Guest Columnist By Chidi AmutaÂ
On the scale of anti-heroes produced by Nigeriaâ€™s history of violent disruptions, Mr. Theophilus Danjuma, stands out in glowing notoriety. Endlessly rewarded by all regimes since after his 1966 bloody emergence as military supremo and poster coupist, he has also emerged as easily one of Nigeriaâ€™s wealthiest men, mostly for reasons other than his industry, corporate ingenuity or even plain hard work. On account of his long-standing presence in power circles, Danjuma has managed to anticipate some audience whenever Nigerians are pressed by bad governance to desperately seek an alarmist town crier. We are clearly at one such moment once again.
Therefore, Danjumaâ€™s latest outburst on the sad security situation in the nation falls into a familiar pattern. For a veteran coup maker, the exploitation of public disaffection to align with the general drift of public opinion is a familiar gimmick. But this time, while Danjumaâ€™s outburst on the epidemic of killer gangs virtually all over the country may be in tune with our collective pain and anger, it ricochets with loud echoes of Thomas Hobbesâ€™s picture of anarchy when the state is absent.
Nigerians are united in their concern about the rampaging impunity and uncontrolled audacity of murderous Killer gangs and herdsmen all over the country. We are all worried that a band of armed bandits under the guise of either cattle herding or sectarian zealotry have been allowed to terrorize the entire nation and in the process make nonsense of an overstretched and disorganized security apparatus. Those with any sense of history cannot but sleep with one eye open as tragic insecurity engulfs the northern half of the country with unfamiliar trends: cattle rustling, kidnapping for ransom, Janjaweed like scorched earth attacks that raze whole towns and villages with industrial scale casualty figures.
Ordinarily, President Buhari is not my kettle of tea. Characteristically, the President has displayed a less than keen interest in ending the menace of these killer gangs while in the process allowing all manner of tales to spiral around the crisis. Similarly, both the military and the police have repeatedly proved impotent on the matter of containing killer herdsmen and other casual killer squads, again tempting all manner of unsavoury conclusions. This situation has not been made any better by the uneducated utterances of high government officials like Buhariâ€™s Defence and Information Ministers and even the chief of police, respectively.
There is of course no justification for the apparent tacit support, which all manner of killer gangs seem to be enjoying under President Buhari. This conclusion is above the politics of the moment. No definition of partisanship can outsource these killings to an opposition party. The failure to take absolute responsibility for the security of the lives of every Nigerian can only be ascribed to one factor: crass incompetence and lack of executive decisiveness. No previous administration has presided over such a massive decimation of Nigerians in peacetime.
While these concessions remain valid, Mr. Danjumaâ€™s choice of venue to cry out about the Taraba chapter of the new national killing sport – a university in his home state- does not quite fit into his erstwhile branding as a national elder statesman. The industrial scale sporadic killings of innocent citizens that has become the identity badge of the Buhari presidency is not localized to Taraba or Danjumaâ€™s Jukun ethnicity. Nor are they geopolitically skewed in any way. Anambra, Abia, Delta, Ekiti, Benue, Nasarawa , Plateau, Kaduna, Zamfara, Kano states have all been theatres in an ever expanding national killing field featuring killer herdsmen and other migrants and vagrants .
If indeed Mr. Danjuma is concerned about the abuse of the military and its use to aid and abet violations of peopleâ€™s rights, why is he just waking up now? If Mr. Danjuma wanted to atone for his murky past and acquire a national voice, where was he when the same military over which he had previously presided repeatedly (according to Amnesty International and most local observer groups) committed the mass killings of unarmed IPOB and MASSOB sympathizers in Onitsha and other parts of the South East?
Maybe it is also part of the attributes of men of immense power and wealth to develop amnesia even on matters that they themselves presided over. Maybe I was the Defence Minister under whose watch the little town of Odi in Bayelsa state was reduced to rubble. I was probably the Minister of Defence when Zaki Biam in Benue State was similarly flattened by tanks and armoured vehicles.
Danjuma is a privileged citizen who has full unfettered access to the president. I have lost count of how many presidential advisory committees he is chairing under the Buhari presidency. There is no indication that Mr. Danjuma has tried and failed to get a presidential audience to air his views to Mr. Buhari on these and other matters. I guess it is easier and more convenient to seek audience to canvass yet another oil bloc than to proffer suggestions on how to improve the state of our national security. Since Danjuma was playing to the gallery, he could have gone the whole hog by openly canvassing suggestions on which the public can engage the government in search of ways to improve a bad situation.
While the idealism and fire of youth can tempt those angry with government to scream at high pitch, the wisdom of age dictates that elders do not rouse the rabble or pull down the homestead. Danjumaâ€™s statement may fit into his definition of freedom of speech. But it steps overboard into the realm of irresponsible utterance and even treasonable incitement.
The full implication of Danjumaâ€™s call for self help in matters of self-defense by citizens goes beyond his immediate constituency. It is a toxic epistle on political philosophy of a most decadent variety. This dangerous epistle is addressed to all Nigerians who today feel increasingly exposed and vulnerable to these marauding killer gangs. It is simply a call to arms against fellow Nigerians and a tacit defiance of the state and its security apparatus. It announces and inaugurates the onset of a state of nature, a land of everyman to himself and God for all of us.
If we were to revert to a state of nature, the armed masses in defiance of the state would be out in the streets machetes, Dane guns, bows and arrows, clubs, cudgels and all. Even a dysfunctional state with the weakest semblance of law and order and a monopoly of the instruments of violence is still our best guarantee for the protection and defense of our residual freedoms, holdings and rights. Our challenge is to make the state work through the periodic regime changes that democracy guarantees.
But in the nightmare universe of Danjumaâ€™s toxic advocacy, the strong will kill the weak except the weak come together in mutinous gangs and arm themselves for self-defense since the state, according to him, has failed. For Danjuma, the state is failing, Nigerians should go back to a state of nature akin to what Thomas Hobbes described, a place where anarchy reigns and life is short, nasty and brutish. It was the fear of this descent into anarchy that prompted Thomas Hobbes to argue for the necessity of order under a sovereign leviathan. Danjuma who owes his emergence, prominence, fame and fortune to anarchic decapitation of a sovereign wants a nation of anarchists.
â€¢ Dr. Chidi Amuta is a member of THISDAY Editorial Board