Insecurity: How Many Rivers Do we Have to Cross?


By Eddy Odivwri

Those who are very close to President Mohammadu Buhari say that he reacts negatively to public opinion. They explain that whenever there is a public demand or outcry for something and President Buhari hears of it, he will then proceed to do exactly the opposite of what is being publicly demanded.

The posture is aimed at demonstrating that he is not easily persuaded by the hue and cry of the public or put differently, that he has a mind of his own; that he is neither fickle-minded nor easily moved by what people say.

I hear that was how the late Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari got re-appointed after the end of the first term, wherein President Buhari had mulled replacing him. President Buhari was said to have woken one day and saw women (suspected to have been mobilized by the First lady) carrying placards around his residence demanding the sacking of Abba Kyari. Mr President simply drove past them quietly and got to the office and ordered that Abba Kyari be announced as having been re-appointed.

Psychologists describe it as self-conceit complex.

Mr President may be carrying this complex, perhaps farther than what common sense can explain.

Those who so understand Mr. President further explain that the refusal of the president to sack or change the security chiefs in the country, more than five years after they have been appointed and have performed poorly, is because majority of Nigerians have decried the abysmal performance of the service chiefs and have called for a change.

The Nigerian senate, traditional rulers, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, many other stakeholders have, on several occasions, called for the sacking of the tired service chiefs, who themselves are (most likely) willing to go. But just so it would be seen as not being stampeded into taking any action, Mr. President has paid deaf ears to the rising cry for the rework of the security architecture in the country.

But in recent weeks, Mr. President seems to be waking up to the reality of the situation. First, he had summoned the meeting of the Security Chiefs where he had told them that though they may be trying their best, but that their best was not good enough for Nigeria.

Yet, he didn’t do anything significant, weeks after.

Penultimate Tuesday, another security council meeting ended with the talk about “re-engineering and restructuring” of the security architecture in the country. Many had thought that after ordering a restructuring and re-engineering of the security architecture, it would be closely followed by the appointment of a new set of service chiefs. But a week after, it was yet another “talk-talk” security council meeting with state governors, which came out with nothing new or spectacular.

But while the President is taking his time to do the needful, Nigerians are being killed in their dozens and hundreds.

The other day, elder statesman, Chief E.K Clarke had rightly said that the number of people being killed daily by bandits, terrorists and kidnappers in Nigeria in recent years is far more than the number killed during the Nigerian civil war. Very true!

Perhaps one would have accused the president of paying little attention to the urgency of the situation if the state of insecurity is prevalent in the part of Nigeria where the president did not come from. But no. The entire North-west states are practically under the siege of bandits. It is perhaps even worse in the President’s home state of Katsina where the governor, Aminu Masari confessed that nine out of the 34 Local Government Areas (more than a quarter) of the state are under the firm control of bandits.

In the reign of the bandits, people are being killed and burnt along with their houses and properties, cows are being rustled, people are being kidnapped and there is general reign of terror and insecurity. So daring are the bandits that they once abducted the traditional ruler of Mr. President’s home town of Daura. They also abducted the father of Mr. President’s ADC. Just how close can it come before a decisive action is taken!

In Zamfara State, a mix of the bandits and illegal gold miners have conspired to make life unbearable to the native folks who get shot either in their farms or in their homes at night or just anywhere. Nowhere is a haven of safety, except the Zamfara Government House.

If all else is ignored, what shall we say of the heinous pogrom taking place in Southern Kaduna, allegedly by Fulani herdsmen? In this same state, the governor, Mallam Nasir el Rufai had entered into some negotiation with the known killers to halt the killings. He confessed to having offered them money to stop the killings. The terms of agreement needed to be serviced regularly. But it appears that when Gov el-Rufai refused to perpetually service those terms that the killings have resumed. And everybody, including the military, is wringing their hands in helplessness.

Everyday, there are stories of how families and communities are wiped out by armed marauding herdsmen. Homes are burnt, properties destroyed, people displaced and everything looks as if nothing is amiss.

While the killers are hardly arrested and prosecuted, the police are efficient in arresting Zango Kataf youths who protest the killing of their kinsmen. How unfair can a government be!

Hey, in all these years of mindless killings in Southern Kaduna, how many killers have been arrested, prosecuted an jailed? Or is it to suggest that the lives of the people of Southern Kaduna count for nothing?
Until recently, the entire stretch of 188 kilometers between Abuja and Kaduna was completely a no-go area as it was clearly a den of robbers and kidnappers. Those who dared the road did not live to tell their stories, not even military generals.

The same pall of insecurity had fallen on the Benin-Lagos highway as kidnappers suspected to be Fulani herdsmen had seized the highway, kidnapping, maiming and even killing travellers. It only abated in recent months. Just everywhere, there is fright, insecurity, feeling of being unsafe etc.

Little wonder many foreign countries have taken great pleasure in issuing travel advisory against travelling to Nigeria.

It is this haplessness of the nation’s security architecture that has led to the formation of regional security outfits like the Amotekun in the South West and Shege Ka Fasa in the north; while people like Gov Samuel Ortom of Benue State is crusading for the citizenry to have licensed weapons—like AK47– that can enable them defend themselves when attacked, since the Police and other security agents are hardly available to defend the unarmed citizenry.

Not long ago, a traditional ruler was shot and killed right in his palace in Nasarawa State. Last Sunday, a school proprietor, Danlami Shamaki was shot and killed in an ambush in Taraba State. A day after, in the same Taraba, gunmen invaded a quiet community and began to shoot into the homes of the natives.

The neighbouring Benue State had had a fair share of killings by Fulani herdsmen aka Miyetti Allah.

The running volume of carnage in the Northeast, the operational base of the Boko Haram terrorists, hardly make front pages anymore.

But not when the convoy of a serving governor (Professor Babagana Zulum of Borno State) gets attacked by terrorists even when the convoy has a long retinue of security men: soldiers, Police, Civil Defence Corps etc.
The governor who seemed very stunned at the audacity of the brigands identified sabotage as the reasons for the attack.

Long before now, many have said that the military henchmen who are in the commanding height of prosecuting the war against terrorists may be profiting from the unending war, hence the war has dragged on endlessly.

Zulum queried why battalions and platoons of soldiers do not have the capacity to over run a community seized by just a handful of Boko Haram terrorists. There are moles in the military who divulge classified operational information to the bandits and terrorists. And that usually makes the soldiers vulnerable.

The questions are a legion. Nigerians are dying everyday. The echoes of hope for the remaining kidnapped Chibok girls plus Leah Sharibu have long faded. Nobody still talks about them except on the anniversary of their abduction.

But President Buhari is ensconced in the presidential Villa, or so it seems, little caring that human lives are being wasted. Nigerians are hoping that the spate of security meetings he had recently convened should result in the promised rejig of the security apparatchik in the country.

How else does it have to be said and proven that the present security chiefs have run out of ideas and should be allowed to go? What sense does it make leaving them there while innocent Nigerians are just falling like slaughtered flowers? Didn’t the government promise to fight insecurity as one of its cardinal agenda? If the strategy hitherto employed is not yielding fruit, can’t we change it, if nothing else, to save lives?

Kings have been killed, plebeians have been killed, soldiers have been killed, civilians have been killed, aide workers have been killed, the aided have been killed, students have been killed, teachers have been killed. Both the governor and the governed have ben attacked. The rich, the poor, the educated and the illiterate have been killed. Pastors have been beheaded, Imams have been burnt alive. What other price is yet unpaid to wake the government from this prolonged anesthesia? Indeed, how many more rivers do we have to cross to get assured of safety?