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Bello Masari’s candour

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I have taken more than passing interest in the political career of Bello Masari since he emerged on the national scene as Speaker of the House of Representatives in succession to no-nonsense Ghali Umar Na’Abba who guarded the independence of the legislature fiercely. Bungling Buhari must thank his stars that he was not “born” in Na’Abba’s era and I can swear that Na’Abba is not out there perching menacingly in the distant horizon. If you remember, he overturned an Obasanjo veto and raked up 32 transgressions against him. He insisted that Obj must be impeached. We were all on our knees, the nation with bated breath, pleading that the new democratic dispensation was too young; we should give it time to grow. It was not until then that Na’Abba backed down.

Come 2003 and here enters Aminu Bello Masari in dignified carriage. Although there were threats of impeachment against President Obasanjo in January of 2007, he was different from Ghali Na’Abba in terms of temperament. He came more conscious of the imperative of a careful management of the Nigerian diversities. He had had some experience in governance. He was Commissioner for Works, Housing and Transport in his state between 1991-1993 briefly under the governorship of John Madaki and later Saidu Barda. As someone not known to be flippant, if he called on citizens of Katsina State to acquire arms to protect themselves, he has demonstrated how inconceivably serious the insecurity situation in the land is. Governor Masari threw up his hands in helpless resignation. Not mincing words, he said you cannot continue to be meek in an atmosphere in which you are confronted by armed bandits. He had said the issue of security is too crucial for police or civil defence alone.

From Ages past, the primary reason for a government is security of the citizens in a community. From antiquities until the advent of organised government in Greece and modern times, governments across the globe have always arisen for the primary purpose of providing security. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states unequivocally in Chapter 2, Section 14: 2(b): “The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” The security challenges bedeviling our country are embarrassingly overwhelming for governments, whether Federal or state and security agencies. This we can glean from the statement of Mr. Masari. He cannot claim ignorance of the grave implications of every individual getting a gun. He spoke out of frustration and serious concern. He has all the information to make him shudder and ask: Where do we go from here? There were protests in his state following the killing of 10 people on July 5, 2019. Barely a week after that, on July 9, police confirmed the death of six persons in attacks by bandits at Dan Sabau, Makara and Panwa villages.

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Hardly did a week pass without depressing reports of banditry and kidnapping. It got to a stage that governors in the North West zone considered going into dialogue with the criminals. Masari indeed met with them and they took photographs with them in which the bandits were in battle gear and brandishing their guns. A member of the state House of Assembly, representing Funtua constituency, Abubakar Mohammed, shedding tears in the House said for the past 40 days, bandits attacked Funtua communities daily, “killing scores and kidnapping many.” When a motion on insecurity which the deputy Speaker said was of urgent public importance, the house heard that the insecurity was affecting 32 out of the 34 Local Government Areas of the state. Katsina the state capital is not spared according to the two members of the House. Kidnappers storm homes and take away their victims unchallenged. The most embarrassing and spirit crushing incident for Governor Masari came when 334 students of Government Science School, Kankara, were abducted in one fell swoop. There is a rash of kidnapping, banditry and killing sweeping across southern belt of the North comprising Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Niger, Nasarawa, Southern Kaduna and Adamawa. The pattern is that after a rash and intensification, there is a respite, only for a return of raving currents of attacks when you had hardly started to catch your breath.

Early on Wednesday morning, 36 people were killed in Yelwan Zangam community in Jos North. This is barely two weeks after scores of travellers lost their lives. They were waylaid on the road. The attackers in Jos North Local Government Area first broke an iron bridge to prevent help from security agents reaching their victims. On August 18, gunmen had launched an attack on another area of Plateau State in which five people died and many were injured. Just last Tuesday, five armed men stormed the home of the Secretary to the state Electoral Commission, Mr. Muhammad Abubakar Okpu and took him away.

Aminu Bello Masari is governor of Katsina State which is president Buhari’s home state. He has the President’s ears. It must be frightening that it is the governor of that state that has asked everyone to arm himself. The issue of security, he had said, was beyond the police and the National Security Organisation. He must have discussed the issue privately with the President. The public can only be left to speculate that he must have expressed his worries to the President. But he has seen that despite the discussion in the closet not much has changed. He threw up his hands in resignation. Consequently, he has come out to admonish that each person had better go and fetch himself a lethal weapon to protect himself and his family. We may have no choice in the future for everyone carrying his own gun. This has its merits and it has its dangers, particularly in a country parading a huge number of illiterate, a country beset with huge unemployment figures, and one branded as the world capital of poverty. It is a country with very inadequate health facilities. Registration and data management of how many guns there are and in so and so many hands are non-existent. Here is a government that has fears about state police even when the fears are unjustifiable and unwarranted.

Masari called for the establishment of state police, saying like the majority of his brother governors across the land that he is chief security officer of his state only in name. The governors have all cried out countless times using their organisational channels—their national umbrella forum, zonal governors’ forum such as South-East Governors Forum; North-East Governors’ Forum; South-West Governors’ Forum; Southern Governors’ Forum and Northern Governors Forum. They need police they can control, properly equipped for effective policing, they have pressed loudly much more so since the emergence of Buhari Administration and insecurity in the land deteriorated rapidly, and ironically at that. Weighty and respectable voices from individuals, from interest groups, from professional (such as the Bar) and from socio-cultural organisations have waded in with their influence, experience or expertise in such matters.

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) condemning in unmistakable agonising tone the killings on the Plateau, called for the establishment of state police without any further delay. It went on to state: “Stopping killings of the innocents by criminals cannot be done by mere issuing of press statements and holding periodic meetings with security chiefs by the president. The security architecture has collapsed and the evidence is the unending killings, kidnappings and other criminalities.” CAN does not see an end to the bloodletting until the government demonstrates the political will and perpetrators are brought to book. As of now CAN does not see evidence that people have been held for the killings in Benue State, Plateau State and Southern Kaduna. “This is totally unacceptable, unjustifiable and unbelievable,” the organisation said in a statement by General secretary Joseph Bade Daramola.

Niger State Government has asked that students from the state who are at the University of Jos be withdrawn and brought back to their home state. While the dust kicked into skies is yet to settle, indeed compounded on the Plateau, in Nasarawa State, the secretary of the state independent electoral commission Muhammed Abubakar Okpu, a lawyer was abducted from his home in his village. Although 15 more students of Bethel Baptist High School, Maraban Damishi, in Kaduna, 65 others are still in captivity. They were kidnapped in the night from their dormitories on July 5.

Since the Presidency is unpersuaded by what a great many see as the imperative of state police, Nasir el-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State has revealed a meeting Northern governors had with the President during which they pressed him to direct security agencies to clear the forests of “bandits terrorising Northerners.” Speaking at a dialogue: ‘‘Financing Safe Schools; Creating Safe Leaving Communities in Abuja, Governor El-Rufai said: “Our position as governors and we are unanimous in this because we, the Northern state governors, met with the President on this subject, our unanimous position is to wipe out the bandits. We must go into these forests; nobody living in those forests is innocent and just kill them all. It is the only way to end this. Bandits have lost the right to life, must be wiped out.”

Nothing could have demonstrated the dire straits in which the country has been plunged than the invasion by gunmen of the Nigerian Defence Academy, officers’ first and oldest military training college in Nigeria. The Speaker, Kaduna State House of Assembly, Yusuf Zailani has described the invasion, killing and abduction of officers at the Academy as an assault on the country.

Disappointingly, Buhari has concentrated more on the cure and not on the prevention of the ailment of insecurity that has engulfed the country and left the country in a total mess. The existential threat is unprecedented. In the cure of any ailment, health experts— from consultants to doctors, pharmacists and nurses— different drugs they do recommend or apply. For prevention, they are invariably unanimous in their conclusions—diet, water, good sleep and exercise. The preventive measures against insecurity are love and care, for the sinner, and the sinned against; for predictable aberrant conduct by those who may as yet be seized by the power of love, policing architecture, law and justice system become a necessity. Justice Nnemeka-Agu once said on a television programme many years back, all a society needs for law and order is efficient and incorruptible police and judiciary. In practically all discussions on the way forward with our policing, everyone comes away with the knowledge and understanding that every policing is local. It was in this recognition that Anambra became the first state to give recognition to local vigilante backed by law. Of course, Lagos has been known to have come up with clever policing engineering pioneered by Lateef Jakande, what subsists till this day. The police high command itself, convinced by the need for another level of policing closer to the people, toyed with the idea of community policing and sent some of its officers to Britain to understudy the system.

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The one-police command formation was foisted on the nation, as I have pointed out in my previous writings on state police on this page, by Yusuf Gobir Committee Report implemented in August 1968, understandably because at that time, by its nature and orientation, the military, more so in its faltering, tentative steps at its emergence in governance was more at home with a vertical power flow. We have had 50 years of one police command formation for the entire country with officers reporting ultimately to the President through the Inspector-General of Police. Governors are no more than glorified chief security officers who go out to confront insurgents, kidnappers and armed bandits with their teeth and fists. As it is said, experience is the best teacher, it has been proven beyond any iota of doubts that the present system is not working and can never work. Military chiefs have met, hopes were raised and the country has ended going round only in circles getting to nowhere in particular. It is all beating the same tract; the same old hat. In February 2020, Senate President Ahmad Lawan said the 9th National Assembly was determined to find lasting solutions to terrorism and insecurity in the country. The pronouncement has turned out to be no more than hot air; it was all sound and fury, signifying nothing. Today Nigeria has no fewer than four million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in various camps. In Borno axis alone, they number 2.3 million, in Benue about 1million. Add those in Katsina, Zamfara, Niger, Plateau, Nasarawa, Adamawa and Kaduna. The education system has been disrupted.

If a system has not served us well for 50 years, is it not only common-sensical that we discard it and embrace another option? Buhari has no choice but shift ground and let the nation have its state police formation, otherwise the speculation of his sectional and sectarian interests as hindrances to national progress, integration and collaborative working will intensify. So will the contention already rife in the country get stronger that he is abhorrent of any semblance of balance of terror between the states and the Federal Government. He wants to be all in all—powerful and all-wise. That is certainly not in his interest. He must let go. In the end everyone, high or lowly, powerful or commoner, is a beneficiary of the love he spreads, the good he does for the joy of and happiness of his fellowmen. In the same vein everyone falls a victim of his own snares for his neighbour. It is the Law. In the enlightenment of higher knowledge for mankind spreading on earth in these times, we learn that God is the power that activates the Omnipotence in the said Laws, the Laws of Creation also known as Divine Laws. The Laws of Life. The Laws are the expression of God’s perfect Will. They are unchangeable from eternity to eternity and uniform in all planes of existence. They maintain Creation.

A clergy is reported to have cried out from the depth of his soul over Zango Kataf killings, he had said: “We are being killed like flies.” The humanity in us must be dead and the milk of human kindness drained for us to look on unmoved, hiss and allow these to continue.

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Bello Masari
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