President Muhammadu Buhari’s expression of shock at the level of insecurity in Nigeria actually took everyone by surprise, writes Shola Oyeyipo
In the days of President Goodluck Jonathan, the media freely tagged him as a ‘clueless’ leader, and that was in relation to his ability to address some urgent national issues. But, as it is, is President Muhammadu Buhari not better hit by the ‘clueless syndrome’ judging from his recent comment on the state of insecurity in Nigeria?
Last Monday, while expressing shock at the level of insecurity in the North-west and other parts of the country, Buhari was quoted as saying: “I was taken aback by what is happening in the North-west and other parts of the country.”
He was quoted to have said so while addressing a delegation from Niger State in Abuja, and he said further that: “During our campaigns, we knew about the Boko Haram. What is coming now is surprising. It is not ethnicity or religion; rather it is one evil plan against the country.”
Though the president’s handlers are never favourably disposed to any form of criticism against their principal, in evaluating the security situation and analysising government’s responses, the statement credited to President Buhari was nothing short of a leader, who didn’t know what to do or maybe he knew it but had just chosen not to do it, not minding whose ox is gored.
Look at it this way: let’s assume the Nigerian leader is a merchant, who has a large area as big as Nigeria for his business and crimes are perpetrated continuously and he is losing money, property and lives on hourly basis, whereas he has security chiefs, who are equally feeding fat on his business, what would he do?
He would be expected to fire the handlers of his security system and replace them with people, who will introduce new strategies to ensure effective policing of the business. But the exact opposite is what the president has opted for.
While it is commonly said that, ‘you don’t change a winning team’, losing teams are either disbanded or reshuffled until a better team is actualised by coaches, who desire victory or success of the team. But despite his lamentation about the worrying security situation, Buhari would rather retain the service chiefs, whose strategies have not won the country any victory against criminals.
The question, therefore, that President Buhari and his team of praise-singers must answer is: why has he chosen to retain his service chiefs even in the face of deteriorating security situations and why would he come to the open to express such shock, when he has blatantly ignored all advices and opinions that he should experiment with some fresh hands in the capacity of service chiefs?
Notable bodies such the PAN Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, the umbrella body for the Igbo, Ohaneze Ndigbo and well-meaning Nigerians had called on the president that perpetually distorting the hierarchy in the nation’s security architecture by not allowing other qualified officers to peak in their career is a panacea for grumbling and disloyalties within the armed forces and yet President Buhari, in his all-knowing wisdom, extended the tenure of the service chiefs.
The Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin, Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai, Chief of Naval Staff, and the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshall Sadiq Abubakar had their tenures extended by the president without justifiable reasons.
But sources claimed the extension was due to what the administration considered as good performances. If that is so, the new shades of insecurity and violence should not be a source of surprise to the Nigerian leader in as much as he considered his security chiefs of excellent performance.
Truth is that the president should not feign ignorance of the fact that Nigerians are not pleased with the security of the nation and no thanks to his service chiefs. The citizenry are living in perpetual state of fear – they can hardly sleep with their two eyes closed; some roads are no-go-areas for Nigerians for fear of kidnappers and armed bandits. In general, the value of lives is worth nothing in the country.
This explains why members of the upper chamber of the National Assembly dedicated four hours of parliamentary time to debate insecurity last Wednesday, during which some of the lawmakers urged the president to dismiss his service chiefs, who have stayed unnecessarily longer while the security situation is still worrisome.
One of the lawmakers, who argued in favour of dismissing the service chiefs, Senator Betty Apiafi (PDP, Rivers) noted that when the service chiefs were appointed, the situation was not as bad as it is presently.
“They have done their bits and their tenure has expired. They are illegally occupying the seat. It will be good for the government to allow the security chiefs to go and bring in new people to add vigour to the fight against security,” she said.
If the presidency explores its feedback mechanism properly, it would have seen that not many Nigerians agreed with the position expressed by President Buhari’s spokesperson, Femi Adesina, that Nigerians had reasons to be grateful as the situation is better than it was before the president assumed office.
“We know what the situation was as at 2015 and we know what it is today. Despite the reversals in security, it is still not as bad as it used to be in this country,” he said.
Perhaps, the best way to say it to Adesina and his bosses in the presidency is that they are utterly wrong to assume and or project that the security situation was under check, is by referring them to the decision of the Southwest governors to set up a zonal security outfit, Amotekun, as a way of checkmating the activities of criminals in the zone.
All the six southwest governors except Oyo State are members of the ruling party. Their resolve to set up Amotekun was due to the demand by the people of the region, who feel that the national security outfits are sectional in addressing security issues. Even as the herdsmen unleash mayhem across the country, they seem to enjoy the protection of the security outfits.
In fact, going by Afenifere’s position, President Buhari should not only remove his service chiefs, the body demanded a probe of what happened to the funds the federal government claimed it had spent on security.
Afenifere leader, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, whose daughter was killed sometime last year by suspected Fulani herdsmen, in a statement read by the body’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, regretted that the service chiefs were already in their retirement years but still kept in service by President Buhari.
While noting that the decision to keep them in service had killed morale in the armed forces as three sets of officers had had their careers stagnated, the Afenifere chieftain stated that: “The sack of the service Chiefs should be followed with a probe of what has happened to defence allocations as we as a people cannot reconcile our extremely vulnerable troops and wailing solders in the forest with the heavy spending the government claimed it has committed to.
“If the federal government was sincere about the true state of insecurity in the country, it won’t be praising itself the way it has done in the President’s new year speech, because Nigerians are still feeling unsafe and live in fear of kidnapping, highway robbery, banditry, and herdsmen attacks.”
Another amusing aspect of President Buhari’s expression of shock over the new level of insecurity in the country was his seeming insensitivity to the correlation between poverty and insecurity in Nigeria.
The Nigerian can’t be oblivious of the fact that his country has overtaken India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, with an estimated 87 million Nigerians, or around half of the country’s population, thought to be living on less than $1.90 a day, based on a projection by the World Poverty Clock and compiled by Brookings Institute.
While debates on the effects of poverty on insecurity are extensive and exhaustive, as a reminder to those in the corridor of power in Nigeria, inference could be drawn from the scholarly work of a PhD student in Political Science Department and Public Administration, Adekunle Ajasin University,
In the abstract of the thesis by Dr. Adebukola Foluke Osunyikanmi: ‘Interrogating the Influence of Poverty on Insecurity in Nigeria,’ she succinctly captured how poverty interferes with security.
“Those who are poor are prone to diverse problems, which range from condition of helplessness, lack of basic necessities of life, voicelessness in decision making, ill health, lack of access to education, etc. Many Nigerians are in this situation of abject poverty.
“Majority of the people in Nigeria live below the poverty line and cannot afford the basic needs of life that make life worth living. Thus, in the bid to make ends meet, they engage in nefarious activities that constitute problems not only to the few rich but even to the large army of Nigerians.
“Some of the social ills linked to the prevalence of poverty include: armed robbery, terrorism, militancy, kidnapping, ritual killing, pipeline vandalism, political thuggery, etc., have thus become the harbinger of insecurity in Nigeria all of which have been associated with weak and inefficient government,” Osunyikanmi notes.
Therefore, with the raging poverty, ineffectual service chiefs and his refusal to change them, President Buhari should expect no magic. The people will only begin to protect themselves and there is no better harbinger for anarchy than that.