The drift of the country into a state of anomie and the edge of the precipice has forced some Nigerians to believe that the nation is becoming a failed state. But some incurable optimists like former President Obasanjo believe that a better Nigeria would emerge from this ashes of despair and escalating security challenges.
By Goddy Ikeh
AS the nation plunges deeper into this unprecedented state of anomie and security crisis that has claimed thousands of lives and threatening to spill its horror into the rest of West Africa, the need to check this drift is urgent. So urgent that the West African powerhouse needs outside assistance before it is plunged into another civil war.
Unfortunately, the signs after six awful years of this administration, are that the war against insurgency is far from being won and the daily killings and kidnapping by bandits and armed herdsmen are not only worrisome, but the serious threats to economic activities and food security of the country are unimaginable.
The earlier claims that the Boko Haram insurgents had been decimated may now belong to the past as the insurgents are known to have invaded the North-central, sacked many local governments, and hoisted their flags. The governor of Niger State, Sani Bello, in April raised an alarm that Boko Haram elements were here in Niger State. “Here in Kaore in Shiroro Local Government Area, I am confirming that they have hoisted their flags there. Innocent wives of the men in the affected communities have been seized from them and forcefully attached to Boko Haram members.
“I just heard that they have placed their flags at Kaore, meaning they have taken over the territory. This is what I have been engaging the federal government on, but unfortunately, it has now got to this level, and if care is not taken even Abuja will not be safe.
“We have been saying this for long, but all our efforts have been in vain. But with the latest development, I hope the time has come for a more coordinated military activity to take place. With the development, the Boko Haram elements are trying to use this area as their home base just as they have done in Sambisa. Sambisa is several kilometers away from Abuja, but Kaore is just two kilometers away from Abuja and as such so nobody is safe anymore; not even those in Abuja,” local media reports quoted Bello as saying.
According to the governor, the villages most affected by the terrorists’ presence in the state are Allawa, Bassa/Kukoki, Gurmana, Manta, Galadima Logo, Kwaki/Chukubo, Kurebe, Kushaka, and Erena.
Speaking on the security crisis in the country, the minister of defense, Major-Gen. Bashir Magashi, retd, said in April that Nigeria was currently bleeding as a result of insecurity in the country. The minister, who spoke to journalists on the day bandits attacked the General Hospital in Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna State, abducted two nurses on duty, barely 24 hours after bandits invaded Greenfield University in the Kaduna state, killing staff and abducting 23 students.
The minister, whose remarks captured the spate of daily killings in the country, disclosed that the government was compiling a comprehensive list of identified enemies of the country. While noting that the incidents of domestic terrorism have reduced due to measures put in place by the government, other problems arising from intolerance have heightened. Citing the emergence of herders/farmers clashes, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB issues, banditry, among others, the minister explained that such violence was a legitimate alternative.
He disclosed that some individuals, who fund Boko Haram had been arrested, particularly in Kano state and that some of them had contacted him for his intervention, but he turned down their request, insisting that due process had to be followed. Magashi said the military would not be deterred but would focus on eliminating all perceived threats and expressed the hope that this objective could be achieved with the deployment of new military assets that would soon arrive.
Irked by this development, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Army, Abdulrazak Namdas lamented the deteriorating state of insecurity in the country, saying that things are getting worse. Namdas said during a recent interview on Channels Television’s Politics Today, the lawmaker said that the nation needed to sit “together and re-strategize and see how we can solve the problem”.
Apart from the special committee set up by the House of Representatives on March 17 to come up with solutions to the security challenges in the country, Namdas assured that the National Assembly was ready to cooperate with President Muhammadu Buhari in solving the myriads of security challenges in Nigeria.
“I think we have to change strategy and that is why in the House of Representatives, the fact that the Speaker has decided to make a 40-man Adhoc Special Committee headed by the Speaker himself means that there is also a political will,” he said, adding that the surge in security challenges is largely due to unemployment and poverty in the country.
In the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu urged the federal government to seek foreign help to fight insecurity in the country. Speaking at plenary in response to a motion on the activities of bandits and Boko Haram terrorists in Shiroro and Rafi Local Government Areas of Niger State, Ekweremadu said that any government that failed to protect its citizens has lost its legitimacy, therefore the federal government should not be ashamed to seek foreign support.
He suggested the shutdown of Niger State in order to deal with the invasion of the state by the insurgents. Earlier, Senator Sani Musa had in a motion on the activities of bandits and Boko Haram terrorists in Shiroro and Rafi Local Government Areas of Niger State said the activities of bandits and terrorists in Niger State had reached a dangerous dimension, lamenting that several atrocities had been unleashed on the communities in the state and this has resulted in the displacement of citizens, the collapse of health, education, and agricultural sectors.
Apart from the lawmakers, Prof Wole Soyinka had been consistent in his call on the federal government to seek help to tackle insecurity in the country and ‘stop the blame trade’.
According to the Nobel laureate, the federal government should seek help where necessary to regain peace in Nigeria and chart a way forward without using Nigerians as victims.
Reacting to the daily killings across the country by bandits, terrorists, and other gunmen, Prof. Soyinka decried that these gunmen have sacrificed and traumatized the country’s youths beyond their capacity to cope.
For Soyinka, the country is at war, and that it is time to stop pretending and that the government should put in more efforts to stop the killing of youths, who are the future of the country.
In an optimistic note, former President Olusegun Obasanjo assured Nigerians that insecurity won’t consume Nigeria. Obasanjo said during a valedictory and commendation service for the retiring President of Nigerian Baptist Convention, NBC, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, that he remained an “incurable optimist” that a better Nigeria would emerge despite the escalating security challenges.
Obasanjo, who has been critical of the failure of the current administration, especially in the area of governance deficit and failure to maximize the country’s diversity, stated that Nigeria would surmount all the current problems.
In the same vein, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo appealed to Nigerians to put the brakes on the spiraling violence that has pushed Nigeria to the edge of a precipice as the nation cannot afford another civil war now.
Speaking at the meeting of the All Progressives Congress, APC, leaders from the South-east in Abuja, Osinbajo urged the elite to speak out against forces of division in order to preserve the unity of the country.
“We cannot afford a war in this country…it is the political elite that will determine what will take place. If we keep quiet, if we say nothing and hope that things will just normalize, we may be wrong. And we may find ourselves heading for something much worse than we are seeing today.
“If the political elite does not speak up, if we don’t see anything wrong with what is going on, if we allow it to continue to slide, we will endanger ourselves and endanger the future of our country. I know that every conflict is a result of elite failure, the elite failure to speak up and tell the truth to their communities, that’s the cause of every one of these civil conflicts.
“So, I would urge that we speak up. I would urge that we stand for something. Sometimes it’s dangerous to stand for something. But the greater danger, of course, is to keep quiet,” he said.
Meanwhile, the United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has said that Nigeria is facing extraordinary security challenges, but has an ally in his country. Blinken, who was at a virtual roundtable with some selected journalists from Nigeria and Kenya after an equally virtual visit to both countries, said that he discussed the security situation in Nigeria with President Muhammadu Buhari and some other top government officials.
“I think it is fair to say that the challenges that Nigeria faces when it comes to security are quite extraordinary – and you referenced them – whether it’s terrorism, whether it’s banditry and criminality, whether it’s piracy. All of these are real challenges.
“The good news is this: One, we are in absolute solidarity between us in trying to address these challenges together. And the United States is committed to supporting Nigeria as it meets these challenges. And what that involves primarily is helping Nigeria continue to build its capacity through training, through resources, through information sharing, through equipment and all of that done, very importantly, with full respect for human rights.”
“But it’s also important that we work together, as we are, to address some of the drivers or facilitators of violence and instability that we know those engaged in these activities can sometimes feed on. And that’s why you have to have a comprehensive approach to these challenges. It’s not – the security piece is vitally important, but it’s insufficient, and so economic development, progress, an opportunity is hugely important,” he said.
Despite this assurance, the US has issued an advisory to its citizens, warning against movements within Lagos and some states in the country. The United States Consulate in the advisory said that it had recently seen a notable increase in crime in the state, including smash-and-grabs on the roads by armed men, especially in both Ikoyi and on Victoria Island areas.
According to the advisory, typically, men on a motorcycle will follow a vehicle until it stops at a traffic light or intersection then approach the vehicle, present a weapon, and rob the occupants. It stated that although most of the incidents happen at night, the consulate in Lagos has received reports of robberies taking place even during daylight hours.
“Please remember to be aware of your surroundings, especially when driving at night. The following personal safety tips can help reduce your risk of becoming a victim. Keep vehicle doors locked and windows rolled up at all times while driving, especially in traffic jams or at traffic lights. Avoid driving alone at night and do not stop to help strangers on the road,” the consulate said.
But after being assailed by unrelenting insecurity across the regions of the country and yielding to calls for international collaboration, President Muhammadu Buhari has sought the help of the United States government to contain the precarious situation in the country.
During a virtual meeting with the U.S. Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, Buhari stressed the need for the US to consider relocating its Africa Command, AFRICOM, from Stuttgart, Germany, to Africa, nearer the Theatre of Operation while urging the international community to support Nigeria and the sub-region in tackling growing security challenges to avoid spillovers.
“The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impacted more negatively, by existing complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central, and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region.
“Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and her security forces remain resolutely committed to containing them and addressing their root causes. The support of important and strategic partners like the United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations hence the imperative for concerted cooperation and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges.
“In this connection, and considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider re-locating AFRICOM headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany to Africa and near the Theatre of Operation,’’ he said.
Perhaps, this change in strategy may result in attracting support from some friendly nations in the war against terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, and daily killings, But these countries may have to be convinced that these security crises are not self-inflicted since there are largely fuelled by huge governance deficits, ethnicity, religion, poverty, unemployment, impunity, and human rights abuses.
– MAY 03, 2021 @ 18:30 GMT