THE PUBLIC SPHERE with Chido Nwakanma
The fallouts of the END SARS protests and its disastrous aftermath will stay with Southern Nigeria for a long while. What happens and how quickly each city and state rebuild will depend on the strategic capability and responsiveness of their governments. It is a race that will speak to organisation, responsiveness and capacity to execute.
Lagos is evidently in the lead here.
Our premier city-state has placed the despoilation of Lagos as the primary victim of the anger of the street. The scale of damage in Lagos is relative to its size and significance. The unity and joint action of the South West on the imperative of rebuilding Lagos State deserves commendation. Other voices are joining, such as Governor Nasir El_Rufai of Kaduna State who lamented the damage on Thursday 5 October. Lagos is mobilising fast as is characteristic of the state. God speed.
However, there was similar damage in most other parts of Southern Nigeria, particularly in the towns and cities of the South East. From Aba through Umuahia, Enugu, Awka, Calabar, and Warri, the street turned red. Many actions during the incidents remain inexplicable. The illogical narratives attending Lekki Toll Gate 20 October 2020 illustrate the confusion.
One takeaway is that END SARS and the Aftermath are warning signs to the Nigerian State. The people are hungry and angry. Governments must wake up to do the needful.
There are more lessons for the South East to which I now turn. The day after the unwarranted joint action by all the governors to impose curfew cordons on their states without security back up, they soon came to a realisation and realignment. The Governors called for meetings with representatives of the constituent communities.
Readers will recall that this column not only questioned the rationale and intendment of the curfews at a time when the Police were off the streets but also drew from the empirical evidence of the Anambra State Police Command to recommend the involvement of the communities. https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2020/10/25/the-placebo-of-curfews-by-southern-governors/.
The governors seemed to agree initially. It is thus disheartening to see a recourse to the Centre by most of the governors.
Some are celebrating the entry of the Army into their states as the pivot of security management. Anambra makes a photo splash of the beautiful female soldiers now in the state’s security architecture. Others are hoping the Nigerian Police wakes up from its lethargy.
Dear Governors, please take a step back and think more deeply about the matter. Security of lives and properties is one of the principal functions of government. Governors of states in Southern Nigeria have for long pretended that the constitution constricts them from taking charge of this vital function in their territories.
It is untrue and merely a legal fig leaf. If it were true, why do the governors allocate and draw humungous sums to themselves
When it comes down to brass tacks, as the aftermath of ENDSARS demonstrated, security is a local matter best handled by the governments in each geography. The lessons of history and recent experience instruct that each governor of a state should organise and superintend over local community vigilance structures.
Work with the communities. There is no need for a big bureaucracy or fanciful terms such as community police that we have debated endlessly. Empowered communities will take care of matters of security. On the legal front, note how the states of Northern Nigeria created their Hisbah Forces to enforce sharia.
I recommend for Abia State the creation of Ndi Nche Abia, a community-based security architecture that works with the Local and State Governments for the protection of our people. The bureaucrats should work out the modalities so long as they do not create a bureaucracy and observe the limitations on arms-bearing.
There is another existential challenge before our people reflected in the price and absence of the ordinary onions. The Onion Inflation speaks to our current limitations in a critical area: food security. Food security is fundamental.
Food security should now be a principal focus of the Akurueulo Movement. Governments of the South East should mobilise, as Michael Iheonukara Okpara did half a century ago, to ensure the production of adequate food for the security of their citizens. There is hardly time. In Time Management terms, the matter is both urgent and important.
Food insecurity in the land is one of the major fallouts from the disturbances. That we lack competitive capacity not to speak of advantage in the major foods that we consume is not acceptable at all. It should be tbe battle cry.
Why is it a matter for governments? The answer is that no one should mount the rostrum with campaigns about each family having garden farms. No. We need large scale and modernised agriculture and production. The state should serve both as enabler and instigator. Start up the projects, then get companies and individuals to go into it large scale.
Studies show there are no limitations of geography for the South East in engaging in agricultural production of all the current staples that make up our menu. Nothing. Not land. Not weather. Not human capaicity.
Security should be the topmost matter in Umuahia, Abakaliki, Awka, Enugu and Owerri from now until 2023, in the interim, and thereafter a five-year rolling plan. We must have food and physical security in the South East. Local vigilance and protection are the imperatives of today and tomorrow. Please get on with it.