[OPINION] An undesirable opportunity for a paradigm shift | Ripples Nigeria
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[OPINION] An undesirable opportunity for a paradigm shift

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It’s no longer news that Nigeria is currently facing a myriad of socio-economic and political problems, including those threatening her peace and unity. What is news is the persistent failure of our political leaders to learn from their mistakes and secure the future of the country. These problems include different forms of insecurity like banditry, kidnapping, farmers/herders crisis, attacks on security agencies and offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, widening poverty rate, fiscal and economic crunch, poor governance, lack of equity and fairness, crude politics among others. Bad news have become the order of our time that no day passes by without reports of kidnappings, killings and agitations here and there. Unlike when the northeast used to be the only ‘theatre’ of war, every part of the country is now unsafe for the inhabitants. People have been sacked from their ancestral homes by marauders and their means of livelihood threatened, with nobody to cry to for liberation.

These problems have brought unhappiness, resentment, rife, anger, anguish, dissension, apprehension, uncertainty, mistrust, doubts, desolation, hopelessness; just name the feelings and above all, an increase in separatist movements. These are the feelings pervading the country because the government, which swore to protect the people, has abdicated its responsibility and left them at the mercy of their traducers. In some parts of the country, people hardly sleep with their two eyes closed, no thanks to the activities of criminal herdsmen, bandits and ‘unknown gunmen’.

What worries most people now, is not just the festering of the problems, but how they have been handled or being handled. For instance, it was the poor handling of the herders/farmers crisis that made it hydra-headed and gave birth to some other consequential multiple problems. The body language of the federal government has been louder than its actions, perhaps the conclusion in some quarters that the government of the day is either incompetent or in tacit support of the killings in the land.

The federal government has not really shown sincerity of purpose towards tackling the challenges facing the country. If the government is not paying lip service, it is playing the ostrich and advertently or inadvertently pushing an inordinate ethnic agenda. The law enforcement agencies on their part, have not helped matters, as their approach to tackling the herdsmen menace is nothing, but uncomplimentary. Other than serve the interest of the people, the security forces serve the interest of the ruling class.

The resultant effect is loss of confidence in the government of the day and invariably, loss of faith in the country. The handling of the herdsmen challenge has made some Nigerians conclude that the ‘One Nigeria’ slogan is nothing, but a ruse. Social justice has taken the back seat and people, who care to fight for the right to live and earn a living in their lands are massacred with no one being held accountable. This explains the anger, fight-back and arms struggle in the land now.

Evidently, the country is descending into anarchy and barbarism. For instance, apart from the unknown gunmen syndrome, Anambra state has in the past couple of days seen a rise in jungle justice in Onitsha environs as the citizens are losing hope in the ability and capacity of the government and security agencies to protect their lives and property. People are now taking laws into their own hands. Some criminal suspects who were arrested recently in Nkpor, Obosi and Onitsha were given the ‘tyre treatment’.

Furthermore, we have also seen an increase quest for balkanization of Nigeria or increased agitation for secession. Aside the year-long Biafra agitation by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, we have seen the revival or reincarnation of the agitation for Ooduduwa Republic. It was the poor handling of the killer herdsmen menace that threw up Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho who had announced the secession of the Southwest region from Nigeria and christened it the Republic of Oduduwa in honour of the mythical progenitor of the Yoruba people of the Southwest. During his declaration, Igboho said the major resources of Nigeria were in the hands of Northerners, stressing that Yorubas were being killed and their land taken over.“If the police attack us for that, we are ready for them. We do not want Nigeria again but the Yoruba nation.

There is no essence for one Nigeria when the major resources in the country are in the hands of the northerners. “Enough is enough. There is no going back… We are not scared of anybody. These killer herders are taking over our land and they are killing our people,” Igboho said in a viral video.

On the other hand, there has been tension in the southeast and south-south geopolitical zones of the country. The once peaceful areas are no longer at ease. They have become the operational base of unknown gunmen, who have in the past couple of months taken an unknown war to security personnel serving in the two geo-political zones. The police, military, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, Nigeria Correctional Services and the INEC are all victims of the dastardly activities of the unknown Gunmen. Every atrocious act in these places, including attacks on public infrastructure is attributed to that newest coinage of the press, used to describe a group of daring young people, who have taken to arms in rebellion against the Nigerian state as a way to let out their frustration over the turn of things in Nigeria. Many security personnel, police stations, operational vehicles, INEC offices and facilities have been lost to the operations of these men. While it is not clear what the mission of the unknown gunmen is, it cannot be extricated from a retinue of maladies, bad governance, including chronic injustice in the country.

Read also: [OPINION] Southern leaders and the 1979, 1999 Nigerian constitutions

The pervading air of insecurity, as well as uprisings across the country is a pointer that Nigeria is on a precipice and needs to be rescued urgently. We are at a stage that demands a paradigm shift to save this country. At this point of our national life, it shouldn’t be business as usual. It is expected of the political leaders to cease this undesirable opportunity to speedily begin to attend to those imperatives that have been left unattended because of sentimental politics. It is time to eschew personal and group interests to save Nigeria from the imminent collapse. Governments, both at the federal and state levels need to embark on urgent reforms and commit themselves to good governance. The tripod to save Nigeria would be commitment to equity, justice and fairness. The fourth is nationalism. Kinetic approach to dealing with the uprisings and insecurity will only bring respite, but not a remedy. The government should stop its perennial lip service and be seen to be committed to providing good governance and addressing all the injustices in the land. The federal government should stand up for Nigeria, other than for one tribe. What would it cost the administration of president Muhammadu Buhari to state categorically that open grazing of cattle is not akin to spare parts business in the north? The president must not back the ban on open grazing as declared by the southern governors, but the president can affirm the truth that cattle rearing is a private business, hence should be run like one. He should take the fight to the killer herdsmen and eschew sentiment in handling the herders/farmers crisis. The president should call the likes of his Senior Special Assistant on media and publicity Garba Shehu and the minister of justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami to order as their utterances on the ban on open grazing have been inglorious.

It is also important to note that the situation in the country, calls for a self-assessment by the police. The ugly trend of attack on the police with cheers from the people presents an opportunity to reform or evolve a force with a new face. Is it not appalling and antithetical to see people hailing gunmen attack on the police that ‘protects them? It is said that police is your friend, but how many Nigerians can attest to that? The federal government should pursue the implementation of the laudable provisions of the Nigeria Police Bill, 2020. The Act repeals the Police Act Cap. P19. Laws of the Federation, 2004, and provides for a more effective and well organized Police Force, driven by the principles of efficiency and effectiveness; protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms; partnership with other security institutions, transparency and accountability in its operations and management of its resources. Among others, the Act establishes an appropriate funding framework for the Police in line with what is obtainable in other Federal Government key institutions, enhances professionalism in the Force through increased training opportunities, and creates an enduring cooperation and partnership between the Police Force and communities in maintaining peace and combating crimes nationwide. Police does not function in isolation of the people. However, two can only work, when they agree. There are wonderful provisions in the police act that if committed to, will definitely professionalise the Nigerian Police force.

The police authorities should purge the force of bad eggs, punish infractions and unprofessional conducts. On the agenda of the police now, should be how to win the confidence of the people back. An every Nigerian suspects the police and is reserved about giving information to the police. People doubt virtually every information that comes from the police because it has long lost its credibility. The Nigerian government and the police should commit to implementing the 5 demands of the #EndSARS protesters which it promised to fulfil, but has been foot-dragging on it. The police should reconsider its approach to public relations. Information management does not mean hoarding of information and distortion of facts.

The Nigerian police must see this precarious time as a springboard to pay attention to the recruitment process, training, retraining and discipline of men of the force. There should be consequence for an action. A new training model for the men and officers of the force needs to be developed. Understanding of the provisions of the police Act should be the standard for testing applicants for police enlistment. Police authorities must stand up to bribery and extortion, while we expect the federal government to consider special funding for the police, outside what is provided for in the Police Trust Fund (Establishment) Act which was signed into Law by President Muhammadu Buhari and came into force on 24th of June 2019. If the police purges itself of the ‘unholy excesses’ in a time like this, they will find so much support and back-up in the citizens.

Our greatest undoing will be, if we fail again to learn from history and the mistakes of the past. Posterity will not be kind to our leaders of today, if Nigeria collapses in their hands.

Author: Franklin Ebuka…

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