Now, A Change We Can Believe



With Femi Akintunde-Johnson

It seems premeditated, and wickedly sporadic, the frequency and vehemence of insurgent attacks, killings, arson and general orgy of destruction; and when you add the wanton devilry of kidnappers and commercial blood-suckers who still waylay innocent, defenceless travellers, it is understandable why many Nigerians are clamouring for change of guards of the Nigerian security superstructure.

In places where order is cherished over chaos, where performance is seen and measured, not imagined and hoped; when your security forces spend so many lives and time dealing with stubborn, ill-motivated but obviously committed bloody disrupters, it is commonsensical and strategic to revamp the heads, and prompt the successors to up the ante and get the job done as quickly and ‘costlessly’ as possible, or suffer the fates of their predecessors.

Is it not apparent that political correctness dictates some form of action, at the level we have found ourselves? Our legislators are so worried that while the Senate is considering cosying up to insurgents with carrots of amnesty and deradicalisation mumbo-jumbo, the federal representatives, through their party-loving Speaker, Femi Gbajabimila, are on their knees begging the self-annointed global counter-terrorist and policeman, the United States of America, to help Nigeria defeat Boko Haram and our other security challenges. Gbajabiamila, reportedly made the plea while welcoming the visiting US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Leonard. He said Nigerians are now afraid about the relentless insecurity onslaught, a thought that very few would disagree with. However, that we should be looking up to the US for assistance is a tad naive. The octopal American security superstructure is overstressed by different levels of activations on different theaters of conflicts globally, that Nigeria, in spite of its strategic relevance in sub-saharan geo-politics, is but a little irritation. Their answer, ostensibly came few days after when the notorious leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau was staked with a bounty of $7m for his capture – a typical US signature for “keep in view”.

We also appreciate the fact that the President is worried about the security situation – that is to be expected, unless we have chosen the wrong man as our shield-bearer. President Muhammadu Buhari has regularly condemned killings and outrageous mayhems unleashed on innocent Nigerians all across the nation. The latest was the mindless massacre of 50 people in Kerawa village, Kaduna State, as reported by the media. The presidency ascribed the latest villainy to the bandits visiting their fury and frustration on innocent Nigerians as a result of ongoing military and police offensive against them in the Birnin Gwari and Kaduru forests. Yet, Kaduna is not the only killing field, we have received reports from other states, in the North and elsewhere.

Such level of infamy has once again triggered calls for a change in our security apparatus. The chairmen of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN (South-South and South-East), Archbishop Israel Eniyekemini, and Bishop Goddy Okafor, have asked Buhari to replace the Service Chiefs, after a colloquium on insecurity in Nigeria convened recently in Umuahia, Abia State.

Similarly, Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President, and presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the 2019 elections, also called for urgent reappraisal of the country’s security architecture, in the wake of the Kaduna massacre.

Adding weight to the pressure on government to “do something” about arresting the insecurity surge, former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, abandoned his usual letter-writing exercise, and availed himself the platform provided at the first ‘Memorial Lecture’ for the late founder of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Frederick Fasehun, a medical doctor. Ignoring the irony of the historical iron-fist he visited on this same OPC and its late founder during the overflow of political and sectional emotions arising from the June 12, 1994 elections, and subsequent years of anomie.

Obasanjo reiterated the obvious: our national security architecture, interventions and arrangements have failed abysmally, even to the dismay of Buhari; and that the time is up for the president to accept the responsibility, and act accordingly.
So, it is about time we accelerated the process that will take cognizance of the critically urgent need to infuse dynamism, better strategies, increased intelligence and recharged infantry morale in this overly long-drawn war with landlocked insurgents.
We must not be indecisive or beholden to past exploits of our current service chiefs, and thus fiddle and pinch nails while more blood and gore flow. We know that commanders-in-chief, in the past, have had to sack sundry military heads who dropped the gun while in command for less atrocious misdeamenours… and here we are, talking about needless losses of lives, heightened ferocity and brutality of non-state combatants on civilians. Haba, it’s time to act.

Let Kabiyesi Act As One
Though we run a republic, we ironically still covet some space for our traditional institutions, like the monarchy, to thrive. Our politicians apparently believe they serve more than a fond memorabilia of some glorious ancestry; that security, peace and orderliness in our communities are better sustained with these feathered personages acting as overlords – kings, obis, emirs, sultans, igwes, baales, mogajis, serikis, etc. One is not seriously opposed to their continuance and splendour (in the midst of grinding poverty) when they respond to and respect the strains and challenges of their environments. Where they can use their influence to bring succour and joy to their locales, we will be charitable.

But where they choose to follow in the paths and farce of the recently suspended Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Adewale Akanbi, we are constrained to look the titled individual in the face, and tell him or her to act his grace, or look for another assignment. Oluwo, whose antics in the past few years had raised bemused eyebrows, overreached himself when he was alleged to have rough-handled a co-monarch, right in the presence of a top law enforcement officer, no less than an Assistant Inspector General of Police.

Some even described the jaw-dropping scenario in more violently colourful words painfully inappropriate in describing a royalty. His accuser, and fellow monarch, Agbuwo of Ogbaagba, Oba Dikhirulahi Akinropo, alleged that the Oluwo punched him a number of times, thereby inflicting injury on him during a peace parley called by the AIG in charge of Zone 11, Osogbo, Bashir Makama. Of course, the Oluwo denied the fisticuffs, and the social media became frenzy, trolling the sorry spectacle, and feasting on caricatures of the young king in names, acts and other dramatic limericks. Some praised his fistic endowments with titles like ‘Aluwo’ (some mythical ring that can turn the toughest opponent into a bag of dough), ‘Abesekubiojo’ (a throwback to Baba Sala’s parody of a pugilist whose fists produce thunders and lightning!) All, and more unprintable scabs, for the Oluwo!

To make matters worse, when his embarrassed colleagues in the Osun State Council of Traditional Rulers intervened to abort the spiralling shame being toyed with, by suspending Oluwo as a council member for six months, the combative one mocked their effort.

A calmer reading would have instructed the monarch that the Council, which didn’t install him as Oluwo, and therefore cannot dethrone him (that’s the business of the king-makers, if they exist, or the governor, who seemed happy to look away)…the six months would only affect his membership of the Traditional Council, which, admittedly, is a big deal for people who see themselves as bridges (and piggy-bank) between government and the governed… it ought to be a good time to stay out of the limelight of social media activism, and mend fences with aggrieved colleagues, while submitting himself to some sort of determination to reclaim lost appeal and honour in the hearts of culture-loving Nigerians who still have regard for things traditional. Meanwhile, anger management therapy and brand refurbishing sessions would not be a waste of resources.
Oluwo is young, exuberant and “upwardly mobile”, he can still salvage some prestige by acting and moving in the shadows of illustrious examples like the Alaafin, Ooni, Sultan, Kano’s Emir of the 60’s and 70’s – people whose carriage, ebullience and studied silence provoked reverence and adulation… spontaneously.