Insecurity jeopardising Nigeria’s future – PANDEF
National Publicity Secretary of Pan Niger Delta Congress (PANDEF) Ken Robinson, in this interview with KELVIN EBIRI, says the group is worried that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has been unable to check the activities of bandits, terrorists and kidnappers, who are terrorising the entire country. He says the government must be more responsive, and willing to collaborate with Nigerians to tackle the menace.
Does PANDEF share the Northern Elders Forum’s concern on the wanton killings carried out by bandits across the country?
PANDEF has for a long time been worried about the state of insecurity in the country. We have, as far back as December last year, said that President Muhammadu Buhari needs to overhaul the security high command and ensure a little restructuring of the security architecture of the country. Obviously, the president has been grossly unable to tackle insecurity across the country, particularly the activities of bandits in the North West, including his home state of Katsina, where we understand that residents and communities now live together with bandits, and are even taxed by the bandits. It is completely abhorrent. It is unacceptable that the country’s security setup has degenerated to the stage that it is, and it is across the country. There is Boko Haram in the North East; murderous activities of herdsmen in states like Benue, Plateau in the North Central, as well as in the South South, South West and parts of the South East. So, PANDEF is worried. PANDEF is concerned that the Buhari-led administration has been unable to check the activities of these bandits, terrorists, kidnappers and all such criminal elements.We join the Northern Elders Forum to condemn insecurity in the country, and call on the president and the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government to sit up.
Unsurprisingly, and consistent with the style of the government, it has resorted to blame game. We heard the President’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, blaming traditional rulers in Katsina State and it was the same display that the government put up in Zamfara when the state was in a similar situation. The Federal Government then blamed some traditional rulers for aiding and abetting the bandits to carry out such unacceptable criminal activities. The Federal Government should accept full responsibility for the situation, and do everything it can to collaborate with citizens to check criminal activities and insecurity in the country. In summary, the Buhari-led Federal Government has failed in the area of security as it has, of course, in most aspects, including the welfare of the people.
Do the activities of these bandits and terrorists suggest that the President and governors have lost control as far as security is concerned?
Obviously, they have lost control. We understand that in the North East most political appointees and elected officers are paying monthly dues and levies to terrorists for their security and safety. And we hear also that in the North West villages in Katsina, Zamfara among others are paying bandits so that they won’t attack their communities. So, obviously affected northern governors, the President and indeed the Federal Government have lost control of security issues and have failed woefully. The Northern Elders Forum conclusion is absolutely on point, as it reveals that there is a collapse of governance.
From the foregoing scenario, did Nigerians overestimate President Buhari’s capacity to tackle insecurity as a retired army general?
With due respect to Mr. President, he is a retired general, but recall that he conceded that he is ‘Baba Go Slow,’ and that attitude now reflects in all areas of governance. He is not proactive and this has caused Nigeria a lot of damage in the last five years. We will not say we are not aware of these inadequacies and shortcomings, what is needed now is for those around the president, including the Minister of Interior; the National Security Adviser; the Inspector General of Police, and the Chief of Defence Staff to close ranks, work together and bring an end to inter-agency conflicts, which have contributed to weakening the security system in the country.
Does PANDEF feel the need for the President to replace the current service chiefs?
There is absolutely an urgent need to do so, just as it is imperative that the security architecture in the country is restructured. There is need to rejig the system and bring in fresh people with fresh ideas. The Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Air Staff, and the Chief of Naval Staff, without exception, have failed, hence no longer effective. New people need to come on board as most of the service chiefs are supposed to have retired, but the president has kept them for reasons best known to him. So, there is an urgent need for the restructuring of the country’s security high command, and rejigging of the nation’s security architecture to make it more effective, more efficient, and more strategic. We don’t have to wait untill Nigerians are killed in greater numbers, or more communities are taken over by bandits, terrorists, and kidnappers before we act. The way it is now, more Nigerians might resort to self-help. Of course, that is what is happening in most parts of the country now. And it brings to mind the demand for the restructuring of the country so that state governments, and the federating units will have greater power and authority to take care of some of these issues. The present structure is no longer sustainable, and it is working against the progress and development of the country.
It is common knowledge that Nigeria needs restructuring, and if the government fails to restructure, the country might restructure itself as it is happening already. The widespread security challenge should not be seen as a North East matter, a Katsina State matter, or an issue that bothers Ondo, Edo or Rivers states. It should be seen as a Nigerian matter. So, we call on Nigerians to cooperate with the government to ensure that these security issues are taken care of.
What does this rising case of insecurity portend for the future of the country?
It is precarious. When in an insecure society, how can the economy thrive? How can people go about their businesses? How can people live? With the state of insecurity in the country, our future is in jeopardy. So, government, as a matter of urgency, and national interest, must sit down to tackle this issue. In fact, we are calling for a national security summit. It should be a national summit where indigenous people of Nigeria will sit down with the Federal Government and security agencies to state their challenges, express their fears and explore ways of tackling the situation.
Is there a nexus between the prevailing insecurity and poor governance?
It is the failure of governance that gives rise to insecurity. At the moment, some people are still migrating into the country to carry out one form of business activity or the other. This is so because the country is a little bit stable economically, and socially. But if we don’t do anything about insecurity, at some point in the near future, Nigeria will become non-attractive because there will be nothing that will attract people to come, and everything that we now have would have been lost and the country would become a failed state. President Buhari must realise these dangers and begin to re-organise immediately, his government and his style of governance. He must do away with his government’s nepotistic and unfair disposition, and allow people who can contribute positively to solving some of these problems to get involved. There is need for a total overhaul in the way President Buhari conducts the affairs of state.
How logical is the government’s claim that most insurgents are from neighbouring countries?
That is in essence accepting that we have been unable to secure our boarders, which is a responsibility of the Federal Government. It is most embarrassing that the Federal Government has not been unable to secure our boarders causing outlaws to penetrate the country and leave at will. The Federal Government is failing in several directions and we must, as Nigerians, tell the APC-led government that it is failing. We must tell it to sit up, tighten our boarders, and deal with criminal elements instead of continually claiming that it has degraded Boko Haram, yet the terrorists keep on murdering Nigerians.
How serious is the menace of herdsmen attacks on farmers in Niger Delta?
In the Niger Delta, activities of herdsmen are restricted. Niger Delta is a more proactive region and some of the governors are also doing very well in terms of securing their states. However, we need to be always at alert to ensure these activities do not spread to other areas within the region, especially in the light of the recent exodus of young people from the North to the South East and South-South.
What is the way forward?
The way forward is collaboration. Nigeria is a nation only in name, but it is not a nation or federation in character. We have struggled to attain nationhood, and with due respect to Mr. President, in the last five years, we have almost taken 50 steps backwards. As a nation, all citizens, be they Christians or Muslims must be allowed to participate in government so as to bring in their expertise, knowledge and experience to bear. But what we have experienced and continue to witness in the Buhari-led administration is the exclusion of people with experience; people with knowledge and expertise, and that is why we are faced with this overwhelming security challenges. There is the exclusion of those who have the required expertise because of where they come from. For us to move forward and solve this problem of insecurity, the government has to be an open government, broad-minded, and accommodating.
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