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Dreary path to self defence

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Alabi Williams

Long before Gen. Theophilus Y. Danjuma gave the now famous self defence advisory to people of Taraba and others who face similar danger of imminent extinction in the hands of mindless murderers of whatever description, many were actually waiting anxiously for the Federal Government to proclaim self defence as an option in the face of gross failure on its part to secure life and property of Nigerians, as promised in the Constitution of the Federal Republic.

The Constitution in Section 17, 2(b) says; the sanctity of the human person shall be recognized and human dignity shall be maintained and enhanced. But the truth is that in this country, the sanctity of the human person has been routinely violated and degraded. The government that is vested with responsibility to bring this constitutional provision to life has been unable to act, and in some cases is seen to aid and abet. In many instances, security personnel only arrive after the marauders have plundered.

Take the case of Zamfara, just last Wednesday; two soldiers were killed in a gun duel with bandits who now roam freely in that region of the country. That encounter took place in Tunga Daji in Anka Local Government Area of the state. Items recovered from the bandits, according to Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Texas Chukwu, include five AK 47 rifles, one light machine gun, five magazines and 35 rounds of 7.62mm special ammunition. The army said 21 of the insurgents were killed.

A few days earlier, 11 soldiers killed by insurgents were buried in Kaduna. They met their death in the Birin Gwari area of the state, which for years has been a hotbed of attacks and grooming centre for insurgents. They waylay road users in the manner of bandits and attack defenceless communities in dawn raids. Their nefarious activities, which have not gone unnoticed for years are clearly a revolt against the Constitution of Nigeria and an affront to her sovereignty. Any group that could bring down 11 soldiers, whether in an ambush or open confrontation, will run down any medium sized community of defenceless civilians.

In Zamfara, calls for self-help predate that of Gen. Danjuma. For communities in Zurmi and Isah local government areas, they have had it to their ears. They have been at the receiving end of continuous raids by bandits who come to kill and rob. Matters got to a head recently when more than 40 persons from different villages were killed and the outrage reached all the corners of the country. In their frustration, the Emir of Zurmi, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar Mohammed was reported to have said: “These terrorists are known to us. Their major hideout is a village called Kagara, very close to Bafarawa in Sokoto State, and a few kilometres from Shinkafi in Zamfara State. But despite several appeals to security agencies to storm the area, our appeals have failed.”

He added: “I need to state here that majority of the weapons used by bad people in this country are brought in from this area. I had reason to personally inform Zamfara State’s Director of the Department of State Services (DSS), sometime back of a large cache of weapons being brought into the country but no concrete action was taken until the containers were moved away.”

Abdulaziz Yari, the Governor was in agreement with the Emir. He said it loud and clear that he had lost faith in the security system. If he had his way, he would adopt self-help as supposed chief security officer of his state.

In the Plateau, time and space will not permit to list the number of times vandals and murderers have rendered villages desolate. They do it so cruelly, as if the intention is to annihilate and occupy. Conspiracy theory actually has it that those who are on rampage in these community do so in order to scare away the people and steal their land. The only way to burst this theory is when the government is available to defend the territorial integrity of the country and ensure that life and property are safe. No, that’s not what obtains. We have a situation of the Military Joint Task Force always unable to defend the people, fueling perception of collusion. The military that is not available to confront brigands does not want locals to bear arms, not even local rifle used by hunters. And such tactics, over time fits into the theory of calculated state sponsored annihilation.

The story around North-Central has a strong ethnic and religious undertone to it, as we saw in claims of the number of Fulani people that were killed in Taraba, versus number of Taraba people of Takum and surrounding villages who were killed. Even first class traditional rulers in the north joined the fray, posting numbers and taking over the job of emergency agencies and the Interior Ministry. Self-help in this matter is of different dimensions.

For Gen Danjuma to canvass self defence in the twilights of his nation-building career is one that should worry this government. And it does not require the kind of responses we have heard from those who speak on behalf of government. Danjuma could be argued not to be a tribalist. He fought to keep Nigeria one and when there was call to defend the North, he made himself available. In his interventions, there is no account where Danjuma sought to be unduly rewarded in the manner other power hungry soldiers have displayed. One wonders therefore what he stands to benefit in a Somalia-like Nigeria.

Some say he has access to the military and government. Yes, he does. But should we encourage him to use his access to Aso Villa and military authorities to procure security for Tarabans, while the people of Zurmi and Benue and Plateau are left at the mercy of plunderers? Should it be about Danjuma or what the Constitution promises the people, that every human life is sacred, precious and should be protected?

In any case, Danjuma did not say anything different from what others have said. The contrast perhaps, is the one who is saying it.Therefore, this is not time to pretend, cause all is not well. All is probably well in Abuja, around the Villa and the National Assembly, where safety is assured. This is about Nigerians no longer feeling safe and proud to be Nigerians. A land that held so much promise in 1960, but is now plagued by socio-economic ailments should be put on the table for fresh diagnosis and cure. We cannot budget billions for security every year without the people reaping the benefits. This is why the resort to self-help has become an option. And it does not stop there. The implication is that the possibility of Nigeria failing as a sovereign entity is no longer idle talks.

If we love Nigeria, this is the time to talk about our internal security. Many options are on the table; state police has been canvassed; restructuring has been advocated. But some idlers who benefit from present disarray are reluctant to engineer change. Even the APC that stole its way into hearts of Nigerians by promising change and restructuring has now gone to sleep. Its government has harvested hugest strife in Nigeria’s history and they have collectively refused to be embarrassed. What a tribe!

The point is that the security architecture of the country needs urgent retooling. To do that requires more dialogue and then action. It is not just about allocating $1b dollars to buy more arms. It is about winning back the interest and loyalty of those who have lost confidence in project Nigeria. It is about the urgent need to reclaim Nigeria from vandals and brigands who cannot comprehend the idea of nationhood and constitutionality. It is an urgent task that concerns all.


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Theophilus Y. Danjuma
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