BY KAYODE KOMOLAFE
The worsening crisis of insecurity and its derivatives plaguing Nigeria could be resolved by honest application of policies.
All eyes should be on governments at all levels, for the blame for the scary state of affairs should be squarely put on the incompetence of the state and virtual collapse of governance in this land.
Groups and individuals across the country relying on the state to put a stop to the killings and other violent crimes are evidently frustrated.
The people should, however, not be tired of asking an elected government to perform its constitutional duty, no matter the frustration.
Although President Muhammadu Buhari has not formally declared a state of national emergency, the combined effect of the atrocities unleashed by terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and armed robbers is that the state of insecurity is akin to that of an emergency.
The government should, in response to the state of things, give moral and political leadership by appropriately deploying the instruments of effective policies.
Buhari should be sufficiently sensitive to the groundswell of anger and anguish manifesting in the socio-political landscape.
Unfortunately, it is extremely becoming difficult to convince citizens on the efficacy of policies because of the serial disappointments in the last few years.
It is because of the apparent vacuum at the intangible level of moral and political leadership that people get increasingly unimpressed by the tangible efforts at bricks and mortar.
The other day, Buhari appeared to have got impatient with his critics of different hues when he rebuked the elite, accusing them of “harassing” his administration. He said that enough credit was not being given the administration for its achievements despite lean resources.
The President is probably mistaking the civic duty of the citizens to put pressures on the government to serve the common good for “harassment.” To ask the President to give leadership as he promised to do during election is not only a right of citizens, it is also a duty.
By the way, the “harassment” is not likely going to stop until the best the President thinks his administration is giving is found to be good enough by the people.
The indications are that this rhetorical tension between the government and the people will continue until the government performs its constitutional duty of keeping the country secure so that there would be life more abundant for the people.
For instance, hardly will the criticisms relent given the optics from Aso Rock in the last few days. A presidential aide once said that it was not the “style” of Buhari to speak to the nation frequently as the President was allegedly preoccupied with the “substance” of governance. So it could be assumed that this should explain the silence of the president on the killings and general state of insecurity in parts of the country that have triggered inter-ethnic and inter-regional tensions in recent times. Not a few voices of reason have warned that the situation could degenerate into a war if an end is not put to the prevalent criminality in many parts of the country. This is despite the fact that the President has been directly accused of being indifferent to the unfolding tragedy because some of the criminals turning parts of the country to ungoverned spaces belong to his ethnic group, the Fulani. Well, those who make the allegation should also think about the fact the people are also killed and kidnapped with impunity even in Katsina, the home-state of Buhari. And the government seems helpless in the face of this burgeoning criminality.
Instead of speaking to the nation on insecurity, the President has been mobilising the public, in a recorded message, on the ill-timed registration exercise being carried out by his party. He is using the appurtenances of his high office to pursue partisan agenda with impunity. To start with, the same President that signed an anti-COVID executive order against undue congregations is daily asking people to troop out to register as members of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). What insensitivity! Imagine a grieving widow whose husband has just been killed by bandits watching her President speak this evening and all she hears is APC’s membership drive. You wonder what is so urgent on the APC’s agenda that an exercise that is otherwise an administrative routine is turned into a national spectacle. Worse still, this is happening at time of a perilous combination of insecurity and public health emergency.
Besides, as the party of the President that also controls the National Assembly, the APC ought to be leading debates and mobilisation of patriotic efforts to find solutions to the problems. The party’s voice ought to be loud and clear in policy ideas and vigorous articulation. It is a political scandal that all that APC can think of at this dangerous time is its internal politics of registration. The APC should be reminded that the purpose of a political is more than fielding candidates for elections and revelling in the delusion of retaining power till eternity. Pray, when is APC, “the largest party in Africa,” convening a party meeting to debate policies on insecurity, COVID-19 and the scourge of poverty in the land?
The context of the brewing anger and the resort to desperate approaches in the land is clear to the government and the people alike. In desperation, the disaffected constituencies are reaching out for drums of war. However, taking a long view of things, the definitive solution does not lie in the emergence of non-state actors flouting the laws in their interventions.
Voices of moderation amidst anger should, therefore, be more strident in the land. To imagine a war that could lead to a neat disintegration is optical illusion. The territory called Nigeria today under the Buhari leadership is not exactly the way it was under the lordship of Lugard in 1914 in terms what has happened to its political economy, society and even history. It is upon this reality of some level of integration that separatists should reflect more in their well-understood anger about inequities.
Anarchy is indeed a possibility. The leadership at all levels should act fast and honestly to avert a collapse of the present order. Anarchy will only create the atmosphere for a reign of warlords endlessly fighting for turfs. Other contradictions could be unveiled along the line.
To be sure, this is far from making a pacifist call.
The call becomes more urgent because the class dimension of the crisis is often concealed by the factions of the elite in power and out of power. If anarchy descends on the country, it is the same poor people currently bearing the brunt of bad governance that would make up the overwhelming majority of the victims of such a tragic crisis. As Comrade Adams Oshiomhole used to say in those days as a labour leader, in the event of a civil war the big man crosses the border to seek political asylum while the poor people mass at the same border as refugees. So it is in the interest of the poor people that the multi-dimensional crisis should be resolved using the weapons of policies instead of AK-47 rifles.
Rather than indulge in the rhetoric of war, the elite on both sides of the national divide should in unison concentrate pressures on governments at all levels to accept their constitutional responsibilities.
The possibilities embodied in the 1999 Constitution should be exhausted pending the proposed restructuring of the federation.
These latent constitutional powers should give a legal backing for creative policies to govern effectively at all tiers of government especially in this period of festering insecurity.
Take a sample! A governor said last week that he considered himself to be the “chief logistics officer” and not “ the chief security officer” of his state.
Again, the frustration of this chief executive officer of a subnational government should be put in its proper context. The population of his oil-rich state is more than those of some individual West African countries. Yes, the armed forces are exclusively subject to the powers of the Commander-in-Chief. But most of the security issues bedevilling the states are in the realm of the functions of the police. For years now, people’s lawyer, Femi Falana, has been drawing the attention of the governors to the provision for the Nigeria Police Council in the Part I of Schedule III of the 1999 Constitution as one of “Federal Executive Bodies.” The 36 state governors are members of this important council. The other members are the President, the Inspector-General of Police and the Chairman of the Police Service Commission. So the governors are in a clear majority in the council that could work towards better policing. You may then ask: when last did this council meet despite the killings and kidnappings reported daily across the country as evidence of failed policing?
Yet, according to the constitution, among the functions of the council are “the organisation and administration of the Nigeria Police Force,” “the general supervision of the Nigeria Police Force,” and “advising the President on the appointment of the Inspector-General of Police.”
Instead of the governors wringing their hands in utter helplessness, saying that they have no control over the police, the avenue of this council should be explored to improve the state of policing. At least, the council should meet regularly at this period of emergency so that governors can collectively mount pressure on the President to act more decisively. During council meetings, the President could be told directly the heart-rending stories of the atrocities committed by criminals on the prowl everywhere in the country. Pending the creation of state police as it has been widely canvassed, the governors should exercise the little powers given them in the constitution because they have a security duty to perform to resolve the crisis. They have, of course, security votes for this purpose. In any case, each governor presides over a state security council that includes the state commissioner of police, the state director of the State Security Services (SSS) and senior officers from the military formations located in the state. State governments give immense material and logistic support to the police and military formations in the respective states.
Another area in which the governors cannot plead helplessness is the administration of justice in the prosecution of criminal suspects. Falana has also repeatedly challenged his colleagues appointed as state attorneys-general on this score. The prosecution of the criminal suspects over killings and kidnappings is within the purview of state governments. The state attorneys-general should perform their duties. At least, the suspects that the police are able to apprehend should be prosecuted. And that is not Buhari’s business.
For instance, in the Ibarapa area of Oyo state, the story is not only that Sunday Igboho has chased away those accused of being responsible for killings and destruction of farms. There is also the story that the state police command under the able leadership of Commissioner of Police Ngozi Onadeko has been carrying out investigations. In the process, some criminal suspects have been arrested. It is the duty of the public to be alert and ensure that justice is eventually done through the prosecution of the suspects. That is the job of the Oyo state attorney-general.
The same approach should be employed by other states where tragedies have been reported.
In the same vein, a related synergy of purpose should be developed between Abuja and the states to give effect to the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) put together two years ago.
Unfortunately, when it was introduced to the public, the kernel of the plan was missed in the heat of an avoidable controversy. The presidency mismanaged the semiotics of the policy. In a charged atmosphere of inter-ethnic and inter-regional suspicions, the official communicators were carelessly talking of “cattle colony” and “RUGA.” They employed politically offensive phrases when they should have simply suggested ranching for the states that wished to adopt it as a policy instrument to boost agriculture.
Nonetheless, the implementation of that plan could be a definitive solution to the clashes between genuine herders and farmers. Such a solution would help isolate bandits, kidnappers, terrorists and other criminals (many of whom are said to be foreign invaders in Nigerian forests) for the security agencies to act decisively.
There seems to be a consensus that open grazing is anachronistic in the 21st Century. The northern governors reaffirmed this position only yesterday at the end of a meeting. Ranching should be developed as part of the agricultural policies by states that have the comparative advantage to do so economically. Kano and Bauchi states are already working towards achieving this goal.
To say that governments have no business with cattle ranching is to miss the point. The same governments are often asked to provide “enabling environment” for corporate giants and small scale industrialists to flourish. The Central Bank is supporting rice production while the government is promoting the production of fertilizer. The interested state governments should embrace the national plan and provide “enabling environment” also for herders to operate in modern ranches.
All the 36 states do not have to develop ranches for Nigeria to meet her needs of protein and other nutrients from beef and dairy products.
Neither do the ethnic groups in the nation have to fight a civil war to meet this food need.
Again, it is worth reminding the President that his tenure will be defined by the way he tackles this rising wave of insecurity that is threatening national stability.
“The people should not be tired of asking an elected government to perform its duty, no matter the frustration”