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How insecurity pushes the national question at dawn of new decade


Since Nigeria returned to civil rule in 1999, critical issues that appear to divide the country along ethnic and religion lines seem to have been more prevalent under the President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration than ever before. Some stakeholders in the country also told The Guardian yesterday that many institutions of governance have not been so personalized and also sectionalized as they are under the civil rule headed by President Buhari. They contend that it is what has resulted in the escalating insecurity in the last five years.

It was in light of these concerns that prompted former President Olusegun Obasanjo, one of the major critics of Buhari, who had once accused him of Islamising and Fulanising the country to also recently come out to attack the government.

According to Obasanjo, “If the way Buhari is running Nigeria had been the same pattern adopted by his predecessors, the country would have since collapsed” and also dismissed Buhari’s anti-corruption fight as vague. He said if the corruption going on under the APC-led administration is exposed, “the perpetrators would not only go to jail but sentenced to hell.”

In a similar vein, a former Minister of Defence and ex-Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, who was one of the arrowheads of the July military counter-coup of 1966 last year urged his people and Nigerians to defend themselves in the face of relentless attacks by armed herdsmen and other bandits. Although Danjuma was personally attacked and vilified by the government, recurrent developments after his comments seem to have justified his call on Nigerians to defend themselves “due to the failure or incapability of the security agents to do so.”

While is obvious is that Buhari’s government has not lived up to the promises made to Nigerians in the APC manifestoes while the party was seeking support before and during the 2015 general elections. Major areas that irk major sympathizers of the government are the president’s untoward disposition to calls to restructure Nigeria, which some of the ruling party’s founding members attest to at different fora.

For instance, an elder statesman and former governor of Ogun State, Aremo Segun Osoba, attested to the fact that there was restructuring in APC’s manifesto, but that such could only be achieved with the current constitution, which he described as being imperfect. He was quoted during a live programme on television, saying, “I am for restructuring. As long as we have a constitution, we can only restructure within the current constitution, as imperfect as it is first.”

Making his position known on the situation of Nigeria since it returned to democratic rule in 1999, President Buhari’s former running mate during the 2011 presidential election under the platform of defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), Pastor Tunde Bakare said, “Since the commencement of the Fourth Republic in 1999, every January of a new decade has presented our nation with a major contentious national question that not only reveals the flaws in our present constitution, but also challenges us to revisit our national foundations and renegotiate, as it were, “a more perfect Union.”

Listing the challenges, Bakare said in the year 2000, it was the question of the constitutionality of state religious laws when, on the 27 January of that year, Sharia law was instituted in Zamfara State – a step that was soon replicated by 11 other states in the Northern part of our nation. I recall how the then president (Obasanjo) waved aside the ensuing bitter regional and religious contentions and labeled the matter “political Sharia,” even as we, as a nation, swept the issues under the carpet, instead of candidly addressing the underlying questions of constitutionalism and nationhood at the table of brotherhood.”

He also pointed to January 2010, which he said, “At the turn of yet another new decade, the wake-up call was the sensitive question of regional governance rotation at a time when the incapacitation of a sitting president led to power hijack by a cabal in the presidency. Although that situation led to an unprecedented people movement that forced the National Assembly to invoke the Doctrine of Necessity to bridge constitutional gaps, and although the lawmakers followed up that action with subsequent constitutional amendments, the palpable tensions that continue to define governance transition periods in Nigeria, especially among the different zones, attest to the fact that the underlying foundational issues are yet to be resolved.

“And now in January 2020, at the commencement of another decade (of our monopoly democracy), the contentious constitutional question that once more beckons on us to examine the foundations of our nationhood relates to the newly instituted Western Nigeria Security Network, code-named “Operation Amotekun.”

He noted that up until the Southwest governors and the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, reached an agreement under the moderation of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, “I carefully followed the arguments for and against the regional security outfit. I also took note of the positions of the moderates who preferred to stay in the middle of the two dominant poles. I welcome the fact that this sensitive issue sparked some form of ideological debate and created a semblance of leftist, rightist and centrist approach to policy discourse. This is what democracy is all about and, if well managed by political actors, this discourse can provide us with an opportunity to strengthen our federal governance architecture.

“Nevertheless, when one considers the argument for and against Amotekun, one will find a recurring reference to the issues, which we, as a nation, have failed to deal with in past decades. The proponents of Amotekun, particularly in the south, justify the move by referencing tt Sharia police or Hisbah as a northern version of regional policing. The opponents, on the other hand, particularly from the north, express fears of possible regional political motivations. These are clear indications that the issues we swept under the carpet in past decades are still staring us in the face. We cannot continue to hide under the umbrella of one finger. It is time to address the underlying issues of nationhood and reset Nigeria on the path to predictable progress. No amount of ringworm medicine can cure leprosy.

“The way forward for these recurring questions of federalism, including that of regional or state policing, is neither to the left nor to the right, nor is it in the centre of the discourse; the way forward is to travel downwards to revisit the constitutional foundations while looking upwards with unwavering faith in our divinely ordained destiny as one strong, united nation, with a strong federal government and strong federating units; a nation in which government as an entity is close enough to serve the people and strong enough to protect them.
Now that, thankfully, steps are being taken to address the legal deficiencies surrounding Operation Amotekun, one can only hope that the enabling laws that will be enacted by the respective states will cater to the questions of the appropriate security architecture, including the recruitment, screening, training and deployment procedures, as well as seamless tactical operations between the outfit, on the one hand, and the conventional federal police commissions in the Southwest states, on the other hand.

“Nevertheless, the agreement between the federal government and the Southwest governors notwithstanding, we must not let this moment pass by without once again telling ourselves some home truths regarding the underlying issues of constitutional federalism that have continued to confront us. We must not lose sight of the main issue in the Operation Amotekun debate, which is that the current mono-level security architecture has proved inadequate to combat the security challenges that confront not just the Southwest but every zone in our nation – security challenges such as kidnapping, herdsmen’s attacks, cattle rustling, terrorism and the porosity of our borders.

“We must not forget that, while the debate over the legality or otherwise of regional security efforts like Amotekun were raging during the past week, Nigeria was, once again, plunged into mourning the murder of a chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Lawan Andimi, by regional terrorists. We must not forget the fact that tens of thousands have lost their lives to criminal elements, who have taken advantage of the national security gaps in the respective zones of our federation. This is why I believe that, even though the efforts of the Southwest governors towards taking responsibility for the security of the zone are commendable, our nation needs a more strategically effective approach to national, regional and local security.”

And at the dawn of a new year and decade, when societies across the world are waking up to new ideas on how to develop and advance to their places of historic destiny, Nigeria is bedeviled with security challenges that keep pulling her fabric to breaking points. While many, like Bakare, have advanced similar arguments, security experts, politicians, and socio-cultural leaders trace the cause of the deepening insecurity to a lack of sincerity on the p[art of government’s poor handling the menace that has seen Nigerians in their hundreds lose their lives needlessly. While some point to the far-reaching resolutions in the 2014 National Conference as solutions to the crisis, others believe homegrown solutions like Operation Amotekun instituted by the Southwest governors are other options open to strata of governments to adopt.

While majority have come forward with possible working solutions, the general populace is left perplexed as to why government is slow in taking a decisive stance on what to do in the face of crippling security threats.

A former Assistant Inspector-General of police, Mr. Don Iroham (rtd) is categorical that Nigeria’s unity has been thrown out of the window since those who lead the country threw away the founding father’s article of decolonization, which is federalism, that empowered the constituent units to run their own affairs while maintaining a small centre. He said it was the unilateral upturning of the federating article of association by the military and the failure to return to it since democracy in 1999 that will continue to haunt the soul of the country.

“Where is the unity in the first place?” Iroham asked. “Is Nigeria united? We have never come to a stable society. There is no unity for now. On insecurity, it’s government’s job to secure lives and property, but once government cannot people have right to defend themselves with whatever is available to them. If people have the notion that at any time they get killed, they will decide to seek alternatives. That is what led to Amotekun.”

The former police boss said President Muhammadu Buhari has been less than sterling and exemplary on the promises he made to Nigerians while campaigning to get into political office in 2015.

“When Buhari came to power, he rode on the back of insecurity, of curtailing Boko Haram, but what has his government done so far? He cannot fire service chiefs who are not performing. How can service chiefs serve forever? If Nigeria, as we say, is a federal system like India, U.K., and U.S., police in those countries are in different layers; there is no single police system as we have it in Nigeria. So why central policing in Nigeria? It means government is not sincere and not serious.

“So, insincerity is our biggest problem in this country, otherwise we should run a federal system like our founding fathers negotiated our independence from the British. Our founding fathers agreed to run a federal system. So, until Nigerians come to realize that all are equal in the country Nigeria cannot work. Let’s look at the 2014 national conference report and save ourselves these needless headaches.

“Nigeria is a federalism; so, you cannot have sharia in the north and say it is good, but when a state in the south declares itself a Christian state you raise eyebrows. Nigeria is a circular state and has no place for religious laws. So, like I said, insincerity is Nigeria’s biggest problem.”

Also in the same vein, a former director of Directorate of State Security, Mr. Denni Amachree, holds politicians responsible as the single security threat to the existence of Nigeria and commends the establishment of Operation Amotekun as the right response to insecurity both in the Southwest and across the country. He also holds government responsible for the failure in securing Nigerians in their homes and farmlands.

“The thing is that I’m happy Amotekun came up this time,” he stated. “People have started creating response units to Nigeria’s security problems. What does that tell you? That the level of insecurity is very high across the country. The Federal Government has to agree to state police and agree on things that are outstanding about insecurity so far. If police are not up to the task, we cannot keep waiting for endless promises of ‘being on top of it’, when they are far from anywhere near it.

“So, Amotekun is something government should welcome. But if government refuses to embrace it, then government is the problem. They should allow, encourage and let states have it. The idea of state police is law enforcement to get to the grassroots; leaving it to FG is not the best and it has not worked so far.”

Amachree said instead of allowing insecurity to cause disunity, it ought to solidify the country if only everybody came together to tackle the menace.

“The threats we face are ethnicity and religion, but politicians and insecurity are the biggest threats facing our national unity right now. Politicians do not allow elections to hold peacefully; they whip up all sorts of sentiments just to get into office. So, instead of breaking us up, security should be the one thing that should bring us together rather than tending towards parochial interests that should divide us the more.”

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