The Guardian
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Buhari, arise and save Nigeria now!

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The state of insecurity is now so glaring and even scary that it can no longer be denied by the authorities in the country. What used to be confined to the north-eastern states of Borno and Yobe has become a national security challenge. This too has been another promise not kept by the Buhari administration that boasted the other day that Boko Haram insurgency had been ‘technically defeated.’ Now most concerned citizens are saying the government appears to have been technically defeated, in this regard.

From the organisation of destabilising forces scattered all over the country, to the needless military brutalisation of genuine protesters against dashed expectations and poor performance, recent actions from the presidency tend to amplify the worrisome state of life and property. And against the deadly audacity of marauding killers, or the lawlessness and impunity of criminals having free reins in the land, the woolly logic and irrational routine defence by the president’s spokesmen are a tell-tale sign of an uncertain future.

Exactly four years ago, when Nigerians thought the worst had befallen the country, this newspaper passionately called on the then President Goodluck Jonathan to own the war against insurgency. At that time, we thought the massacres, either from Boko Haram or elsewhere, were becoming so routine and common place; abductions were carried out with scandalous audacity; and purported herdsmen sacked villages and mowed down helpless persons as if they were clearing weeds. Amidst the carnage then, a mesmerizing silence and a state of perplexity that called to question the authority and power of the president and commander-in-chief, enveloped the seat of power. There was no doubt then that our country was under siege. This newspaper declared that Nigeria was in a state of war and the president and commander-in-chief must act immediately.

Comparatively, the situation four years ago is no match for the present state of near-anarchy and anomie. What is more worrisome is the complicated manner with which the authorities are carrying on. While on the one hand it seems like the security situation is being treated with levity, on the other hand it appears as if the authorities are working at cross-purposes against the people.

For politicians either in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) or main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and those who should know better, there is an ominous silence that suggests a climate of fear enveloping the horizon. Fear seems to be written on the faces and in the minds of many discerning Nigerians. Even the president, from proper psycho-analysis, seems to have been driven to a point of paranoia that he gives directives and carries out actions that suggest fear.

The consequences of his insularity and thin relational space with the Nigerian people have been manifested by last-minute actions about security. In the last dispensation 13 of the 15 heads of security agencies appointed by the president were from the north. To placate the bandits and killer herders in the north he allegedly offered a whopping N100 billion to the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria. The claim has been controversial but the cattle breeders association confirmed that they indeed demanded the sum. In his wisdom, the president also gave an Executive Order that all gun licences should be revoked and all guns returned. And only recently, he decided to grant licence for the establishment of a Fulani Radio at the expense of the Federal Government.

These directives are arbitrary, bold, daring and offensive. In the context of contradictory statements, for instance, the claims that foreign agents were plotting to divide the country, or that insurgents have infiltrated the running of the state, this government seems to be a split government; one with a split so great that there is no trust. Such is the split and apparent distrust that a character like former president Olusegun Obasanjo would accuse the government of a Fulanisation and Islamisation agenda. All these reveal a country whose political elite cannot arrive at a consensus about how to manage the country’s security situation. They also reveal a country with a ruptured national security architecture.

Given the defective national security architecture, it has become clear that the Federal Government cannot, in all sincerity, secure the safety of lives and property of the constituent parts of the country. Whether it is the north east ravaged by insurgents or the south south threatened by militants; whether it is the north west harassed by armed bandits or the south east and north central mowed by killer herdsmen, or even the south west that has become a haven for kidnappers, the management of security has been disproportionate and selective. It is as if the national security system is purposefully contrived as a private militia of some political elite to cause insecurity and threaten the unity of Nigeria.

A clear case is the recent Executive Order concerning the revocation of gun licences. On this the president has no power to make that order. It is anti-people, illegal, unconstitutional and regressive. That power belongs to the National Assembly. An Executive Order for such a sensitive national security issue becomes effective only when it goes through the National Assembly

So, as President Buhari begins another four years, his paradoxical declaration of ‘belonging to everybody and belonging to nobody’ becomes very instructive for national security. He must show that he belongs to everybody by expanding his vision and intensifying his outreach in protecting the Nigerian people from threat to their lives and property by any group whatsoever. He must also demonstrate that he belongs to nobody by recoiling from the perceived partisanship that seemed to have represented his directives on national security as one of ethnic and religious protectionism.

Just as this newspaper counselled the former president four years ago, President Buhari must demonstrate to Nigerians that he understands there is a war against Nigeria. That a president is comfortable with the barrage of offensives against our sovereignty and territorial integrity is shameful and demeaning to behold. Like the true general that he is, the president should not allow his actions and inactions to cause a lack of confidence in his administration. Except he has a different constituency from the generality of Nigerians, he must respond decisively to offensives that threaten the unity of this country of complex diversity and cultures.

The president must disabuse the minds of Nigerians about stories making the rounds of a supposed Fulanisation and Islamisation agenda for the country. He should make clear and decisive statements about the calamitous end this development would lead. His statements, in the wake of sustained violence and unconscionable massacres, have been feeble, vague and misleading. While he has been quick to respond to perceived enemies of state with intimidating military might, he has not been able to match killer herdsmen and bandits with equal action.

Considering the president’s utterances and actions, no one needs any convincing that the country is overdue for the establishment of state police and localised security management systems. All the trouble spots in the country began as escalated and mismanaged local crises. The time is therefore ripe for the decentralisation of the operations of the Nigeria Police as well as the formal establishment of well-organised community security watches for pro-active security management of the land.

As this newspaper has always stated, the benefits of a well-established state police are legion: A well-managed state police would also enable state communities to know the proper police/citizen ratio in their states as stipulated by global best practices. It would facilitate the creation of adequate and up-to-date statistics of crimes, and promote effective management of data. It will also put to rest the impunity perpetrated by a monopolistic police force that deploys officers to VIPs for personal security purposes.

Even the idea of establishing a Fulani AM Radio, which is either a shadow-chasing ethnic appeasement or a fear-induced strategy of self-protection, is an indication of the need to localise the primary responsibility of security. So far, what is being observed is a circuitous rigmarole, a failure of which will eventually lead to the creation of state police. This again speaks volume to the curious but decent support the president lent to calls for true federalism the other day. It is an idea whose time has truly come. That is the way to look at the gargantuan national security threat this country is facing at the moment.

For instance, we can clearly see a correlation between poor attention to federalism and banditry when criminals are illegally mining rich gold deposits in Zamfara – that the Federal Government has no idea what to do with. There have been reports too that the illegal miners in Zamfara are migrating to Osun State where there is also a rich gold deposit. Why can’t Zamfara and Osun states be allowed to exploit the mineral resources in their states to boost the economies of the states? This is how to deal with insecurity through restructuring of the federation for economic development. There is nothing to be afraid about the economic power that federalism gives. The legendary philosopher Plato might have had this oddity in mind when he stated: ‘We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.’

All told, the nation expects its commander-in-chief to act now and take concrete steps beyond regular meetings with security chiefs and governors of some sections of the country. He needs to be reminded again as he takes oath of office tomorrow for a second term that the constitution says the primary responsibility of government is welfare and security of the people.


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