profiting from the wealth of global terrorism. For over a decade, Boko Haram roamed freely on our land, grew the boldness to exercise military power and spread its tentacles across the country and beyond our borders. And today, for our failures to nib the wings of the Boko Haram insurgency when we had the obvious strength, the bandits have learned the lesson that they could equally prey on us and get away with it; the kidnapers have seen firsthand that we are a fertile land for their ignoble business.
The problem is right on us all now; could we not just take away sentiments and our biases and as a single people confront the evils that are bent on destroying us? We have both directly and indirectly become victims of these criminal cruelties against the nation and its people. None of us, government, opposition and the populace is exempted from the consequences of the rampaging terrors across the land. This is not a time to play politics or religion with the national problem; not a time to grind out grudges or desire popularity on the back of national problems.
We are not going to get anything fruitful from the attacks of the clergies and politicians on the other side of the divides against the government that are bent on castigating the government for being ineffective and unconcerned, or at worst, even involved with the coordination of the internal insecurity in the country without any substantial evidence to the allegations beyond personal and group imaginations or sheer mischief. The structure of attacks from politicians and even governors is not what any patriotic citizen would offer the country at this time. If we are really worried and concerned about the turn of events in the country, we should form coalition to provide solution, doing our parts that shows our love and commitments to see an end to the problems, rather than the public use of the problems in a way that amasses public dissidents and anger against the government and make us more popular and politically accepted. To start with the process of securing this country, governors, like Ortom of Benue state, must have to desist from seeing the attacks in their backyard as an opportunity to pilfer the state resources, converting state resources like security votes, that can be easily stolen without legal worries. They must have to stop the game of staging fronts that distract attention from their glaring non-performance and inactions as regards to the state security and economic development. The citizens, likewise, must wake up from their slumber and realise we would not get a solution until we stop taking the side of becoming a secondary problem to the government instead of presenting a working collaboration.
This is in no way excusing the government from its responsibility of securing the country and its people from harms. The government could not have done enough if we are still here today. The only justification for the massive budgetary allocations and financial engagement in national security should be the provision of a safe society for the citizens. Beyond town hall meetings, security meetings and continuous allocations to the military and civil policing outfits, we must propel the government to go all out, not sparing any factor to root out the causes of insecurity in the country.
The nation is at war. We are fighting elements within us who have vowed to break us. We cannot give this a different name; the government cannot see it as anything else but war. Perhaps, the military needs a total restructuring; the government must go beyond mere rhetoric to mandating the military to flush out the bandits, the kidnappers, the killer herders and the Boko Haram terrors from wherever they are hiding or occupying in the country. This must come with an ultimatum for the military forces. It is no longer unexplainable how the bandits and the insurgent travel hundreds of kilometers to schools and communities to carry out their sinister acts and leave without any form of security response. It is hard to understand how they match on to guarded prisons and successfully free prisoners without any form of counter forces. These cannot continue. The government must do much more than it is doing now. Nigerians need to see results. We want to see a matching order from the president like never before that shows that it is no longer business as usual.
Rather than solving our common problem, this present form of weak, choice response only separates us further, deepening our fallout from a united fight against the forces that are up against us, and strengthened the resolve of the many insurgents against the country. If only we have chosen overtime to shelve our differences and work in unison against this problem, we wouldn’t have continued to encourage the forces of the insurgent, the bandits, the kidnapers and even the killer herders, who are massively taking advantages of the inherent hostility in our system to operate freely without much consequence until now.
At this material time, we should come to the recognition of the severity of the problems against our nationhood; recognise that we are faced with multiple threats and actions of internal insurgencies regardless of the nomenclature and get set to respond appropriately. It is time we had a serious counterinsurgency program – without prejudice to the nation’s Counter Terrorism Center – for the country for the support of the Nigerian population who have been periled by the constant attacks by the terror forces and to save the country’s economy and social life from collapsing under the weight of the attacks. It is time for us to create supports that will destabilise terror forces through information engagement, stronger government commitment, full citizens involvement, participation and collaboration with state efforts as part of the central integral component of the nation’s strategic counterinsurgency efforts.
At this material time, coming together will probably be the most critical and patriotic aspect of our response to the internal insurgencies; we must find a way to agree to fight together; a way to come to the table without the usual bickering and infighting that have characterised our interrelationships over the years. If we can find a way around coming together, then we must as a matter of emergency convey a national conference on insecurity, to foster a stronger united response and assault against the terror groups. With this, accomplishing unity of effort among the very diverse units and actors of the nation’s counterinsurgency responses will become feasible, and will come with a more result-oriented military assaults, civil security, civil control, ease of reestablishing decimated communities and families, providing essential services and restoring the collapsing national economic and infrastructure development.
Our agreement to come together alone will set the camp of the terrorist and bandits aflame, because our disunity has always been their greatest strength against us. When we choose to ignore tribal and religious differences, we will develop the wherewithal to genuinely criticise government total response, and uproot the many factors that have predisposed us to insecurity. We would be able to fight effectively against internal economic and political corruptions that drive many of our leaders to pitch their tents with the enemies of the country. Imagine state leaders across party lines working on the same page to rid the country of insecurity. Imagine the likes of Obasanjo, Atiku, and others shedding sentiments and coming out to truly join hands with the government. Imagine the like of Oyedepo, Gumi and the very many clerics who as at today use their pulpits to castigate the government without ever setting a working agenda to assist in the fight against the menace; coming out to join hands with the government to fight the terrors. This is using the power of love as a weapon against the enemies of the state.
Currently, we have more sympathisers for the bandits and kidnappers than we have for the government. This is just the same way most Nigeria would support those who are involved in the popular swindling business called 419, because they believe it is the government’s fault and the failure of the society to provide enabling settings for survival that is drawing many citizens to these crimes and other criminalities. Today, the opinion on the streets is that more unemployed Nigerians are taking to kidnapping and involving in the terror against the country because they easily offer a path out of poverty. The fact that not a single community or state is exempted from these dastard crimes is an evidence that Nigerians of all tribes and religions are actively involved; and coupled with our failure to have successfully convicted anyone in the past for these crimes against the country, and have become an inviting factor that brings in more willing actors into those crimes and criminalities.
It is important that, cumulatively and simultaneously, the responses to the current national predicaments by the government, both at the state and the federal level must prioritise citizens empowerment; create jobs and devise methods to reduce the alarming population of unemployed citizens who have become easy tools to both take arms against the states and the people or in the expression of anger against the system that have jeopardised their survival, arousing hate against the system, and refuse to cooperate with measures that could save the nation.
As it stands, it is important that we realise that efforts that do not include economic recovery of the country; that does not include redistribution of the national wealth, and that does not genuinely and consciously implement policies that improve the lives of citizens at the lower rung of the ladder, is bound to fail.
The nation is now at the mercy of the desire of all its citizens to do what is right for their country; the citizens to eschew hatred and divisions and make the decision to work in love and unity for the peace and safety of the country. The political class and leaders are to, for once, let go of their perennial love for power and willingness to grab it by all means possible; let go of the common penchant of choosing to profit from every national predicament. This is the time for the government to bring down the barriers of political non-relationship and allow an all-inclusive participation to solve the insecurity problem. We need ourselves, everyone on board and on the same page now, else, we may not have a nation to cherish in the nearest future.
Love, more than any other factor, will be our greatest weapon to fight the enemies that have grouped against us; it is not an option for us, but the only way out of this mess for Nigeria. The enemies’ power is in our disunity; in the much infighting among us; in the blame games and the refusal to work together. This is not the time for us to have very much regional segregation in the names of forces, antagonising each other and claiming rights of self governance. This is not the time for the many social media onslaughts against the center; this is the time for the governors forum, regardless of political party affiliation to make the resolve to work together and with the federal government to save our land.
Our military forces, security apparatuses and full capacity to repel and decimate totally these terror groups will come to the fore and begin yielding results when we do not have to fight too many unnecessary fights at the same time.
Finally, all I have written here are the product of my very many worries of the last days. I am worried for the country; I am worried for the people; I am worried for the great country for we are at the verge of losing, not to Boko Haram, bandits, kidnappers or the killer herders, but to our carelessness in fighting unnecessary wars among ourselves. I write not knowing what else we could do aside some of the solutions I highlighted earlier on, or if we even have the capacity to do what is needed to be done; if it is in us to let go of tribalism, of religious fanaticism, and of our unbridled love for money and power that have led us and the country to this point.
GOD BLESS THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC!