It is difficult to accurately describe the present state of insecurity in Nigeria. What is happening in Nigeria now is like a horror story set in medieval era. On daily basis we are inundated with horrifying and mind-boggling tales of savagery orchestrated by terrorists nationwide. A few individuals emboldened by barbaric and primordial beliefs and tacit or covert support from “above” have declared war on the greater majority. From all fronts, the citizens are buffeted and attacked. From state to state it is the same gory tale, in the streets, in the farm and on our highways. There are mindless killings and carnage on egregious scale. Over fifty thousand Nigerians have died in the hands of Boko Haram, dare-devil bandits, and Fulani herdsmen in the past five years. Prior to this period, what we know of insurgency was mainly limited to the north-eastern part of the country. But today, the battle has metastasized to every part of the country. Now we have Boko Haram, ISWAP, ISIS, bandits and Fulani herdsmen terrorizing Nigeria.
Regrettably, there seems to be no respite in sight if the conflicting signals from the official quarters are anything to go buy. The officials seem to be lethargic about the state of insecurity in the land. The service chiefs are apparently not on top of the situation. The National Security Adviser is trading blames with Chief of Staff to the President and the President’s position is questionably indecisive. The National Assembly appears to be doing nothing to compel the executive to provide the needed security to the people. The once vociferous civil society groups appear uncharacteristically helpless and taciturn while the dispirited masses appear hapless and hopeless. Only the Church is seemingly active praying, making some feeble protests here and there.
There are insinuations in some quarters alleging government culpable negligence and complicity in the whole security conundrum. The leadership of Miyetti Allah the umbrella body of the murderous herdsmen is talking tough and there is no arrest and no official reprimand from the government. It is said that they have unfettered access to every police command and military formations but the governors who are said to be the Chief Security Officers of their states have no such privileges. Buhari is a patron of Miyetti Allah and so are the top-notch traditional rulers in the North. Herdsmen are classified as one of the most deadly terrorist group in the world by World Terrorist Index yet in Nigeria the officials said they are not and should be accommodated in all the states of the federation. In 2019, a whooping sum of 100billion tax-payers’ money was said to be paid by the government to Bandits to stop killing. Mr. El-Rufai the governor of Kaduna State was quoted as having said that they paid bandits in Kaduna to stop killing. The implication of all these is that officially the killers and the perpetrators of insecurity are known. The puzzle is why then is the government not acting?
Another factor fueling speculations of government complicity in the whole security conundrum is the retention of service chiefs who have failed woefully to contain the rampaging terrorists. There is a general believe that there is something sinister and fishy about keeping service chiefs who could not provide the needed security even when they were overdue for retirement. Again, there is the worrisome issue of having the entire state security apparatchik in the hands of a select individual from a section of the country.
During the campaign prelude to his election in 2015, the President had promised among other things to provide security and to crush Boko Haram insurgency in three months upon assumption of office and in December, 2015 after about six months in office, the President announced to the whole nation that Boko Haram has been defeated and that they are only looking for soft targets. And, in December, 2016, the government declared again that Boko Haram has been defeated, brandishing their flag and other insignia as evidence of that claim. By April, 2017, they again negotiated with the defeated Boko Haram for the release of about 82 kidnapped Chibok girls. In February 2018, Boko Haram struck and kidnapped about 110 school girls in Dapchi following military withdrawal from a checkpoint and ever since, there have been unrestrained attacks and kidnapping by the insurgents. And a glimpse at Boko Haram timeline indicates that they have done more attacks and more killings in the last five years than before. And the government has been negotiating and indirectly funding Boko Haram by paying their ransom demands.
What could be garnered from all of these is that the war against Boko Haram has not been won contrary to claims from official quarters and may never be won given the questionable lackluster approach of the government. That the President has sympathy for Boko Haram is not in doubt. When the war against insurgency began in the previous regime, he condemned it claiming that it is war against the North. It could also be recalled that he was appointed by Boko Haram during the Jonathan’s era as their official negotiator. And since coming to power, Boko Haram seems more emboldened to fight despite the spurious claim of its defeat by the government. Boko Haram members captured by the army are given VIP treatment and either recruited into the state army or released as free agent to continue their nefarious activities. Unconfirmed report had it that Kabiru Sokoto who was jailed for Madala bombing on Christmas Day, 2011 was alleged to have been released from jail. Zakari Biu the police commissioner who was dismissed by the previous administration for allegedly aiding the escape of Kabiru Sokoto from detention in 2012 was recalled by the government and retired with full benefits in September, 2015.
Undoubtedly, what is more worrisome in the whole debacle is the apparent official helplessness. Nigeria security architecture seems to have collapsed as the war pervades. Under Buhari, Nigerians are watching helplessly as the country is gradually macerated into a state of anarchy and instability. Fulani herdsmen and bandits have surrounded every bush in the country apparently waiting for order for the final onslaught. The government of the day seems to have done nothing to abate the rampaging terrorists in spite of huge annual defence budget. Instead there appear to be some subterranean moves to prevent the people from defending themselves. Sometime last year, the police announced to all citizens to surrender their licensed arms whereas there was no move to disarm the herdsmen who brandish their weapons with impunity. Again, when South West governors established Amotekun as a measure to counter insecurity, it was opposed by Miyetti Allah cattle breeders and the government. The president was quoted recently as saying that Nigerians should not take laws into their hand when the herdsmen attack. In other words they should not engage in self-defence. When the bandits come they should either, run and allow them take over their land or wait and allow themselves to be butchered. And perchance they are courageous enough to catch any, they must hand him over to the police. At the end of the day he will be accorded a heroic treatment and released.
Thus, as Nigerians are terrorized it appears the major interest of the government is not on the bewildered citizens but on the murderous herdsmen who they want resettled in all the states of the Federation and the Boko Haram terrorists who they want rehabilitated. Those displaced by the terrorists live under sub-human conditions in camps while the aggressors are treated as heroes. The nagging question is why the President would want to pamper Boko Haram insurgents whom he described in his inaugural speech in 2015 as: “a mindless, godless group who are as far away from Islam..?” Why does the government want to create a commission to rehabilitate Boko Haram and bandits whom PMB had earlier claimed were not Nigerians? Does it also mean that the fixity about having herdsmen resettled in all the states of the federation, the cattle colony brouhaha, the RUGA plan, the Life Stock Transformation Programme, the establishment of Fulani Radio, the preposterous war against hate speech, the obtrusive Boko Haram resettlement plan were not just misplaced priorities but grand design to promote sectional agenda as expressed in some quarters? Is our national security deliberately compromised in order to pursue parochial primordial agenda?
Interestingly, as poignant and as grave as the security situation in Nigeria is, there are some individuals who believe that the insecurity is not peculiar to Nigeria. Admittedly, there is global insecurity as the excuse-makers have pointed out, but not on the scale witnessed in Nigeria currently where the citizens live like hostages. We can distinguish between security challenges perpetrated by social deviants and criminals and that occasioned by culpable, tacit or covert official negligence and complicity. Nigeria is not only the poverty headquarters of the world; it is the most terrorized nation in the world and one of the most unsafe places to live in the world now. Nigeria is now a pariah state in the same rank with Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan.
Yet, there are others too, who believed that Nigerians brought this on themselves. Granted, Nigerians may have contributed indirectly through the choice they made in the past but I believe this is no time to trade blames. We know those who brought this sorry state of affairs on us; some have repented and apologized. That Nigeria is in a state of war is no longer in doubt. There is therefore urgent need to close ranks. We cannot tackle this by wishful thinking or reliance on “compromised” state security that has failed us thus far. We need vigilance, cooperation, collaboration and affirmative action. Be that as it may, I strongly believe that this is the beginning of the end of evil plaguing the nation. Those who orchestrated this state of affairs should remember as Marxists put it that: every thesis has it anti-thesis. The same fire they have stoked may ultimately consume them.
By Gozie Irogboli…
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